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Nate Ryan

Bike mechanics are generally very proud of what they do and enjoy the tangible nature of their manual work, and should be allowed to stand tall like a hero. I aim to expose some of these mechanics as the heroes they are, bringing bikes in various stages of disrepair back to life. The use of their hands as their main tools is a source of pride for a lot of mechanics; most of them are unable to imagine working anywhere else. Many mechanics are true characters: unique and distinct individuals.

My interest in cycling, and experience working at a bicycle shop drew me to the visual interest of the repair area in the back of a bike shop, which struck me as a powerful portrait location. In the repair area, there is always a wonderful mix of organization and chaos that I thought would contrast well with a heroically posed mechanic.

The pose of each mechanic was critical and developed out of a careful study of paintings from the book Swagger Portrait, by Andrew Wilton. I focused primarily on the full-length paintings of individual males from the 17th and 18th centuries, looking carefully at the positioning of the feet, chest, head, hands, and eyes.

The chin of the subject is slightly elevated with pride, the gaze slightly above and to the side of the viewer. Equally important to the pose, the hands were positioned generally on the hip, and holding a substitute for a weapon. I initially sketched schematically the poses in several paintings that particularly engaged me, and used those as specific references for the first portraits. However, I found that I developed a sense of the conventions and could create my own effective poses.