Image by Claudiu Voicu.
Born in Bucharest, Romania, Claudiu Voicu, 26, is a professional street sports photographer and videographer. A former parkour athlete himself, he first developed his cinematic eye by capturing fellow parkour athletes on video, before eventually turning his attention to still photography. One of the primary contributors of the free-running movement in Europe, he’s been involved with parkour for over a decade and has been shooting stills professionally for the past four years.
As a teenager, the area that he used to play street hockey on was redeveloped. At a loss for what to do in his spare time, he and his friends discovered they could jump between the concrete structures of their houses and use their own athleticism to entertain themselves. Put simply, they had discovered ‘free running’, a mix of extreme sports and martial arts that has taken Europe by storm since the late 90s.
With a background in videography, for him, the Nikon D5200 provides an ideal balance between high-resolution image processing and HD motion capture. Prepared to climb even the most intimidating of architectural structures to compose an image, athletically, he’s a match for most of his subjects. Tell-tale signs of his video heritage emerged in a shoot with top free-runner Sam Parham, where he frequently used the D5200’s vari-angle monitor to frame images in tight angles. This allowed him to get creative shots that would be difficult to compose using the viewfinder alone.
Stylistically, Claudiu likes to emphasise colours and capture adrenaline in his shots. "I see the movements in the locations", he explains. He chooses to work very closely with his subjects, making calls like a movie director to signal the start of an energetic sequence or series of jumps. To separate the subject from the backdrop – both equally as important in parkour photography – Claudiu chooses to contrast the frequently neutral, earthy colours of distressed architecture with vivid block-coloured clothing on his subjects. Visually, by combining a bright red t-shirt with vibrant red shoes, front flips, footwork and feats of physical strength can really stand out against speckled grey walls.
Claudiu explains: "Trial and error makes the concept of shooting parkour accessible to anyone. The athletes express themselves freely, and that’s reflected in the way free-running is photographed. Parkour itself is about self-improvement, it’s about pushing the boundaries of what’s achievable and like any extreme sport, this involves an element of danger. To capture this, I use a wide lens to intensify the spectacle unfolding before me. If there’s a huge drop, or unnerving gap for a free-runner to jump, revealing it can add emotive context, in the form of adrenaline, to the still.”
Claudiu Voicu’s tips for shooting parkour
Shoot raw – Carry a large SD card to capture raw files that can be manipulated in post-production, and invest in a wide angle lens.
Choose inspiring locations – The urban landscape is your obstacle course, visualising the location before a shoot is crucial.
Capture colourful clothing – Think carefully about what your subjects are wearing in order to make them stand out from their surroundings.