Andy took his first pictures of UrbanFreeflow in 2003 and evolved to a full-on professional photographer through the love to Parkour and Photography. We hooked up with him and asked 10 Questions, have a look.
Q1. How did you start taking pictures of Freerunning?
I was studying a Master’s degree in 2003 in American Film and Literature that I never finished. One of the elective modules was about urban representation in film which looked at how we understand the city through movies and television.
I’d seen a glimpse of Parkour on late night TV and wondered if it might be something worth investigating. I spoke to my tutor – a big fan of street photography and skateboarding – who loved the idea and I then spent a fortnight sifting through the internet in search of anything and everything to do with Parkour. Back then this wasn’t much – a handful of french forums and a load of grainy videos that could be downloaded, often in a format you couldn’t watch. This was a couple of years before YouTube came on the scene. I finally found UrbanFreeflow’s tiny forum and website and it turned out that they were about to meet up for the third time ever – April 2003.
I drove to London, picked up Blue Devil on the way despite us having never met before,and spent the day hanging out at the Leap of Faith next to Liverpool St and the Barbican. No one really knew what we were doing or why, but there was a tremendous sense of fun. I met Ez, Kerbie, Asif, Hassan, Bam, The Saiyans and a few others. I was there just to experience it and chat to these guys and took a load of photographs at the same time.
I’d not really taken many photos before and I was just using the automatic settings on a cheap SLR that I’d barely used before. I stuck the photos online as best I could and it went from there. People liked the photos, I wanted to take more and I started training and becoming more and more involved with what was then a tiny community.
Q2. What equipment do you use? Do you have a favoorite camera/lens?
I use a Canon EOS 5D Mark 1. I’m waiting for the day that I can upgrade to a Mark 3. However, they’re expensive so I will probably be waiting for a while!
The lens I use the most is the Canon EF 16-35mm L which is THE best lens in the world. I was lucky enough to be invited to do an advert for Canon back in 2006 and they paid me with Canon equipment.
Q3. You travelled a lot, what is your favorite city in the world?
Though question. There’s so many. Jyväskylä because MrSpidey and the Finnish guys are just incredible people. The day we spent training in Genoa in Italy was magical – so many people came to meet us when we visited. Same in Rome and Turin. Managua in Nicaragua was surreal. Bangkok and Mumbai were both pretty crazy. Too hard to choose. I’ve often said that the best way to experience a new city is in the company of a resident tracer, so the answer is probably anywhere that I’ve not been to yet where there’s some who can take me straight to the best Parkour Locations that it has to offer. :D
Q4. Out of the 100s of pictures on your site, do you have a favorite, if you could show one picture to represent your style of photography which one would it be?
Difficult to have a favorite, but there are ones that I’m proud of for lots of different reasons – capturing something that was totally unexpected or required some real hard work before I could get a result. The photo I took in Hampi in India is probably the best photograph I’ve ever taken, because it’s not like anything else. Thomas was keen to do the jump and it was fucking massive with no margin for error. I was also the culmination of a truly epic trip – riding a motorbike across India.
As for one that represents my style? Probably anything with Sticky or Thomas Couetdic in it. The photographs I take are all about people and those two embody the spirit of adventure and athleticism that I love.
Q5. What do you like to do in your spare time?
There’s no such thing as spare time. I’m completely addicted to rock climbing. As I live in London it’s hard to get out on to the real rock unfortunately. I can almost eat/sleep/climb/photograph/earn money in combination but usually something gives way. One of the five will always suffer, because of the other four.
Q6. What is the hardest thing when taking Freerunning images?
Having the stubbornness to carry on when it feels like nothing is working.
Q7. What’s the biggest trouble a picture ever got you in?
Nothing too bad. I once spent a day photographing with Sticky in the most incredible location which required some amazing climbing to get access. We spent 8 hours exploring a place where no one had set foot in almost twenty years. However no one will ever see the photos as I would immediately be charged with trespass and unlawful entry. All very innocent, however. We just wanted to see what was there – didn’t damage anything and didn’t steal anything.
Other than that, I almost ran into a bit of trouble in Managua whilst out on my own scouting for locations. A handful of police officers carrying shotguns ran over and escorted me out of a park cos they were worried that I was about to get stabbed. Not a nice part of town, apparently. Still quite grateful to them.
Q8. Your first book has the title “The Moment Between” what do you mean and what does it mean to you?
I travelled around Italy in 2008 with Thomas Couetdic and Blane. When I first learned about our trip, I wanted to go everywhere as quickly as possible and experience as many cities as possible. When I realized we were going to be travelling in a 30year old car I was worried that it would take too long.
Afterwards I realized that taking pleasure in the journey is as important – if not more important – than the journey itself. It’s almost like the moves between moves that happen in Parkour; yes, the big bits are important, but it’s when you combine them with the moves between moves that you create flow. I got a much better understanding of Italy because, not only did we visit lots of amazing places, we saw everything else in between – the bits that give you a much more authentic experience.
Q9. After so many years of shooting Freerunning, what keeps you going and what inspires you?
People and places. I want to travel, experience the incredible Parkour-Community in as many places as possible. Find new locations. And go on adventures.
Q10. How does it feel to have your photography exhibited?
Amazing. I’m incredibly privileged and very proud. A lot of hard work has gone into the images over the years so it’s wonderful to see them printed. Something that I really wasn’t expecting.
Q11. Last question, what’s your number one tip for a beginner, who wants take Freerunning pictures?
No one thing I’m afraid, but there’s a small handful of tips that I’ve given to people asking photography advice:
- Take lots of photographs
- Learn lots of skills
- Meet as many people as you can and be nice: give respect, earn it back.
If you still can’t get enough of Andy’s amazing work, follow his blog (http://kiell.tumblr.com/) and check out his homepage (http://kiell.com/)!