Jim Fryer and Iri Greco are a globe-trotting husband-and-wife production team—as BrakeThrough Media, they’ve traveled the world making images and videos of athletes, spectators and far-flung locales, typically around cycling races. In their previous lives, Fryer was a professional cyclist, and Greco a food stylist. They met on the UCI World Tour, and ever since, they’ve been chasing two-wheelers, the athletes that ride them, the people that cheer them on and the places to which they travel. We caught up with Fryer in California and Greco in New York via phone to talk about their new work, how they excel at capturing motion with still photography, and how their website helps keep them in business.
PDN: You guys got your start covering cycling; what kinds of gigs have you been working on recently?
Iri Greco: We have been doing more active lifestyle work, like the Lululemon men’s campaign. They were all businessmen in New York, so it’s about trying to fit in business and fun and a character dynamic. We’ve been doing some other active content with a web platform, Mind Body Green. We’re relatively young, in terms of our career…we’ve only been full-time for four years. We have a much longer history in working media, TV and video, but in some ways, even though we are in our early 40s, our photography career is in the freshman years. And we’re learning a lot about the business side of it, how to leverage one thing that we have been really focusing on.
PDN: You guys didn’t seem to have much trouble transitioning from videos to stills. How did you manage to master capturing movement within a still frame?
Jim Fryer: The thing that we’re captivated by is the intensity of our subject, and the emotion in our subjects as they’re moving. Seeing that emotion evolving as they’re progressing through the race, you also see that intensity evolve and grow and finally peak as you get to the end of the race. When it comes to recognizing that in stills, we already have a fine-tuned approach to recognizing it and using photography to capture it.
PDN: What are some of the cues you’re looking for, the signifiers of these emotions? I can imagine that you are able to recognize them from your cycling experience, but could you explain to a layman what you’re looking for?
Fryer: I think that a lot of it is in the body language and the eyes. There’s a huge amount of story in what is happening in the moment…the wrinkles around their eyes, the details and overall body language says lot. We focus on hands, and with a cyclist, for example, you can see the intensity of the grip on the back of their hands, and that tells a lot about what emotions they are feeling and the effort they’re putting out, and that conveys a lot of the story.
PDN: Can you remember what your first portfolio site looked like? How did you end up with PhotoShelter?
Greco: Jim and I had our own businesses before. I had a website that I had a web designer build from scratch; there might have been basic templates back then, it was more handmade. In terms of the evolution of functionality, the website I put together had photos and contact information, and it was completely static. If I had to make a change it was much more elaborate. We’ve had a few different versions of our website on PhotoShelter, and I can remember the first one. We started using it pretty early on in our career. We had relied pretty heavily on Vimeo for our videos, but once we started shooting stills, we realized we need to have something up. We were selling images directly from the site, setting up galleries. We converted a number of our clients to accessing their daily image galleries from PhotoShelter directly; we’ve been able to put up a master collection and they can download what they want. I think that there are a lot of things about Photoshelter that we haven’t even used yet, and I think that is great sign, because it allows us to grow as our business grows.
Fryer: Bringing our clients to PhotoShelter and downloading the images from the website itself was a pretty profound change in our daily workflow this year. It impacted our business and workday quite a bit, and from an e-commerce side, with regular ‘fans’ for a lack of a better word, the ability to purchase photos directly from our website has been great. I had editorial clients find photos that they needed for a magazine article, download the images, and take the image directly, so it’s provided a nice source of income.
PDN: Who was the client?
Greco: The London Times found a photo they wanted to use in their magazine. They were doing a pretty in-depth feature on Chris Froome, who won the Tour de France. They had a British portrait photographer shoot images of him for the front cover, but they wanted images from the race too. I don’t know how they found us, maybe just a Google search.
Fryer: There was also a Spanish cycling magazine that wanted some pictures and has downloaded probably about a dozen images over the last few months for their online magazine.
PDN: What do you love about your job?
Greco: So much of it is fun! Look, our job is not the hardest job in the world, however it is very F’ing hard. Anyone who is shooting on location and is working 20-25 days, 16-17 hour days, it is demanding. It’s hard, but it is just so much fun. At the races, you have to remember that it is an uncontrollable environment, it’s an open circus. You can have interactions with fans and spectators on the side of the road that are just hysterical, or you can find yourself almost falling off of a 20-foot cliff because you tried to get this shot. It’s like many many jobs, it always looks easier from the outside. But it is fun.
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