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The Basement Tapes: Chris Auld from Issue 104

Interview by Tim Schamber with images from Chris Auld

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In issue 104, our 10th annual Photo Annual, we showcased 12 photographers and 1 collector that are at the top of their game in cycling photography. Here’s one of the extended interviews from Peloton magazine: The Photo Annual.

The man, the myth, Chris Auld. Image: Doris Knapen.

United Kingdom

Covid really took its toll on travel, especially for the U.K. Give us some insight into how crippling it was for someone like you who is used to traveling the world. To be honest, Covid is only one of the issues I have faced over the last year, the U.K. also had Brexit to deal with; you could describe this as the perfect storm. Reading government advice on travel, it sounded almost impossible to leave the country; and seeing European colleagues traveling without issue I took it upon myself to see what it was really like with my feet on the ground. Once out of the U.K. it felt like business as usual in Europe, with pretty much no restrictions on crossing borders. Getting back into the U.K. is honestly more difficult than traveling on mainland Europe, so I embarked on a three-month trip, taking in the Belgian classics, the Tour de Romandie and the Giro.

Giro d’Italia, stage 11. Image: Chris Auld.

Is it true you camped along the way during this year’s Tour de France? This is the third time I have covered the Tour and camped—if you can call it camping. I have a van with a bed in the back, not a camper. It is literally a van and a camp bed. I love it; it saves me so much time and money, especially on mountain stages. When everyone else is battling through traffic I am sat at the top of the mountain with a beer doing my editing, descending the climb the next morning when the roads are empty. There are quite a few photographers that camp during the race, so we meet up on campsites, park up together and hang out, sit around on deckchairs, edit images, and send them using mobile phones to our respective clients. To be honest, I sleep better in my van than I do in a hotel. I guess I am just used to it now, and you get to park up in some stunning locations.

The Tour de France this year seemed especially tight in terms of protocols and rules. Compared to previous years, what was your overall impression from a photographer’s standpoint? On paper, the rules seemed pretty strict, but like most things, in practice, it was pretty chilled, and as the race went on the restrictions eased. I have to admit that some of the new rules are an improvement—gone are the days of fighting for images during celebrations, which I am pleased to see the end of.

Tour de France, stage 7. Image: Chris Auld.

With more than a year behind us with regard to Covid, how has it changed your perspective on photographing cycling? It is not really Covid that has changed my perspective, it’s Brexit! Gone are the days I could work and travel with ease across Europe. A British passport used to give access to all areas, but it now feels like a poisoned chalice with so many new regulations for U.K. citizens in Europe.

On the stage that Cavendish equaled Merckx’ record 34-stage-win mark, there seemed to be quite the scramble, resulting in a few photographers being banned from the finish for a few days. What exactly happened? News travels fast! Yes, there were a few photographers banned from the finish for a few days, one of them being me. As part of the Covid protocols, only a select bunch of photographers are allowed to photograph celebrations and I’m not one of them. I had positioned myself near the back of the finish when Cav crossed the line. He stopped to celebrate quite near me, and several colleagues took the opportunity to grab a cheeky shot of the jubilant Cav, and not being one to miss out I decided to join the group. Unfortunately, we were spotted on television being in a place where we shouldn’t and paid the price of a finish-line ban for two stages. I guess I got carried away at the moment.

Bike racing is so unpredictable with weather, crashes, controversy…. Do you ever feel like you are fully prepared for a race? Or is the uncertainty a main part of the fun and challenge? I’m probably the worst person to ask about being prepared. I never do any preparation at all; a cursory glance at the roadbook on the morning of each stage is as good as it gets. I pretty much just “blag” my way through the days. I much prefer to talk with colleagues and get a consensus on what everyone else is doing and make my decisions from there.

What’s your current camera/equipment setup? The same as last year to be honest, as my gear is only 18 months old after renewing it all just before the lockdown. Saying that I’m very interested in switching to a mirrorless setup in the near future.

Giro d’Italia. Image: Chris Auld.

This particular image stands out to me. Give our readers an idea of your approach, reasoning, and situation of why you went for this shot. I’d heard rumors from photographers that had shot this climb before that there were some galleries [tunnels] which would make for some great shots. Getting to the climb early we drove the course, you could call it a recon, on driving through this particular section I knew it had potential. We work and travel in quite a close-knit group; sharing information with one another with potential good locations is commonplace, so I knew other photographers were going to be stopping on this section. We parked the cars about a kilometer away and walked back down. When the legend that is Jered Gruber is heading in the same direction you know you’re onto a winner. I just love the brutalism of the concrete contrasting with an alpine scene in the background. It is definitely not what you expect to see. It was like shooting in a multistory car park with mountains as a backdrop.


Twitter: @ChrisAuldPhoto
Instagram: @cauldphoto

From issue 104. Buy it here.