They say a picture can tell a thousand words, and this is certainly the case with the impressive imagery that comes from event photographer Ben Lumley. Yet it is only relatively recently that Ben came to specialise in photography for events, and it’s clear that being a runner himself has been key to his success in capturing precious moments and telling a story through the lens.
In fact, Ben knows better than most the highs and lows of running, having lost four stone since taking up the sport six years ago. He knows that even running down the road can be hard at the beginning, but that everybody has to start somewhere. For Ben, the motivation came from a chance encounter with an ultra athlete who got him thinking that running might be the answer. He had put on weight whilst working in a sedentary job and knew he needed to do something about it. And so it was that he notched up those first slow runs, improved his diet and began to run more consistently – not knowing then that these were the first steps of a journey that would see his whole life change direction.
As Ben worked his way through parkruns, 10Ks, half marathons and eventually marathons, he found he was becoming increasingly disenchanted with his job designing websites. The nine to five, desk-based routine just didn’t feel right. It was around the same time that he saw his uncle, a keen photographer himself, who gave him his old DSLR camera and lenses – and as Ben started to experiment with taking photos, a spark was lit and he realised this was what he wanted to do.
At first Ben would photograph local band nights, tech conferences and comedy store acts – as long as they were events, he would shoot what he could. Then, one frosty weekend in January 2017, he decided to take his camera to his local parkrun at Sherwood Pines, to take photographs rather than run. He had chosen a near-perfect day for it, with the sun filtering through the early morning mist into the forest, and captured some beautiful shots of people warming up. It was the first time he had photographed a running event and it certainly wasn’t to be the last; he returned to photograph more parkruns to build up his portfolio and added more local races and events to the mix.
“I thought, yes! This is what I want to do,” explains Ben. “I thought that there could be a market here – that the running market was missing the kind of photos I like to take.
“I’m a runner myself so I get it,” he continues. “I know what it’s like to be at mile 19 of a marathon and I can see the pain and relief in runner’s faces as they approach the finish line. It’s like I can see what’s about to happen, the emotion that’s about to pour out, when they cross that line and exhaustion and elation kick in. For me, it’s about capturing what running means to people and catching a brief and very special moment in time.”
It took Ben eight to nine months of photographing running events to realise where he sat in the market, and now that he has there is no stopping him. “I want to tell a story about an event and inspire people to want to experience it themselves,” he confirms.
“We spend so much time looking through social feeds and I want my photos to make someone stop scrolling for just a few seconds, and realise what a journey it has been for that person to get there. I would love to inspire people to want to put themselves in that same situation. So often there is a better story behind a 5-hour marathon effort than a 2.5-hour marathon – you can really see how much it means to that person and that is what I want to convey in my photography.”
Although it was clear that Ben had the vision, it is never so easy to take the plunge and change career. “I had to trust my gut and go for it,” admits Ben. “I had built up a portfolio of photos from events that I had taken for free, and which many race organisers and runners were using. I was being approached by other events and the ball was starting to roll. I realised that opportunities arise when you put yourself out there and you have to grab the chances you get. It was then that I spoke to Breathe Unity PR to discuss how best to move forwards and I haven’t really looked back since – I was booked up twice as much in 2018 as I was in 2017, I’ve built up a great community online and I am doing what I love!”
Indeed, becoming part of the Breathe Unity community has been pivotal in Ben connecting with key figures and events in the running industry, with everyone working together and driving each other to enhance people’s lives through sport. Ben has recently shot some brilliant images with Breathe Unity client Susie Chan (right) and has become part of a real team of friends and influencers.
Rebecca Richardson, MD of Breathe Unity, commented, “We saw a real talent in Ben, with his unique perspective on running images and his ability to capture the emotions of a runner’s personal journey. His enthusiastic and positive approach make it a pleasure to work with him and we know that we are facing the same way as we move forwards. We all work collaboratively in the running comm-UNITY, which is a key philosophy of Breathe Unity, and we look forward to working with Ben for many years to come.”
As for whether Ben still has time to run, he laughs and tells me that it’s still very much an important part of what he does. “I try to get out three or four times a week, work and family permitting,” he says. “Running is an important part of my mental wellbeing. It helps me to process things, it’s a great time for problem solving and it’s a good place to switch off. I’m glad that it’s a part of what I do – after all, I wouldn’t be where I am now without it!”
Find out more about Ben Lumley on his website.