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Behind the Lens with Jordan Lea

Jordan Tyler Lea is a multi-faceted and necessary component of the Motus machine. Once referred to by Giles as “The Third Musketeer,” Jordan’s work for the brand goes well beyond the typical sponsored athlete; between clothing shoots and photo content creation for the brand, Jordan has both hands in the pie, so to speak. Photography is a well-known passion of Jordan’s, and he lends his eye to Motus at every opportunity. I wanted to speak to Jordan about his photography experience, and so we sat down almost 5,000 miles away from one another and engaged in a lovely conversation. 

Jordan looking contemplative

ME: When did you start taking photography more seriously? 

JTL: To be honest I don’t know if there was any exact turning point where my photography got more serious. I started getting into photography because my grandad really enjoyed taking photos, and when he passed I got his camera equipment. It was quite an old and terrible quality Canon, but that’s how I started getting into photography. I think the closest thing I had to a turning point was thanks to Motus and Sole Destroyer. That entire trip I was snapping away and getting edits punched out in the evenings. Obviously we got the photobook out of that, and that’s kinda the point where I realized, “I’m actually pretty good at this, and I could actually do this as more than a hobby.” I took photos when I first started training, and did terrible edits, everything was oversaturated and slowly progressed. I now feel like I’m at a good point in my photography where I like what I edit haha. 

ME: What was the most challenging aspect of getting into photography?

JTL: Personally, photography was very accessible due to receiving the gear from my grandad. There wasn’t much stopping me from going out and snapping some photos. However, the aspect of photography that’s hard is the need for better gear. It’s an expensive hobby. To an extent you can take good photos with any camera, but you want a better camera to capture better quality images. I feel like that was the most difficult part of getting into photography more seriously. I remember I worked for a long time, saved a lot of money and bought a camera body, and a Canon Pro L lens, both second-hand. That was my first experience with using practically professional gear and it really made such a huge difference. It was insane, just being able to edit the photos and have a lot more creative freedom with what you can do. 

ME: Where does parkour factor into your history of photography, if overlap exists?

JTL: There is an overlap, but not too much. I do prefer taking more nature photos, landscapes, and portraits, more than parkour shots. Basically at first I wanted to make sick edits and quickly realized, it’s very hard hahaha. So I started snapping some photos. I remember climbing this building, and the first picture I took, I fell in love completely. The photo itself was terrible– the image itself isn’t bad, but the edit is just so oversaturated. We were having a good day of training, we climbed this building, and got to this little balcony, and it was looking towards what’s called the Time Bridge in Newcastle. But I wouldn’t have shot that photo if it wasn’t for parkour. Parkour allowed me to have more opportunities to take photos.

Jordan’s early photo

ME: What is the significance of photography for you personally?

JTL: At the moment, it’s just a very strong passion. I love doing it, and there’s not much more to it. I would love to do it professionally in the future, but that’s a whole different path. At the minute photography gives me opportunities to work with Motus, going on trips and traveling helps me capture great moments. One of my favorite things about photography is capturing solid shots and being excited to go home and edit them. The whole process of photography has come to be significant for me. 

ME: What is your current favorite camera? 

JTL: This is another hard one, because I haven’t had an opportunity to use many different cameras. I’m definitely team Canon, and have been from the start, thanks to my grandad. Since I’m familiar with the camera body itself, I stuck with it and I invested a lot of money in the Canon 80d. When I say a lot of money, it was a lot back then, it’s not a lot now hahaha. So I guess that’s my favorite camera! It’s been through some beatings and I’ve taken it everywhere and shot so much with it. If I had to pick a camera that I would love to have, it would be the new Canon EOS R Mark II. I haven’t used it myself, but from watching YouTube videos and stuff it looks incredible. The camera I have at the moment is a cropped sensor camera, whereas the EOS is full frame, so it would give me a better chance to capture higher quality images. 

ME: You seemingly shoot a lot of portraits, landscapes and liminal spaces. What is your favorite subject to photograph and why?

JTL: I’d say it’s definitely nature photography, a mixture of landscape and people. For example, my girlfriend and I recently went on a trip around Norway, and that’s just some of my favorite stuff to shoot. So shooting the incredible landscapes with a subject, like my girlfriend or anyone else really. The reason why is that from the start of my photography journey, a lot of the shots I was capturing were in the Lake District, a nature park in the UK. So I was often out camping or traveling with friends and a majority of the pictures I took were nature shots. So I think it’s been embedded in my practice, and now having moved to Norway, it’s just one of the most incredible places to shoot scenery and nature, and I feel like that’s what I shoot best. I do also enjoy shooting portraits in liminal spaces as you said. Just kind of walking around Oslo, the architecture is insane, and being able to walk around and take photos of people in these interesting spaces is something I really enjoy, and I think the aesthetic looks really good. 

A dark and stormy urban night

ME: The parkour community has a number of talented photographers, are there any who inspire you?

JTL: This is kind of a hard one. There are many talented photographers in parkour, but my photography is disconnected from parkour, like I said. However, I am aware of some photographers; I guess the people whose photos I see the most and enjoy are Casey Wilson, Emily Ibarra, and Kent Johns. I remember following Kent for parkour, and then getting super interested in his photos. Casey too, some of the photos he’s taken are just fucking incredible.

ME: What are your thoughts on parkour photo gallery exhibitions like Discourse Jam? Would you be interested in taking part in future events like this one?

JTL: Actually at first I had no idea what Discourse even was. I saw it on Instagram but wasn’t aware of what it actually entailed until I got back to the UK and Giles told me about it. Personally I think it’s sick. That stuff needs to happen more because it gives parkour photographers an opportunity to show and sell their work, and those opportunities don’t come up often. It’s just another way to get more money into the sport. I would love to take part, but my images aren’t usually parkour specific, other than what I shot during Sole Destroyer. I don’t often take photos when I’m out training, because I’m focusing on training, not taking pictures. But it’s definitely something I’d love to take part in, I just don’t think my shots fit the environment at the moment. 

ME: What do you think photography brings to parkour that video can’t?

JTL: I think that photography brings a unique opportunity to capture moments, historical moments in parkour. Right now I’m looking at a photo of Max hitting the IMAX kong pre, and like, if it wasn’t for photography I wouldn’t be able to reflect on that in the same way. I guess photography brings perception that video doesn’t. For example, with a video, we see a running jump-punch front. A video clip of those movements in an edit is very matter of fact. But I feel that photography allows the viewer to see the image in the same way that one would look at art. Everyone perceives things differently, and art can have multiple meanings depending on the viewer. If there’s an abstract image of someone doing a weird airform or something, the way someone else perceives that image could be totally different from the photographer, the athlete, or anyone else who looks at that image. Being able to perceive an image or art in your own way is special. It’s also more accessible; what I mean is that everyone hangs photos in their home, not everyone has screens playing video on every wall of their home. It takes no time or effort to look at a photograph, while video takes actual time and technology just to watch. 

Max doing a dash vault in Lisbon

This leggy parkourist has set himself apart by being the genuine article; a kind and authentic individual with a penchant for sick photos and big jumps. From the great natural beauty of Norway to the mean streets of Kent, Jordan explores his talents to the fullest. Whether that means capturing incredible landscapes, snapping the new Motus clothing collection, tackling long parkour lines, or wearing remarkably short shorts, Jordan is certain to impress. While we may not see Jordan as often as some of the other Motus athletes, rest assured that his role will only continue to grow. 



All photos herein provided by Jordan Lea.