We have teamed up with Bicycle Utopia NYC for their Open Call and exhibition entitled "Am I Invisible? A Portrait of New York City Bicyclists." As you prepare your photos for submission, take time to meet the lovely woman and the great photographer behind this project: Jeanne Hilary.
Jeanne’s first camera was a Diana, given to her by her father when she was nine. She had always loved drawing and painting; taking pictures was like magic. Memories of a summer vacation spent taking pictures of her family persist, and she still has photos from that time long ago. As for the camera itself, no longer recalls anything with regard to its whereabouts.
Jeanne’s experiences in art school haunted her when she became a professional photographer. "As a photographer, you’re always intensely involved with the hyper-local environment through intimate encounters, no matter where you are. “My first question—no matter if I’m at an underground women’s literacy classes in Afghanistan, a rodeo in Texas; in a gas station in South Carolina with a Ku Klux Klan member or having lunch with a genocide survivor at a hotel restaurant in Kigali hotel—is the same: How would I feel if this was my life, my town, my friends, my job? The way light comes into a kitchen in a housing project in Chicago, something someone says to you on the street in Shanghai, wondering what it’s like to sleep with your whole family on a dirt floor in a one-room house in a village in India; sounds and smells, dust—all these contribute to how the picture will look.”
She has always loved cities. Early on she developed a specialization in urban planning issues. One of her first assignments was in a housing project in Marseille where forty young people had died from drug overdoses within a few months. “No one would go to that place any more, not the police, not even the fire department or medical personnel, it was considered too dangerous. The buildings were slated for demolition, and I went around for a week with a woman from the city whose job it was to tell everyone they had to move out. You would think the residents would all hate her, but instead, every door she knocked on opened for her, she was invited in for coffee. She knew everyone in the whole complex, and everything about them. I studied everything about how she interacted with the residents, how patient and respectful she was, how sincerely interested she was in what was going on with each one of them. What I took away from that experience was that anything is possible when you are willing to listen to people, and acknowledge them on their own terms.”
Jeanne calls her assignment work “the best day job ever.” It allowed her to travel and learn about how all sorts of people live, and explore a wide range of urban environments, and how people come together to create distinct economic and social economies by finding solutions to transportation, infrastructure, housing and productivity needs that define cities.
Jeanne’s involvement in social issues ballooned with her just dropping in for a few hours or days here, there and everywhere. That’s how Bicycle Utopia came about.
“I have always lived in cities, I have never owned a car, and I have used a bike to get around for almost 20 years. But I never took a polemical position against cars. ‘I hate cars! No more cars!’ Bicycle Utopia is not an anti-car project, it has more to do with how biking in the city brings into focus a range of environmental and social issues, and allows anybody to have a positive impact on these issues just by getting on a bike—for sport, just to get around, or as a way to express yourself. "
THE EXHIBITION, OPEN CALL
“Am I Invisible?” A Portrait of New York City Bicyclists is an Open Call and an exhibition project. “Am I Invisible?” can be interpreted in different ways. First, bike safety: everyone who rides a bike in New York City, can have that feeling!
But “Am I Invisible?” also conveys the idea that cyclists are not a category; it uses the unique power of photography and art to demonstrate that there are as many “right” ways to bike in the city as there are bicyclists, and as many kinds of “portraits” as there are artists. There is no medium that captures the unique, minute, specific contours of individuality— of both the maker and the subject— than photography. At Bicycle Utopia we felt the marriage of biking and photography could reveal all kinds of surprising and wonderful things about how we live in New York now, and inspire.
Follow Jeanne’s Work on her website.
The Diana F+ is a new twist on the ‘60s classic cult camera. Famous for its dreamy and soft-focused images, the Diana F+ is now packed with extra features such as panorama and pinhole capabilities. Available in our Online Shop.