The photographer who, thanks to sports, is able to portray the intimate human condition

“I like to portray the human condition and sports allows me to do that. The effort, the fatigue, the tiredness…. These are all elements that allow me to go beyond the simple sports storytelling, to represent the human being and what characterizes him.” Dave Imms’ shots are celebrations of the individual, they are anthropological pilgrimages, they are images that draw from the contemporary universes of fashion, architecture and design to exalt the exceptionality of inner thought, the wonder of outer movement.

This talented Brighton-born photographer and Seagulls fan bases his artistic research on the study of emotion, but also on an extreme attention to the relationship between light and color: “My main sources of inspiration are outside of sports, I love the artistic photography of Nadav Kander and Christopher Anderson. I continue to experiment with gels and lighting to celebrate the act of sport in my own way. I also pay attention to the dialogue between subjects and space. In one of my first reportages I captured some squash players: those shots defined a philosophy that I still follow today, over ten years later. It is a series that is focused on people as human beings, not as sportsmen”.

And in order to portray people, it’s undeniable, you need to establish relationships that go beyond the simple shot. Synergy, empathy: Dave Imms’ photographic habitat is established right here, in a sociable comfort zone created to allow the protagonists to express an essence that is real and not contrived. “It’s about human connection. Before every shoot I’m always nervous, then I get into my momentum and try to connect with each person. When I’m shooting ‘real’ people I have to limit their nervousness and when I’m dealing with professional athletes I have to think about a lot of other factors: first I have to watch out for their physical safety, second I have to try to soften their resistance. I know that for champions like Moise Kean and Thomas Müller photo shoots are a simple contractual clause to be respected, but I think you can create a connection with these stars too by setting the right atmosphere”.

In Dave’s visual proposal, the tale of the human condition also passes through attention to detail, through a narrative focus that is multifaceted, that gives equal importance to objects and people, to scenarios and physical actions, becoming almost a cinematographic work, rather than a photographic one: “I like to think of my photographs as videos. If I have to portray a baseball player, for example, I capture what surrounds him, what represents him. I’m talking about the field, the tools of the game, but also about his face, his uniform. The narrative has to encapsulate all of that, it has to be an overall exploration of the subject and his passion”.

From the Senegalese waves, where Dave came into contact with the Black Girls Surf school, to studio works commissioned by international brands. Dave Imms’ visual line always stays true to himself, to the idea of art as a form of discovery. “In Dakar, it was amazing. I met girls who don’t have state-of-the-art facilities, but who love boards unconditionally. I learned how deep-rooted the surf culture is in that area and I had the chance to capture breathtaking views. In the studio things change, it’s obvious, and my eye focuses more on the concept of movement. From this point of view, tennis is a perfect sport, while basketball allows me to mix technical and physical gestures with fashion imagery. In the future I would like to portray another sport that has a lot of potential for my approach: golf, for example. I’ve fallen in love with its terminology, names like albatross or birdie conjure images in my mind, as does the idea of portraying a golfer’s technical ability. But this is something to muse over for a while first”.

Credits: Dave Imms
IG @daveimms
Text by Gianmarco Pacione