You know how we like new cycling photographers – and here’s one now! Marshall Kappel, an American in Paris, has been a photographer for years yet has only recently combined his passion for cycling and imagery. I contacted him after seeing a few of his Vuelta images on Twitter and he kindly took the time to tell us a bit about his work – and of course to talk about his favourite photographs. (All photographs are ©Marshall Kappel, unless otherwise indicated.)
Kathi: How did you get into cycling photography?
Marshall: I have been cycling since I was very young. First casually, then I went into competitive BMX and quickly into competitive road racing. I was lucky to have my dad drive me all over the West, going to my races and riding wheel/broom support for our team.
I started shooting – consciously, as I like to say – since I was a freshman in high school. I was fortunate to go to an Arts & Vocational school in Tucson, Arizona where my photography teacher, Jerry Halfmann, helped instill in me a sense of purpose with photography and the visual arts.
However, I had never combined my lifelong passions of cycling and photography until this year. I’ve been living in France for the past four years, working in a highly creative industry and I was going to races like Paris-Roubaix and the Tour de France. Then one day I just jumped on a train to Liège and shot my first race – again, consciously – and loved the spontaneity and engagement I found in the riders, teams, fans and locals which, ultimately, came across in my images.
I love shooting indirect and unobvious locations in sharp, high contrast light as with this photograph of Team Europcar – shooting through the trees onto the hot asphalt.
Kathi: How is shooting a race different from, say, your travel photography or commercial work?
Marshall: Shooting a race is a one-shot deal and requires a significant amount of pre-planning and logistics for what ends up being only a matter of seconds to capture. Nonetheless, my work is subtle and highly observational and focuses on people. It’s more about the progression of a race, as in a play, versus that singular moment of victory. I’m especially drawn to post-race portraits, which I often find to be a time of reflection for the riders despite the often massive crowds around team buses.
Cycling photography is quite different from shooting travel or commercial work where I create the moment and can take my time planning and thinking about the specific shot – and even redoing it if needed. In cycling, as in other human events, the moment is just that – a moment that passes … I find this exhilarating!
Kathi: What are your plans for next season? More races, embedding with teams?
Marshall: Next year, I will shoot Milan-San Remo, Paris-Roubaix, the Giro, Tour de France and La Vuelta and then some of the late-season races such as Il Lombardia. I would love to shoot any of these races, even for a few days on one of the grand tours, embedded with a team. As a cyclist, I feel a great respect for and rapport with the riders and a sense of mutual understanding when I work with them and around them, even in emotionally charged and chaotic environments.
Kathi: What publications have you been featured in? Anything in the pipeline we can keep an eye out for?
Marshall: My work has been featured in a few online cycling journals and will be featured in the new issue of Simpson Magazine with a large spread of images from this year’s Vuelta. I’m especially excited about this as Simpson is a high-quality, printed magazine that is focused on the culture of cycling. I feel the magazine’s mission and style really fits with my own style and work and looks beautiful. More to come I hope!
Kathi: Now is the time, Marshall, for you to pick out some of your favourite photographs.
Marshall: Hard to choose but here goes!
I felt so horrible watching one of my favourite riders, Dan Martin, crash moments before the finish in Liege. More than blood and suffering, this image shows the disappointment in his face after a wonderful ride and a lost chance at a deserved victory. Is the smiling bearded man in the background just happy Dan got back on the bike and finished?
Fabian Cancellara remains calm and cool in the heat of southern Spain during this year’s Vuelta. I’m particularly drawn to shooting portraits like this as they stimulate in the viewer a more personal range of interpretations. It is neither direct nor posed, but captures the dirt and sweat in an unexpected moment of reflection and poise.
Greg Van Avermaet fully aero in Lyon at the opening stage of the Dauphiné. The movement and intersecting lines in this image underscore the rawness of speed.
After the climb to La Zubia at the Vuelta, Garmin-Sharp allowed me to shoot some portraits of the team cooling down after this brutally steep and hot stage. Here, Dan Martin stares intensely into my lens.
Fabian Cancellara having some fun with IAM’s Marcel Aregger at the Vuelta. Much of cycling photography is just a matter of being in the right place at the right time! I love the camaraderie that cycling builds at every level of the sport too.
Glistening helmets and perfect form at stage one of the Vuelta in Jerez de la Frontera. The low angle of this shot elevates the riders and over-accentuates the pavement that is shiny and harshly shadowed.
On the Côte de Monbazillac, stage 19 of the Tour, and everyone is absolutely soaked! Many riders crossing the top stared at me in shock as they saw me laying on the ground in the rain. Good times!
Pain and suffering. I prefer to remain almost hidden and I will often shoot through crowds and obstacles on purpose as a way of removing myself and my camera from the scene.
Chris Froome signing autographs for fans at the Vuelta. Throughout this season he was calm, approachable and open with fans.
A rider from Sky holds his head after stage one of the Vuelta. I will often follow a single rider before and after a stage in an effort to create a short story of his experience as opposed to wildly shooting any passing rider at the finish.
Alejandro Valverde in the maillot rojo. What I love about the Vuelta is how close the riders and fans are.
Kathi: Those are some fantastic pictures, Marshall. I’m really looking forward to seeing what you shoot next year in your packed racing calendar! Thank you so much for sharing these images with us.
Header image: Simon Gerrans, World Championships Road Race, 2014