Ben Franke Mixes Parkour with Powder


All images by Ben Franke. Used with permission.

Photographer Ben Franke is a New York-based German/American photographer and his work focuses on movement across a range of athletic disciplines. A new project of his called Parkour Motion is on display at the Leica Gallery Soho here in NYC. Essentially, he’s been photographing the athletes in attempt to capture the energy of the sport in a single still image.

Ben found that the best way to do this involved powder and flash.


Phoblographer: Talk to us about how you got into photography.


Ben: I picked up photography in High School after taking a photo class. I’ve stuck with it and developed my work every since then.

Phoblographer: What made you want to get into action sports photography.

Ben: I have been shooting Parkour since 2008. Like many, I was first introduced to Parkour through videos on YouTube. Soon I wanted to see the movement for myself and document what they were doing.

Phoblographer: So talk to us about the inspiration for Parkour Motion? Why the powder and strobist lighting?

Ben: When I first started photographing Parkour I was frustrated that the images I was taking didn’t capture how dynamic the athlete’s movements are. With the powder and lighting I can illustrate the athletes path of motion and their energy. For me it captures their movements in a much more honest way almost like a video would.

Phoblographer: When it came to shooting this, was there storyboarding involved? How did you explain the project and your creative vision to the athletes?


Ben: There was never any storyboarding involved. The first few images I shot with some good friends in the community who, at that point, I had been photographing for 3-4 years. They turned out even better than I had imagined and since then I’ve used what I’ve shot to explain my vision and project to the athletes.

Phoblographer: What logistical and technical challenges were there when doing this? I’m sure that there were security concerns, getting the lighting in just the right spot, the powder, etc.

Ben: Every shoot is a challenge in its own way. One of the biggest concerns for me is always security since we never have permits to shoot and can get shut down very easily and we often do. Otherwise it’s making sure the movement is captured in a way that really shows what’s happening in front of me.


Phoblographer: Creatively speaking, what are you trying to express with these images? Just a really badass scene that embraces both the adrenaline world while giving a wink and a nod to the strobist world with powder?

Ben: I was and still am always impressed by the athletes creativity that they express through their movements as well as the movements and body control that they are capable of doing. My goal is to capture that creativity and energy that they possess. I also enjoy collaborating with the athletes and seeing what kind of creativity they bring to the shoot and hope that comes across in my images.


Phoblographer: What made you choose the specific locations that you did? Did anyone get hurt?

Ben: The locations are both places that I seek out and want to shoot, as well as spots that the athletes suggest. Thankfully I have not had anyone get hurt during one of my shoots. There is definitely some risk involved with some of the movements but the athletes have trained a long time to be able to do what they do so I trust in their ability.


Phoblographer: How do you plan on marketing this series and taking it further besides the gallery opening?

Ben: I plan on eventually creating a book with the work as well exhibit the work more. Otherwise I want to get it in front of the right people through sharing it online and social media.