The Mystery of Gravier (Film)

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The French cycling collective known as PCR Gravier have returned from their latest bikepacking adventure, this time in France’s Jura Mountains, where they put together this short flick, all shot on 16mm film. Watch The Mystery of Gravier here, along with an introduction from filmmaker Renaud Skyronka…

Words by Renaud Skyronka (@aknologic)

We’re the PCR Gravier, a collective of nine French cyclists, mainly from Paris, who get together as much as possible during the year to go on bikepacking adventures. The less asphalt there is, the happier we are! For the past five years, we’ve ridden the tracks of Spain, Italy, France, Belgium, and Slovenia.

On all of these trips, we’ve been known to make more pictures than kilometres. Indeed, in the group, we are all photography enthusiasts, and we have a penchant for analogue photography (especially me). We also do digital photography, of course. We use instantaneous photography to share these trips, but for us, film has a kind of therapeutic effect on our cycling. Our digital photos are quickly forgotten in the depths of our telephones, while analogue images take on another dimension. These journeys are so precious in our lives as city folk that it seems important to us to keep tangible traces of them.

  • PCR Gravier
  • PCR Gravier
  • PCR Gravier

First of all, it allows us to relive the journeys afterwards. We have to go home, go to the laboratory, have the film developed, scanned, and edited to be able to share them. The images take on a totally different value. Sometimes we even forget a film in a camera and find the photos several months later. We take fewer pictures too. So, we think a bit more, and make better pictures. It’s a form of minimalism that advocates quality over quantity, that doesn’t care about the weight carried on the bike, and that pushes us every trip to set the bar higher in terms of equipment and output. It’s on this principle that I find myself starting with a 1.5kg medium format camera and about a dozen rolls of film.

  • PCR Gravier
  • PCR Gravier
PCR Gravier

I have tried to take this “minimalist” (but heavy) approach even further and adapt it to the film. I shot 8mm during our Turin-Nice in 2016, and the result was charming, but in the end quite disappointing. The camera simply couldn’t withstand the vibrations of the off-road paths. For our Grande Traversée du Jura, I really wanted to work with 16mm. A mythical format, still widely used, which is easy to develop and has a resolution close to high definition (plus grain). So I set off with a Krasnogork-3, a Russian 16mm camera that can be manually wound up like a clock, and three boxes of 30m of film (capturing 12 minutes of images). It’s a kind of tank in the shape of a camera. It’s indestructible and secure. Given the limited amount I could capture, it was important to be thoughtful about every shot. All the more so as the film and the development cost a fortune!

Every journey is different and expectations can vary, but the common point for all these journeys can be summed up in a sentence borrowed from the artist Robert Filiou: “Art is what makes life more interesting than art.” This applies to cycling as well! It’s unlikely that the 16mm camera will be back on the roads any time soon. As far as I’m concerned, the collection of cameras on these trips will evolve towards a new horizon: large format photography.
Always less light, always less logical.

Renaud Skyronka

About Renaud Skyronka

A member of the PCR Gravier since 2015, Renaud Skyronka documents the travels of this band of friends all over Europe, mainly with analog cameras that are much too heavy and fragile for bikepacking. When he is not on a bike, Renaud is the founder of the production company Ketchup Mayonnaise, through which he works for major cycling brands and events all over the world. You can see more of his work on the collective’s website at PCRGravier.cc or on his instagram @aknologic.

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