If you’ve got it, flaunt it. That’s what New York-based photographer Ben Franke believes, anyway. He recently put together a shoot of parkour athletes that drew some interested crowds on a busy day in Manhattan.
The project, titled “Black Tie Parkour”, had a simple concept– capture the athletes jumping, leaping, and flipping their way through the city in their finest formal wear.
The ideas began when Ben worked on another project with athletes Melanie Hunt, and the two chatted about working together again. Once they threw out the idea of working in full cocktail attire, they knew it was an idea they needed to see come to life. During planning, another athlete, Jesse Danger, joined the crew, and the three contributors set a date.
There is, of course, a reason athletes don’t spend most of their time performing in ball gowns and tuxedos. It was crucial that the wardrobe didn’t negatively affect Melanie or Jesse’s ability to actually participate.
We wanted to have a dress that flowed nicely for Melanie but had to ensure that it wouldn’t get in the way of her being able to move freely.
Eventually, Melanie found her dress through Rent the Runway, and Jesse put on his best black suit. They gathered some crash pads and ventured out into New York’s Financial District to make the images, hoping for the best.
During the work week, this area can get extremely busy, so being able to shoot quickly was important. Since we were shooting without permits, there was also a risk of getting shut down. Thankfully, all went off without a hitch.
It’s difficult for backflipping parkour athletes in black tie to not draw attention, and they found during several shots that a small crowd was forming. Ben managed to keep the onlookers out of the images, and the lighthearted performance aspect of the shoot shines in the visuals.
The final images are live on Ben’s website and serve as a great extension of Ben’s brand – active, fun, and quirky. Definitely expect to see more urban athletes from Ben, although maybe slightly less dressed up.