The Geography of Youth: A Worldwide Documentary Photo Project
A couple of years ago, former B&H Marketing Rep Alan Winslow and his girlfriend Morrigan set out on a project to bike around the entire United States of America and document what people were doing to go green. Now, the couple is working on a new project: The Geography of Youth. This time, they're tackling the world and focusing on the youth. I got to talk to them recently about the project, the gear, and the influences.
Intro Photo by David Wright
Chris: Please tell us about your new project and what made you want to work on it?
Alan: Our new project is a photo documentary, in which we'll travel around the world by bicycle. We'll ride over 30,000 miles through roughly 50 countries documenting what life is like for twenty-somethings all over the globe. The ride will be completely self-supported, meaning that we will be carrying all of our gear on the bicycles. Besides being twenty-somethings ourselves, we have noticed that our generation has been in the media quite a bit recently. American twenty-somethings are on track, according to a Pew Center report on Millennials (which this generation is often called), to become “the most educated generation in American history,” yet according to the same study, we are also more wary of other people than generations before us have been. With this new project we want to further a sense of shared identity and respect for other cultures and lifestyles around the world. Connecting Millennials is vital in a world where, although we are feeling connected through the internet and social media, we are also being polarized by economics, government and religion.
Hopefully we can bridge these gaps and create a better understanding of each other. We will be sharing the stories of these Millennials through digital postcards that can be accessed from our website.
Chris: Based on the findings from your previous project documenting people around America, what do you expect to find in the people from other countries?
Alan: Our previous project, Project Tandem, was environmentally themed. We set out to bicycle 11,000 miles around the United States to photograph and interview every day Americans about their views on the environment. Similar to the Geography of Youth, our idea for Project Tandem came from articles that we had been reading in the newspaper and from conversations we were having with our friends and family. In terms of traveling, we hope to find the same thing that we found when we cycled around the United States- that people are generally incredibly helpful and friendly!
Chris: This sounds like a very photojournalistic/documentary project. Who are you influences? Anyone from Magnum Photos or any of the other photographers?
Alan: If we were going to categorize our work, it probably does lean towards documentary. We are both very moved and inspired by the work of Eugene Richards. He has an unbelievable quality of closeness to his subjects; it's like you can feel their breath when you're looking at the photo. At the same time he keeps you in the frame with complex and beautiful compositions. We aspire to that level of intimacy with our subjects.
Chris: What hardships do you think you’ll find along the way and how are you planning ahead for them?
Alan: One particular hardship that we know we will face is altitude. We have never cycled at an altitude over 10,000 feet. We are taking every precaution to be able to handle high altitudes. Training and research will help us prepare our bodies be in the best possible shape. All we can do after that is just take it slow!
Chris: In regards to the hardships, what are you going to do about the language barriers?
Alan: Language barriers are definitely something we've considered. Both of us are brushing up on our foreign language skills, but we'll also be relying on locals to help us to communicate. The good news is that most of the project will be using the one universal language: photographs.
Chris: Tell us about the gear you’re using along the way.
Alan: Besides our basic camping and cycling gear we will be bringing all of the gear we need to complete our work. In terms of camera gear we are like to be as light and flexible as possible so we will be carrying only one camera body each and each have a fixed 50mm lens at F/1.4 or 35mm at F/1.8. We are considering adding a new fixed lens to our bag for this trip but have not decided on which one yet. Our images are backed up on four LaCie Rugged hard drives and edited on our laptop. We are also considering carrying a rugged lightweight tripod and possibly a Holga or instant camera.
Chris: Holga and instant film? Cool! Why?
Alan: We both enjoy the aesthetic of film. A Holga is a wonderful camera to document in an unique way, it is also extremely lightweight, and rugged. We rarely leave the studio without one. An instant film camera is just one way we've thought of that we can give back to the people who help us, or allow us to photograph them. Everyone loves instant photographs!
Chris: How did you go about finding sponsors for this project?
Alan: We only work with sponsors that we have existing relationships with or whose products we know we can feel confident representing.
Chris: Did your education at school prep you to do this at all?
Alan: Our education did prepare both of us for this type of work. Morrigan studied English at Connecticut College and completed a post graduation program in documentary photography at the Salt Institute for Documentary Studies in Maine. I studied fine art photography and environmental studies at the New York State University at Buffalo.
You can follow Alan and Morrigan around the world when they blog about their journey here. You can also support their project by donating to their Kickstarter campaign.
Alan used to teach the "Learning How to Print in a Digital Age," class in the B&H Event Space.