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Stangel in the City
Interview by J. Dunn | Photos by Jake Stangel
When he is not shooting photos of cruise ships in Alaska or articles for Outside Magazine, Jake Stangel can be found riding his bike or rock climbing somewhere in the Bay Area. Having shot for the Rapha Continental in Colorado and Canada, this year he agreed to document two riders exploring the cities of Antwerp and Berlin. The resulting images are a delight – perfectly capturing Rapha's City Collection 2013 with effortless style. I spoke to Jake as he was driving back from a shoot in Napa Valley to his home in San Francisco, California.
Tell us a little about the shoots in Europe.
Everything and everyone involved were fantastic. I was actually up in Vancouver, Canada before the shoot. So, I flew for almost 24 hours in various planes, landed in London and then we drove to Antwerp for two days of shooting. Then it was straight on to to Berlin; it was a whirlwind.
There was one new experience that sort of stuck out in both cities. I was just thinking about it yesterday. We arrived at dusk both times, just as the light was waning and the cities looked their absolute best. It was such a great way to meet each city. We ran into the hotels, threw our bags down and just started exploring. It made everything easier and sort of gave us a sense of place for each one. Instead of landing in the middle of the night and not knowing where you are when you wake up. You can even see it in the facial expressions of the riders, Ben and Rob.
You have shot for the Rapha Continental numerous times, but this was your first time in charge of shooting a collection. Did you approach things differently?
Well, they're really no different. I try to bring personal experience into whatever I'm shooting. Whether it be the Rapha Continental or this City shoot, the trick is to try and connect my experiences with the bicycle to a photo, or a certain mood. The sensory experiences of riding a bicycle are essentially the same, in each situation, so then the trick is to just relate them to yourself.
I would say the biggest difference was in the actual shooting itself. With the Rapha Continental stuff that we did — like the USA Pro Challenge one in Colorado recently — it was fine to use a van to drive in near the riders. There are things that you can do on the open road. But the idea of transferring these to the city streets is nearly impossible, which we realized pretty quickly because I felt totally trapped in that van driving through the city.
We had the idea to shoot out of the front of a cargo bike and rummaged around and found this shop – Fixerati – that was generous enough to let us borrow one and we were off. Jack [Saunders], the Art Director on the shoot, pedaled and I was able to sit up front and shoot. It was a run-and-gun operation, but the cool thing was that it truly let us capture the city riding experience to the fullest. We were on the level of the bike — literally and figuratively — and I was leaning over the side shooting as we cruised through traffic. Plus, this way was more fun for everyone. With Jack driving, me shooting, he definitely got a workout.
Which of the two cities was your favorite?
Well, they were both lovely, so I guess it would depend on my mood. Antwerp had such a nice feel to it. A slow pace that makes you adhere to it, not the other way around. The coffee shops didn't open until 10am, it is situated on the water, you really felt like you were exploring a city. Riding-wise, the twisty, narrow, cobblestone streets were wonderful to shoot, too.
Berlin was massive. Given its history over the past century, there is an intrinsic sense of renewal going on everywhere, in little pockets all over the city. Like strange, new-looking buildings just popping up everywhere, right next to Soviet-era apartments that were as bleak as could be. We stumbled upon a mini outdoor rave on the grounds of Templehof Airport on our first night in Berlin, which was such a cool barometer of what's going on in the city.
Besides city shoots, what else are you getting into these days?
Well, there are a couple shoots going on at the moment that I can't talk about. Those are always fun. I'm driving in my underwear back into the city at the moment. I did this shoot up in the wine country outside of San Francisco and brought my bike to do a little cruise afterward. I found the most gorgeous stretch of carless road outside of Napa. I think three cars passed me the whole time. So, yeah, basically I've been riding and rock climbing and enjoying the times in between the photos.
You have time in between photos? You always look so busy.
Yeah, of course there's time between photos, it gives you a nice mental break. In any sort of creative endeavor, it is tough to keep the output levels up all the time so it is great to recharge in between. Spend some time not looking for pictures. So, then when I do get to take photos it leads to some really honest images and allows me to be excited to shoot all the time.
What is on your cycling photo-related dream list? Is there a race or a ride or something that you've always wanted to do?
Hmm. Well, I'd really like to do a bunch of photos based around a bike as a medium for travelling globally. I just think bikes are the coolest vehicles ever and the best way to travel, see the world and gain experiences in the places you ride through. No barriers between you and the world around you. And it's more fun than walking!
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