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FROM ISSUE 61 [ JANUARY 2017 ]
You seem to capture the most amazing detail–have you always had that kind of eye or has it developed into this? For me, you have to find what you love in your subject. I am drawn to closeness. The viewer has to feel they are there in that moment. It’s important to bring that relationship together, a connection; this is what art is—to stir emotions. It’s within details, be it the cleat connection with the shoe or the way a hand grips a handlebar; they tell a story.
Home is Ireland. How big is the Irish cycling scene today? Who would you say is the biggest Irish cycling hero? We are a small family here. We have a great passion for our sport…. Our weather conditions and roads lend to a different breed of rider. We take huge pride in the riders that come from this country…. I could list so many heroes. From my generation, it has to be Sean Kelly and Stephen Roche, no doubt.
What’s the most amazing place you’ve been to over the past year? This is such a hard question. Often I found myself stopping the car en route to points of shooting, and just breathing in what was around me. Sitting on mountaintops alone realizing there’s so much yet to see: Catalunya, the Basque Country, the Pyrenees…the Alps…Lake Como. Everywhere I go there was something unique and beautiful.
Music is a big part of your life. How does music affect the way you approach your art? Music has been instilled in me from a young age. My grandfather could be heard singing at 6 in the morning walking his dogs down our tiny country village in his deep baritone voice. For me, music and art have always gone together; it’s my escape I guess into another world. It helps me visualize while I edit….
Talk about your Alejandro Valverde image (first image following Karen)…. It’s after stage 11 of the Vuelta a España to Peña Cabarga. I didn’t go right to the finish line. I decided to stay a few meters down and take shots as the riders came up the climb. Luckily for me, where I was standing, the top three riders were ushered to the back of a cabin directly behind me, so it allowed me to capture Alejandro really close. Soon after this he was bombarded by fans and rushed away by his personal assistants.
Interview by Tim Schamber
FROM ISSUE 79 [ AUGUST 2018 ]
How has this last year been for you shooting cycling? It’s been a roller coaster of emotions, busy with classics, busy with the Aqua Blue Sport team, busy with new tours: Yorkshire, Suisse and Austria. Every race, people are coming up to me, chatting about what I do; that’s really special, reaching people through my work, showing them another side of this sport.
What’s been your most memorable experience this past year? When Willy, my moto pilot for Flèche Wallonne, turns to me and says, “Hey, Karen…we go and take some shots of Philippe.” Turns out Willy is training buddies with Philippe Gilbert. So, as casual as that, we roll alongside Gilbert midrace, and I take some shots, while they share a convo in French. I smile and say bonjour…. The reason I say this, and maybe very un-pro, but I was a Gilbert fan before I worked in pro cycling.
Your book, “Gods, Rockstars & the Cobbles,” was a labor of love. What was it like to put that collection together? It was totally “stressy”—but no labor of love is easy. I saw this vision in my head of how it should be. I wanted to show my passion for the race…that I love so much in visual form, in my own quirky way, I guess. The cobbles are legendary, history seeped in every uneven cobble, when you roll over them on the moto.
What do you love the most about shooting cycling? For me, it’s the human emotions and struggles, creating history through my work and teaching that there is so much more. It’s an art, the passion, meeting amazing people across the world that love this sport.
Is there an image in your selection that stands out for you? (second image following Valverde) Scheldeprijs was a tough race, so fast, lots of obstacles through towns…. When you’re “in race” I always want to respect riders foremost. There are two pics that happened right in front of me. Total devastation, parked car, riders thrown everywhere, one rider concussed. I jumped off the moto and was in the middle of it. It’s manic, mechanics detangling bikes from riders’ shoes, replacing bikes, people trying to clear the road, medical people checking the riders…. Once the pic was posted the following day, the rider that was concussed messaged me, thanked me for showing how brutally hard this sport is. Not so sure I love the picture, but it shows that these men are human, even though we see them as super-heroes.
Interview by Tim Schamber