Ernst Lalleman

24 hours

One of the perks of being a documentary photographer is that one can tell the story of one’s personal life in photographs.

I was the team manager of ultra-cyclist Jacques Helderop for his 24 hours race, the 24h Gran Fondo on the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya. 

The task of the team manager is to make sure that the rider only has to concentrate upon riding as many laps as possible in 24 hours. Every two hours he stopped for a couple of minutes. I made sure the required nutrition was prepared and I tried to talk to him in a reassuring and soothing way. 

Jacques suffered  during the race from back pain that radiated to his left leg. After 6 hours we were not sure if he could finish the race. But then after 12 hours, at 10pm, he had managed to overcome the pain and he rode the last 12 hours steadily through the night and finished at 10am after 120 laps which is 563km including 6553 meters of climbing. 

During the entire race I had my camera around my neck and photographed Jacques and the course of events in the most focussed way I could manage. At first I felt that my coaching role was hindering my photographic work

But later when I reviewed and selected the images I realised that my involvement with Jacques helped me to engage in a manner that every documentary photographer would hope for. Under normal circumstances, so if I were there merely as a photographer, my scope would have been broader. I would  have photographed more circumstantially and capture the race with more variety. The story would then have become more diverse, whereas now I was forced to focus on Jacques. 

I believe the intimacy in the photographs is a result of the fact that I had to narrow my attention span. The series show Jacques’ journey, struggle and relief during these 24 hours.

An unexpected advantage of my double role as coach and photographer.

Click here for the entire series. 



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