Stan Engelbrecht and Nic Grobler have cycled over 10000km around South Africa meeting and photographing everyday South Africans and their bicycles. The result is “Bicycle Portraits”, a collection of over 500 incredible photographs and equally interesting stories of everyday bicycle commuters.
Bicycle Portraits is a photographic study of South Africans who rely on their bicycles every day, revealing who rides, why they ride, and of course why so few South Africans choose the bicycle as a primary mode of transport. With more than 500 portraits compiled over three years and 10,000 cycled kilometers, the project culminates in three published volumes as a portrait of a nation through it’s commuter subculture – uncovering all manner of societal, historical and cultural nuances never imagined.
South Africa is a world within one country, home to various cultures, with a tragic history of segregation, racism and unequal wealth distribution, still locked in a struggle with its past. Stan and Nic believe in the bicycle as a great liberator and leveler – owning one can mean the difference between earning a living and starving. It affords you independence. It frees you from costly, unsafe and unreliable public transport. It sets you apart, whether you know it or not, as someone who has made a conscious choice to break away from convention. Everyone should own a bicycle – little else makes more sense.
Bicycle Portraits celebrates the noblest machines ever dreamt up, and those who ride them…
In this video filmed at TEDxStellenbosch in 2011, Stan and Nic talk about the project and the people they have met along the way, as well as the entertaining story of their journey from Maputo in Mozambique to Delmas in South Africa. A journey that would see them traverse the Maluti mountains, sweat through Durban’s humid climes, brave the blustery West Coast winds, get sunburnt outside Addo, and build up trashed bicycles in Maputo and cycle them to Johannesburg.
Since the publication of the three Bicycle Portraits volumes, Stan and Nic have been returning to each and every cyclist who feature in the books to give them a copy of the volume they appear in. For them, enabling these ordinary South Africans to see themselves as part of a growing culture in the pages of a book, has been the most rewarding part of the project.
Visit the Bicycle Portraits website.
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