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Emily Maye Captures the Intimacy and Emotions of Cycling

By Adam Marsal/Brian Fleming

Emily Maye is the embedded team photographer for Trek Factory Racing and has worked for Rapha, Specialized, Trek, Soigneur Magazine, amongst others. She first started taking pictures in high school before becoming more serious about it after college. She’s spent the last four years embedded with cycling teams throughout their seasons. We sat down with Emily to talk with her about her love for cycling and photography.

Why did you choose cycling as the subject of your photography?

My background is in cinema and I spent a number of years writing before I turned to photography full time. I had an idea for a film that I wanted to write and I was doing a lot of research on cycling. My family watched the Tour de France as a kid and I had a lot of affection for the sport as I got older.

Janez Brajkovic and Levi Leipheimer warm up for the Individual time trial at the 2011 Tour of Utah.
Photo: Emily Maye

When I wanted to write the film, that’s when I learned more about the other races and the history and that made me like it even more. I decided to take some photographs as inspiration for sitting down to write and I haven’t left! It is so photogenic and there’s something so brutal and so beautiful about it. It has given me a lot to photograph in the past four years.

Do you have any favorite cyclists or races?

I really like Bradley Wiggins and I think the big personalities make the sport interesting. In the peloton you need some people that stand out and bring something interesting to the table. One of my favorites to photograph is Jasper Stuyven.

Photo: Emily Maye

I was on a team with him when he was in U23 and now in the World Tour and over time it has been cool to photograph him and watch him grow up. As for races, the Giro is probably my favorite. I love the country and the colors of Italy and I think there is a lot of passion in that race.

How should a good sports photo look?

I think TV coverage changes the importance of what sports photography can and should show. There was a time when ‘news style’ imagery was important for documenting what happened in the race but because of TV there isn’t as much need for that. I don’t like sport photography that looks like a screen grab of the TV coverage.

Photo: Emily Maye

I try to find something more than that and show another side of the race or of a person that you don’t have access to normally or isn’t as obvious as them crossing the finish line. There is an incredible amount of drama built into sports, and photography is a great medium to capture that.

What do you try to capture when you take part in a race as a photographer?

For me, I am trying to photograph the people involved and not the activity. I think I have a very human approach. So it’s less about the sport of cycling and more about the men that participate in the sport of cycling.

I like all of the things that surround the race: the preparation, time in hotels, travel, downtime, post race. I think that is such a huge part of being a cyclist and I want to capture those angles as well as the atmosphere of the race.

What has been your best experience related to cycling?

The first race I did with the Trek Factory Racing Team (at the time they were Radioshack Leopard Trek) was Flanders in 2013. At that point I had spent two years documenting cycling and the classics were by far my favorite.

Photo: Emily Maye

But on this occasion it was my first time at the classics with a team and with a potential hopeful. Cancellara’s win at both Flanders and again the next week at Roubaix is probably my favorite two days of shooting cycling. It was wonderful to capture that moment from inside of the team and the celebrations on the bus after.

Is there something you always carry with you while shooting besides your camera gear?

External batteries to charge my phone. I get made fun of for always traveling around with the huge extra batteries but I always need power! The gear can be a lot to travel around with. I wish I could travel lighter.

Photo: Emily Maye

What are your plans for the rest of the season?

I head to the Tour de France next week with Trek Factory Racing. We have also been doing these home stories where we visit the riders in their hometowns and where they grew up. So I have a few more of those to do this season.

Photo: Emily Maye

The season really winds down for me after the Tour de France, so I will head into some other projects after that in other sports.

Emily Maye

See Emily’s inspiring work here.