Drifting in Paradise: Ollie Trenchard captures the high-adrenaline world of car racing in Barbados

The photographer meets the charismatic figures behind the island’s rally, drifting and drag racing culture.

22 January 2024

For as long as he can remember, the photographer Ollie Trenchard has been fascinated by cars. Jump-started (ahem) by his father’s own auto-obsession, as a young child he could name car models, their engine sizes, power outputs and even the size of their alloy wheels. Being half Bajan on his mother’s side, Ollie also spent a lot of his childhood going on trips to Barbados to see family and enjoy the island. On one particular trip, Ollie’s cousin took him to a car racing rally and sparked new fascination in this cultural niche.

From that point onward the street racing scene was always part of Ollie’s visits, “mostly due to the noise late at night, up and down the major highways near the house I stayed at in St James,” he says. It was then in 2021, after the photographer had found himself creatively – transitioning from his job as a pattern cutter on Saville Row to photography – that he began actively working on a project based on Barbados’ rally culture, planning his trip and putting feelers out for connections.


Ollie Trenchard: Drifting in Paradise (Copyright © Ollie Trenchard, 2023)

His cousin Tamara “struck gold” when she revealed that she knew the only woman racing driver on the island, Natya Soodeen. “Within 24hrs of landing I was at the garage where Natya’s BMW racing car is kept,” says Ollie. “She was so welcoming that day, it gave me the positive feeling I needed to know I was on the right track.” In one image from the Drifting in Paradise photo series, Natya is shown in side profile, the red of her manicured nails standing out against the white of her helmet. The shot nearly didn’t make the final cut, for how it stands out among the rest with its more polished, editorial feel, but Ollie couldn’t leave it out, as for how well it captured Natya’s reputation. “The anonymity of the image but with the knowledge that she is notorious on the island just feels right to me,” says Ollie. “People in the know would guess who it was and others would be left wondering who owned the pristine red nails and racing helmet.”

Before long, word of the project had made its way across the small island, and interest started mounting. “There was talk of a British guy with a big, loud camera wanting to meet people with interesting cars on the island,” Ollie says. This was the perfect situation for the photographer, who spends as much time talking to people as he does photographing them. “I know from my own insecurities that having a camera in your face from the get go can be intrusive,” he says. “Depending on the person I would be there geeking out on machinery or sharing a beer and talking nonsense for a few hours.”

GalleryOllie Trenchard: Drifting in Paradise (Copyright © Ollie Trenchard, 2023)

Ollie originally had a lot of shots planned out, but upon meeting people he let himself relax into the spontaneity of the situation, keeping himself ‘on call’ at all times, often leaving his family wondering his whereabouts. He soon found potential in places they had chosen to meet, like a disused car park on the north east of the island, “I really enjoyed the journalistic approach and finding new avenues on my travels around the island,” he says.

This spontaneity brought with it images that Ollie never imagined he would get, like the shot of Knuckles, a stunt driver, hanging one arm out of a spinning car. Shown in full motion, holding onto the car with seemingly superhuman strength in amongst billows of smoke from the grinding tyres, the shot has an intense drama about it. “I was not expecting anything like that and he was just casual with it,” says Ollie. “Shooting film in these situations is scary knowing it won’t be repeated but fortunately I got a few good ones.”

Not only does the series show the strength of the car racing community, but the technical ability that goes into such a passion. One of the main things that struck Ollie was the DIY nature of the project, and how many proficient mechanics he came across, and he hopes that aspect has translated. Moreover, as Barbados often gets simply labelled as a tourist destination known for its beauty and beaches, Ollie wanted to prove that it has so much more to offer. That’s why the title of the upcoming photobook is so clever – it “draws people in, and then shows them something different,” says Ollie.

GalleryOllie Trenchard: Drifting in Paradise (Copyright © Ollie Trenchard, 2023)

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Ollie Trenchard: Drifting in Paradise (Copyright © Ollie Trenchard, 2023)

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About the Author

Olivia Hingley

Olivia (she/her) joined the It’s Nice That team as an editorial assistant in November 2021 and soon became staff writer. A graduate of the University of Edinburgh with a degree in English literature and history, she’s particularly interested in photography, publications and type design.

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