Susanna Brown is an internationally-renowned writer and curator specialising in photography. For many years, she held curatorial roles in Britain’s national museums, firstly at the National Portrait Gallery and subsequently at the Victoria and Albert Museum. The author of seven books on photography, she regularly presents lectures around the world and has featured in numerous television broadcasts, podcasts, and radio programmes.
Let me start with a confession: I am a shambolic cyclist. My sister, in contrast, is a brilliant triathlete and I adore watching her race and photographing her triumphs. I soak up the atmosphere and cheer her on as the peloton whips past me (secretly relieved that I don’t need to break a sweat myself!). The enthusiasm of spectators and their bonds with competitors is a recurring theme in this year’s competition. In one memorable example, Ibrahim Kamara’s family surround him with euphoric smiles after his win in the Junior Men’s race at the Tour de Lunsar in Sierra Leone. In another, supporters young and old ring bells and cheer on a couple riding a tandem in a hill climb event. Both these brilliant images celebrate the diversity and inclusivity of the sport today.
While some pictures centre on the crowd, others depict a lone figure whose expression conveys the physical and psychological determination needed to win. I was particularly drawn to those which show the extremes of cycling, including a vertiginous climb in the Ötztal Alps and the infamous ‘Wall’ at the National Cyclocross Series in Falkirk. Ulrich Bartholmoes pushed himself to the limit in November to set a record at the 1,000-kilometer Across Andes event in Chile, and the image of him caked in dust, hunched, running alone with his bicycle might almost be mistaken for a picture from a war zone. In the amateur category, several pictures from a real war zone portray the bicycle as a symbol of defiance and capture the bravery of the Ukrainian people.
Countless cyclists can relate to Emily Newsom’s feelings that, “my heart belongs to the dirt, the mountains, the fields and the rocks,” and many of this year’s entries capture the breath-taking magnificence of the natural world. As sea levels rise and forests burn, we must act with urgency to tackle the climate crisis – how different our planet’s future might be if more of us abandoned cars in favour of bikes.
Here are my shortlists for The Mark Gunter Photo Awards 2022: