I recently stumbled upon a series of photographs by David Serrano which beautifully captured Euskaltel-Euskadi’s emotional last Vuelta a Espana. The photographs were published in Rouleur and then exhibited at the Slowroom Cycle Shop and Gallery in Madrid. I contacted David to find out more about him, his work and his forthcoming projects. (All photographs in this feature are © David Serrano.)
Sheree: Tell us a bit about yourself.
David: I’m based in Madrid and, when I decided to become a photographer about 14 years ago, I was largely interested in documentary photography and photojournalism. Then I started working with museums and, for a while, a great deal of my work was as a studio photographer. Later on I also started taking photos of the events organised by the museum such as openings, workshops, exhibitions and so on.
Sheree: You began by photographing cultural events and, given that cycling is very much a part of continental European and particularly Spanish culture, it’s probably no surprise that you photograph cycle races. How did it all start?
David: It’s true that cycle races are not just sport, they have become actual cultural events, and that is why they are so interesting from a photographic point of view. But my intention was not to approach cycling photography as I approach museum photography. When I first attended a race, I realised its photographic potential. You can approach it from very different perspectives: street photography, documentary photography, landscape photography and of course sport photography. I went to the races with a camera to have more freedom than I have as a museum photographer.
Sheree: I don’t know, the things fans wear at races! Were you interesting in cycling before you started photographing races?
David: My interest started thanks to my older brother who always watched the Tour de France. In the beginning I found it strange then I started watching it too and my interest grew. So even before I started taking photos I was already a fan.
Sheree: Do you have a favourite race or rider?
David: There are so many races that I have not seen, but if I had to choose one, I’m going to go for the last one I went to – the Vuelta a Andalucia. I was working with the Novo Nordisk team and visited places in Spain I had never been to before and that I really enjoyed.
Sheree: That’s why I love cycling too!
David: It’s very enjoyable to travel and to get to know different towns and cities thanks to cycling. A few years ago I was at the Tour de Luxembourg. A small, enjoyable race with an amazing atmosphere is amazing. It was all very laid back and easygoing and the light was wonderful. At least it was on that occasion.
About the cyclists, I’m interested in the evolution of riders like Romain Bardet, Warren Barguil, Kenny Elissonde (pictured below) and Thibaut Pinot..
Sheree: By the way, I love that photo of Kenny. But they’re all French riders. What about young Spanish ones such as Omar Fraile, Peio Bilbao (both Caja Rural) or Carlos Verona (Omega Pharma-Quick Step)?
David: They are also interesting. In the case of Fraile and Bilbao, Euskaltel’s disappearance, when they were just about to become professional cyclists, could well have a negative impact on their careers. Verona has found his place outside Spain, something that many Spaniards with all kinds of professional backgrounds are being forced to do.
Sheree: How do you prepare for the different types of cycling assignments? Do you follow a race in its entirety or just select certain days to shoot?
David: Sometimes I will go to a race as an assignment. I hope this will happen even more often in the future. Other times I go just to watch and shoot pictures. In any case, I always study the itinerary and choose the stages where I figure I will have the best chance to do a good job. I try to go to a few stage starts, a time trial and a few summit finishes to have an overview of the whole race.
Sheree: I particularly love the way you capture the race from the spectator’s point of view while still conveying the emotional highs and lows of the riders. How do you do that?
David: Obviously I’m a fan, I try to see races on TV when I’m at home. As a photographer, the sport side is not my main interest. One of the things I like most is the passion that spectators show when the peloton passes by and how close they are to the cyclists. Fans wait for hours for the cyclists to pass by and then everything is over after a few minutes. I try to capture where both cyclists and spectators interact.
As for cyclists, many times I find the moments before and after the race more visually attractive than the race itself.
Sheree: Cultural references again?
David: As I said before, cycling is a social and cultural event with a rich and long history. And many people from the towns and cities the cyclists go through come to the race as if a circus or theatre show was coming to town. It is a happy event, a celebration and I’m interested in documenting these occasions.
Sheree: The lady above doesn’t look too happy! Your notebook series features both photographs and sketches. Is the intention to turn this into a book at some point?
David: I love travel notebooks with notes and fast sketches. And I like how some photographers weave in their photos, how they draw and write on them.
It would be great to make a travel notebook about one of the major races. I studied arts and crafts and I sometimes like to draw. I did the notebook above some time ago. But it’s a blueprint of what a good travel notebook should look like. I might get back to this idea again and work harder on something like this.
Sheree: Yes, you should! I also enjoy your collections on Instagram and Vimeo – tell us about those?
This video is composed of pictures taken on 18th September’s stage of the 2010 Vuelta a Espana. The finish line was on top of the Bola del Mundo near Madrid. Music: Field of diamonds by Johnny Cash.
David: Honestly, I don’t like social networks much. I’m there because I thought it could be useful from a professional point of view. I opened my Vimeo account because I made a promotional video piece for Madrid’s Regional Government but video is not my main field of work. Instagram is for all those photos I would have taken with a proper camera if I’d had one with me at the time!
Sheree: What’s next for David Serrano?
David: I have a few ideas that I want to carry out this year. I would like to go back to Luxembourg and take photos of the Elsy Jacobs race. I would also like to go to the Tour de l’Avenir and to work on a piece about the amateur audax races in Spain.
Sheree: The Tour de l’Avenir is where to spot the stars of the future. We’ve already illustrated the interview with some of your favourite pictures. I’d love you to pick out a few more and tell us about them.
David: These are all from last year’s Vuelta a Espana, in the piece you mentioned for Rouleur about Euskaltel. At the beginning of the Vuelta everyone thought the team was going to vanish. Then Fernando Alonso tried to buy the team. Although in general everybody was happy about it, not all (cyclists, mechanics, soigneurs) team members were sure that they would be part of the new project. Finally, there was no agreement and the team disappeared.
During the Vuelta, there was a lot of tension in the air. I spent one morning taking shots of the team’s cook. He suddenly grabbed this piece of salmon – as orange as the team’s jersey and the t-shirts worn by the thousands of fans that have cheered for Euskaltel over the past 20 years. The cook started cutting the salmon into pieces and it was a fascinating image that mirrored what was happening with the team.
The following photos are also from the 2013 Vuelta a Espana and I think they speak for themselves.
Sheree: Thank you so much for talking to us, David, for sharing your wonderful photographs and giving us an insight into why you took them.
Follow David Serrano on Twitter, Vimeo and Instagram. Visit his website to see more of his portfolio. Also, find his work in the following print publications: Peloton, Rouleur, Soigneur and Boneshaker.