[Above: Photo by Romane Texier] For those unfamiliar with the exhilarating urban sport of parkour, it’s a form of improvised gymnastics, acrobatics, running and climbing where practitioners (known as traceurs) use on-location apparatus be it walls, railings, drainpipes or chimneys. They can all be used to complete a “run”.
Sports enthusiast Kevin Mercier, 23, has been a parkour athlete for over five years and has recently transitioned into photography, becoming Parkour Paris’ official photographer. We caught up with Kevin to discuss parkour and his unique insight into parkour photography.
How did you get into photography?
Whilst traveling around Australia in 2016 my inner voice shouted “I need to capture these beautiful landscapes!” Up until this moment I had only taken snaps with a mobile phone, but that urge to document my journey took me into photography. I turned to a good friend, Heesoo Chung, a photography student, who showed me the fundamentals and I learnt from there. I now shoot with a Nikon D5500 wide angle lens 10-20mm and have an avid interest in landscapes and parkour photography.
And you’ve found your niche!
Yes, my new interest in photography tied in very well with my parkour family’s need. I was already a traceur and a coach at the club, it made sense that I use my photography skills to showcase what we do. I understand the athletes, I am one of them, I can envision the images that can be taken, I can also climb into those positions others may not be able to.
Speaking of your parkour family, who are they?
Parkour Paris is an official organization founded by parkour athletes Thibaut De Cassagnac, Thomas Mougne and Robin Pereira who were trained directly by the discipline’s creator David Belle. The organization has 300 students and it branches out into two sides: teaching, where lessons and workshops take place at Bercy, Olympiades and Gare d’Austerlitz, and events, which includes advertising campaigns, showcases, movies and even fashion shows.
Tell us about your images.
My images are mostly handheld and tend to have an urban or travel theme to them. Ultimately it’s my ability to go where an athlete is going that allows me to take my shots. I also know the athlete’s capabilities so know if a shot will work or not.
What is it about the sport that attracted you?
I’m an avid sportsman and have competed in a wide range of sports from rowing to football. Parkour is different to other sports. You don’t need special equipment. We use what’s available on location. All you really need is a pair of trainers. If you have those you’re good to go. This makes it very accessible – you are free to train when and where you want. The rest of the sport is about respecting and fully controlling the mind and body.
Your images are truly beautiful, it’s incredible to think you only started in 2016, what advice to you have for anyone starting out?
Thank you for your kind words! It’s true that I’ve only recently started, but I’ve poured many hours of learning and practice into this and was lucky enough to meet the right people. Now, I want to help others improve their photography, this is exactly why I’ve started my website, to share tutorials and guides for simple and practical learning. My best advice would be: learn about composition, and then shoot, shoot, and shoot over again.