I met Richard Delaume through our shared admiration of Jacques Anquetil and the old Mirror Sprint cycling magazines. He is an amazing photographer. Some of you will know his work already if you read the pages of Procycling magazine. We got to talking, and he shared with me this great cyclo-cross photo essay that he shot in France. So we decided to do two things. First an interview that gives you a sense of Richard, and his love of our sport and photography, and second we made a feature of the essay so you could see all of his great images and dirt in their true splendor.
When did you first pick up a camera?
I started slowly in 2003, when I bought a compact digital camera using money borrowed from my father. I found it strange taking pictures at first. Back then I was a sports teacher and cyclist. Then in 2005 I bought an SLR, and it changed everything.
Can you remember what your first shot was?
My first shot was in a Mall in Nantes with my girlfriend at the time. I photographed the escalators from the side, a classical composition, but effective. I entered it for a “Young artist” contest, and it got selected for an exhibition.
What do you enjoy shooting now?
I still love to shoot cycling, and I am still a correspondent for Procycling in France. But since 2009 I started to also shoot social reportage as well. Travel also interests me. I have been to Burkina Faso and in April I’m going to Palestine. I have also begun work on a project based on autism.
How did you get into shooting cycling?
In 2005 I began to do editorial for magazines, then in early 2006 I saw the potential in shooting cycling. I know a lot of things about that world, seen from the inside as a rider.
A lot of the shots you took in the cyclo-cross essay are pre or post race – what were you trying to capture?
For this essay I wanted to capture the essence of this cycling discipline, and not just the race. Capturing something of the mental side of the sport, the attitude. But also the audience and the passion they have for it in Brittany and Belgium.
What rider have you enjoyed photographing most?
Erwan Mentheour in 2007 for Procycling, when they asked me shoot for the theme “10 years on”. Erwan retired after the Festina affair. He was one of the first riders convicted of EPO use in the 1997 Paris-Nice when he was riding for Francaise des Jeux. I spent a day with him in Paris and Beaubourg. We talked a lot, had a lot of laughs and drank a lot!
There are so many iconic images of our sport – do you have a favorite?
Anquetil and Poulidor climbing the Puy de Dome during the 1964 Tour. That image catches the climax of their rivalry and the drama of the sport. We rarely see that now.
If you had your choice to shoot a grand tour or one of the classics, what would it be?
No hesitation, the Tour. But I also loved going to the Tour of Flanders and Liege-Bastogne-Liege.
You told me a great story about your father and Jacques Anquetil – do you want to share?
Yes with pleasure. My father had a bakery and worked incredibly hard. We rarely saw him and since I was small I loved cycling with him, my mother too. Even now I am 32 we still look forward to riding together. We have even climbed Mount Ventoux together. When July and the Tour arrived it was great, we spent 3 weeks in front of the TV watching every day, waiting for that stage. The whole day was devoted to the monument. In his day he used to buy the Mirror and was a pretty good sprinter. Even today at the age of 60 he still rides pretty well, and I am always suspicious! My father had an idol when he was young, Jacques Anquetil. When Anquetil died in 1987, I saw him cry. It was a strange and emotional thing to see. This summer I walked into an old book shop and I came across a pile of old Mirror Sprint’s. I found an issue with Anquetil and I gave it to my father. He hung on the wall in his bakery.
If I could give you your dream assignment to track a rider for a week and document it – who would you choose, and why?
Lance Armstrong without hesitation. My father took a picture of him in ‘93 or ‘94 at the start of a stage of Paris-Nice. He was with the Motorola team and I would love to meet him and have him sign that photo. He represents everything I love about our sport, courage, confidence, and attention to detail. Even though I didn’t like his attitude towards Contador at the Tour last summer, nothing changed. The best period was around 2003 when he fell, came back and won the stage to Luz Ardiden. Also the moment of Beloki’s fall, Armstrong’s handling was amazing. I loved his attacks on Ulrich, the turn, the look and the attack. I am also a fan of Boonen and found Frank Vandenbroucke so beautiful to watch on a bike (I cried when I heard he had died and I found the tribute by Flecha at Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne this year a beautiful thing).
Have you tried shooting video with any of the new digital SLRs? Would film/video be a natural progression for you?
Yes and it’s absolutely brilliant! I love video and it is a totally new means of expression for me. I am testing Nikon D3s on my next trip to Palestine, where I will shoot a short documentary about daily life in occupied territory.
If you had to choose one bike what would it be?
I like bikes to look aggressive and I love the new Cannondale’s. The frame would be in matte black, with the logo in grey and pink neon. My name surrounded by “skulls” would be nice. Equipped with Dura Ace and a pair of Zipp’s
What would your dream ride be? Where and who with?
My dream ride is Ventoux, but the Isoard is also nice. I live in the Alps and have the great Col’s from The Tour on my doorstep, so dream rides are easy. Doing this with my father would be great, but I enjoy climbing alone with the scenery and making the top is a great feeling. As a photographer I would love to do the same trip as Nicolas Bouvier in the 1950s. He left from Geneva on a journey to India passing through Afghanistan (not easy today). Or maybe the classic long road trip like Jack Kerouac’s “On The Road”, only maybe less crazy. For this trip, I’d like to meet a woman crazy enough to love me and come with me.
Coppi or Merckx?
Campy, Shimano gold SRAM?
If you are interested in seeing more of Richards work, or contacting him, his site is at http://www.richarddelaume.com/