Creative Space: Emily Maye


Emily Maye has a knack for capturing an expression, nuance or detail that tells a bigger story. Here, we find out what drives the Californian-based photographer…

Take a look through Emily Maye’s portfolio and you can’t help but linger over the emotion conveyed in her work. Whether capturing the pulsating pace of Grand Tours or the dig-deep intensity of cycle cross, there’s a human truth in her images that’s overlaid onto the action to create a richness of storytelling. Here, we showcase some of her incredible photography and discover the secret to those sensibilities…

What makes you stand out as different creatively?
I’m really interested in people and how they approach their sport and I think that shines through in the work. I try to disappear as much as possible in the photograph and show you that person in a moment in their life. I find people’s sensitivities beautiful and I want to create a space where they will allow me to observe that. I want them to feel as comfortable as possible being themselves and that’s a tough thing to achieve when a camera is pointed at you. So, it’s a joint venture between my eye and their vulnerability. 


You are brilliant at capturing hidden detail and back stories. Why do you think you are so good at it?
I grew up in ballet and you have to be very aware of every detail and nuance. I think that’s what also lead me to be sensitive to body language in photographs. It’s all you have to tell the story and it’s the same in ballet.

You have a skill of capturing one facial expression that tells a whole story and transports you. How do you do it?
For me it’s all instinct. You have to read the light and think about where you will be in relation to the action/subject and what lens is going to be right for the situation. Those are all important choices and can’t be discounted, but the rest feels instinctual to me and I try to not question how I arrive at it. I think I would mess it up if it was too premeditated. I do more and more commercial work that is planned out, but I still try to leave as much room for spontaneity in that to keep that instinct active. 

What’s the image that you are most proud of?
There’s a photo of Fabian Cancellara on the bus the morning that he won Flanders the second year in a row. He was deep in his own headspace, so I was sitting on the floor of the bus in front of him trying to get the shot. It’s one of those photos that is all about the subject. You forget that I am even there. When you get that trust from an athlete it means a lot.

If you could photograph anyone in the world, who would it be and why?
I’ve never photographed Alberto Contador and I think he would be amazing.

What advice would you give your younger self?
To not worry so much about planning how things will come together. Just be open to opportunities and asses them in the moment. I’ve always been a planner, but it’s just not possible to plan how you’ll get where you want to go all of the time.

See more of Emily’s work at

Get Instagram inspiration

tan doan