The Secret Life of an Automotive Spy Photographer

Brenda Priddy became an automotive spy photographer by accident. Her then-husband John was a car…

Brenda Priddy became an automotive spy photographer by accident.

Her then-husband John was a car guy and she was a photographer, and they would often peruse spy photos in magazines and try to guess the vehicle for the fun of it. She never thought about taking spy photos herself until June of 1992, when she was at a local Safeway supermarket and noticed an unusual car in the parking lot. Being a photographer, her brain was trained to seek out things that stand out. She grabbed her camera and snapped a few pictures from her car, her two toddlers strapped into the back seat.

When Priddy returned home, she showed the photos to her husband, who recognized the car as a not-yet-released 1994 Mustang. He called Automobile magazine to see if they would be interested. They initially said no, but John insisted they take a look. The magazine agreed to check them out, and Priddy sent her work via FedEx. A few weeks later, she called the editor to see if they were going to use her Mustang pictures. As it turned out, they were: Automobile chose one of her very first spy photos for the cover.

“The funny thing was that when I sent them the photos, I was just hoping to get a few Automobile t-shirts,” Priddy recounted in a recent interview with me. “Instead, I got a check plus t-shirts for the whole family. My kids still have them, too.”

That first Mustang was spotted very close to Priddy’s house in Arizona. The engineers liked the roads near her house, she says, because they could drive in circles all day at a constant speed without stops. For the next six spy captures, she snapped photos of them within walking distance of her home.