Alastair Baglee had a bumpy start to his life with professional photography. In the early 1990s, he was hired by a regional news service in the north of England as a press photographer. On his first day at work, he was asked to rush down to the local county court where a suspected murderer had just been released after a mistrial.
Grabbing his camera and stuffing rolls of film into every pocket, he headed for the courthouse – but he was too late – the man had gone. Back at the office he was asked to travel to the released man’s house to try and get the shot. Unfortunately, the man lived far away and all Alastair had to get there was his bicycle. Time was ticking away, yet suddenly Alastair’s bicycle had a puncture. He never made the long bicycle ride to the man’s house. That was it – Alastair was sacked!
Twenty years later, Alastair started to make amends for this unfortunate start. At the end of last year, he founded a blog called Cardiff Cycle Chic, where he turns his Leica on the fashionable, chic and unusual cyclists of Cardiff, UK, where he lives. Cycle chic is a global phenomenon that started in Copenhagen five years ago and has now spread to other cities across the world.
Alastair has now photographed over 100 cyclists in the city. “It’s amazing,” he says, “No one has ever said ‘no’ to being photographed.” Carrying a battered Leica everywhere he goes, he has been obsessively cataloguing a fine array of people each and every day. The blog that features these daily images has really taken off. As Alastair says, “With thousands of visitors a day, it’s amazing how popular it’s become. Success at last with photography and bicycles!”
But what motivated Alastair? “It was Leica,” he says. “I was given a 1953 Leica M3, my dream camera, and that’s when the ‘Leica effect’ started. Having a Leica ties you into the entire history of street photography and owning one comes with responsibility. I couldn’t use the camera just to take holiday snaps – the camera says ‘use me for good, for a purpose.’” And that’s when the idea of the Cycle Chic blog started. Alastair explains, “Film is a wonderful medium, but for the pace of photography I needed for the blog, I had to turn from film to digital. Unfortunately I’ve never been able to use automatic compact digital cameras, so the M8 was a revelation – just like the M3 and a perfect street camera – compact, fast and simple. Marvellous!”
Alastair’s images have been used for books, newspapers and shared extensively across the Internet. An exhibition is also being planned. His dream of becoming a Magnum photographer may still be as far away as it was 20 years ago, when he was a professional photographer for a day, but he’s content. “Meeting and capturing the character and beauty of so many people is reward enough. But if the phone does ring one day – I’m still for hire!”
-Leica Internet Team
You can see more of Alastair’s images of cyclists by visiting cardiffcyclechic.wordpress.com.