Initiated by Stan Engelbrecht and Nic Grobler in early 2010, Bicycle Portraits is an aesthetic dialogue about contemporary South African bicycle consumer culture. Always on the lookout for fellow commuters, Stan and Nic are two creatives who are on a voyage of discovering the dynamics behind the simple act of two-wheel riding.
“There is no specific range of questions asked, we’d rather just establish a conversation around the rider’s life and where his or her bicycle fits into it,” explains Stan. Stan and Nic are raising the funds to turn this project into a self-published hard-cover photographic book. Encompassing elements of Stan’s previous book ‘African Salad,’ this unique proudly South African initiative has humble intentions. “[Bicycle Project] is an interesting concept – truly independent, community based and very inspiring.”
Shooting the entire project from their own bicycles, Stan and Nic travelled around South Africa to gain insight into their subject matter. Stan and Nic believe that South Africa is a world within one country and a home to various cultures, and with this project they hope to give people a glimpse into each other lives through a common object of movement, practicality and joy – the bicycle. The project touches on themes of a socio-political nature in a manner that breathes creative life into these oft-controversial topics – a fresh perspective on long-standing issues one could suggest.
And it is inspiring that both have fully immersed themselves to the project, riding from city to city and from coast to countryside, Nic and Stan are as much a part of the book as the commuters they engage with. Ultimately it is this element of equality that Bicycle Portraits represents. Stan and Nic explain that by looking at individuals through their sometimes unconscious, involvement in bicycle culture they will not only be touching on charged issues but will perhaps bring those unfamiliar to each other together in their love for a simple thing…
What is the long term goal for Nic and Stan? “Through publishing this book, we want to be able to assist the underprivileged cycling community through our project – be it teaching bicycle maintenance skills, providing necessities like helmets, tires, tubes, locks… It would be great to create a support structure for the people who appear in the book – this could be a trust funded by a percentage from sales of the cover price, or a charity set up in the name of the people who appear in the book etc.”
“Ultimately we want 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 hope that this will lead to the kind of infrastructure development that is designed with all people in mind, not just cars.”
Bicycle Projects is a beautifully captured photographic repertoire of the South African bicycle culture, and is wonderfully candid and empowering with a highly diverse showcase of commuters.