Sports and fitness photographer Matt Trappe thrives in the underground. When we talk about the underground, we’re somewhat talking about streets, but mostly bridges — namely, a race across one.
Take The Bridge is an event that differs slightly from the conventional footrace. TTB events bring together the running community and occur all over the U.S. Darcy Budworth has organized these events in places like NY, LA, and Boston for several years. The day before their Denver race, she called Matt, and things began to move quickly.
The race itself is a coming together of a local run community to race their city for the love of it. Not much more than that, really; there is no defined course, only checkpoints, so you can take any route you’d like.
A bridge is, of course, always involved as either a start or finish point or as a significant portion of the course.
There’s ten male or ten female runners and no clock. Whoever gets to the finish line first wins.
The TTB website describes it this way: “we race bridges/no mile markers/no time clocks/only pure urban racing/competing by intuition/pacing on gut.” You have to wonder what exactly goes into documenting such a free, fast-paced, and improvisational run.
You must anticipate and feel the event to capture it well. It’s incredibly challenging, but there’s no substitute for the authenticity of the images. I think this is one of my biggest strengths as a photographer.
To make matters even more tricky, the race took place in the dark, beginning on a bridge in Denver with several checkpoints throughout the city.
It’s quite dark outside. The camera’s settings are maxed out, and you’re living on the edge regarding exposure, autofocus, etc.
So, Matt did his best to prepare ahead of time. Arriving early, he scoped out the nearby areas for good spots with streetlights and dynamic shadows. He also brought along a battery-powered work light instead of the much more common flash or strobes that are usually quite heavy and simultaneously extremely fragile.
It’s a construction-style work light which lets me quickly drop it on the ground without having to worry about it breaking or misfiring.
Ultimately, Matt was delighted with this lighting solution, crediting the images’ mood to the darkness and the work light.
This shoot was fast and furious! The athletes ran until exhaustion, allowing for the genuine emotion and grit you see in the imagery.
He celebrates the grit for this race—especially in comparison to an ultra-produced and more staged shoot.
The culture of the running community isn’t produced or forced. It’s real people with a real connection to a sport, community, and city that they love. It’s people pushing themselves for the love of it, which is what connects with the wider run community and me as well.
Matt shot his project with the hope of encouraging brands in the sports and fitness industry to celebrate these stories and experiences that really resonate with their audience. He believes that showing genuine love to the everyday athletes who make up that audience could create a much more sustainable bond.
It’s not about how fast someone runs nor any accolades or accomplishments. Being a runner is an identity. Runners feel part of a community and want the brands they support to be authentic to that community.
See more of Matt’s work at trappephoto.com.
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