How photographer Jude beat the odds to win Tour de France role

Photographer Jude Palmer. (Picture by John Eckart)
Photographer Jude Palmer. (Picture by John Eckart)

Interview by Graham Chalmers

Twelve months ago Harrogate mother-of-three Jude Palmer was knocked off her bicycle at the Empress roundabout - now she’s the official behind the scenes photographer for the Tour De France’s Yorkshire leg.

That accident while riding her bicycle on one of Harrogate’s busiest roads has turned out to be a genuine turning point. But the wheel of fortune surely revolved in a way no one could have forseen, least of all Jude herself.

“The bike acccident changed my life radically. I had to have months of physio on my lower back. I also suffered a series of illnesses while all this was going on. My friends all told me I should be taking it easy.”

Ignoring their words, this fearless woman of action believes without that traumatic event, she may never have landed her dream job.

“The accident made me want to to live in the moment and take more risks rather than fewer. I came out all guns blazing. ”

For someone who only took up photography four years ago, Welcome to Yorkshire’s decision to choose her to record the whole background story of Le Tour’s Yorkshire leg next year, is an amazing achievement, particularly as photography is still largely a man’s world.

“Welcome to Yorkshire had never heard of me. “I’m a bit of an unknown. I only picked up the camera four years ago but did it with gusto.

“It’s a massive honour to be part of this phenomenal event. It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity.”

The very definition of a late starter, 40-something Jude’s interest in photography crept up on her during her years as a consultant in the TV industry.

She’s always been fascinated by photographs, though in a different way, perhaps, than is normal.

“I believe photographs resonate with us at such a deep level. They have a huge importance in my life. In a fire, they are the one thing everyone would grab.”

The secret of her success must also be attributable to her ‘can-do’ attitude. Her first steps on the road to the Tour de France began when she asked Harrogate Theatre if it was okay if she could create a photographic document of its annual pantomime.

Several other community projects followed, including one at Harrogate Hospital, followed by the occasional exhibition, and a potentially foolhardy trip to Morocco - everything building quietly towards something.

Jude’s ultimate aim was to win a coveted place on a prestigious photography course with Magnum.

In the face of massive competition, she lost out narrowly.

But her work was so impressive, this famous international picture agency reversed its decision and she won a place.

“Photojournalism captured my heart. I like to work with real people, to capture the intimate moments of everyday life..”

Landing the role of documenting Yorkshire’s year ion the Tour de France, from current preparations behind the scenes to Le Grand Depart itself, took persistence and pushiness.

As well as her photographic skills it must have helped that Jude seemed to understand the importance of the world’s biggest cycling race coming to Yorkshire next year.

“Welcome to Yorkshire are being so ambitious in the way they are doing it. The bar has never been set so high, not even in France itself.

“I knew I had to capture the whole thing and help create a legacy for the future.”

Never one to let the momentum slip, Jude is already taking pictures for the official Le Tour book - and she’s also launching her own gallery in the heart of Harrogate next week with an exhibition of her stunning images.

“After my accident when I decided to start cycling again, friends told me to take my bike to quiet country lanes and ease my way back in slowly.

“I ignored that and went back on proper roads. I knew I had to face the fear straight away.”

Reality of a Moment by Jude Palmer, 12 Princes Square, Harrogate, Friday, November 29, 6pm-9pm.

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