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black and white photograph of a man with a bicycle

Man with bicycle, overexposed HP5 (larger)

Some decades ago, I believe in 1994, I found myself in Denmark. Where people travel by bicycles. Among other things, I operated a camera. During that trip I made probably one of my all time favorite portraits, by the hand of luck more than anything else.

In those days I went about with an SLR camera and a 35mm lens, sometimes a fifty, seldom something else. 90% of the time the camera was loaded with HP5—the black and white classic from Ilford which, if I’m not mistaken, is still in production—that I processed in a tiny darkroom while enjoying the smell of the chemicals (not being ironic, I really did).

I had this hardly-defined idea about how I wanted to be a street photographer, without much of a notion about what a street photographer did or was—other than being someone who observed and absorbed perhaps the life on the street and somehow managed to translate that to a small frame on a roll of film—and still don’t. I believe it was more about the wish to be a part of something, rather than photographs. Such as the one above, obviously done sometimes after finding out how much I liked the blurry movement effect of a 1/8th of a second shutter speed.

I also had an idea—also hardly-defined—about wanting to photograph people, away from the context of street, or public space. Again, the wish to be-a-part-of, to belong and accepted, confirmed if you will, was perhaps not so concious but certainly strong nevertheless. Other than that, not much of an idea what a portrait was about but in contrast to street photography I do seem to have developed some opinions about portraiture since. It wasn’t long after this though that I stopped photographing altogether, mostly because it wasn’t going anywhere. Stuck on a street, at 1/8th of a second I guess.

Some years later I picked it up again, the camera and the thirty-five, and from then on it took years before vaguely starting to form an identity as a photographer. And as much as I find the photograph above a bit of a cliché and seem to be a little embarrassed by it, I’m quite fond of it too. Fond of it for what it is, a footprint. On a path that—although crooked and rocky, without a notion of destination (but a great deal of hesitation), often going in circles and seemingly never coming to an end—I really appreciate to have had the opportunity to hike on.

Lately though it feels more and more like it’s time for another break from hiking. That, or I need to find a pair of boots that fit better.

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