I’ve got to start with that cover. The ‘lucky pants’ guy. Really?
Ha ha! Did you like that?
No! It rapidly picked up after that, I hasten to add. Why the lucky pants?
I wanted a cover that says it’s not just about bike racing. It is a circus. And I thought those two guys are clowns. There’s a thread later on in the book about road painting, and ‘fun pants’ appear there. I’m all about getting a thread running through it. Each section is like a race day almost. There’s a narrative to the story.
Do you have any idea how many photos you had to go through to narrow it down to this selection?
Well, I was going to through all my film, and quickly realised that was going to be too expensive. So it is mostly the digital years. It’s about 8 gigabytes – a lot of days spent wanting to put shots in that didn’t work with narrative. It’s a very hard process, as you know.
You go blind, and then give it to someone else to look at, and then think: ‘Why did I do that?’ It was a matter of printing them off, laying them across the floor and the walls, and getting a better idea that way
Is there a favourite section of the book for you?
I need to not look at it for a while, and then look again. It could be the Six Day, but I think probably the Spring Classics – the story I am trying to tell there.
My experience with bike racers is the more you are around them, the more they trust you and the better access you will get. How long did it take you for the guys to accept you?
It was quite quick because I was working with Michael Barry [Team Sky] so I got the nod. But I haven’t been to the Tour for two years now, and I think if I turned up now, no one would know who I was.
Two years is a long time in show business.
It is, and it’s quite incredible how quickly it changes. I don’t know that many younger riders, but I know a fair few DS’s.
Do you think this book would have got off the ground without the crowd funding?
I had talked to some publishers and it got to a point, but it’s really hard to sell a photography book. Some publishers tell me now they would have published it, but then I’d have lost control of it. Crowd funding is great in that respect.
You had to really sell yourself to make the crowd funding work, which is not your forte, if I may say so. You seemed to spend an awful lot of time on Twitter drumming up support.
No, not at all. Twitter is the modern coal face, isn’t it? I was talking about it for ages, but I wasn’t getting it together. Then thought ‘fuck it’, I’ll just do it. It really was back of a fag-packet calculations, then I spoke to Global Cycling Network and they very kindly did me a video.
I didn’t actually think we would make the target – I just wanted to know: what I have got and what people thought of it – and it was a good way of testing that.
The beauty of crowd funding is, I guess, that it’s an affirmation that there are people out there that want to support your work. You don’t crowd fund unless you really believe in the project. It must be very gratifying.
It’s very gratifying, and also terrifying. Once I got the funding, I went to three printers and they obviously just Googled me, saw the crowd funding amount, and funnily enough, the quote would come in at exactly the amount of money we raised…
I wasted several months doing that before realising I should have someone to do that for me who wouldn’t know who I am. The learning curve was huge – massive. I couldn’t describe it all in one interview. I could maybe be a consultant now on how to – and how not to – crowd fund a book.
Images taken from Circus: Inside the World of Professional Bike Racing, published by Velodrome Publishing. Photographs © Camille J McMillan
Signed and numbered Special Edition of Circus available from Rouleur