The Bike Courier

A few weeks ago I did a portrait shoot with cycle courier James Tipaldy around the streets of east London. James wanted a set of photos to commemorate his six months working as a courier so we decided the cobbled back streets of Shoreditch would make a fitting backdrop. James knows the area very well and picked out some great urban locations.

Increasingly, the shoots I'm commissioned for are including more posed portrait elements, so its something I'm getting more confident at, and starting to enjoy. I wanted to shoot James in a documentary, street portrait style, which for me means he should not be smiling. Trying to get James not to smile was actually quite challenging!

James wrote a few words to accompany the pictures:

"I'd been fascinated by cycle couriers and courier culture ever since I started cycling in London. I'd see these guys darting effortlessly through traffic as I plodded along on my commute, their outlines a bristle of chains and pouches and radio antennas, and I basically thought they were the coolest thing around. For a while I longed to know what it would be like to be one of them – to pedal the city for my living – and towards the tail end of 2015 I decided I would find out. I'd already decided to leave my web development job, and eventually I worked out that I could afford to take six months off before the next tech job and just about survive on courier wages and some savings – and once I realised that, I knew I had to do it.
I left the office behind me in February 2016 and spent what turned out to be nearly seven months on the road, working five days a week, 9–6 or longer, racking up forty-plus miles per day come rain or shine. I delivered back-breaking legal files to thickly-carpeted chambers in the Temple; lease papers to rock stars' daughters in Knightsbridge; congratulatory notes to newly installed cabinet ministers and endless, endless gift bags from fashion and beauty PR firms to journalists across the city. And from my first day on the road I was taken under the wing of one of the most amazingly diverse and hospitable communities I have ever had the good fortune to meet.
Couriers are the hidden lifeblood of the city, revered by some, scorned by others but unnoticed by most. In my time among them the city gave up some of its secrets to me but I gave back some of my own, discovering new parts of myself as I turned my wheels through its endless streets. Eventually, though, it was time to hang up the radio and return to my more sedentary career path. These photos seek to capture a slice of that time I spent slipping outside the borders of my previous life and borrowing a much different one – one that I couldn't keep forever, much as I wanted to."

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