Jojo Harper is an award-winning documentary photographer based between London and Girona, Spain. Her intimate, distinctive style has earned numerous accolades including National Geographic’s Photographer of the Year. Jojo’s clients include some of the biggest industry names in cycling, such as Rapha, Specialized, EF Pro cycling and Trek. Described as ‘unimposing’, she makes her subjects feel comfortable and in doing so captures truly candid moments. Here, she shares her recent photographs from the Tour de France 2021, captured with both the Leica Q2 and Leica SL2.
What is your favourite part about documenting the Tour de France? Which scenes or people capture your attention the most and why?
I have covered the Tour de France for the past 5 years of my career, and it is yet to disappoint. It’s nicknamed ‘The Circus’ for a reason! It’s chaotic in the best possible way. What the athletes do is phenomenal and I don’t want to take anything away from that, but for me, my eye is always drawn to the fans and the landscapes, this is part of the story and in my opinion, one of the most important parts. Overall, I’m drawn to two extremes really… the loud, the rude, the extreme, the colourful, but on the other hand, I love a quiet, still scene with straight lines and perfect composition.
How did photographing the Tour de France 2021 differ from previous years as a result of COVID-19?
To be honest, this year seemed relatively normal. The crowds were out in force! In 2020, however, that was a very different story. It was so hard to create an atmosphere and a story as there were no crowds, no reactions. The whole event seemed silent. For example, the end of a sprint stage is normally chaotic with people everywhere and with the press fighting to get to the winner, but there was none of this. It seemed as if the winner was almost ignored – a strange experience…
You have documented the Tour de France for over 5 years now, where is your favourite location to photograph and why?
I don’t have a particular favourite location, but I do love a mountain top finish! They are normally beautiful, dramatic, and exciting. The crowds wait for hours for the race to arrive and when they get that first sight of the helicopter, the reactions start. People stand and fight for their spot, desperate to see everything. The shouting starts, the cowbells start to ring, and the atmosphere goes from quiet and tense to energetic and electric! The combination of the crowds, the scenery and the riders suffering make for some awesome photos.
You are also drawn to the beautiful landscapes of France when documenting the race, how do you connect the fans and cyclists to their environment in your photography?
Yes, it’s the contrast of man-made vs natural. I love seeing these huge natural landscapes dotted with man-made bikes, cars and helicopters. The mountains are so vast that when I fill my frames and capture both cyclist and landscape, their suffering becomes even more apparent as they look so tiny in their environment. Plus, the fans are so colourful in their kits, so this really does create epic contrasts like no other. The combination of everything looks amazing.
My favourite camera is the Q2. It’s so versatile and incredibly subtle. I like that I can get away with not looking like an official photographer. Most people tend to not notice that I’m even carrying it! It’s great for smaller spaces because of the 28mm lens, it’s fast enough for action and it’s capable of shooting crisp and expressive portraits. I tend to use the SL2 for more static shots such as portraits and landscapes, and combined with the 50mm creates outstanding image quality, sharpness and depth of field. It’s a stunning set-up, and I use this for capturing the utmost detail, but I don’t use it much for the action. These cameras are great for different reasons, and that’s why I need both.
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