Fine arts photography and shooting the Tour de France are not the most natural bedfellows. Even Eugene Kim, who has a foot in both worlds, admits he’s yet to have clearly figured out how to bring them together.
But the LA based photographer has been adding cycling work to his professional portfolio for the past couple of years.
“As a fan, I had been photographing the Tour of California – a few stages here and there – for six years,” he says. “But I haven’t seriously photographed cycling content until two years ago when I decided to follow and photograph the entire Tour of California on 120mm and 35mm film.”
Since then -among other assignments- he’s also covered the Tour de France, the track world cup and photographed visits to the Specialized and Giro company HQs for Rouleur.
It is from his visit to the 2017 Tour that the majority of Kim’s selection have been made. And perhaps you can see the thinking of the fine-arts mind behind some of the shots. Take for instance his eventual treatment of the serendipitous Warren Barguil portrait above, shot on polaroid and -unthinkably for some photographers- embellished with a fanboy’s marker pen.
“I had missed that epic shot of Barguil crossing the finish line with his hands in the air.” he recalls. “I hadn’t wanted to sit or stand with the other photographers in the designated finish area getting replicas of each other’s shots so I was 200-400m down the road. It didn’t work and I was left empty-handed.
“Luckily, after the stage, the Izoard was completely gridlocked and Barguil was trapped in a solo photo shoot with my Polaroid 600SE camera. On the morning of the next stage, right after the team buses arrived, I again ran into Barguil, stepping out of the bus in a quiet moment before the crowds had arrived. ‘Autograph?’ I asked.
“If I can, I like to get Polaroids autographed for two purposes,” continues Kim. “To break the disconnection between the lens and subject -to join them in the same narrative- and to serve as a reminder that we are all just fans after all.”
“I swear, photo credentials were a VIP pass to not only the Tour, but all of France. Using a Vélib’ bike to get as close as I could to the Arc de Triomphe within the 30-minute free period, I ascended gradually and adjacent to the Champs Elysees, passing police confused and amused by the combination of my photo bib, medium format camera (Hasselblad 501cm) and city hire-scheme bike. When I arrived at the monument, I asked to be let up and they simply let me.”
“Felix English and Mark Downey after winning the Madison at the 2017 UCI Track World Cup in Los Angeles.”
“The backside of Galibier, stage 17 of the Tour de France, photographed on 120mm Portra 400 film.”
“David Millar helps Fred Armisen with his Brompton at Golden Saddle Cyclery in Los Angeles, California. Neither has any clue who the other is.”
“Edvald Boasson Hagen, stage 19 of the 2017 Tour de France. Again, resistant to the notion of producing replicas of other photographer’s images, I vacated my designated shooting perspective to find a different one. And again I struggled. As the break neared and the remaining kilometres became fewer in number, my stress inclined as I waded through the finish crowds trying to find ‘the spot’. Somehow, I managed to get the attention of a kind man above, and he directed me to the door around the corner that led to his elevated home. Inside, his family, warm and happily gathered, welcomed me and let this stranger occupy one of their prized balconies. An unforgettable kindness.”