Ashley Gruber | Photographer From the Photo Annual, issues 49 (Jan 2016), 61 (Jan 2017) & 79 (Aug 2018)

FROM ISSUE 49 [ JANUARY 2016 ]

I never intended to become a photographer. I didn’t take pictures much as a kid, never fantasized about cameras. Even when Jered, my husband, went picture-taking crazy, I watched on in amusement, patiently turning around and around for his pictures. I still didn’t think about taking pictures myself. But then the camera started ending up in my hands. For a second or two, then a few minutes, then a whole day.

I had no idea what I was doing (still don’t?), but the big black box started growing on me, and instead of panicking when it was picture-taking time, I started getting more and more excited. I’m still hesitant to call myself a photographer, but I love it now, and I feel so lucky to have fallen into this world of shooting and exploring and living on the road all year long.

Equipment. I go light when I am out. Right now I’m using the Nikon D810 with a Sigma Art 50mm, f1.4 lens. Pretty simple!

Travel Must-Haves. Since we travel so much it’s hard to keep a routine, but I try. Carrying some house slippers and packing familiar products like my own shampoo, face wash and moisturizer keeps it consistent, if only a little bit.

 

FROM ISSUE 61 [ JANUARY 2017 ]

What was your highpoint this year? There were lots, but I wouldn’t feel right just saying one thing. I feel like I’ve come to a new point of happiness and appreciation for what we do and the people we’ve met….

You ride a lot. What’s the best area/region to ride? The more we ride in new places, the more I realize how much we don’t know. We spend most of the year in Europe, so the places we discover are mainly quiet alpine regions. The short list: Pyrénées, France; Cantabria, Spain; Molise, Italy. Or there is our perennial favorite: the Dolomites.

Talk through your best image for this Photo Annual…. Along with our friends Nate and Jim, we were in the Alentejo region of Portugal to create images for a new trip InGamba Tours was adding. On driving around, we were struck by the people we saw in these tiny, quiet villages. Jer and I both kept talking about the pictures we “would” take. Jim called us on our BS: “Why don’t you take them then?”

Jim, a former photo editor for Wired, has become a mentor for us. So when he tells you to do something, you do it—unless you’re Jered and too scared to approach people! I tried the first portrait: an old man with a bicycle. I got two frames off, lost my shit and literally ran away! Jim gave me critiques on what I could do better: everything.

Enter stage left: Ze Cardoso (see page 12). I’d originally gone to take a portrait of a guy reading his newspaper. Very forgettable. Then I saw Ze with a friend, completely relaxed and smoking. I asked if I could take his portrait. He said yes and continued doing his thing. I took a few, got nervous again and went back to the car. Jim told me I couldn’t get back in until I did it better. He told me exactly what to do and encouraged/goaded me until I did it. What you see is that portrait. 

What makes this even better is that, on a bike ride that evening, we encountered Ze a second time, in another village, having a beer with friends. I stopped, shot some more, and he bought me a beer. It was one of the most gratifying things I’ve ever done with a camera in my hand—and all because of the camera.

Interview by Tim Schamber

 

FROM ISSUE 79 [ AUGUST 2018 ]

How has this last year been for you shooting cycling with your husband Jered? I tend to take a detail-oriented approach to most things in life, working in a bottom-up approach, and Jered is the opposite. That means we generally end up telling different parts of the same story, which really makes us a team.

What’s been your most memorable experience this past year? Our good friend, Yoeri, rally-driving enthusiast, map across the steering wheel and no AC in his Peugeot 307, offered to drive me on the Roubaix stage of the Tour de France. On our first sector of cobbles, I met some Brits who’d camped there. I watched TV with them. Then they offered me a beer. I hadn’t eaten anything, but this sounded like a great idea. As soon as the beer cracked open, some French fans across the road started yelling: “They’re coming! They’re coming!” We still had five minutes, but I chugged the beer and got in my perch in the hill above the road. As soon as the riders passed, I sprinted back to Yoeri’s car, and we were off. I had that warm, glow-y buzz; the windows were down, the music was up and Yoeri started clap dancing (his specialty).

People know your imagery quite well, but do you ever feel like you are still under the shadow of Jered? I do, but he casts a very large shadow. Jered is so immensely passionate that it takes a lot to keep up. The pictures are one thing, but the energy he brings to cycling and photography is boundless….

What do you love the most about shooting cycling? I love going to the first race of the season and seeing our growing cycling family again on what feels like the first day of school. I love that somehow the sport has become part of my job.

Is there an image in your selection that stands out for you? My favorite image is one taken on the first stage of the Tour. As we were driving into a town, I’d seen a crêperie (page 137, middle) and knew there was some kind of shot from there. When I got inside, I still had a few minutes until the first riders would appear, so I ordered two galettes and figured out my shot. The man on the right was completely oblivious to the fact that I was shooting and the man on the left was desperately trying to stay out of my shot. Then there was a French flag and, in the middle, almost far away, the Tour de France.

Interview by Tim Schamber

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