Journeys from My Doorstep
Photography by Roff Smith
For the past thirty years or so I’ve been trotting the globe for one magazine or another, usually National Geographic, but now, like so many others in the time of Coronavirus, I find myself grounded. With international travel off the menu for the foreseeable future, and even domestic travel problematical, I have been going out each morning on my trusty old tourer, bringing along camera and tripod and keeping my eye in by shooting my bicycle rides as though they were travel stories.
I’ve always viewed these pre-dawn outings of mine as journeys in their own right, thirty-mile samplings of the Sussex countryside, but with the world in lockdown I’ve found myself rethinking the idea of travel; realising that one needn’t hop on a plane and jet off to distant places to experience a sense of remove and the romance of difference. It’s all on your doorstep. One needs just to look.
As a photographer I wanted to celebrate this sense of local discovery and the lyrical joys of an early morning bicycle ride, on quiet roads when all the rest of the world is asleep. To create these images I am out on the road as early as 3am in order to ride to where I want to be in time to catch the light. I carry everything I need on my bicycle and work entirely alone, being both model and photographer. It is a juggling act that requires an entirely new photographic skillset – along with patience, planning and an almost neurotic obsession to detail. All of these images are taken within a twelve-mile radius of where I live, near the faded seaside town of St Leonards-on-Sea, along the Sussex coast. As a final note, although I’m the cyclist in these images, they are emphatically not about me. These are not ‘selfies’. Indeed I take pains to anonymise myself as much as possible. This series is about the romance of cycling and the beauty of the English landscape. The figure on the bicycle represents A Cyclist on the landscape – anybody; you, perhaps.