Flying the flag for the Tour de France in new exhibition

Work by renowned cycling photographer Graham Watson, which will go on display at the White Cloth Gallery, in Leeds, from May 22.

Work by renowned cycling photographer Graham Watson, which will go on display at the White Cloth Gallery, in Leeds, from May 22.

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A lifetime of cycling images by a world renowned sporting photographer will star in a specially-commissioned Tour de France exhibition in Leeds.

Around 150 framed stills captured by well-known cycling photographer Graham Watson will go on show at the White Cloth Gallery, in Aire Street, Leeds, from May 22 until Le Tour’s Paris conclusion on July 27.

The ‘Eyes on Le Tour de France’ exhibition includes work from Tours of the 1980s to the present, featuring the famous and infamous names from the world’s most watched annual sporting event.

Le Tour comes will debut in Yorkshire this year, with riders cycling from Leeds to Harrogate on July 5 before the York to Sheffield stage two the following day.

Watson’s work, which has featured in everything from Sports Illustrated and GQ to Men’s Health, will sit alongside images from revered photographer Bernard Thompson which centres around cycling greats including Morley’s Beryl Burton.

Peter Dench, co-creative director at the gallery, said: “The Eyes on Le Tour de France is an extremely inspiring exhibition that not only reveals some amazing landmarks in the sport but also aims to portray in close up the characters Watson’s lens has captured along the way.”

London-born Watson took his first steps into photography in 1972, working as an assistant to a London society photographer whose clients included foreign royal families.

Commuting into London by bicycle drew his attention to cycle racing, which led him to see the Tour de France in Paris for himself in 1977. During the 1980s he was a regular feature at European races and soon gained access to the inner circle of cycling photographers.

His work has captured the stunning rise of British cycling stars such as David Millar, Mark Cavendish, Sir Bradley Wiggins and Chris Froome.

Mr Dench added: “It has always been our aim to inspire and educate communities through arts and culture and elevate projects of particular importance and believe that Watson’s work and the Bernard Thompson archive do just that.”

‘Eyes on Le Tour’ has been created for Yorkshire Festival 2014, which is the first ever arts festival to accompany the Tour de France Grand Depart.

The exhibition will be launched during a special event at the gallery on May 22, which will feature live classical music, drinks, canapes and a film screening of PANTANI: The Accidental Death of a Cyclist with an introduction from film director James Erskine. Five per cent of all art sales will be donated to the Grand Depart’s official charity partner Marie Curie Cancer Care.

Visit www.whiteclothgallery.com/event/eyes-le-tour-de-france for tickets to the launch which start at £10.