In Conversation with Camille McMillan

I first came across the work of Camille McMillan when I saw Le Metier, the book of ex-Team Sky rider Michael Barry. A full season in the world of a pro-cyclist. The images stood out to me, as it wasn’t your usual ‘sports photography’. How the pro’s prepare, behind the scenes images, have always interested me. It's as close as some will get to being on the 'inside' of the sport and images of this ilk I've always found interesting and inspiring

There was something different about the details and aura of the images that Camille captures that were different to what I’d seen before. Not just your standard reportage you find in the weekly magazines, something altogether more stylish, more artistic. 

Me and Camille chatted over email about some bike-related things and his new project ‘The Circus’.

Firstly, what's go you into cycling and cycling photography?

When I was a young lad my old man used to take me to the 6 days in London. Trips over to Belgium on the Hovercraft. I am a second generation cyclist.There is that old expression, “once you have raced your a racer for life”. Or is it “Once a bike rider always a bike ride”. Something like that.  

So, did you race? What did you take from that?

My first race was at 8, cyclo cross. I started at the top of a hill straight down through a river. The old man put me in a Junior event! Good work! I cried. What did I take from being a bike racer? The body has no memory of the pain, only the emotions surrounding it.  I don't stop until I literally can't move. As long as I breath, I attack etc.

Since your so close to the ‘pro-scene’, is there anything that surprises you? Or should I re-phrase that? What have you been most surprised by?

Just how transitory everything is, nothing is fixed. One reason for the name ' The Circus’. Also, there are ring masters.

I'm glad you've mentioned your book 'The Circus'. Perhaps you could say a bit more about that and what is your criteria for a photo 'making-the-cut' lets say?

Just because its ‘a name’ in the picture doesn’t mean it makes the cut. A picture has to have something other. A moment, a story, an insight.. a ‘what-the-fuck!’. I like a WTF picture best.

Do you have any cycling pet hates, or photography ones for that matter?

Cycling pet hates. The usual, half wheelers, stems under 110cm and nodders. Photography. In the context of reportage and cycling, I hate faux reportage, selective sharpening, a long list. Shooting into the sun, exposing for the highlights, de-saturating. Would you like the full rant?

What's the best context for your work? Do you find that the social media sites such as Instagam and Twitter hinder or help the way in which your work is seen? 

Best context for my work is book or on the wall. Social media is fun, it can help for sure, but Instagram is mostly ‘not’ about photography.

What challenges does a sports photographer face?

Challenges for sports photographers hmmm, I don't see myself as one actually. I'm a photographer / artist that is obsessed with cycling.  I would imagine the hardest part of being a sports photographer is dealing with the boredom of it. Can you imagine being a finish line photographer?! Also, most cycling and sports photographers are looking not just for a moment, but brands to flog their images to.

You say you don't see yourself as a sports-photographer, more an artist. How do you feel your work fits into the art-context? More-so, what posses you to photograph bike-racing?

Art context, hmm.  I'm into finding things, exploring. Why bike racing? Bike racing set me off on my path in life. I left school at 16 and went and raced. That was it. I went back to school to study Art at 22 years old. Bike racing never leaves you. The thing is it’s ‘The Greatest Show on Earth’.

Whats your process? Do you like to wing-it? or is there a set-plan for every race? Are you in the team cars or just roaming like a spectator?

I'm on the back of moto's, on my own moto, in team cars, with mechanics, hitch-hiking. Whatever way to get the things I want. I always go with an idea. I focus just on that, just that. I’m an Artist you see.

What is your most memorable moment on the bike or involved with cycling?
On a bicycle, winning a race with a bunch sprint for the first time. Involved through cycling,  back of a moto in the Tour of Missouri. 100+ going down to the Mississippi, balmy heat, just jeans, short-sleeve shirt and a Leica, here is a photo from that day.


When were/are you most happy?
Most happy, when I think 'I must get that picture' and I have shot it the moment before I thought it. Or, when I'm dancing with my children. 


If you would like to pledge funds to the Kickstart project of 'The Circus', please follow the link below.

Photographs by Camille McMillan. 

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