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Mike Spriggs - NYC
Photo: Kimmy Eliot Fung
Mike Spriggs is a sometime photographer and the owner of Gage + DeSoto - a specialty shop for road cyclists. He is based in NYC and in 2010 managed the legendary Rapha Cycle Club in the city's Bowery district. He was also the first editor of Survey, Rapha's city riding style blog. We asked Mike for a few thoughts on metropolitan life, photography and cycling in New York City.
When did you find an affinity with photography?
I've always appreciated photography as art. It's only recently that I've begun carrying a camera everywhere I go. In fact, I'm not sure I would call myself a photographer yet. I still have a lot to learn.
And how about cycling?
Cycling has been a lifelong affair. Ever since I was a kid in the suburbs and I realized I could go anywhere I wanted, I became addicted to the freedom. The solo nature of cycling really appealed to me as well. During college in Boston I biked around everywhere, and then I became a bike messenger, which occupied my life immediately after I graduated. From there it was on to road cycling.
Do you think the two pursuits are closely linked? Is it something about observing from a bike and through a viewfinder?
Absolutely. Bicycling for me is less about athletics and more about exploring. When I first moved to New York City, I was able to cover enormous distances on my bike and stitch together the neighborhoods of the city quite quickly. I saw more in that first year of living here than I can even remember. Being on a bike lends itself to finding yourself in some situations and places you never imagined.
What do you use for your pictures?
I shoot digital, but usually carry a film point and shoot on longer bike rides. A Fuji x100 and Yashica T5.
Which photographic work interests you and inspires?
I am very interested in portraiture, particularly work that's done in natural light/ environment. Since there really is no truth in photography, taking someone's picture while they are aware of it leads to some amazing pictures. It's not easy, but it's very rewarding when it works. I'm drawn to photographers like Hellen van Meene and Rineke Dijkstra because I see something different every time I look at their work. I also like Mark Steinmetz and Rob Hornstra. Lately I've been looking at a lot of Boris Mikhailov, which is fascinating stuff.
I am lucky because I live around the corner from an amazing photo book store called Dashwood Books where I can always see the latest and best work. My wallet is not so lucky.
What makes a good picture?
If it evokes a response in the viewer, then it can probably qualify as good. So much is dependent on the state of mind of the person looking at the photograph. Like any "good" art, your relationship to it is ever changing.
Have you always lived in New York City?
I grew up in Boston, but I have lived here in New York for 15 years. Pretty soon I will qualify as a New Yorker (I think the mayor sends you a plaque if you survive here for 20 years).
What can you tell people about NYC that most don't know?
New Yorkers are actually really friendly, they just have hard exteriors. And I haven't met a New Yorker who doesn't have a dark sense of humor.
Your favourite city ride/ route?
It would have to be any very late night on a summer evening. The city is quiet, but there is still an energy. You can mix it up with cars, or go sit by the waterfront and relax. It feels like you have this giant metropolis to yourself for a few hours. You couldn't get the same experience on foot, or any other way really.
What kind of bike do you use in the city?
I use my "townie" that my friend Greg built by hand for me when I was a messenger in Boston. It used to be the typical fixed-gear/no brakes/ drop bar setup for work, but as I've gotten older I've added a coaster brake, a basket, and proper city handlebars. It's incredibly comfortable and nearly maintenance-free.
Can you define city riding style?
For me, city riding style is wearing something that looks "normal". If I have to get dressed up to ride, it puts me in a different mindset. Usually I just want to do something like ride to the bookstore, and I like to look like I walked there - not arriving as a sweaty mess with a huge bag and clomping around in cleats. Nothing discourages people from riding in the city more than the notion that you have to dress up in a costume to do it.
Favourite city riding garment/ apparel?
I have to say, I wear a Rapha long sleeve base layer nearly every day in the winter. I'm not exaggerating when I say it is the best piece of apparel I own - cycling or otherwise - period. Also, after years of dealing with sand/ grit/ debris in my eyes while riding, I've settled on a pair of Ray-Ban Wayfarers. They aren't cycling-specific, but they are perfect.
Do you like riding in the city?
I love it. Whenever I am forced to take the subway, I miss riding immediately. There isn't anywhere I can't get to on my bike.
Favourite gallery in NYC?
Yossi Milo probably. Their roster is a Who's Who of contemporary photography, and they just moved to a great new location in Chelsea.
NYC Velo. Not only is it conveniently located directly across the street from my apartment, it has great staff, interesting products, and it really defies all the stereotypes of your typical bike shop.
There's a spot just north of the George Washington Bridge called The Cloisters. It faces west, to the cliffs of New Jersey overlooking the Hudson River. It's literally 90 seconds removed from the hustle and bustle of Washington Heights in upper Manhattan, but it feels 100 years away.
- Arboretum → http://t.co/cJXOyDWnK0 #raphasurvey #sanfrancisco #sf #cycling
- There are still a few of these sweet Rapha + Raeburn jackets at the SF @raphacycleclub. http://t.co/C2d98yCRL0
- The hills above. #raphasurvey http://t.co/jlIkXowxyT
- U23 winner in 2012 what's in store for @RichHandley90 in the @anpostras http://t.co/xyZWX3NbtG
- Sunday morning race day, church car park scene. @anpostras #ras2013 http://t.co/2E1UlfAxhe
- Will all these numbers be able to wear the coveted t-shirt in one weeks time? #menoftheras #ras2013 http://t.co/ai1oqnDIyh
- Team about to start the @anpostras probably the Worlds friendliest race.
- RT @nedboulting: Kristian House's Grandad was a fantastic man. He told me about him once. Then I read this: http://t.co/ZCeYbm4sFU
- @DeanHardman @nedboulting @j_t_locke such a shame...
- @TeamSkyGirl @nedboulting @j_t_locke we've asked JTL to change his name.