Made In England, Matthew Souter and Ricky Feather, photo Kayti Peschke (2012)

A lavish, coffee-table celebration of handbuilt bicycle manufacture

Push Projects, 9780957366800 30cm x 30cm 217pp £35

Grimy metal-working shops don’t sound like a promising subject for photographic study. Indeed, save for some arty compositions and wide-aperture techniques, this oily picture essay might have been commissioned to illustrate a health and safety manual aimed at machine-tool operatives.

If it’s subjects are representative of craft bike builders, they favour scruffy working environments, aged machine tools, and the occasional visual gag. The motif that runs through the book, however, is that of greasy, work-worn hands. Spread after spread is dominated by life-sized fingers, in narrow depth of focus, grasping spanners, stays and balls of scurf.

The cumulative impression is surprisingly affecting.

Thirteen makers are profiled, from Keith Noronha, managing director of tube manufactures Reynolds to Lincolnshire legend Dave Yates. Others include Woodrup, Lee Cooper, Tom Donhou and Jason Rourke. There is a brief introduction to each artisan, followed by a question-and-answer interview.

Read from start to finish, the interviews reveal a passionate, motivated and rather joyful group of metal bashers, albeit men whose interests are practical rather than philosophical.

At this level, frame building appears to involve significantly more muck than it generates brass, but for anyone who owns, or who has lusted over, a handbuilt frame, there is something compelling in this series of articles.

Quite what the fascination is, however, remains elusive. If I had to guess, however, it would be this.

The experience of cycling is both transformational and transcendental. So deep is the effect of riding a bike, on at least some cyclists, that they fetishise the bicycles, and make deities of their makers. Thumbing through such a weighty tome, admiring the artful portraits of brass filers and fork brazers is rather like fingering a rosary to express your piety. In the grasp of a non believer, however, what might be an act of profundity, is reduced to a handful of grubby beads.

TD Apr 13

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