Dave Cosper passed away on September 12, 2006 after winning his heats at the Hocking County Fair demolition derby. I had just met Dave and his family that day. The photo above is the first image I made of Dave, before I even introduced myself. I saw him and stopped, he looked over and I made this portrait. He was immediately and genuinely warm and open. We talked and he explained that his son Brandon drove too. I asked if I could spend the evening and make some photos of them all. Dave agreed and I met Brandon and Dave’s wife Natalie and started shooting.
That night was Dave’s first night back driving in demolition derbies. He had had health problems that sidelined him for awhile, but he had recovered and was behind the wheel again. Before the night ended, an ambulance took Dave out of the fairgrounds due to heart complications. He did not make it.
The following weekend I called Brandon, unaware of what happened to Dave. He explained the situation and that they had been trying to contact me that week. They had just returned from the funeral and he invited me to the derby that evening in which he would drive in his father’s place. I met them there that night.
It’s difficult to explain the emotions of that evening in words. All of Dave’s family and friends gathered next to the track to cheer on Brandon. There was an incredible warmth and togetherness that ran through everyone. So many people that I had never met took me in as a friend. The Cospers stayed together as a strong family does, and supported Brandon through the evening’s heats. He won both driving his father’s car.
All the images from this series can be seen here.
Ross Mantle is is a freelance photographer who splits his time between Brooklyn, New York, and his native Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. His work often focuses on the quirks of American life and the unique relationship between person and place. Visit his website or follow him on Twitter.