"We were a part of the whole ceremony."
mrs washingmachinepost is over in scotland visiting our daughter and two grandsons, the youngest of which was born a mere two weeks ago. that leaves me as an orphan for the week and all the malnutrition that such entails. however, it does mean that, following the sunday ride and my superb attempt at creating a mushroom omelette with a side order of fried potato scones, i am blessed with a modicum of free time in which i might do whatsoever i please.
for christmas last year i was presented with a crosley portable record player; decidely lo-fi, but no worse i suspect, than the audio available when my sole choice of vinyl was first released in 1956, some sixty years past. indicatively entitled 'the jazz messengers', it features band leadership by one of my percussive heroes, art blakey, accompanied here by horace silver, hank mobley, donald byrd and doug watkins.
with vinyl experiencing something of a resurgence these days, this particular edifice is manufactured on 180g plastic, a tad heftier than those i used to purchase just as the cassette tape started to slowly pull the rug from under a blissfully unaware rack of album sleeves. though the music contained hardly fits the description of background music, on this particular sunday afternoon, it fulfilled the role of highly apt accompaniment to mathias schneider's photo essay 'connected', a heavy, large(ish) format book of the man's photography, lavishly printed on appropriately heavyweight paper.
its subject matter is evidenced by the book's subtitle 'four northern spring races': the ronde van vlaanderen, paris-roubaix, fleche wallone and liege-bastogne-liege.
"All four have an eventful history, they each show how deeply they are anchored in their region and all of them allow the spectators to celebrate their typical enthusiasm at the race course."
at a pinch, i can see the tenuous connection between rock music and the likes of formula one motor racing, but if no-one has previously made a connection between fifties hard bop jazz and the spring classics, then i stake my claim here. this is one of those books to die for. mathias is a particularly accomplished photographer with an eye for the sort of thing that would almost certainly pass by you or i. his predominantly monochrome images (135 b/w and 16 colour) are totally free from artifice or pretension, focusing as they do on the factors that surround the four connected races.
"The peloton's run always lasts only second, probably minutes, and then it's all over. Afterwards, on our way home, we would compare notes. No question, the fight at the crux of the hill anad the passage of the riders was the great moment everyone was yearning for, but the dynamics and the drama of the race wouldn't have worked if we hadn't been waiting there. The whole day becomes the experience, including the long wait at the track."
should my review so far give the impression that this substantial body of work is devoid of any racing cyclists, nothing could be further from the truth. mathias schneider is every bit as adept at pressing the shutter at the right moment when faced with a rushing or snaking peloton as he is capturing the still life of an abandoned brick building adjacent to some particularly lethal looking cobbles on the way to roubaix. and if you thought your roads were in need of a tad more than surface dressing, his close-ups of some of those stretches of cobbles would bring tears to your thighs.
connected is a work of passion. nobody gets this close, this specific without feeling the same about the northern classics as do we. there's a touch of cartier-bresson here and there and i can truthfully think of no higher praise. witness the double page spread opening the la doyenne section with the street sign stockeu isolated in a wall of heavy, deep black shadow. or the cigarette smoking gent leaning at a stone-walled street corner awaiting the arrival of the fleche peloton. or bizarrely, a dining table, complete with white tablecloth and chairs set up at the opening to a silage pit, still half full of silage.
according to the colophon on the book's final page, the print run for connected was limited to 500, and there seems every likelihood that some of those have already found good homes. which means, of course, that there might now be something of a scrabble to acquire a copy of your very own. the cost is €45 (about £35) and there really isn't a single defensible excuse you can come up with not to place an immediate order. i have said before that i think it likely that cycling benefits above all other sports, from a wealth of superb photographers, documenting every aspect of our favoured sport. mathias schneider has emphatically declared his membership credentials.
and despite my contention that connected goes with jazz like peanut butter does with jelly, the book features text by maxime schmitt, co-author of kraftwerk's tour de france album.
monday 14 march 2016..........................................................................................................................................................................................................