Rider’s Lens: Antonio Gallardo’s Photography
In this edition of Rider’s Lens, we look at the work of Mexican photographer Antonio Gallardo, who shares a vibrant selection of images from a yearlong ride through Iran, Central Asia, India, Southeast Asia, South Korea, and Japan. Learn more about Antonio and his work here…
Words and photos by Antonio Gallardo (@quetaladro)
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in 2020, but with the deadline for our new Rider’s Lens Grant approaching on June 17, we’re highlighting some of our favorite Rider’s Lens features from over the years. Click here to learn more about the 2022 Rider’s Lens Grant and how you can win one of several awards with cameras from Fujifilm, a bike from Tanglefoot Cycles, and more.
I enjoy telling stories about lucky occurrences—those unexpected situations and experiences that suddenly change your trip or your whole life. I like to tell them with images but also with words. How I became a photographer was one of these happy accidents. It wasn’t something I was looking for, but one thing led to another. And being my passion and obsession, bike touring unexpectedly provided me with the other one: photography. The camera became an extra tool for my life on the road, an instrument for documenting my journey. These images became the archive of what I was seeing: the landscapes, the people, the buildings, and my daily life.
I majored in graphic design. I began commuting during my college years and quickly became obsessed with bicycles, bicycle parts, bicycle workshops, bicycle models, and bicycle brands. During that time—which was the perfect time considering my bike fixation—I got an invitation for a three-month tour along the coast of California. This trip was a breaking point for me in many ways, but what had the greatest impact on my life was discovering a new way of travelling.
When you’re on a bike, you’re always on the move. You can’t follow a strict plan or itinerary; you have to take it as it comes. Not having a roof over your head or not knowing where you’re spending the night makes you more vulnerable and comes with certain risks. And there are always economic restrictions when travelling this way. But this makes you more open to the people around you, and this is good. Being vulnerable allows you to connect with people. You’re an open book. You’re hungry and cold and don’t have a place to sleep. The people you meet are curious about you, they want to know where you come from, where you’re going, and what you are doing there. Bonds are made well beyond impersonal greetings. The bicycle is an amazing piece of technology, a machine that is rather effective for travelling long distances, a token of candor that brings you closer to the people you meet on the way. It’s wonderful because it takes you anywhere, and because as you ride you’re open to the world.
Since my first bicycle trip along the California coast seven years ago, I have alternated two lifestyles: one, sedentary, in my hometown, Mexico City, and the other, nomadic, travelling around the world on a bicycle. Cycling is the ultimate way to travel in search of adventure; the only possible way to get into some places and situations.
As a graphic designer, I always had an interest in photography. But I didn’t take it very seriously: it was just a complementary tool for my work. I knew how to use a camera but I didn’t have a solid personal style or a thematic thread. It wasn’t until my second bicycle trip—a ride through Central Europe—that the road began to define my pictures. I began shooting the trail, the parked bicycles, the cranksets; all the little details. Later, in India, while not having a bike with me, I let the great variety of bikes and their uses in traditional jobs serve as a guide for the images I captured with my camera. So, in a way, bicycles were what gave me the rhythm and the thematic thread that I was missing. My pictures became a device for telling the stories my eyes were seeing.
Travelling has absolutely influenced my eye. Through my journeys, I’ve found a path that led me to a progressive evolution of my visual narrative. Slowly, I began to focus on people and their regional differences and cultures. I also started documenting my life: not as the main character of the images and visuals of my documentary, but as the narrator. This is how I developed my style of trying to share daily life, unexpected things that come into my field of view, and pictures that have the power to tell a story even without a caption.
Now, after being on the road for more than a year, I want to stay in Mexico City for a while, working as a graphic and editorial designer, while exploring other photo techniques that require more elements and more planning (the aspects that have been difficult to control while shooting along my journeys). Still, I have a pending trip through South America ahead. Who knows? Ironically, when I took my bike to travel around the world, I thought it would be one of my first destinations. It hasn’t come yet but it will. Places to go, people to see. I still have so many stories to show and tell. For now, I want to join the dots to geographically and narratively connect my last journeys. Maybe I’ll even put it all into a book.
Antonio’s Photography Kit
I bring along a Fuji X100F with a fixed 35mm lens. I like it because it’s a compact camera with a rangefinder style and the benefits of a DSLR. The fixed lens and the viewfinder on the camera were essential for my eye training, as I had to come close or get far to shoot. I also carry a wide adapter, a small tripod, a hard drive, some SD cards, and a mobile phone (where I download some photos for sharing via social media). I carry my photo equipment in a Brooks handlebar bag, which allows me to get out the camera easily with one hand while cycling.
West Bengal, India. 2018. I was cycling through northern India, feeling overwhelmed after spending over a month there. I remember being mesmerized by the splendors of that region. Northeast India’s climate is more humid and the landscape is greener than in the rest of the country. I was enjoying the small and rural roads. Just before taking this shot, as I was crossing a bridge over a river, I noticed a raft that was about to pass underneath. I stopped abruptly and took out my camera, knowing I had just a few seconds to expose and frame the precise moment when the raft passed under me. Probably I like the story of how I got to shoot the photo even more than the photo itself.
Rider’s Lens Grant
If you’re interested in photography, and want a crack at getting the same camera that Antonio uses, check out our new Rider’s Lens Grant! We’re giving away a FujiFilm X-T4, four Fuji X100Vs, a complete Tanglefoot Hardtack bicycle, photographic storytelling mentorship workshops, and cash to aspiring photographers who are passionate about documenting their bike travels and adventures. Full details here.
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