Collective madness and euphoria. An interview with photorapher David Marin.

As part of my ongoing series about cycling photographers (or photographers who sometimes or often photograph cycling), I spoke with David Marin. David lives in the outskirts of Bogota, and writes the blog La Cadenilla, which largely focuses on Colombian cycling.

When did you first become interested in photography?

I honestly don't remember. My mom was a graphic designer, who did all her typesetting by hand when I was kid. SoI grew up surrounded, not only photographers, but also with a dark room at my disposal.

You could say I started backwards, first developing film, and then I took to the camera.I remember participating in photo competitions in school, where I won several times.I had a 110 Instamatic, and I tried to do nature landscapes. Then came adolescence, the first Apple computers, and the dark room disappeared. I went to college to study anthropology, and picked up photography once again.I developed a passion for the mountains in Colombia

and ethnography.I spent every free second in some mountain with indigenous or peasant peoples, the camera went with me everywhere.I came to know Colombian nature photographer

Andres Hurtado, which brought about a deep passion

in photography for me.One thing led to another, and I ended up traveling to Ecuador where I put myself at the mercy of an old friend of my mother's, Ricardo Mora. That was in 2000, and as a teacher, Ricardotaught me a lot. We worked in 4x5 format. No Photoshop,  no tricks. Just hours in the dark room.Light and optics.

How did you evolve as a photographer beyond that?

That gets me back to that first stay in Ecuador. I didn't know what I was doing. I just wanted to travel and take pictures.Suddenly presented with the opportunity to work for El Tiempo [Colombia's biggest newspaper]

That taught me the realities of tight deadlines that are common in the newspaper world. Having to rush to get the shot, and then be the first to publish it. Real news gathering, and reporting, which can almost become a vice. It gets in your blood. This was in 2001, and in Colombia that mean war, bombings, serious news. It was a defining moment in my time as a photographer.

Photography aside, how did you first become interested in cycling?

My interest in cycling is as old as my interest in photography. As a kid, the only thing that managed to give me a sense of pride in being Colombian was cycling. As a country, we are full  of sad news. Horrendous, macabre situations. But when I was four years old, Colombians won stages in Europe, bathed in blood as announcers cried on television. My mother cried watching those races, as the streets were filled with people celebrating those victories. It was absolute, collective madness and euphoria. Those are the happiest memories from my childhood. As kids, we would race each other on our BMX bikes, and we would fight to see which one of us would get to "be" Lucho or Fabio Parra. Like many others here, I learned how to ride a bike with no hands, simply by imitating Lucho as he won a stage. That's how my love for bikes and for cycling was born.

When did you love for photography and your passion for cycling finally meet?

While working for El Tiempo, I had to cover the start of a Vuelta a Colombia stage.

I grew up in Chia, a town near Bogota where Vuelta stages usually pass by, or start. On that day, I stood in the wrong spot. I was on the outside of a turn, not the inside, and didn't get the shot I wanted. I planned on using a wide angle, to get the riders going out of the frame with the horizon in the back. I would only do that on the inside, and made a typical rookie mistake. Then last year, I covered the Vuelta again, but this time for La Cadenilla. I wanted to get even, as it were, to improve upon that mistake from years ago when I stood in the wrong spot. I was covering the queen stage, from Manizales to Ibague through La Linea [one of Colombia's most famed climbs]. It's an absolutely historic and beautiful climb.

What would you like to accomplish with your work?

Right now, I'm not completely sure. A few years ago, I changed the trajectory of my career, and went into digital marketing strategy, and my cameras gathered a bit of dust. It was getting La Cadenilla started that brought me back to photography. I feel that I'm still weighed down a bit by my lack of proper training, and I'm also past my best days behind a camera. In those days, I was looking to introduce a bit of interesting geometric components to my work. I wanted to to reporting work that was more visually exciting. I worked hard to improve my composition, working with lines, and texture. Through that work, I managed to establish a personal style, but this was back in 2006. I'll have to see what happens that I've started to shoot again.

Do you have any favorite cycling shots from history?

I've been asking myself this for some time, and I have to tell you that I've never been able to get

that shot of Bartali an Coppi, the one where one hands the other the water bottle, but no one is sure who is doing which in the picture. But I also love many shots by Cartier-Bresson, who is one of my favorite photographers anyway. The shots he took at the Paris velodrome in 1957. It was there that Jewish prisoners were detained en masse. It's a dreary looking place, and Bresson's series from that velodrome have perfect geometry. The lines in the shots, the history they conjure up, they are amazing images.

Photo: Henri Cartier-Bresson

Photo: Henri Cartier-Bresson

What would your photo assignment be, within the realm of cycling?

To cover a stage like Tre Cime di Lavaredo at the Giro in 2013, or Milan-San Remo in 2013. Something romantic, legendary. Snow, mountains, suffering. At the same time, I would love to shoot large format (4x5), and document the great climbs in the sport. Alpe d'Huez, Mont Ventoux, Le Tre Cime, Zoncolan. But do them as landscape photography. And of course, to take a portrait of Merckx. And at the top of the list, a Colombian rider, in yellow at the top of the podium. That would be amazing.

What is your usual kit?

I've used Nikon stuff since 1999. DX bodies. The crop factor suits me. My mind seems to think in telephoto mode, not wide angle. I don't like zoom lenses, except for my go-to lens, which is the 80-200mm, f2.8. Aside from that one, I span from 20mm to 300mm, all in primes, all at 2.8 or less. 

I'm also in love with my Instax camera. I never used Polaroid for anything other than proofs in medium or large format. Now, I love the idea as a fun toy, in part because of the color it generates. In Cali, during the track world championships I use a Fuji XT-1, and I have to say that feels like the future to me. Mirrorless camera with interchangeable lenses. I loved the ergonomics, and the interface. And on top of that, the files it generates are pretty good. So if the folks at Fuji want to send me one so I can test it out, feel free to do so. I won't mind. Ha ha!

Do you have any bad habits that you'd like to get away from as a photographer?

I don't travel light when it comes to lenses. I use a 20mm, a 35mm and the 80-200mm. But I only do that 25% of the time. I normally have a bag with even more lenses. This ties you down, and you end up missing shots because your set up is too bulky too. I have to reclaim that part of me that simply wanted to shoot for the love of it. The part of me that wanted to stand at the top of a frigid mountain top, waiting for the right light. That would be my goal. ◼