The Sports Photographer on top of the World
If you’ve had your head in the sand for the past few weeks (or have just moved to the country) then you might have missed out on some pretty awesome news: the return of Red Bull Cliff Diving to Copenhagen.
Back in June 2013, several of the world’s bravest athletes stood on the roof of Copenhagen’s Opera House before launching themselves off and in to the harbour waters below. The turnout of spectators was crazy, as thousands arrived en masse to catch a glimpse of this unique event. And this year they’ll do it all again.
There were some amazing images from the event last time around, and chances are that this year will be no different. Many photographers (myself included) were welcome to take pictures but weren’t allowed on to the actual roof. Apart from Jesper Grønnemark.
Naturally Jesper’s work caught my eye after the competition and over the next few months, so a couple of weeks ago I invited him round for a coffee and an informal interview to hear about his journey from passionate Efterskole amateur to official Red Bull photographer.
In this industry, being in the right place at the right time has a lot to do with it. It was certainly no different for 17-year-old Jesper when he visited Copenhagen on a class trip with his fellow Business School students nine years ago. A huge fan of Freestyle Skiing, Jesper one day found himself face-to-face with one of Denmark’s best skiiers in a sports shop in the city. Realising a great opportunity when he saw it, Jesper went and introduced himself.
“I just went over and said hi and told him that I was a sports photographer,” Jesper tells me. “I told him to check out my website and left it at that. Though I have to admit, ten years ago, my portfolio images weren’t the best,” he says with a smile. “But I’m guessing this guy saw something in the them, because two months later he invited me to the Danish Nationals in Freestyle Skiing and Snowboarding.”
This was the big break that Jesper needed and within the year he was hired to make a film – a project that lasted 18 months – and was well on his way to becoming a professional sports photographer.
The jobs and projects kept coming in and eventually Jesper landed a three-week training programme at Red Bull Media House in Austria. It was here that he learned just what it was that the company needed from their photographers in terms of style, workflow and editing of images.
Since then Jesper has been the go-to guy for Red Bull as well as dozens of sports companies around the world, and his action and portrait images can be seen on posters, adverts and in magazines throughout Europe. Nowadays he can be found photographing all the major Red Bull events, plus many other action sport tournaments and competitions.
But it was one of Jesper’s most recent projects that caught my eye: Trapped in iPhone.
“My friend bought me the very first iPhone model seven- or eight years ago and we were sat there unlocking it when we came up with the idea,” he explains. “We thought, how cool would it be to have your contacts trapped in the phone.
“I’ve got a few images now for the project, I’m just looking for a computer geek to help me turn it in to an app.”
When I asked Jesper how he found the time for personal photo projects he gave me a very poetic answer: “Time isn’t something you’re given; you have to take it. I try to do one thing each day towards the project, even if it’s just sending an email or buying something from the supermarket.” Wise words, especially for those of us struggling to squeeze our lives in to our daily routines.
“It’s important to do your own personal projects and show them to the world. It’s easier to sell the idea once you’ve already done it.”