The Bicycle Portraits
Saturday March 19th, 2011
Tell me more about Stan Engelbrecht and Nic Grobler, who are you? Where are you based?
I’m a photographer/publisher based in Cape Town, South Africa. I love bicycles and I have an interest in contemporary South African culture. Nic is from a motion graphics background and he’s from Johannesburg, South Africa.
How did you come up with the project ‘Bicycle Portraits’?
Nic and I share and obsession with bicycles and the culture and sub-cultures that exists around cycling and bicycle ownership. We knew each other for some time before we realized our mutual interest. We started talking about bicycles and these amazing old 70′s racing bikes hat are still out there on the road as hand-me-down commuter bikes. Nic was interested in doing a documentary about bicycle commuting culture and I wanted to photographic study of people with bicycles that have been modified out of necessity – like covering abicycle into a single speed bike because the gears don’t work. Somehow our ideas melted together and we came up with the basis for the BicyclePortraits project. At the same time I discovered the pledge-for-reward fundraising social-network Kickstarter, and we decided to give this brilliant way of funding truly independent projects a try. It was a great fit considering the independent nature of bicycle owners and riders – and our first leg of fundraising was a big success!
How did you feel that the target achieved on kickstarter has been accomplished?
Really great! It’s amazing to know that there is an independent group of people out therethat believe in your vision so strongly. The whole Kickstarter concept is based on mutual trust and is really cool to know that you backers want to see you vision succeed as much as you do.
Were many of the bikers happy to be approached for photographs and what striked you most about their characters? How did you get over the language barrier?
Every single person we’ve met so far was very happy to be part of the project. People really get it. Everyone wants to have a voice and a project like Bicycle Portraits give people that opportunity. What struck me most was that even though many of the people we’ve met are in real need they were still happy and friendly and accommodating – since we are doing this project form our bicycles I like to think that an immediate bond is formed between usand the riders we meet. Re. the language – in a country with so many diverse cultures language is always going to be a problem. We try to always make it clear that many over the people we interview do not have english as a first or even second language. Whenever communication is just too hard we try and do the interview in whatever language the subject is most comfortable with and translate it later.
Do you believe that the bike community will continue to grow in the years to come in the face of growing commercialism?
It only makes sense that it would. The benefits of human powered transport far outweigh any other way of getting around and we feel it’s now more clear than ever. It’s clean, it’s free, it’s good for your mind and body – why would you want to sit alone in backed-up traffic in car for an hour if you can ride a bike?
What would you like your audience to gain from seeing this project and what do you hope this’ll achieve for the people of South Africa?
Through this project we hope to promote cycling as a means of independent transport to empower the underprivileged, and in fact, to encourage everyone capable to ride a bike as an alternative to driving a car, or even using public transport. We want this to lead to the kind of infrastructure development in South African cities and towns that is designed with all people in mind, not just cars.
Thanks Stan and Nic!
Links: Official website and The Kickstarter’s project that started it all – The Bicycle Portraits
Follow them on Twitter ~ @bicycleportrait