Vuelta a España, through Marshall Kappel's lens

As part of my ongoing series about cycling photographers, today I bring you the work of Marshall Kappel, and American photographer who lives and works in Europe. He just got done covering the Vuelta a España, and answered some questions to go along with his images. 

When were you introduced to competitive cycling, and when were you introduced to photography as something other than taking snapshots?

I started cycling competitively when I was around 11 years old in Tucson, Arizona… not what you would expect from this part of the world! I had always loved riding my bike… and, at an even younger age was really into BMX, which quickly led to road racing when I started teaching myself French for some reason around 12 years old.

I spent part of my childhood in Mexico, as my Dad is an anthropologist. I have always attributed my constantly progressing international interests, character and curiosity with this time in Mexico, and even my dad’s profession…seeking answers.

With cycling, I can remember, even then, thinking about the freedom to explore that cycling allowed me. I’m a restless person and love to travel, to be on the move, and one thing just led to another. In high school I worked part-time cleaning up at Fairwheel Bikes after school and was riding and racing all over the Southwest. My dad was my biggest supporter and drove the broom wagon/wheel support at the local races in his Ford F150. Around the same time, he gave me an Argus twin lens camera  and I’ve never stopped shooting. I often—sort-of—quote Edward Weston in saying that “the only constant in my life is photography”… and cycling. I went to an arts and vocational high school and there I learned the technical aspects of photography and print making from our amazing teacher Jerry Halfmann and to shoot on a more conscious level.

When were these two (cycling and photography) joined for the first time for you?

February 2014… very specific. I left my job in fashion/beauty marketing and decided that I could pursue both photography and cycling full time. I have always done both separately, but never joined the two until this year.

What photographers have influenced your work, both in and outside the realm of sport?

I’ve been obsessed with photography and cameras my entire life. I have a storage unit in NYC with about 100 vintage cameras, from cheap ‘80s disc cameras to a restored 8x10 1930s Deardorff, a 1960s 4x5 Linhof, Speed Graphics and even 2 ArtDeco Kodak Brownies I bought in Amsterdam… multiple Rolleis, Canon F1s, Contax, and lots of Polaroids. Further, I have spent uncountable hours pouring over photography books… as you would see on my Pinterest page, I have collections of images saved from the photographers and cultural styles that I love.

That said, outside of cycling, Paolo Roversi , Sarah Moon, the avant-guard Hungarian photographers and almost any past or contemporary photographer from Mexico—from Bravo to Flor Garduño. Within the relatively small world of cycling photography, I’m drawn to both the action/news photographers for their ability to capture that singular intense moment of victory, suffering, joy and defeat… as well as the more artistic photographers whose subtle, textural images truly bring the experience of a race and the diverse cultures within cycling to life. In my own work, as you can see in my stories, “winning” is less the objective than capturing the process, the spectacle, the emotions, the colorful country and people who make cycling, in all its forms and cultures, win or lose, touring, hitting the trails or just riding around the block with mom, what it is and means.

You just covered a good bit of the Vuelta a España, how did that opportunity come about?

I’ve lived in France for 4 years now and have watched The Tour quite a bit, but never The Vuelta except on TV and some clips on YouTube. With my focus on cycling photography, I was eager to experience this race, which I understood to be more passionate and intimate than the Tour. What I heard was absolutely correct. While I love the history and craziness of The Tour, spending this time in Spain truly felt more visceral, simple and real.

Any unexpected realizations that you arrived at during your time at the Vuelta, either about the sport, or the realities of covering it as you did?

Logistically, it’s much easier than The Tour, the fans are as colorful, but as I said, it’s more intimate. It’s hard to be unbiased. I love The Tour and I love France, but The Vuelta felt more like a race that I was a part of, whereas the Tour felt like a show I was watching.

What would be your ideal/dream photo assignment be?

I’m looking forward to shooting in Italy later this season at l’Eroica, Giro dell’Emilia and the Giro d’Italia. I’d love to shoot in the Dolomites in particular. From what I see online, it’s a spectacular cycling destination. I’m also looking forward to working for a professional team and capturing the ins-and-outs of their constantly moving lives. I love involved stories and never hesitate to post 100-plus photos on my website whereas an editor might choose 10 for a magazine story! So, spending some time with a team on tour would really be ideal for me as it would allow me to publish images that in their totality create something greater than any individual shot.

Where would you like to be in five years as far as photography is concerned?

Shooting international cycling and sports advertising while still on the road capturing the world of professional cycling.


Marshall on Instagram , Tumblr ,Twitter , and his website.