Me and my camera taking pictures of truckloads of motorbikes in SE Asia
To see the full gallery MoTorCyCleMaDneSS please click here
I got slightly obsessed with the motorcycle culture in SE Asia and it really became the focal point of my photography over there…
In Bangkok, as I mentioned before, motorbikes are really the only solution to get around the diabolical traffic. The main reason it has got so bad is the population has prospered creating much more car ownership which has glutted up the roads. It might be more pleasant to drive around in air conditioned SUVS but they have almost brought the city to a standstill. Although there are still tons of motorbikes everywhere and when they all line up at the traffic lights they look like giant motorcycle gangs are going to take over the city.
In Hanoi in Vietnam, where I took a lot of the photographs in this gallery, motorbikes & scooters are still very much the dominant form of transport and every street is chockablock with them. What is mind blowing to witness is that nobody pays any attention to anything. They do not stop at red lights, they do not stop if pedestrians are walking across, they do not stick to any particular side of the road and incredibly no-one crashes into one another. There is also not a single instance of road rage. Angry London drivers please take note…
Despite the seeming carnage, everyone moves in vague unison at roughly the same speed and just weave around each other & miraculously it works. It was seriously scary crossing the road but our friend Nat who had been there before advised us that the way to do it is just to keep walking at a steady pace and not to hesitate even when motorbikes are swishing past you left, right and centre. They will work around you he said, and they did. It was crazy.
I was also drawn to photograph this 2 wheeled frenzy because it felt like some sort of impending future reality. There will come a time in the not too distant when cars just won’t be practical anymore. Gridlock is becoming a regular occurrance in most cities around the world and it feels like it we are fast approaching the end of the road (bad pun for a bad situation)
As is so often the case with the modern world, progress is not always progress and 4 wheels are now the problem and two wheels might just be the solution. Cities like Bangkok & Ho Chi Min City perfectly demonstrate the overwhelming and unsustainable increase in the populations of the major cities around the world. The problem is there are just too many of us and the slender motorbike & its ability to slip through the gaps in the gridlock shows just how we trapped we have become by relentless growth.
Add in the damaging, catastrophic impact of unrestrained use of fossil fuels and we might find the car becomes an impossible form of transport. Even if everyone went electric, over-population will eventually render cars unworkable in the mega cities of the planet. So could motorbikes and their eco friendly versions the bicycle & the electric bike be the way of the future?
To end on a slightly more frivolous,less doom & gloom end of the world we’re all going to die observation is that everyone looks cooler on motorbikes than they would on any other form of transport. Doesn’t matter if you are old, young, hip or not, you will definitely look better. In Hanoi especially, everyone was kind of dressed like 60s French Mods so they all looked super fucking cool bombing around although capturing their finesse is a little bit tricky as they are mostly in motion.
The downside, as I discovered, to taking pictures of things on the move is that most of the time they are moving faster than my camera could focus which is fine as you long as you are willing to embrace the blur. For me this is never a problem. I like fuzzy. Fuzzy seems more like reality to me than pinpoint sharp high def but that is possibly just my eternal state of mind or maybe my failing eyesight. Proabably both.
Hope you enjoyed the last few weeks chronicling of SE Asia, next week, I will be back on the streets of London..tally ho!
Tags: motorbikes, thailand, vietnam