Photography – and sports photography in particular – is something we’ve only been able to admire from afar at Beach until now. No one here considers themselves a photography expert. But when we saw Emily Maye’s work, it seemed like a perfect fit for us.
Emily is primarily known for her work on professional cycling – as an embedded photographer with the Trek Factory Racing Team, as well a commercial photographer for Rapha’s partnership with Team Sky and a host of others – and we’re big cycling fans here. But it’s her eye for the drama, and the entire vast spectacle of a cycling eventthat sets Emily apart. Rarely will you have a line-crossing winner, arms aloft in celebration – Emily focuses on the behind-the-scenes detail; the kid who’s delighted to get a cap from the tour caravan; the groups of spectators lining the cobbled streets of Belgium drinking beer; the cobbled streets themselves – and it’s that reverence for her discipline that sits her nicely amongst our previous – mainly illustrator – exhibitors, and made her seem a perfect fit. Emily’s exhibition ‘We Were Fought By Men Very Fast’ opens at Beach on July 1st just in time for this year’s Tour De France, which, of course, passes through London via Yorkshire. It will focus on her work from this year’s ‘Classics’ – a series of one day (mainly) races through (mainly) Belgium and France, which are followed little on these shores, but are perhaps the most iconic cycle races on the continent. We caught up with her about her show and what she’s been working on.
Hello Emily! What are you up to at the moment?
Hello! I am currently at home in California for two weeks in between the “classics” season and the “grand tour” season for cycling. I was on the road for about 9 weeks covering the classics and now I get a little break before I head to Italy for the final week of the Giro d’Italia and will be on the road from there for another 9 weeks.
Tell us a bit about your background as a photographer?
I started out photographing when I was 15 but I was always a really visual person. I went through phases of taking street photos and pictures of buildings and nature but I spent a lot of time in the ballet studio and so I began taking more and more photographs there. Once I started photographing people and getting better at capturing them, that became much more of an interest for me. Now I have sort of settled on Sports and I find myself interested in photographing the people that play the sport more than just the sport itself. People are endlessly fascinating. I studied cinema in college and I was writing after I graduated and at the same time as I was developing as a photographer. I think story has always been really important to me and the connection between the two made sense to me. I really wanted to tell visual stories in any way I could.
How and when did you get into cycling, and when did you start photographing cycling?
I started photographing cycling 3 years ago but I grew up watching it so I knew a little bit about it. I know a lot more about it now than I did at the time though! I really wanted to write a cycling film and was researching the old old history of the Sport. In that research period I was really enamored with old cycling photos and I wanted to photograph it and tell a story that way. This year I am traveling with a team and so I get to see the entire lifestyle from the inside. That has been interesting to me as a photographer.
What is it about competitive cycling that interests you?
No day is ever truly the same, which is surprising considering the repetition of the sport and the rigidity of the daily schedule. But I think that’s what’s compelling about Sport, the element of unknown and excitement in that. I am very curious about the mentality of a professional athlete and the daily sacrifices and rituals they go through for their Sport. Cycling has so much suffering and small peculiarities that it makes for a great subject for those interests. It also has a very interesting fan culture. I love the mix of those things.
The series from your Beach show are from this year’s ‘Classics’ – explain a little about these races, and their significance…
The Classics are a series of one day races early on in the season. Most people know about the Tour de France, the most famous of the grand tours, where the riders race daily for 3 weeks. The Classics have a completely different vibe. These races are long and very difficult, often over tricky terrain and most of them are approaching 100 years old now. The classics mostly take place in Belgium over narrow dirt roads and cobblestones and it’s all in on the day. The crowds are wonderful and the energy of the races are really special.
Your show coincides with the Tour De France in Britain! What are you looking forward to about that?
The Tour de France is the next closest thing to the Classics in terms of excitement and I think Britain will make a really special Grand Depart for this year’s Tour. In previous years I’ve come into the tour later in the race and I am really excited to be there from the start to finish this year. The growth in British cycling is huge and after Team Sky winning the past two editions, I think the turnout will be really spectacular. After the first three stages the race heads to the cobblestones of the Classics races and that should be the trickiest stage of the race for a lot of riders. The grand tour riders aren’t used to riding those roads while the classics riders specialize in being able to make it over the rough Classics courses.
Emily’s exhibition opens July 2nd and we’ll be hosting an opening party on July 1st from 6-9pm.