Darrel Jackson Jr. didn’t set out to become a photographer, but he’s grateful that’s where his drag racing path took him. His father, Darrel Jackson Sr., raced a ’78 Cutlass Supreme in IHRA Hot Rod when Jackson Jr. was growing up. The youngest sibling of three sisters, Jackson Jr. made race car noises as a young child, and as soon as he was old enough to hold a wrench, he was out in the garage helping his dad work on the car or going racing with him at local tracks like Maryland International Raceway.
Jackson Sr. stopped racing when his son was in middle school, but Jackson Jr. kept going to the track to hang out with his buddies who raced. He would also take videos from the wall, and longtime friend and photographer Anthony Pinder approached him about shooting some races for him. Jackson started shooting for Pinder in 2018 before eventually buying his own camera and branching out to start JRC Photos. He primarily photographs events at MIR, though he’s also traveled up and down the East Coast.
“Because I’m in Maryland most of the time, I mainly focused on Northeast Outlaw Pro Mods because that’s what I watched growing up,” says Jackson, who lives outside Washington D.C. “Then PDRA opened up their arms to me when I was 25. I started shooting their events then and it hasn’t stopped.”
Jackson, 29, strives to improve his work every time he heads to an event. Whether he’s studying his own photos for areas to improve or bouncing ideas off fellow photographers, he’s always trying to produce better photos.
“When I started, it was mainly about trying to nail the basics,” Jackson says. “I’m a perfectionist to an extent. I always try to get everything sharp as I can. I just want everything to be clean and clear so you know what’s going on in the picture.”
Jackson says he grew up watching VHS tapes, DVDs, and later YouTube videos from races that he couldn’t attend. He also followed the work of veteran photographers like Roger Richards and John Fore III before he realized he would one day share the wall with them.
“I looked at their photos growing up because I knew there were certain races I couldn’t get to and that’s what I used to visualize being there,” Jackson says. “The media team, especially since working with the PDRA, has made me realize how important it is to the racers. Whether you’re a photographer or videographer or journalist, you tell the story of the racers.”
Since there are no race wins, world records, or championships in the world of drag racing photography, Jackson has his own defined goals. One of them, getting photos published in this magazine, happened earlier this year. He hopes to have his work published even more in the future, all while growing his JRC Photos brand.
“Nobody knew who I was four or five years ago,” says Jackson, who thanked his father for getting him started in racing, as well as his mother, his sister, and his girlfriend for their support of his photographic endeavors. “After working side by side with some of the best people in the business, I can say that I can walk through the staging lanes and people know who I am when they see me. I just want to continue to do that and just grow as a person while doing that.”