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She Lives Major: Emily Maye

Christine Mitchell Adams September 14, 2015

I first discovered photographer Emily Maye when I saw her work in Tracksmith's first lookbook. Not only were the compositions beautiful, but the way she shot her subjects - the athletes - was incredible. These were not glamorous photos of effortless athleticism. Emily had captured the real physical and emotional effort of sport, in all its glory and pain. She has broad and impressive portfolio of commercial work for brands like Trek and Rapha and touring with athletes with events like the Tour de France. I'm so thrilled to have had the opportunity to chat with her about her work and what draws her to the world of sport.

You're a commercial photographer for sport––of athletes and athletic brands. What inspired you to pursue this category for your photography? 
I grew up in a ballet school and very much wanted to be a professional ballet dancer. I spent every day in the studio and so I have always had an affection for the dedication that professional sports require and often at such a young age. I love the personal rituals of artists and athletes as well. I went on to study cinema and have made a career out of combining my love of visual storytelling with athletics in the form of photography. It has turned out to be a great fit. 

What I find captivating is the way you capture the physicality of sport––the sweat, exhaustion, pain, pride, and emotion––versus just the grandeur. 
I often go for the moments that most move me and that’s definitely what draws me to the drama of sport, that physicality. Because a photograph is silent, body language and the physical demonstration can tell a really complex story if you get it right. I felt like I had seen a lot of sports images that showed the high point of someone’s actions but were lacking an emotional component and I’ve tried to approach the photographing of sport in a bit of a more cinematic way.

You shoot for brands' seasonal lookbooks as well as documenting events like the Tour de France (touring with the cyclists themselves). Do you find the experiences similar or different?
There are definitely different requirements for shooting for brands and live events where you need to make sure everyone is styled in the proper attire and that you get all of the angles that you need for the product. However, I have been really lucky to work with brands that also allow a certain amount of real life magic to enter into the photo. One of the main differences is often the quality of light! I can choose when to shoot for a brand and I don’t get that luxury at a live event. But in return, documenting events has a rush to it. You know that everything that happens in front of you is only going to unfold once and you have to get the shot. That has been good training for my eye! 

Are there events coming up that you'll be touring or special projects that you're excited about?
Cyclocross season has started and I will go to my first cyclocross race of the year in Las Vegas with the Trek riders this week. I also have the last race of the cycling season, Il Lombardia, coming up in Italy embedded with the Trek Factory Racing Team. For the Fall, I am working on some personal projects and portfolio expansion and I am excited to see how those turn out. It’s nice to have a little bit of time to dig into some projects I have wanted to do for awhile.

Can you share with us one of your favorite photos and why?
It’s so hard to pick a favorite photo but because I have been going through some old cyclocross photos lately, I’ll tell you about one of those. I took this photo of Luxembourg cyclocross rider Kevin Geniets at the end of the race at the World Championships in 2014. I love the blood and mud on his hands and bike and he such a delicate touch on the handlebar. Even though there are no faces in the picture, you get a sense of that physicality you mentioned. It really summarizes the feeling of cyclocross for me.

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