By Lincoln Clarkes. Quattro, 152 pp, softcover
Lincoln Clarkes is one of Vancouver’s best-known and most eclectic photographers. His portrait subjects range from artists, writers, singers, and celebrities to bare-breasted women at the Burning Man Festival. He has shot antiwar protesters, gun-toting Texans, female nudes, and derelict street scenes, and provoked both praise and controversy with Heroines, his 2002 images of drug-addicted women in the Downtown Eastside.
Clarkes has also made a living as a fashion photographer, and this aspect of his practice clearly shaped his candid shots of bicyclists, taken in downtown Toronto in 2011 and 2012. Cyclists intentionally glamorizes its subjects. It plays up their good looks and sex appeal as a way of satirically mimicking car advertising while also promoting an environmentally friendly form of transportation. The women, who far outnumber the men, and are presented under the retrograde heading “Ladies First”, are often modellike, with high cheekbones, glossy lips, short-short skirts, and striking jewellery. Their footwear runs the gamut from sandals to high heels to leather boots. The “Gentlemen” are equally spiff in striped shirts, plaid shirts, and customized T-shirts, paired with Bermuda shorts, cargo pants, and cutoffs. One lawyerly-looking guy rides by in a navy-blue suit and striped tie. Their heads are adorned with bicycle caps, fedoras, berets, and nifty haircuts. Members of both sexes sport sunglasses, tattoos, and skinny jeans—unisex glam.
Be assured that nobody fat, old, or ugly made it into this book, nor anyone dowdily dressed or badly coiffed. In fact, the majority of the women and men represented here don’t trouble their good looks with anything as unflattering as a bicycle helmet. Even the scraped, bruised, and pressure-bandaged guy on page 137—a guy who looks like a professional bicycle courier—eschews a helmet. He’s got great cheekbones, though. For now.
In the book’s introduction, Judith Tansley likens Clarkes’s photos of bicyclists to those of the celebrity-dogging paparazzi, and the analogy is apt. There’s a fast, contingent, and voyeuristic quality to these images. They don’t contribute much profundity to the environmental dialogue, but they are entertaining.
Lincoln Clarkes will be signing copies of Cyclists at the Museum of Vancouver on Saturday (October 5) from 3 to 5 p.m., as part of the Capture festival.