September 4, 2014
THE SPOKE & WORD: ORSON ADAMS
Brooklyn resident and photographer, Orson Adams, credits riding a bicycle in helping him capture New York behind the lens. Even after two years of commuting by bike, he doesn't mind getting lost to explore new things. In this Spoke & Word, Orson talks about an inspiring NYC, explains the special relationship between cycling and his photography, and shares some words of encouragement for potential new riders.
What inspires your photography?
The people! We have everything and everybody in this city. Color, race, gender, and sexuality. The NYC culture is a result of the people. They generate everything from the lifestyle, the parties, the festivals, the street vendors, whatever exists...it’s because of the mixture of people. It's about how we blend and how we don’t blend. There is an energy. I love it. When it comes together in a way that says "This is New York," it's the reason why I do street photography.
Does riding a bicycle contribute anything to your work?
Oh man. I don’t like taking the train. If I didn’t have my bike, I don’t know if I would have come up with these ideas for projects. Some of my best and more interesting shots came from riding out there to get it. Whether it is in the middle of night say 1am...3am...all hours, I get to these places to shoot thanks to biking. Exploration has been incredible because of it. I’ve been able to visit so many different places. I just don’t know how my photography would be able to function without being able to ride. I feel like biking and my photography go hand-in-hand. It’s just that important.
What is your favorite thing about riding in NYC?
Manhattan! I have a thing for challenges, so I actually like the traffic. I know a lot of people say in terms of traffic and pedestrians that NYC is probably the worst they’ve seen. It probably is! I just like being able to maneuver through cars, even though I don’t recommend it to everyone. I’m somewhat of a thriller-seeker and the city provides me those thrills. It’s a challenge to myself, a challenge to my mind, and a challenge to my physical abilities.
You think these “challenges” are what discourage potential new riders?
It does! Absolutely!
What do you think it would take for NYC to make it more welcoming and help them overcome some of these "challenges?"
I think we’re going into the right direction. You definitely see the benefits of more bike lanes. More people are riding now. If more of the population wants to ride, then the city can do nothing else, but provide the infrastructure. The key is bringing awareness.
For people who don't commute by bicycle, what are they failing to realize?
It’s much more convenient. Most people look at cycling as just an activity. Something to do in the summer or around the park. People should realize that it can be extended beyond an activity, throughout the seasons, and be converted into a lifestyle or way of living. If you want to go somewhere, it’s a function of you. The time and distance is all a function of you. That’s the convenience. You don’t have to go and wait at a station. It’s right there. All it takes is for them to get on the bike and do it.
How do you feel about Citi Bikes?
Citi Bikes are cool. They're a great way to introduce or re-introduce people to the role of cycling.
What kind of bicycle are you riding?
It’s a single speed with a front brake. I bought it second-hand from someone. I didn’t want a whole bunch of gears. I prefer the simple maintenance.
How often do you ride?
Almost everyday. I go to work by bike. I go to the city by bike. I go to client meetings by bike. I go to the bar by bike. It doesn’t matter - I’m riding. I, even, rode today to meet you! [laughs]
For an avid cyclist like yourself, do you really want to see more people on the streets with bikes? Or would you see them as just more people in the way?
That’s a good question. My whole philosophy is about independence and biking has given me a new level of it. So, yeah! I’d like to see more people riding. Sometimes, I feel it’s just like driving. You will end up having people who are just annoying on the street and not follow any etiquette.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to start cycling in NYC?
Just fucking do it, man.
At the end of the day when people look at your photography, what do you want them to come away with?
It should move you. I want them to experience New York. It’s either funny or introspective. New York is a such a metropolis, we’re putting so many types of people together. Often, if you’re open to it…you’ll come up and find weird almost surreal situations. This city gives you that experience. The camera is a frame and the context is what you see. You want to see a surreal NY? GRAB A BIKE!