Jim Dunne, The Pioneer Of Automotive Spy Photography, Passes At 87





Jim Dunne, the pioneer of automotive spy photography, passes at 87

Jim Dunne, who is widely recognized as the pioneer of automotive spy photography, died this Monday at age 87. We run a lot of spy photography stories here at Autoblog from photographers who have followed in Dunne's path, but the late Dunne essentially invented the art back in the 1960s. There may have been the stray photo of a prototype run in some publications previous to him, but Dunne created the spy photography game as it is today. Dunne is going to be missed by many. Brian Williams, a fellow spy photographer and close friend of Dunne's gave us a snapshot into Dunne himself and his relationship with him. "To be honest he was like a grandfather to me. He was a good man. He was a mentor. He was just a really good person," Williams says. Getting inside Dunne's inner circle wasn't always the easiest thing to do, though. "He was a tough one," Williams told us. "He wouldn't let everybody in. He was one of those ones where you had to gain his friendship, you had to work for it. But once you got it … it couldn't be touched. He will be truly missed." Williams may not have known Dunne when he was starting out in the early days of spy photography, but he's come up in the business with Dunne by his side on many occasions. "I've known him for about 10 years," Williams continues. "I've seen him out in Death Valley. We'd get our lunches together. If I saw him in Dearborn or Milford I'd flag him down, and we'd sit and talk. I'd hop in his GMC Envoy and just sit and talk about stuff. Even phone calls if I had some kind of issue in my life or something." Dunne started his spy photography work when he was with Popular Science, followed by Popular Mechanics. His photos have appeared in numerous publications and websites since. If you aren't completely up to speed with spy photography, know that it's photographers taking photos the manufacturers typically don't want taken. A lot of the time these photographers have to brave horrific conditions and endless hours of waiting just to get that one pivotal shot of the next Corvette, Mustang or whatever new vehicle it is they're hunting that day.  Dunne would expose new models and prototypes before the car companies wanted the public to see them. Why do the manufacturers want the cars kept secret? Because if folks see there's a newer and better model coming out, they may be less likely to go buy the car that's sitting on the dealer lot today. It's widely known that car companies jokingly hung up "Wanted" posters of Dunne in their offices, as they all knew he was out there waiting to photograph the next new model to roll out. His legacy lives on through the many spy photographers that follow in his footsteps. Those that were friends with him, loved him. It's clear that we'll forever be missing Jim Dunne.