Photographer Scott Mitchell, whose photos of Team Sky are in the new book 21 Days to Glory talks about being pals with Wiggo, snapping Richie Porte in the shower and life on the road with the season’s most successful outfit.
The book is quite different because it’s not pictures of a lot of racing. I’m more telling the team story – behind-the-scenes, the physical reality of what the team does in order to win the Tour de France rather than pictures of Mark [Cavendish] winning a stage or Bradley [Wiggins] crossing the line with his arms in the air in the TT.
I’m not a sports photographer and I don’t have an interest in sport apart from cycling. Because I was an exhibiting photographer and did commercial commissions, I didn’t really have the preconception of what a cycling picture should look like. It gives you a lot of freedom.
I probably shouldn’t admit it to you, but I don’t read cycling magazines. It keeps it fresh. I don’t want to see what’s the norm and fall into that reality too easily.
The great thing about being an embedded photographer is that, after a while, people get to know you. You become friends with riders and staff and they trust you. When I said to Richie Porte, “Can I come in the shower with you?” he didn’t bat an eyelid. The riders pretty much let me do anything apart from follow them into the toilet.
When it’s a bad time I do have to take pictures. When Mark crashed I was the only person on the bus with him, but I knew I had to go and take pictures because it was the story of the day. Mark knows me and we get along really well. As furious as he was, he allowed me to take these pictures and I followed him into the shower that day too. It comes down to relationships. They all know you’re just doing a job and being professional.
From my perspective, there are times when you get absolutely knackered. There were two days when I finished everything at four in the morning and you’re up at seven. If you get great pictures there’s nothing that motivates a photographer more. It keeps you going.
You have a different relationship with every rider so you photograph each one in a different way. They’re all fascinating people to take pictures of because they’re stars of the sport. Something special drives them on that makes them different from ordinary cyclists.
Things happened in the race but it’s like any workplace. People have difficult times and then easier times, but there was never any point when I didn’t think we were all going in the same direction. It’s three weeks and 30-odd guys, plus Fran [Millar] when she was there.
Brad and I share passion for the same sort of music, scooters and mod culture. I have got to admit there’s a passing resemblance. I’m a bit older than him and I’ve got a slightly different body shape. I’m a bit on the skinny side, but he’s really skinny, although I think Chris Froome is even more slender.
I’m really proud of 21 Days to Glory. It’s also had a positive effect on my career outside of cycling as well including my music photography, which is really cool.
The original version of this article appeared in the November 22 2012 issue of Cycling Weekly magazine.