Story of the grandest book of the Tour de France

Photographer Jude Palmer with  Peter Morris, partner at Irwin Mitchell solicitors, sponsors of the book, left, and Gary Verity, chief executive of Welcome to Yorkshire.

Photographer Jude Palmer with Peter Morris, partner at Irwin Mitchell solicitors, sponsors of the book, left, and Gary Verity, chief executive of Welcome to Yorkshire.

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By Graham Chalmers

At some point in the last 12 dramatic months when the whole of Yorkshire seemed to be consumed with thoughts of the Tour de France someone must have asked the question “why her?”

“Why did Welcome to Yorkshire pick Harrogate’s Jude Palmer to be the official behind the scenes photographer for the whole shebang?”

The perfect reply comes in the form of a stunning art book just published.

Called The Grandest Depart, it’s the result of nearly 12 months work by the intrepid Palmer in which she filed more than 5,000 images of Le Tour from every angle and every perspective - often to be assessed by Welcome to Yorkshire’s inspirational head, Gary Verity himself.

It’s a stunning collection by a self-taught, self-made photojournalist, a different look at things by someone with a different eye.

It’s fair to say the journey to this point for Jude was one hell of a ride.

Jude said: “There have been so many highlights. Meeting Bernhard Hinault a few times was one of them, a cycling legend but a very cool man, too.

“Being in the Skoda car all the way on Stage Two was something I will never forget and finally earning my photographer’s bib status in Paris on the very final stage from the ASO, the tour organisers.”

As well as the official book, launched in style at Harewood Houseon Tuesday, there’s a chance to see Jude’s pictures in several forthcoming exhibitions, including Hotel du Vin in Harrogate, and in London.

The whole thing has been the thrill of a lifetime for this talented, no-nonsense mother-of-three – and not without its challenges.

“Some of the other photographers were not the nicest people to be around sometimes and I had to battle with that a lot.

“I learnt all about the press scrums and not to take no for an answer, not that I did that much anyway!

“It was just me with one camera so I was frustrated sometimes that I couldn’t cover more things. I shot the race at Harewood but couldn’t get to Harrogate quick enough – I didn’t have a helicopter - so I could only shoot the finish.”

Jude, who was a consultant in the TV industry for years before she took the plunge with a camera, is a photographer by instinct, not training.

A devout believer in photojournalism and follower of the legendary Henri Cartier Bresson, if Jude can be said to follow anyone, she puts the truth of the image above everything else at all times.

Choosing which Le Tour pictures actually made the book and which would end up in an exhibition at Hotel du Vin in Harrogate or a forthcoming one at Sheffield or the show Jude’s got scheduled for the Leica Photography Studio in London’s Mayfair was far from easy.

“I think I’m happy. It was almost an impossible job to select 130 odd images out of 5000.

“Doing it as a photographic diary almost, trying to tell the story of my year with TDF in a way that made sense.”

Having been selected for this plum job a year ago, she said there and then that her aim wasn’t really to photograph the cyclists themselves but to document the preparations, the people, above all the feeling of what it was like to be there at any given point.

“We’ve tried to do something different. Its not just another TDF book with great sports images.

“We wanted in to be an art piece as well, something to really do justice to the event that took place here in Yorkshire.”

Despite the exhibitions coming up, nothing is done just for show by this talented artist.

At one point she was using a six-year-old Nikon camera. No wonder some of the older hands in the press world were shocked when she arrived on Le Tour.

Jude said: “It doesn’t matter what camera you have, it’s all about the image.

“There are a plethora of fantastic shots of the Grand Depart taken that weekend by dozens of newspaper photographers, pin sharp, truly great shots.

“All those pictures have their place. But it’s not what I do. Some people will like that and others will hate it.”

An exclusive selection of prints from Jude’s Grand Depart shoots are also now available for sale to the public on Jude’s website (shop.judephotoagency.com).