Amsterdam in many respects is free of definition and categorization. A perfect example would be this clash of styles. I suppose it could be his daughter’s bike, or maybe he is simply in tune with his more delicate nature. Ultimately it doesn’t matter what you ride as long as it works for you.
When we set out for unchartered territory, it often leads us to an unexpected discovery. My fledgling interest in urban cycling culture was evolving into a real passion, one that required a creative outlet that eventually lead me to starting this blog. My camera became a conduit for self-expression and served to the unveil a theme I call Pedal Mode.
It began a year ago. It was a particularly cold and grey day in April. The streets were grainy and patches of snow lined the curbs. I rode my bike down to the corner of Gerrard and Sherbourne Street, not one of the more affluent neighbourhoods in Toronto. I don’t know why I decided to stop here, I guess I had to begin somewhere. I locked my bike, held my camera to my chest and waited.
Some people like to take pictures of birds, landscapes and architecture, portraits and interesting characters, places they’ve been or just moments to remember. I felt a need to take pictures of people riding bikes. I found it moderately unusual at first though my muse had convinced me to do so. Initially the reason was to document cycle chic in the city, a concept defined as cycling in fashionable everyday clothes.
I’m an advocate of cycle chic and similar movements. There is a titillating appeal of the human form on a bike and something soothingly genuine when people are just being themselves. However, this fashion forward campaign grew into an ideology that divided and clashed with the consumer-driven helmet and lycra wearing crowd. Yet the claws or commercialism has even latched onto cycle chic featuring a burgeoning industry of accessories and must-haves. All the while being diluted with uninspired photography which left an underlying feeling in me that this theme had run its course.
I was clamouring for something different. After all I felt a kindred spirit with those who rode on bikes. It was the single most liberating thing I could do. With each pedal stroke any self-defeating state of mind was eradicated while positive emotions were elevated to near manic levels. I was curious if others felt this way. Do others feel this sense of exhilaration and freedom? If more people rode bikes, would they discover this truth? I suppose in some peculiar way, the shutter click on my camera could answer these questions.
In the midst of the jostling energy of the city, there is one thing that is clear. The urban cyclist is an elevated state of human being. Because of the choice to live independent of the constraints of city traffic while benefiting body, mind and soul. Yet remaining pragmatic within the city and in total harmony with the environment. This was the real appeal to me. It was not just about the rider and what they were wearing, nor the bike but the act of riding itself that I wanted to capture.
This is what lead me to define what I call Pedal Mode. The aim to celebrate life on bikes. Capturing real people within the city in the vein of candid street photography. No photo shoots or posed shots. With the intent to inspire, not to sell a product. To Evoke emotion and tell a story. To document the liberated act of living that is at the core of urban bicycle culture.
Synchronicity has brought me to the mecca of bicycle world. The opportunity to give Pedal Mode meaning has presented itself. Each time I ride out with the camera in hand, I remind myself of a quote by one of my personal inspirations, photographer Bill Cunningham: “Those who seek beauty will find it.” So to conclude, I say let us begin.
Sunglasses are both fashionable and functional, often a necessity when riding a bike. Especially during the winter when the low sun and reflection from the snow can be blinding. Cruising at higher speeds during low temperatures without shades can also cause tears to stream down your face.
I was a little surprised to see how few people wore them during the frosty months in Amsterdam. Though the compact Lego block buildings in the city offered plenty of shade from the sun at dusk. The past season also featured no white-outs, total snow accumulation of zero.
Spring time is a different story altogether. Shades are as common as wearing a sweater. White being the fashionable choice of colour.