Cian Oba-Smith // ‘Bikelife’.

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Images courtesy of Cian Oba-Smith, taken from ‘Bikelife’ project. Words taken from project overview.

“In the industrial estates of London, there is a fast growing phenomenon of rebellious youth who choose to spend their time riding dirt bikes and mopeds around on one wheel. They are fathers, brothers, talented riders and mechanics; they are the bike life community. With injuries being commonplace and deaths sometimes occurring, they risk their lives everyday for the thrill and freedom of riding on one wheel. To them ‘it’s not just a passion, it’s not just a hobby, it’s a lifestyle.’” (Cian Oba-Smith, ‘Bikelife’)

Cian is an alumni of the photography course that I am currently studying, and he is now an established photographer based in London. He regularly completes commissions for large clients and splits his time between doing this and working on long term personal projects. A project that particular stands out to me is Bikelife. It documents the rebellious youth who choose to spend their time “riding dirt bikes and mopeds around on one wheel.”

Despite the subject matter being highly testosterone and adrenaline fuelled, Oba-Smith somehow finds away to cut through this in his image making. The portraits are quiet and distant, and the space in the frame physically and visually gives the viewer space to engage – a punctuation point that allows the series to flow. In addition to the ‘deadpan aesthetic’ employed by the photographer, other details of the culture are displayed and again add to the flow; a close up of a bikers skeleton gloved hand, a steaming exhaust or a bandaged Nike trainer resting on a foot pedal. All of these factors feed into a visual style that works so well for this body of work, and is something that I truly respect.

Although my project deals with totally different subject matter, I am still dealing with people. I therefore attempted to harness some of Oba-Smith’s technical skills and visual style. I included full length portraits within my work, leaving suitable space within the frame, and also smaller details that speaks about the Irish culture. I also made sure I got in close and photographed some head and shoulders portraits, instructing the sitters to look slightly off camera to a mid-distance, much like how Oba-Smith works.



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