From the first moment I rolled out onto the streets of San Jose with thousands of other people riding in San Jose Bike Party, I knew it was something I was going to love. The once-monthly themed rides aim to “build community through bicycling,” and are a lot of fun. That was more than two years ago, and I’ve been on many of the rides since.
I also knew I wanted to photograph the phenomenon, but it’s hard to get a frame that captures all of Bike Party — once it starts, riders can spread out for blocks, or miles. Besides, the most interesting thing about Bike Party is the people who ride in it, many of them real characters. So I decided to set up a makeshift photo studio at one of the regroup areas and shoot everyone I could.
With the help of Daniel Garcia and Flora Moreno de Thompson of Content Magazine, we photographed folks at San Jose Bike Party’s Rocky Horror Ride in September. Flora wrangled riders and got contact info, Daniel provided the white backdrop and held up the lighting. What started as a personal project for me turned into an assignment for an article on Bike Party that Flora wrote for issue 4.4 of Content, which is available now.
I’ve uploaded all the photos to my online archive, so if you’re one of the folks I photographed, you can download a low-resolution photo for free, or buy a print. Use the “Buy Image” link to access both. Check them out here: San Jose Bike Party Photo Studio.
Let’s face it: Huge crowds of drunk people can be irritating, unless you are also a drunk person. Bay to Breakers, the annual foot race in San Francisco, is mainly a huge crowd of drunk people. And I was not about to irritated.
Which is why, on a Sunday morning at 7 a.m., I was at a party in San Francisco drinking vodka and orange juice with a large group of people dressed as Olympic athletes. We headed to the race along with several hundred people dressed as rainbows and scores of people dressed as leprechauns. By the time we hit the race route, the people who came to the 2012 Bay to Breakers to actually compete in the race had long since finished, and the course was populated by people in all manner of costumes (or none at all) and at all levels of drunkenness.
I came mainly to shoot photos, and as it turned out, drinking vodka beforehand was the best decision I could’ve made. Bay to Breakers is a participatory event. As a participant, I was able to get close to everybody, move easily through the crowd, have the same kind of experience everybody else was having. I passed numerous photographers who were standing on the curb, picking off shots as people walked by. They looked disconnected, awkward.
Of course, if I was actually on assignment for this shoot it would’ve been a sober morning. And I did see some newspaper photogs working the crowd, dutifully gathering names, reporting the event. But I came to shoot for myself, to do some street photography. And to see it all as a participant.
It is a rare and amazing thing to be able to stand in a clearing in the redwoods in Big Sur, look up and see the stars burning bright above me, then look forward and see musicians who I believe to be among the greatest of my generation performing on an outdoor stage, projections flickering on a screen behind them, light bouncing into the trees surrounding them. The Godspeed You! Black Emperor show on April 15 at Fernwood campground in Big Sur was flawless, moving and beautiful. These photos don’t come close to capturing what it was like to be there, but do suggest a bit of what it looked like.
Costumes were handed out before the show. The drummer wore a hat covered in blue lights. The audience was pulled in close and became part of the show. We were taught the words and sang along. During a rare serious moment, we all took a knee. Soon after, a parachute was presented and we all gathered under it, a purple room erected inside of the dirty bar hosting the show. Seventeen minutes after if began, the whole mess ended with a mass sing-a-long: “We’re alive! We’re in love! We’ve got hope, just because!” The two guys who were The Terror Pigeon Dance Revolt! that night had to make way for two more bands during a five-band set on a Sunday night at The Jury Room in Santa Cruz, California. My friends and I decompressed in the parking lot, wishing we could drop everything and follow them on tour.
When done right, a great rock show can leave you feeling better about the world and your place in it. The Terror Pigeon Dance Revolt! did it right.
Here again is my annual attempt to sum up 12 months of visual output into a set of favorite images. This group of pictures looks far different than my typical favorite photos from past years, just as this year was far different for me as a photographer. I left my staff job at a newspaper, trading it in for a life as a freelance photographer. Only a half dozen of these 34 favorite photos were produced on assignment for a newspaper. A dozen are from weddings, the rest are images I made for myself. I’m encouraged by this transition, and I look forward to a creative and prosperous 2012. And I wish you all the same.