Interview - Kristof Ramon
RAPHA CONDOR SHARP HEADED OVER TO BELGIUM LAST WEEK TO PREPARE FOR THE TOUR OF BRITAIN. PHOTOGRAPHER KRISTOF RAMON JOINED THEM FOR THEIR TWO RACES AND A TRAINING RIDE.
At Condor we've been following Kristof's imagery ever since we met him on a very cold wet ride after the Gent 6 Day in November 2009. In that time he's captured some of 2010 biggest names in pro cycling. You can find them all laid out on his Flickr site. With the season on the road nearly wrapped it was time to find out more about the guy behind the photos.
Name, nickname, hometown, age?
Kristof "Kramon" Ramon, Kampenhout/Belgium, 39.
Are you a cycling photographer or a photographer who likes cycling?
I'd love to be the first one, but fear I'm only the second one for the moment... Cycling photography and my (adorable) kids have kept me from actually riding myself over the last 3 years. I will pick it up again though! I simply loooove riding in the mountains.
Why cycling, not running, animals, weather, something else?
I do other (commercial/advertising/portrait) photography, but the cycling is where my heart is. I simply think pro cyclists are the toughest sportsmen around. I have huge respect for them. The sport has a great history as well. There are SO MANY stories hanging around in the peloton. And well: I was born in Belgium and I still live there... this is one cycle-mad country. My street is a 2km cobbeled one. I love that. In all my other (professional) photography I have to make compromises (in style/time/quality/ideas/...) and I'm fine with that, but for my cycling work I will not. That has to be pure.
Who is your favourite rider to photograph? Why? Is it because of their style, their expression or personality?
I do have a weak spot for Anglo Saxon riders & teams. I tend to communicate easier with them and not only because of the language. It's a cultural thing I guess.
Portrait or action?
Portrait. The rider/person is always my focus. That's one of the reasons I don't have too many 'atmosphere shots' that show the place these gladiators perform in.
Rain, mud or brilliant sun?
The moodier, the better. I'd love to shoot in heavy snow one day. I almost succeeded last year. But two minutes before the start (of the cyclocross race I was at) the heavy snow turned into regular, then no snow... maybe this year.
Black & white or colour?
I came out of a B/W period when starting out with cycling photography about a year and a half ago. I now mainly focus on colour. But the training-ride with Team Rapha Condor Sharp, on the 3rd day I was with them, inspired me to go back to B/W. And those shots really look better that way.
We saw the image of the Rapha Condor Sharp riders messing about on mini bikes. Do you try to get the quirky pictures, behind the scenes or something more serious?
When I contacted Rapha Condor Sharp, I knew I wanted more of a reportage-feel to it more than usual and I still wanted to conserve my visual style. I always stay open for whatever presents itself. That day it was the kids-bikes. It was a simple relaxed moment and a lot of fun. I love that.
Best race you've ever been to?
That would have to be Paris-Roubaix 2010. I was in a HTC-Columbia support-car with my friend (of the team) Jens Tummeleer and I got totally engulfed in the atmosphere and got some super shots at the end of the day.
If you were a camera, what camera would you be?
Haha! I would be analogue for sure. Old and with lot's of bruises and little defaults and edgy. But with soul. Let's say: an old Rolleiflex.
What is a strobist?
"Strobist" is a term used/introduced by American photographer/blogger David Hobby and refers to the off-camera use of flashes. He, just by himself, is responsible for a massive 'movement' in the photographic community towards that specific use of flashes. I owe him a lot.
What's the wildest thing you've done to gain better access for a shot?
Is this for a book? 'cause I go pretty far at times... I regularly hold my €7500-camera loose in my hand, 20 cm of the ground while sitting backwards on a fast moving motorbike in front of a peloton. Is that wild? I simply want those shots, because I know those will have the most impact.
Do you feel that your identity changes when you lift the camera to your eye? Do you act differently?
I'm no different I guess. But when I do pick up my camera at a cycle-race, I shoot/act as a professional. I go for my angles. I set up gear along the course. I step up to riders and ask them if I can make their portrait. I give myself a self-imposed assignment every time. Clearly; I wouldn't do that without a camera. But at a cycle-event I rarely don't have a camera with me.
What's the most important quality a photographer needs to have?
When dealing with people: social skills & respect.
Do you have a favourite image or are you still searching?
From others: photographer Stefan Van Fleteren has made a lot of my favourite images... just Google him. From my own: I like how several of my pics came out, but over time it keeps changing. For the moment these three I like a lot.
You're on Facebook, Twitter, Vimeo and Flickr - all are digital mediums. What about print?
I got published in a few magazines over the last months and that is really picking up, mainly in the American and Belgian market. I've got a few covers as well. I'm working on two book-projects at the moment. My own book (about road-cycling) is a project I see happening over the next 2 years. And together with Hungarian/British photographer Balint Hamvas and cx-rider and writer Christine Vardaros I'll be working on a project around cyclocross this winter. We hope this collaboration will result in a book as well. But we'll see it when we get there... in the mean while I'll hang around the internet some more.