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July 13th, 2016 – He stands far back from the “scrum” that follows every stage finish in the Tour de France as photographers, journalists and TV cameramen clamor around the day’s winner. Instead, Scott Mitchell waits for the stars to come to him. Mitchell is not your typical cycling photographer, but he is the personal photographer to stars of the sport like Sir Bradley Wiggins or Mark Cavendish. And in his day job, Mitchell is also a photographer for rock stars like Paul Weller, founder of legendary British bands like The Jam and The Style Council.
Words: James Startt – European Associate to peloton
Images: Courtesy of Scott
From: Montpellier, France
“Getting into photography was a happy accident. I went to visit my mom who was living in Spain and there was this bike race, the Tour of Murcia. Since I was 16 I’ve been riding a Vespa and I knew that there was this one cyclist, Bradley Wiggins who had a Lambretta LI150. I saw him before a stage and we started chatting about scooters. He asked me if I was coming back, and when I said no, he said, “Well come back and just hang out.”
Before he knew it, Wiggins wanted to hire him to do a photo shoot. “I thought he wanted me to shoot him in Soho with some cool clothes or something, but it was the Tour de France. That was in 2010.”
The immediate link between the two was their shared taste of mod culture that has remained a strong undercurrent in British music, art and fashion since the 1960’s. Both were passionate about Vespa scooters and a whole list of other elements linked to the mod culture.
Aérogramme presented by Giordana #GiordanaCycling
“English schools were very tribal and you had to be a punk or a mod or a Teddy Boy or a skinhead or a new romantic. I was a mod. I just loved the look. I loved the attitude. At first, it was about buying the shoes and getting the haircut. When I was 15 I got my first scooter. Then I started buying books on the art that mod culture produced, with artists like David Hockney. I started reading a lot about art and finally ended up at Edinbugh College of Art.”
Wiggins immediately took to Mitchell, who already had Paul Weller, one of Wiggins’ favorite musicians, on his client list. “Brad said that the thing he liked about me was that I didn’t ask him anything about cycling,” Mitchell said. And soon he was the official Team Sky photographer.
“Scott has got his own style and personality, especially when it comes to fashion and design. And the fact the he doesn’t come from cycling actually helps,” said Team Sky general manager Dave Brailsford. “You know a lot of the guys on the team like fashion and music, so they really connect with him on that level.”
Mitchell’s own images, often black and white, come from a more reportage perspective than most sports photography. And a current series of stripped down black and white portraits of Wiggins, Cavendish and Weller, call to mind Richard Avedon, one of his favorite photographers. “In a way there is nothing more interesting than the human face and I’m trying to find the right moment that captures something about them, capturing that special thing I don’t have.”
Since his first Tour, Mitchell has become a familiar face at the race, and this year he is here primarily photographing Cavendish. But while he photographs some of the sport’s biggest stars, Mitchell still does not consider himself a cycling photographer. Instead, he always has remained focused on specific personalities, and in many ways, he sees little difference between sports stars and music stars.
“Their lifestyles are actually very similar,” Mitchell says when comparing cyclists to musicians. “Both spend much of their life on the road living in the buses. Musicians have a soundcheck before their show and cyclists get on the turbo trainer. But they are both putting on a show. And then there is the absolute focus, the hard work and dedication. All those guys work so hard. I’ve always been surprised at how hard Paul still works after all of these years in the music industry. He’s had so many hits and yet he is still writing so much music. And the same is true for Mark and Brad. They have both won so much, but they are still so focused on their current goals.”
And he admits that their drive is contagious. “Hanging around such immense talents, pushes me to keep pushing.”
Check back daily as Startt brings a different personality to Aérogramme.