Monday, March 11, 2013

Capturing a wealth of decisive moments. An interview with photographer Emiliano Granado.

Emiliano on location for Outlier

This is the first in what I hope will be an ongoing series about photography within cycling. The idea for the series came about as I wrote a post (which in retrospect had an unusual title, even for me) called An umbrella in Alpe d'Huez: A change in how cycling can be portrayed. In that post, I described a change in how cycling was being depicted through the written word and photography by a select number of people. Aesthetic qualities aside, I felt then (as I do now) that photography has become increasingly disconnected from the very aspects that first drew most of us in to the sport. 

When looking at a lot of cycling photography today, I began to wonder: where the hell is the beauty, grit, and the wild-eyed enthusiasm I had equated with cycling from an early age? How had so many photographers managed to squeeze the life out of an activity that—I believe—can't help but display it's best qualities to anyone who's looking? 

In this series, I want to feature those people who have not only managed to put life back into cycling photography, but also triumphed in depicting the very aspects that first drew me in, as I listened to radio transmissions of the Tour de France in the mid 80s. 

Yes, there's the glory, and agony that is inherent in major races for top professionals. But there are also the quiet and unusual moments in a rider's life. There's development squads, smaller professional teams, as well as fans, staff and those in the periphery of cycling. In capturing these and other subjects, photographers like Emiliano Granado have helped me remember why I first fell in love with cycling. 

From Manual For Speed

Emiliano was born in La Plata, Argentina, and he moved to the United States with his family at an early age. He lived in Miami for much of his youth, including a period of time when his family lived rather close to mine. Sadly, we never met back then, though perhaps we bumped into each other at the cologne counter in the Dadeland mall's Burdines at some point. 

Today, Emiliano lives in Brooklyn, and works all over the place. He has shot for an impressive list of clients that includes Esquire, Monocle, GQ Magazine, French Glamour, Microsoft, IBEX, Converse, Mass Appeal Magazine, Men's Health, Outlier Clothing, Wired Magazine, Travel + Leisure, Rapha, Fast Company and many others.

I'll let Emiliano tell you more.

From Manual For Speed

How and when did you first encounter cycling?
About ten years ago, I bought a bike to get around town. That snowballed into obsessing over vintage bikes, handmade bikes, Italian bikes, etc. I started riding a lot. Lost some weight. And that was that. I didn't know it then, but Daniel's [Daniel Wakefield Pasley, Emiliano's partner in Manual For Speed and several other projects] Rapha Continental played a big role in turning me into a real cyclist. And it definitely was one of the biggest reasons I started pointing a camera at cycling.

When did you first encounter photography as something other than casual birthday party snapshots?
Around 2001, I was working at an ad agency. I hated it and felt like my brain was slowly decaying. So I started taking photography classes as a way to keep active, intellectually. That opened up a whole world of photographic possibilities for me. I started learning about Robert Frank, Avedon, Stephen Shore, Eggleston, etc etc. There was no turning back for me.

From Manual For Speed
Your collective work seems to turn the camera away from the action, namely key—but somewhat expected— moments in a race, and toward a more human side of the sport. Do you see this a conscious deviation away from Cartier-Bresson's "decisive moment", or simply as a different, but equally "decisive" way of photographing.
I don't want to argue with the establishment of the "decisive moment," but I may argue that there are many, many decisive moments in every situation. With that said, we are not interested in capturing the same moment everyone else is after - ie, arms-raised-across-the-finish-line. The whole point to Manual For Speed and the majority of our work is to explore the unexplored. So if everyone is seeking certain photographs and decisive moments, then we're concerned with capturing something else. Something more subtle, quieter, and more honest.

From Manual For Speed

How did Manual For Speed begin, and is that when you and Daniel Wakefield Pasley started collaborating?
Daniel and I have been working together since his last days at Rapha. We met during the Continental and always stayed in touch. We started working on other projects for different Brands. Documenting a cycling season from an embedded, honest point of view was always a goal. We finally pitched it to the right Brand (Castelli) and now we're in our third year.

Is Manual For Speed the embodiment of an approach to shooting a sport (which you had beforehand), or did it help develop that approach?
We definitely had to develop a bit. But essentially, our approach to photography has always been this same honest, documentary point of view.

You and Daniel Wakefield Pasley recently traveled throughout Colombia, photographing different aspects of cycling there, from development academies, to the professional ranks. Without giving away some of the awesomeness that will surely make its way into Manual For Speed, what surprised you most about Colombia, and the way cycling occurs there?
I was most shocked by the disconnect to modern cycling science and training methods. And the doping thing.

Emiliano in Bogota, shooting members of Esteban Chaves' cycling academy.

I saw somewhere on your site (though I can't place it now), that you hate when people ask if you'll be shooting digital or film. Do you think people in general focus too much on equipment (which is tangible and easier to understand), instead of the idea behind a shot and its execution?
Yes, i say that often. People want to talk about technical information and not about emotional information.

If you'll excuse me for asking about equipment—particularly with the last question in mind—you use Mamiya 7s (though I'm sure you use other cameras as well). What aspect of that camera do you love, and is there anything you wish you could change about it?
I love the Mamiya 7. L O V E. It's almost perfect. I love that it syncs at 1/500. I love how light and small and fast it is. I love the focusing speed. I love the look. I love changing film. I love being limited to 20 shots (220). I love that it doesn't have 1/3 stop increments.

The only problems with it are the 1m focus range and the build quality.

From Manual For Speed

Is there anything you purposefully avoid in your work?
The arms-raised-crossing-the-line-300mm-glory-shot.

What do you love about being a photographer, and what do you hate?
I love photography. I love creating. i love seeing how other people live. I love the access. I love feeling like an anthropologist.

I hate when people tell me to "hey, you're a photographer, take our photo" at a party or somethng. Ugh.

From Thank God That's Over

Whose photography work do you admire in or outside the realm of cycling?
Classics: Robert Frank, Stephen Shore, William Eggleston, August Sander, Lee Friedlander, Richard Avedon, Bruce Davidson, Irving Penn, etc

Whose work, photography aside, inspires your work?
I'm big on Edward Hopper right now. Caravaggio is the greatest. I love El Greco. I love Eero Saarinen.

From Manual For Speed

If you could craft your own photo assignment, and get all the necessary funding for it, what would it be?
It would probably look a lot like August Sanders' life work. Essentially, I want to photograph everyone. I want to see their lives. What they dream of. How they live.

San Quentin state penitentiary, for Mass Appeal magazine
San Quentin state penitentiary, for Mass Appeal magazine

What races will you be shooting this year, and what other projects do you have in the near future?
We're focusing on the Giro this year. And a few other races. More to come on this! Also, Yonder Journal. That's all you need to know! It's the future.  ■

Emiliano Granado (personal site)
Manual For Speed
Yonder Journal
Emiliano on Twitter
Emiliano on Instagram
Emiliano on Facebook

Rick Ross
From Thank God That's Over

From Manual For Speed
From Manual For Speed
From Manual For Speed


  1. Nice. Emiliano is a great photographer and a good dude!

  2. So good the pics and text ... great job!


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