Professional photographer Andy Day captures unique action packed images showing the interaction between the human and urban form
Andy Day, known for his action-packed shots of parkour athletes, discusses how he successfully captures the relationship between the body and the urban environment in his imagery
Andy Day is a professional photographer specialising in adventure sports, travel, architecture and landscape photography. Day’s clients have included American Eagle, Ecko Unlimited, Canon, Dairy Crest and Yota, and his work has been published in a variety of magazines and newspapers around the world, including The Sunday Times, The Guardian, Stuff, Front, Zoo and Men’s Fitness.
WHAT GOT YOU INTERESTED IN PHOTOGRAPHY? HAVE YOU ALWAYS SHOT PARKOUR?
Fifteen years ago I was studying for a master’s degree that I never completed. One of our modules focused on urban representation in film – how the city is perceived and conveyed through moving images. I’d spotted parkour very briefly on cable television after finishing a shift in a bar, and it stuck in my head. I asked my tutor if I could write about this weird jumping thing that I’d seen, and he said yes. I started researching parkour online, finding very little information in English, but eventually stumbling upon a forum whose members were about to meet in London for the third ever organised training session in the UK. I asked if I could join them and took along a film SLR bought for me by my parents that I didn’t really understand how to use. Afterward, I shared the images with the tiny community and people seemed to really like them.
From there it snowballed – I kept meeting up with them, learning photography along the way, and making what was then pretty much the only parkour photographs. Parkour was exploding into mainstream consciousness and suddenly magazines and advertisers were interested in publishing my work. I was also training parkour a little myself, so for me, both were very much connected. Photography informed my understanding of parkour and vice versa.
WHAT DO YOU THINK MAKES YOUR STYLE STAND OUT?
I shoot with quite an architectural style, despite capturing so much action. Parkour is about a relationship between the body and the urban environment, so I’m trying to convey that conversation with every image. I tell my students that the image should work even if the body were to be removed.
HOW DO YOU KEEP YOUR WORK FRESH?
I travel a huge amount so I’m fortunate to work in lots of different locations with a huge diversity of amazing people. The athletes are a huge part of what I do, and they are very much collaborators in every image. Sometimes I’m not much more than a monkey pushing a button on a very expensive box.
“Parkour is about a relationship between the body and the urban environment, so I’m trying to convey that with every image”
These relationships are crucial, giving me opportunities to go on adventures, discover new places, and create images that haven’t been seen before.
WHAT’S IN YOUR KIT BAG?
I’m a minimalist. In my Peak Design bag I carry a Canon 6D Mark I, EF 16-35mm f2.8, EF 2470mm f2.8, and an EF 40mm pancake.
IN YOUR OPINION WHAT MAKES A GOOD PARKOUR SHOT?
For much of my career, I thought that a good parkour shot should inspire a sense of intrigue or wonder, not just in terms of what the body is doing, but where it is doing it. Radical bodies in radical places. As parkour has become more mainstream, I’ve started to understand that the bodies can be even more radical if they are not the stereotypical white, athletic young male bodies that dominate lifestyle sports. Increasingly I’m photographing women training which I hope helps to develop parkour as a global, progressive discipline that’s open to everyone, regardless of background or ability. Ultimately, a good photo should do more than just inspire awe, but also provoke questions about how we perceive urban space.
WHAT ARE THE BIGGEST CHALLENGES TO CREATING A STAND-OUT IMAGE?
Probably just getting all of the right factors to come together in the right moment – the weather, the people, the location, the light, energy levels. Sometimes you get most of these, but occasionally they all coalesce, and that’s not always something you can control, so it’s a matter of constantly putting yourself out there.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE THING ABOUT SHOOTING PARKOUR?
Going to amazing places with amazing people. It’s an incredible privilege.
DO YOU DO A LOT OF EDITING TO YOUR IMAGES? WHAT DO YOU DO? DO YOU HAVE A FAVOURITE PIECE OF SOFTWARE?
Lightroom is my go-to, with additional retouching from Photoshop. However, I’m about to experiment with Skylum Luminar, and I’m expecting to switch from Photoshop to Affinity Photo in the next couple of months. I tend not to do too much to my images beyond some gentle adjustments. I love editing my photos but I think [taking] too many risks [makes] the edit too much of a distraction.
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO ASPIRING PHOTOGRAPHERS?
Love learning, and not just about photography. Learn how to write, how to design, and always assume that there’s something important that you don’t yet know. And keep in mind that you’re not going to take great photos by
“Increasingly I’m photographing women training which I hope helps to develop parkour as a global, progressive discipline that’s open to everyone”
sitting at home. Technical skill and a keen eye are one thing, but I think people often forget that the biggest part of being a successful photographer is being able to put yourself in the position to take a photograph.
OVER YOUR CAREER SO FAR, WHAT HAVE YOU LEARNED ABOUT PHOTOGRAPHY THAT YOU DIDN’T KNOW WHEN YOU FIRST STARTED?
Gosh. So much. And a few years ago I completed a master’s degree in Sociology and Photography, so that added a whole new dimension to my understanding.
Andy Day has an upcoming four-day intensive course, running from 2 to 5 August. The course will take place at various urban locations around London and will see the group working with professional movement artists, dancers and established parkour athletes. Find out more at bit.ly/2jtnAoR.
Below INTERACTION Arlin Kalenchuk climbing one of the buildings on the campus of the University of British Columbia
Right SCALE Bogdan Cvetkovic jumping across the monument at
Far right ABOVE LONDON
Ash Holland looking over the streets of Central London at 5am
on a November morning