Here is a collection of images in which I am not only the photographer, but the subject as well. In each of these photographs the cyclist you see is me. I took these photographs to illustrate a cycling blog I launched in 2011, My Bicycle and I. To obtain them I used tripods, timers, and remote shutter releases, first composing the image I wanted in my mind’s eye, then setting it up and riding into the frame at what I hoped would be the just the right fraction of a second. I have loved the challenge of working both sides of the camera simultaneously.
With rare exceptions I am nearly always riding away from the camera, or at least not facing it. This is deliberate. I did it mainly because I wanted my cycling photography to illustrate the joy and freedom of the open road rather than be simply photographs of me or my ride. I wanted the image to be of ‘a cyclist’ and allow the viewer to place themselves in the frame. The sole exception, in this gallery at least, is the one of me reaching the top of the steep hill on Peter James Lane, near Fairlight, in Sussex, where it didn’t work, visually, any other way.
I also didn’t want to descend into the ‘selfie’. I hope I haven’t.
Cycling and photography – or cycling in art, for that matter – seem to go together wonderfully well. Not only is a bicycle an ideal vehicle for an artist or photographer, in that it brings you close to people, landscapes and the million-and-one vignettes you usually pass by, but the bicycle itself, or the image of someone cycling through a scene or setting, can be visually appealing as well. It suggests a story, evokes a mood or feeling in the viewer – one of freedom and self reliance, a touch of nostalgia perhaps, sometimes even a bit of gentle melancholy. The presence of a cyclist or a bicycle adds something to a landscape or street-scape. Evidently the artists who do the covers for The New Yorker feel the same way. Bicycles or cyclists have featured as cover art on the magazine more than 100 times over the years, the first occasion dating back to June of 1928.
None of these images are of racing or getting fit. Cycling for me has always been about solitude and escape, finding my way back to that great, wide, curiosity-filled world we all knew as children when we rode our bikes everywhere but lost somehow when we grew up. I hope I have succeeded in capturing something of this freedom and the storybook quality of the English landscape.