The intersection between photography and seventh art, the shots as part of a single, great visual film. An interview with the American photographer

“Photography has enormous intrinsic power: the moment lived is something instantaneous and photography makes it something much stronger, meaningful”

Word and image, moment and eternity. Emily Maye’s photography has a powerful cinematic charge, it has the will to expand itself over time, in the story, in the countless variations of a simple, complex instant.

The portraits of the American photographer are sensorial documentaries generated by a single shot, they are rapid films ready to dig into the observer’s imagination, in her ability to evolve a detail, to articulate it, to make it history.

Emily’s artistic instinct is generated by a polyvalent soul, by a personal biography that has seen her alternate between ballet and script, direction and composition: studies and influences from which her photography has been drawing for a decade now.

“It’s funny to think that I am a photographer now: recently I found a video of myself at 5, 6 years old, taking a portrait of my brother with a football in his hand. As a child, my main interest was ballet, I wanted to be a professional dancer. Then, around the age of 11, I discovered films and started wanting to be a director. At college I studied to be a screenwriter and pursued this dream until ten years ago. Then, working at the moodboard for a cycling film, I started taking pictures. Since then I haven’t written any more”

A flash. From that distant epiphany, Emily’s photographic production has not suffered setbacks, following a very clear thematic flow: sport.

In her shots, athletes become the protagonists of a universal effort, their bodies are scrutinized in search of significant details, expressions and gestures that go beyond the sporting act, transcending into the ritual, mystical, emotional sphere.

“My photography has inevitably been infected by the seventh art. I often see my shots as part of a single great film. In all sports, after all, we have a ready-made story: that of winners and losers. We have, above all, people of whom I can investigate intimate moments and sacrifices. I love portraying the details of their bodies, such as the use of their hands: I learned from ballet that bodies can speak, communicate. I find sports such as Formula 1 or American football less interesting because the protagonists are all harnessed. I am very attached to the creativity of basketball, while with disciplines such as running or cycling, which are repetitive by definition, I always try to focus on a specific story, on the approach to the person, on the context: the environment that surrounds an athlete, in many cases, is almost more important than the sporting act itself”

Feeling something real, something new; reacting at the first glance, reflecting at second glance. The aims of Emily Maye’s photographic production are clear, as are her landmarks: from French crime films of the 60s and 70s to Robert Capa’s sports shots, from ‘Mamba Mentality’ to vintage posters of the golden era cycling.

“Kobe is my favorite athlete, I think he was the extreme definition of a mental champion. Neil Bedford’s portraits are perfect in summarizing the mentality and emotional charge of an icon who has become global: of an excellence that goes beyond sport. In general I dwell on photos that make the world interesting and new to my eyes: I like people alone and immersed in evocative scenarios, I like it when an athlete is covered by mud, fatigue and bad weather, I like it when I don’t need of a face to describe a story”

Kobe Bryant by Neil Bedford
Tour de France – 1939 by Robert Capa

If for Pasolini cinema was equally a linguistic and philosophical experience, the same can be said of the photographic work of Emily Maye.

A quick touch, the immediacy of the representation, the plurality and potential of its meanings. Here is a vulnerable Usain Bolt, here are the nuances of an NBA timeout, here are choppy waters and a seemingly anonymous American water polo player.

Here is the artistic continuity, here are the common denominators that have united Emily’s commercial and non-commercial works in the last, flourishing, decade.

“I have always followed my instincts and have always been hard on myself. If we put all my photographic works together I think we could have a definite idea of ​​who Emily is. Yesterday’s photos can easily be superimposed on those of ten years ago : and I’m proud of this. In this period, not being able to travel, not being able to discover new disciplines and new subjects weighed heavily on me. However, I had the opportunity to reflect, to understand even more the value of sport, its true meanings , and I even started writing again. In the future I would like to go back to the origin and produce a film. Obviously with a sports theme”


Ph Emily Maye

IG @emilymaye

Ph Neil Bedford

IG @neil_bedford

Ph Robert Capa

Text Gianmarco Pacione