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Heidi Swift | Photographer

From the Photo Annual, issues 27 (Jan/Feb 2014) & 61 (Jan 2017)

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Enough about me, let’s talk about you. Your bike, your heart, your ragged breath on the local climb. That flash in your eyes as you follow the decisive attack on the computer screen during you’re favorite race of the year. Your spandex friends, your cap collection, your army of bidons at the ready, your shelf of books full of pedaling heroes. Your closet full of clever T-shirts, your drawers full of kit. Show me your scars, regale me with the stories of your crashes. Tell me about the time you got dropped, the time you made the break, the way your molars ached inside your jaw as the nickel-tinted taste of the max effort filled your jowls. Tell me which riders you love and why and where you saw them and which of their rides you loved the best. 

We make this magazine for you. You’re reflected in the pages. You bring life to the photos. You assign emotion to ink on paper. Without you’re projections—that reaction, that interaction—the photos don’t matter. I’m not going to tell you what I’m trying to do with these images, I’m going to let you tell me what they mean to you. Somewhere in the middle, we’ll meet and shake hands or maybe share an imaginary whiskey.

The images in this collection are from L’Eroica, the now-famous vintage bicycle ride on Tuscany’s strade bianche: 209 kilometers over gravel roads on antique bikes with 22-mm hand-sewn tires and gear ratios to make even the strongmen weep. It’s a beautiful, crushing event. I made these photos with my Mamiya 645. Many thanks to my host, InGamba Tours, for the ride—and for ensuring that I did not fall out of the van as I dangled from the passenger window with my foot hooked to the handhold inside.


How has your new adventure van affected your outlook on life, adventure and nature? Buying the adventure van was a huge financial decision for us, but we decided to put our money where our mouths were. When I sit down and really consider what makes me feel like a fully formed human being, it always comes back to being out in nature. I’m a fairly extroverted introvert, but I need loads and loads of quiet time to guarantee I don’t lose my mind. The van reduces the amount of time and effort it takes to get into the woods every weekend. At the end of whatever road we take, there’s usually a trail where we can hop on a bike or lace up our trail-running shoes and go even farther. When we’re done, we’ve basically got a little cabin waiting for us with heat, running water, solar power and a soft bed.

Explain your love for your Mamiya…. You can’t explain love…. I anthropomorphize everything and the Mamiya is no exception. It has a good soul…. I appreciate its relative simplicity and hearty construction. Also, I’ve never gotten over my love affair with shooting film. It just feels right.

Of all the places you have taken photos, what location has a special place in your heart? Portugal. Hands down. Just go. It’s being discovered now and the last time I was in Lisbon I could already tell it was changing, and not necessarily for the better. With all the textures, colors and light, it’s a photographer’s dream. Also, fresh seafood is my favorite thing to eat in the world, so….

Talk about your new images. These double-exposures were made over the course of two years in multiple countries. I wish I could say that I’d planned it, but I’m not that clever—it was the result of a mistake when I re-loaded a roll of film that had already been exposed. Each frame contains two images from two different geographies: alpine mountains layered on California beaches, the Columbia River Gorge with Swiss switchbacks. Because there is a year or more between each of the two exposures, looking at them feels a little like time travel to me—the negatives from these images are literal, physical artifacts documenting travel through both time and space. I shot them with my Yashica T4 Super, which is my camera of choice when I am shooting film and traveling light.

Interview by Tim Schamber