How do the best athletes in the world train? What does the work they put in when they’re not in the spotlights look like? These are questions I aim to investigate through my photos. For my most recent series, I followed top Dutch gymnast Bram Verhofstad while training.
My approach for this shoot was to just observe and record what happened. I didn’t want to intervene too much, and instead shoot an authentic series of cinematic lifestyle images. What was new this time was that I invited my colleague Nino Kennis, who shoots awesome and fast paced videos. First things first though: who’s this Bram Verhofstad?
Bram Verhofstad: 4th in the world
Bram is a gymnastics athlete I’ve worked with before, at the same location in fact. For that previous shoot my focus was on staging action shots, lit with my own lighting gear.
My first shoot with Bram was used to write this blogpost for Elinchrom, check it out if you’re interested in a slightly more technical write-up.
At 23 years old, Bram is still relatively young for a male gymnast. Though he focuses on floor exercises, training consists of multiple different exercises. Debuting at the 2017 World Championship in Montreal, Bram managed to secure the 4th place at his favourite element. This just goes to show Bram’s development has far from come to a halt, and it’s exciting to see how far he can grow in the coming years.
Training takes place at the Flik Flak gymnastics club in Den Bosch. The top gymnasts that train there have their own huge hall which looks like a playground basically. It’s chock full of all different sorts of apparatus used in the different elements of gymnastics. The athletes can even use a camera system that records all their exercises, which allows instant playback to judge proper form.
Bram Verhofstad picked up vlogging this year – check out his Youtube channel to see more of his training process!
Working with Nino Kennis for video
As I mentioned in the intro, for this shoot I worked with Nino Kennis, who shot video at the same time that I was shooting stills. This is something I’d wanted to try for quite some time, and having recently gotten to know Nino’s work he seemed like the perfect partner for this. Nino’s working on doing short (30-40 second) video portraits of people, showing their passion. He creates a fast paced video of the person doing what he loves, and finishes the video with a close up of the person striking a confident pose. This approach struck me as perfectly applicable to athletes training. The final video Nino created is included below, I was rather psyched to see it and was thrilled to see it work really well alongside the images I created.
Showing the hard work top athletes put in
Our goal for this shoot was to give a somewhat stylised but authentic glimpse into the life of this top athlete. We wanted to show him training and putting in the hard work. I’m not trying to paint an exact picture here though. It’s more important to show typical striking moments that help tell the story. What’s more, I love capturing the scenes in a cinematic style. In my opinion this really helps amplify the storytelling aspect. The full series I shot is included below. Expect to see more work like this drop over the next couple of months!
Like seeing more cinematic-ness? Check out this series shot during the iconic PSV-Ajax game.