Karen Edwards – Cycling Photographer … and Cyclist

When you take a look at those iconic images of cyclists, do you ever ask yourself ‘who took that?’ I bet you don’t. Well, not normally. We all take the people behind the lens and indeed, the people behind the scenes for granted.

Here at Pedalnorth.com we want to get into the subtext of cycling: to the people who design the gear, the bike designers who work in small artisan workshops, the hard working back-offices, and the brilliant photographers that take the images that stay in our memories for ever.

Karen M Edwards is one such photographer, from Cork in Ireland. Executive Editor, Robert Thorpe interviewed Karen to find out more about this amazingly talented young lady.

How did you get into photography?

I was training few years ago to race and I got sick, and with the doctors request to stop training for a while. So I still wanted to be involved in cycling, and I bought my first camera in 2012. I went to a local race, and wanted to capture real racing.

Not like the usual cycling photography at races, but to bring my interpretation of it.

As a racer yourself then, do you think it helps you to get a deeper perspective?

Definitely it does. I don’t want to say that I’m an expert, and I would never claim to be. But I’ve listened to lads training, to the highs and lows. Through that contact and connection, I think I have an understanding to some degree.

in terms of the cycling theme, where did that arrive from? Is cycling a strand that runs through your wider family? Was it the connection of your Uncle Mick in County Cork, who I know that you followed as a youngster?

Well Mick was the racer. Bikes have always been there. I live in the countryside so bikes are essential. I love getting out here.

I have my Grans bike still. I have some great memories of riding it, getting groceries and having that freedom. I cycled to school few miles away, always my goal to beat the school bus home.

Is that the single speed Raleigh

2 gears! No wonder I’ve got huge calves I so love the mechanical side too. I could watch it all day.

I worked in Micks little bike shop as a kid. It was great, but he tormented me, setting me up with boys coming in ???????? He loved embarrassing me. I was so shy.

The close up shots of specific objects and items from cycling, really focus the eye and the mind. How do you go about developing an idea into an image and picking the right angles etc?

The images are of the moment. Just go with it – there and then.

Right; I tend to walk around with the camera in my hand now. Is that the best tip?

I love it ’cause I can express myself through photography; it’s an art. I love detail.

It’s essential to show the detail to the normal person who doesn’t understand racing – to educate them through the images. I think through images you can draw a person in to ask more.

Racing is such a beautiful art form; the tactics and the array of colour.

Your strongest images of cycling are of static themes or of cyclists not moving. Do you find that these images allow you to more closely examine the subject?

Karen It’s the emotion. Capturing a rider exhausted or after a crash…

Yes, capturing that instant in time has real power.

Yes, capturing the rider waiting to Time Trial. Even by their hand gesture you can capture the intensity.

Do you draw on your experience as a racer and cyclist?

Yes, ’cause I know what it is to line out. It’s always difficult regards crashes though. I have passed some crashes. You have to respect the rider and their family.

Crashes must be tricky. Giving the necessary respect and yet being able to respond as a photographer.

Yes, but I have shot them, just to show how hard as nails they are [cyclists]

Of all your vast array and catalogue of images, what’s your own favourite?

So many images I like. God that’s so hard to say…To pick one is hard ’cause they all have stories. Maybe the Sagan one from Roubaix

And as a cyclist yourself, what’s your favourite ride?

My favourite loop out a back road to my home village, lush and green. Quiet. And I get lost in my thoughts. Love that. The bike is always a way of escaping in your head.

It doesn’t happen as much as I’d like.

I know that feeling. We live in North Yorkshire, on the edge of the Yorkshire Dales, and yet I never seem to get out as often I want to.

Ours is a little village that has given us great tough cycling legends:
Eddie Dunbar, Mick Cahill, and Páidí ó Brien.

Sean Kelly?

Karen Seán is from Carrick. He’s one of my idols. I still get star struck when I see him; such a joker. A great character too.

I love his comment about his bike, his car and his wife… Important in that order. A tough rider, never willingly beaten.

Never. I look up to that character – never give in.

I never dwell on negatives. I just want to keep pushing as I can go. I was told that I’d never make it as a photographer. Best thing I ever did. Drove more on even more.

Karen and I chatted for some time, discussing our own career paths, life, family, aims, and places we’d been. We laughed and shared a great conversation, allowing me to get into who Karen Edwards is: a talented, artistic and driven, cycling loving woman, with her heart in rural Ireland and her eyes on cycling; capturing the emotions and feelings that flow endlessly out of the images that her detailed eyes capture.

You can see Karen’s work on her own website here, and by following her Instagram profile.