As I said in the first part of my interview with Jered Gruber last week, this guy is a talker! But he has such great things to say, we don’t mind giving him as much space as he needs! Here is the second part of my interview with him, where he talks about how he gets some of his amazing shots, what life is like on the road and how Gruber Images calendar came into being (we can thank Twitter for that). After talking to him, I’ve decided that my next photographer interview has to be Ashley Gruber – I’d love to get her perspective on things! But in the meantime, let’s finish up with Jered …
Kitty: Robert Capa once said: “If your picture isn’t good enough, you’re not close enough.” You don’t seem to have that problem! In that famous shot of Fabian Cancellara coming straight at you on the Haeghoek in 2011 during the Ronde – how the hell didn’t you get run over by him?
Jered: That Cancellara shot? He had just gone over the top of Hushovd on the Haeghoek. He was turning on to the Leberg, where he dropped the favorites and went in search of Chavanel, somewhere far up the road. It was a defining moment. It was perfect. Sure, I selected a good spot, and I got as close as I possibly could without taking a knee to the forehead (it was as close as it looked), but the race unfolded around me, perfectly.
Kitty: During the races, how do you pick your positions – in the Lombardia set, you seem to be everywhere at once!
Jered: A lot of that has to do with Ashley. We are both really proud of the day we had chasing Il Lombardia. I think it was one of our best days of shooting ever. I feel like it was a day where we managed to put our growing pains behind us a little bit and show what we’ve learned in 2012. Growing pains might be a strong word, but I think our sophomore year has been a monster one of growth. I think we’ve improved hugely as photographers, but that little bit of magic dust that followed us around in 2011, wasn’t quite there in 2012. I think we took a lot of great pictures, but looking back at 2011, we got lucky a few times. I have this awful fear that we didn’t get truly special pictures this year, because we got lucky last year. What if that was the best we’ll do?
Kitty: You surely don’t believe that, do you?
Jered: I know that’s not the case, but we did have a pretty charmed (on a picture level at least) first real go of it in 2011. This year, we’ve been better in every way. I’ve taken my planning and research to a professional place, and think that planning and skill are important, but a little bit of pixie dust is also helpful.
At Lombardia, we had a good plan, we did our homework, selected some great spots, and then made some really good on-the-fly decisions that made what would have been a solid day a special one. We’re both proud of how we worked that day and hope that was a sign of things to come. I hope so.
Kitty: What do you find the hardest part of being a cycling photographer?
Jered: Hardest part? Living on the road for most of the year with your best friend and love. We’re in Europe for about ten months out of the year, and then when we get home to the US we stay on the road when we visit Ashley’s parents in Louisiana, my parents in Colorado, our adopted home of Athens, and then when we keep on moving to see friends in North Carolina, South Carolina, Pennsylvania, California … A transient life out of a car is cool, but sometimes it’s hard not to want to just stop – stop moving, and do nothing. We get scared when we close up shop though. There are so many hungry, talented photographers out there. There are so many people out there who take brilliant pictures. I don’t want to lose this amazing opportunity because we yearn for a little home time.
Generally, Ashley and I have about the easiest, most fun relationship that I could ever imagine, but we’re also two insanely hard-headed, stubborn mules. Conflict is inevitable, especially when you’re living out of a car, exhausted, and wondering if we’re going to be able to make this work.
It sounds like it should be so simple and easy, but it always seems like we’re half a step away from being out of it entirely. I love the world we’re carving for ourselves, and at first, we didn’t care all that much if it worked out or not, but now we’re 100% in it. We’re giving everything to make it work, so the idea that we could fail is frightening. The two of us take turns freaking out – if I’m certain that we suck, and there’s no way this will work, then Ashley is confident, assured. If Ashley has a moment, I’m the one who has no doubts that we can make a life of this.
Kitty: What’s the easiest part? And what is the most rewarding? What are your hopes for your career as it progresses?
Jered: Easiest? We travel all the time to amazing places, together, sharing every good and bad moment. It’s funny that the hardest part is also the easiest part, but I guess it makes sense too. When things are clicking, there’s very little that I’d rather do. I want for very little and enjoy it a whole lot. Ashley is the same, though I think she’ll only be perfectly happy if we have our umbrella cockatoo, Narcissus, with us. That’s still a little ways off, but some day …
I never thought that I’d be able to do something that came so easily. I spent six years doing everything I could to become a professional cyclist in the US. I worked hard, but looking back I understand that I wasn’t born to be a cyclist. I got to a decent level, but I’ll never be more than average.
Photography, however, was different from the beginning. It’s funny, because I can finally relate to riders a little bit when they talk about being good from the start. We talked with Johan Vansummeren recently and I asked him what it was like early on for him – he was always good. He was made to be a bike racer. I wasn’t.
When I got a camera in my hand though, I was unwittingly enjoying what it felt like to have a natural ability for something. I don’t want this to sound like I think I’m better than I am, but I’m finally getting to a point where I’m willing to admit that this is my thing. I love it, and it’s a happy coincidence that I’m relatively good at it.
That doesn’t sound cocky, does it? I want to say this in the humblest way, so please, don’t think that I’m so into myself, “I’m so awesome, look at me picture taker.” Nothing could be further from the truth. Okay?
Kitty: Don’t worry, Jered, that’s not how you sound at all! But tell me about your calendar! How did it come about? It got a great write-up in Outside magazine (as it should) and I’ve bought a couple of copies already. It’s really beautiful.
Jered: That calendar exists entirely because of a conversation on Twitter where someone said that they thought Graham Watson was a horrible person and that no one should buy his calendars. Instead of Watson, they should get a Gruber Images calendar. Note: Those were their words, not mine. The more I take pictures, the more I respect what the likes of Cor Vos, Graham Watson, Tim De Waele, Yuzuru Sunada, and all the other full-timers do. They’re amazing. I could never do what they do. My hat is eternally off to them.
That tweet caught steam though. It was retweeted, retweeted again, and suddenly people were saying that they’d get one, two, five … We were driving across Europe at that moment, so we were particularly flammable. I feel like when we drive, we’re a bunch of gas, just waiting for the flame of an idea. It would be pretty funny if we could track how many ideas originated from long, overnight drives. That Twitter conversation was the match, and it didn’t take long before the fire was burning hot in our car.
There was a big problem though – while printing isn’t that expensive on a per calendar basis, the problem is that you generally need to print quite a few, which costs a lot. While we’re doing better, we still don’t have that kind of money to invest, so we needed a partner who would be able to help foot the costs and take care of the shipping.
In stepped Wiggle. They were behind the idea from the beginning and, along with that initial match from Twitter, are wholly responsible for this happening – along with Neil Wass at Manson Publishing and Jonathan Briggs, who did the actual design. It’s done now, and we’re super excited about it.
To order Gruber Images’ 2013 calendar, visit Wiggle.