Behind The Image #9 – Bikes in Oxford

Behind The Image #9 – Bikes in Oxford

I remember the first time I photographed with intent. I had a Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles camera that printed Michelangelo in the corner of every frame. Apparently they came out in 1990, so I would have been about five or six years old.

For some reason, and I have no idea why, I decided to take an entire roll of film just of my bike. My bike was given to me by a relative that had grown out of it. It was a pink girls bike with a luggage rack on the back and a white seat with Bambi on. It wasn’t really me – I picked a (black) mountain bike some birthdays later and I never looked back.

I took close ups of the seat, of the handlebars, of the chainset… I remember it so clearly that the bike was leaning up against the rabbit hutch on our driveway. Funny what you remember isn’t it? I don’t think at this point I even really knew what a photographer was – I just knew that my granddad and my uncle took lots of photos.

I was scolded me something rotten! My parents told me that it was a waste of money. Remember back when every frame cost real tangible money to photograph? Not only the film but the developing too! Nonetheless they dutifully got my film developed and several weeks later I got back a set of colour prints of my pink bike with Michelangelo in the corner of every frame.

Unfortunately I don’t have those prints anymore… although they’re possibly still in the depths of my bedroom somewhere at my Dad’s house. But apparently I’ve retained my love for shooting nonsense photos of bikes!

These images were shot when I spent the day shooting an article about photographing architecture. In case you don’t know – I love shooting architecture (I love studying architecture too). In particular I love vernacular architecture – the architecture of a particular place that has developed according to its needs.

Oxford is a city that is developing around its bikes. Everywhere around the city you see infrastructure popping up relating to bikes and architecture being adapted to accommodate them. The medieval city just isn’t a place for cars, but it’s pretty perfect for bikes!

To photograph Oxford without photographing its bikes is to somewhat miss a large part of what makes the city alive. It’s like drawing the human body without the veins which transport blood around and do a vital job in keeping everything alive. Bikes are really that important in Oxford.

So here we are. Twenty years on. And I’m still photographing bikes.