Capturing the extreme side of sports in Sheffield

Dora bike shot
Dora bike shot

Dora Damian has photography in her blood.

“I believe it’s genetic,” she said.

Dora bike shot

Dora bike shot

“My dad, who was very studious and had a chemistry degree, loved taking photos - much to his mother’s disapproval - and I believe I picked up the trail from him.”

Dora was 12 when she began experimenting with photography in her Romanian hometown, borrowing her dad’s camera phone every chance she got.

By the time she was 16 she was considering a career in fashion photography and would rope friends in to model for her, using whatever clothes and props she could get her hands on.

Aged 20 she moved to Sheffield to study for her degree in photography at Sheffield Hallam University.

Dora bike shot

Dora bike shot

And that’s when everything changed.

“I met two incredibly talented videographers, Ed and Tom, who were studying on the same course as me,” recalls the 24-year-old.

“The three of us became good friends and began spending a lot of time together, often heading out for walks in the Peak District.

“The two of them are very passionate about extreme sports, always planning their next big adventure or talking about biking, and I suppose it was only a matter of time before that enthusiasm transferred on to me.”

Dora bike shot

Dora bike shot

It was while looking through their footage one day that Dora decided she’d like to try her hand at experiencing extreme sports her own way - through stills.

The opportunity came when Ed called to on her to help out on a Wakeboarding video that he and Tom had been hired to produce and she jumped at the chance.

Wakeboarding involves riding on a short, wide board resembling a surfboard and performing acrobatic manoeuvres while being towed behind a motor boat.

“The shoot was in this abandoned quarry in the Peak District - I couldn’t have been more excited,” explains Dora.

Omeir in practice run at Albert Dock in Liverpool, UK during Red Bull Harbour Reach, July 24th, 2015

Omeir in practice run at Albert Dock in Liverpool, UK during Red Bull Harbour Reach, July 24th, 2015

“I had a great time documenting the day - and nearly killing myself in the process as I climbed steep hills to get the shots I needed.

“It was a buzz, from that day I was hooked on the adrenaline. There’s nothing static about extreme sports photography, nobody posing and waiting for you to get your shots. The pressure is on and you have a limited opportunity to get what’s needed.

“It was challenging and, at first, I felt a bit out of my comfort zone, which I decided could only be a good thing.”

Since graduating from university with a first class honours degree, Dora has taken on more and more sports jobs, working on everything from orienteering to British downhill series mountain biking.

“I love the element of suprise on every shoot; what you ‘might’ end up getting out of what ‘might’ happen, it’s unpredictable,” she smiles.

“It almost always comes down to an element of luck, combined with a trained focus of what’s going on around me and it’s very exciting.

Dora with her two colleagues

Dora with her two colleagues

“At the orienteering shoot I was given the same map as the participants and was running around an 18km course for 75 minutes getting everything I could before the time was up.”

Dora has also done work for Red Bull, photographing the third edition of the Red Bull Harbour Reach, and hopes to land more sporting clients.

“I really enjoy being outdoors,” she reveals.

“I love working around people who have the kind of energy that athletes have, it really makes me tick.”

Dora also incorporates elements of fine art and landscape photography into her sports imagery.

“I like to capture that moment when the athlete blends in and becomes one with their surroundings, especially within a natural environment,” she says.

“I am fascinated by the gracefulness reflected in their body posture and movements, which is also something I aim to get across through my images.’

And Dora hasn’t completely forgotten about fashion photography, though she admits it’s more of a hobby now, as her passions have shifted.

“It hardly matches the energy you get from being around people who constantly push their limits - physically and psychologically,” she says.

“Plus, photographing in settings you have little control over is really challenging, yet very satisfying.”

She’s also keen to travel more and get as many beautiful landscapes on camera as she can, admitting she finds it very hard to put her camera down when she’s travelling.

She says National Geographic would be her next dream client, though she also says she won’t be rushing away from Sheffield anytime too soon.

“I love it here,” she says.

“This is where I learned so much and I started my business here in September, with the help of Sheffield Hallam University’s Enterprise Team.

“I’d like to get my business established and concentrate on making a name for myself in Sheffield before I think about moving on.

“I’ve developed so much in the last few years; my empathy and my capacity to communicate and work with other people. I find it incredible where photography has brought me, so far from where I started back in Romania, meeting so many wonderful people and doing what I love.

“I feel very lucky.”