Jojo Harper’s Candid Camera

Travelling around the world with her baby daughter in tow, Jojo Harper manages to juggle motherhood while capturing intimate and usually unseen moments of the world’s best cyclists

By Glorious

Photography by Jojo Harper

Jojo Harper is an award-winning documentary photographer based between London and Girona and she works for some of the biggest names in cycling. By having a natural ability to make her subjects feel comfortable, as well as an intimate and distinctive style, Jojo manages to capture the most candid moments, particularly those of life as a rider in the professional peloton. Jojo tells us about her journey into photography, combining work and motherhood and why she’d also like to shoot women’s football.

Ellen van Dijk warming up pre smashing the hour record.
Elise Chabby, Canyon-SRAM, post Tour de France Femmes stage 5, having crashed.

Glorious: What came first, cycling or photography? Tell us about your journey into both.

Jojo Harper: I am from a family of athletes. My father has been cycling and racing a bike since he was a young boy. My brother then took it up and became a professional when he was 18 years old. My passion for photography started at a similar time and I decided to do a master’s degree in documentary photography and photojournalism. It was before the time of ‘behind the scenes’ photography in sport and I thought it would be a nice idea to document my brother racing and training. I was living with him and witnessing the brutality of the sport and I thought it was a story worth telling.

Glorious: Did you play/enjoy watching sports as a child and what are your other sporting interests nowadays?

Jojo Harper: YES. My father is a huge sports fan and we were brought up watching all sports, especially skiing, Formula 1, rugby, cycling and tennis. My father introduced us to so many sports, we used to ski race as kids and skiing remains my number one passion. I also love to trail run and ride a bike.

Jojo's brother, George, racing the Tour of Britain for One Pro Cycling.

Glorious: What are your favourite images (and why) and are there some that you regret not capturing?

Jojo Harper: I think the one that stands out above all of the others is the picture of Lizzie Diegnan in the Roubaix showers after winning the first ever women’s Paris Roubaix in 2021. That was an amazing moment, and I felt honoured to be allowed that access. There is not one particular moment that stands out, but there is always something that I feel I miss.

(l-r) Lizzie Diegnan in the Roubaix showers, and two other female riders after the first ever Paris Roubaix Femmes 2021.

Glorious: You have a baby daughter, so how do you juggle a photographer’s lifestyle and being a mum?

Jojo Harper: To be honest, with difficulty, mostly because my job involves travelling and I am not ready to leave my daughter Winter. She has been coming with me to all jobs, which is wonderful and also exhausting. I love being a mother and I love my job, so I want to make it work the best I can. Luckily my clients have been very understanding and have accommodated us as a family.

Jojo edits, trying to pin back Winter's arms so she doesn’t edit for her at Tour de France Femmes 2022.
Tour de France stage 18 2021.

Glorious: As a photographer, you have to travel – is travelling another passion, or just part of the job? Describe a photographer’s lifestyle

Jojo Harper: I recently returned from the Tour de France Femmes and felt extremely tired, but that is just part of the job. I love my home comforts, so I would say that travelling isn’t a huge passion of mine. The reality is, I don’t actually get to see that much as there is no time when i’m working. It’s very early mornings and very late nights and many hours on the road.

Glorious: Where are your favourite destinations to shoot and why? Do you ever extend your work assignments to enjoy a holiday?

Jojo Harper: I probably should, but I usually want to get home. My home is Girona, which feels like being on holiday the whole time. I love mountains, so anywhere with a mountain range is most enjoyable.

Glorious: Prior to an assignment, do you plan the images that you’d like to capture, or is that what makes your images so natural looking – to a certain extent, you take things as they come?

Jojo Harper: If it’s a commercial shoot, then of course I plan, but the majority of my work is very much reportage. I love to observe what’s going on and capture what unfolds naturally.

Glorious: What has been your favourite cycling race to capture and why?

Jojo Harper: Paris Roubaix, as it is a brutal race and for the riders, an unbelievable athletic achievement.

Glorious: If you could photograph any other sports, which ones would you choose and why?

Jojo Harper: Women’s football. It’s a sport I know little about, but one that I would love to learn more. Also ski racing because I love the sport.

passion

Lizzie Diegnan after winning the first ever Paris Roubaix Femmes 2021.

Glorious: You take a lot of behind the scenes images, so do you build a strong rapport with the people you photograph to help them feel relaxed in front of a camera?

Jojo Harper: I do, yes. I love to get to know them. I tread carefully at first until they feel comfortable. I am now pretty close to quite a few of the female riders.

Glorious: When you take photographs, what do you want people to see and feel?

Jojo Harper: I want people to feel like they are there.

l-r: Current world champion Elisa Balsamo putting in her radio pre Tour de France Femmes stage; a Tour de France Femmes fan. 4. Tour de France femmes fan!
Trek Jan Camp Day 1, 2022.
Elisa Longo Borgini in disbelief having just won Paris Roubaix Femmes 2022.

Glorious: What would you describe as being your career challenges and highlights?

Jojo Harper: There have been many challenges, including a lot of rejection at the beginning, but it didn’t stop me though. While establishing myself, being freelance and not knowing where my next pay cheque would come from was also incredibly anxiety provoking. I can’t think of one particular highlight, but I am beginning to become more recognised and although I am not good at accepting compliments, it does make it all a little bit more worthwhile.

Glorious: Why is photographing female athletes and women’s sport so important to you?

Jojo Harper: Women are equally as talented as men in sport, yet they don’t get the recognition they deserve. I want to be one of the people that helps change that.

Glorious: Sport photography is still a male-dominated world, but what advice would you give to young budding female photographers?

Jojo Harper: Don’t be intimidated and be persistent. There are lots of advantages to being a female photographer, such as being allowed in the Roubaix showers after the Paris Roubaix Femmes.

Lauretta Hansons blisters after riding Paris Roubaix Femmes 2021.

Glorious: If you could invite four inspirational women to dinner, who would they be?

Jojo Harper: Dawn French – she’s hilarious ! I love her humour and she will make me laugh. The Queen – I respect her for what she has done and continues to do. She has served her duty for years on end. I would love to hear about the pressures, the highs and the lows and the reality of the job. Ana Cuba – a photographer based in Barcelona, I LOVE her work and want to know how! Annie Leibovitz – an inspirational photographer, who is sure to have some amazing stories and I would love to know her journey.

Glorious: What’s next for Jojo Harper?

Jojo Harper: I will be working for Trek again next year, but I would also love to expand into other sports such as running, football and tennis. I would also love to take on more of a producer, creative director role at some point in the near future. It would be great to be the creative behind a shoot and have the option of shooting or commissioning someone else.

Demi Vollering and Marlen Reusser of Team SDWorx on the dusty cobbles, Tour de France Femmes 2022.

Photography by Jojo Harper, Editorial design by Root

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