Step Into My Office
I started working as a cycle courier at the age of 18
I am now thirty years old, married with two kids, and still a London cycle courier.....
It is a job that has had so many things written about it that it would be impossible to count. A job that is idolised, vilified, envied and looked down on. Hell, Hollywood just made a film about us!
We are the cool of the cool, the rebels against the grain, the dregs of society, the unemployable, the......
It's all rubbish.
We are as normal and as diverse a group of workers as any other. From alcoholics to engineers, students to poets, artists and musicians, all walks of life are embodied and represented somewhere within the courier community.
What makes us different is that we are a family. We work together and we play together, even on a global scale. We have annual European and World courier championships with people travelling to the host city from all over the globe. Not necessarily to "compete and win", it's not about that. Its about meeting people, coming together to have some fun and actually connecting in this age of emails, texts and Facebook.
As a London cycle courier you are "self employed". An external sub contractor hired by the logistic firm to deliver whatever the client wants. You have no sick pay and no insurance as no company in London will insure a working cyclist against injury. You have no guaranteed wage as it is a commission based, "pay-per-drop" kind of job and a sucky as that is, I feel that it is also a huge part of why there is such a community and family feel to it. When people expect and demand so much from you and give so little in return you really start to realise who your real friends are.
One thing you do get with the job though, is your freedom.
You are not stuck in the office with the boss looking over your shoulder every five seconds. You are not sat at the same desk or stuck in the same building every day of your working life.
The bike is your desk, the streets are your office and from that desk you get to watch the greatest show every day.
The life of a city as it unfolds
Riding the streets for nine hours a day gives you a very personal insight into what a city is feeling and how it is changing.
From little things such as the latest trends coming in and the previous ones fading out. The political graffiti that pops up and the demonstrations that become more frequent as the population struggles to make it voice heard.
From giant building sites that grind to a halt as a recession tightens its grip, to the land being snapped up at rock bottom prices as a result of that same recession.
It's is only as you watch this all day long on a daily basis, week in week out, that you start to recognise the signs and meanings of the things you see.
It is then and only then that you get to start 'watching the show'
I have always loved this part of the job, I'm nosey. I love to watch people, I love to eavesdrop, I just really enjoy watching how we as human beings behave.
When we think we are not being observed, On the phone to a friend, oblivious to the world outside of that conversation. People muttering to them selves as they go about their business and people's natural reactions to everything around them. All these funny little things that make us human.
I wanted to capture this 'show' through my photography and started to carry my SLR and spare film with me to work in my bag, every day. It's a heavy item to add to the already heavy bag of a cycle courier and there were days when I did not want to pack it.
I always regretted being camera less on those days so I stopped leaving it at home.
With the two way radio being the only link between a courier and their controller who is telling them what to do, a lot can be got away with. Stop for a chat, grab a bite to eat, swing by that shop you need to pop into. All done whilst you are supposed to be heading towards your destination. The faster you can ride and the better you can plan your excuses and reasons for a delay, the longer you can spare. Gps tracking? Find the right menu screen, shut it down and blame it on a bad signal.
There is always a way.
I decided that if there was a photo to be taken and I wanted to take it then I would.
The deliveries could wait...
This exhibition is a selection of some of my favourite images. A selection that I feel brings together a little bit of all the aspects I have been trying to capture. From the weird things you see to human behaviour you observe, the feel of the city as your intimacy with it grows, to the family I joined all those years ago....
I hope you enjoy
Step Into My Office