Brooklyn-based photographer, Ben Franke, has been shooting Parkour photography since college. His images are distinct among Parkour photos in how well he is able to capture the motion and direction of his subjects. His work has appeared in a number of international magazines including The New York Times, Time Out New York and GEO. In his latest series, Franke teamed up with the instructors from BLKYN BEAST, New York City’s first Parkour facility. Resource had an opportunity to sit down with Franke and talk about his work.
“What I’m doing with my pictures is I’m trying to be true to Parkour, I want to do it justice. I have this quote in my portfolio; I’ve kind of paraphrased from George Bernard Shaw:
As a child experiences their body, motion comes without hesitation. Captivated with the world around them, children are eager to explore and experience-despite the possibility of injury. As we age, taking the same risks we took as children becomes not only a physical challenge but also a one of the mind. Parkour and outdoor exercise demonstrate the power of motion, and extends that fearlessness of exploration past the point of youth.
I see my work as a collaboration between myself and my subjects,” Franke explains, “We’ll go out and I sometimes suggest they do something and if it’s something that can be done, they do it but sometimes it’s not they’ll say, ‘I can’t do that but I could do this,’ and that’s what I’ll shoot. It’s important to know these guys are smart about what they do. A lot of them are professionals. One guy is a tumbler for the Knicks, he goes out on the court during timeouts and half time. I’ve never seen anyone get bloody. The worst accident I’ve seen actually wasn’t all that bad. One of the guys was going for a wall-run into back flip and he hesitated, so he came down came down on his back and shoulders instead of getting all the way over. But he was fine, he was tricking again after twenty minutes or so.”
Franke uses a minimalist set up for Parkour, shooting all the photos and videos with a 5D fit with a 24-70mm lens and a couple speedlights for the night shots. “For me, environment makes the picture. I’ve shot the guys in the gym but the pictures are just more interesting when they’re out in real world.” To achieve the motion effect in the series Franke covered his subjects in flour, “regular flour I got at the corner store, I just cover them in it and when they do their stunts it puffs off with the impact and you can see clearly which way they’re coming from and where they’re moving. I Photoshop the background, a bit, because I like that nice solid black but other than that what you see is all in camera.”
Now that Spring is here Franke is hard at work shooting a new series, “I’d like to photograph more women doing Parkour. They’re out there, just not as many as men so there just haven’t been as many opportunities to do so. I don’t know when I’ll have the time but I’d also really like to travel around the country and do series with different people in different cities.”