Michał Konarski, Interia: Many speedway drivers who end their careers stay in this sport, for example as a mechanic. So why photography?
Damian Grabski, former speedway rider and currently photographer: It was the same with me. I was a mechanic at Grzegorz Kłopot for almost two seasons. It is difficult to give up this sport in one moment, if for many years counting from the time of the speedway school, you spend time in the stadium practically every day, you have many friends, many memories. It took me a while to find my direction in life. Contrary to appearances, it was not yet photography.
I started my first company at the age of 22 and in the meantime worked as a manager of a large RTV store. And there I accidentally picked up my first serious camera and bought it quite spontaneously.
As far as I can see, you don’t just take pictures on the speedway. But, as you used to drive yourself, do you feel best at the speedway competition?
My photographic passion didn’t start with speedway photography, but with nature photography. Every day I happily picked up the camera, learned and experimented. It was a pleasure. I never thought and never counted that this passion would become my daily work. Over time, as I gained skills and confidence, I started taking portrait, family and occasional photography, and for three years also product photography. And it was only at this point that sports photography, more specifically speedway photography, appeared.
Knowing the club in Zielona Góra, I can say that even as a child I had the opportunity to test my skills as a photographer without any hindrance. It soon became apparent that this is another photography department that suits me very well, and having spent many years in the machinery of this sport, it was easy to find myself in a new role. Is she feeling the best? I feel just as good as I do in the other areas of photography I’ve chosen and what makes me happy.
I always wonder if a speedway photographer is concerned about his health? Motorcycles can fly anywhere after a fall…
Risks are part of our lives, but there is nothing to be afraid of here. You have to be careful everywhere. Not just on the highway. One time, a television drone fell two meters away from me. I also read about the last accident where a corner was injured, but these are exceptional cases. If you compare the time I did speedway driving with the role of a sports photographer, I think everyone will admit that it’s practically no risk now.
Let’s go back to your career for a moment. Why was it so short?
When it comes to my adventure with speedway, it’s a long story, but also a closed topic for a long time. It’s nice that despite the 15 years that have passed since the last time I rode a speedway motorcycle, to this day there are fans who accidentally recognize me and remind me of some races. The combination of different events, people or even the speedway regulations made it this way. Topic is closed.
In hindsight, was it worth driving these few years? Is there anything you regret?
Of course it was worth it. Speedway is a very demanding sport that requires a lot of sacrifices, but at the same time teaches perseverance, self-confidence, pursuit of goals and many other positive things that are very useful in life. There are no regrets. Every day at the stadium was a great life lesson. Not always easy and not always pleasant, but looking at where I am now, I think it was worth spending all those years in the stadium.
Do you watch speedway on TV, are you up to date? What are the biggest changes in that compared to when you were driving?
Of course I watch speedway on TV and personally do a lot of speedway competitions. A lot has changed since 2006, when I was last on a motorcycle. The situation in Krosno from the canceled duel with Falubaz comes to the fore. At that point I believe the competition would have gone without any obstacles, and today a small puddle on the track or a regular screwdriver inserted too deep is enough and there is no competition. Of course, this is a big plus, as it’s easy to say that the competitors can ride while sitting in front of the TV or just know it’s not their bones that will endanger themselves.
When I delivered my speedway driver’s license, it rained for two whole days for my driver’s license. It was so wet that it was impossible to hook the bike under the old one because it sank into the ground. The permit happened because no one paid as much attention to security as today. There are many examples. Most importantly, the discipline is constantly developing and advancing.