Spread from Rouleur magazine.
To describe Rouleur as a cycling magazine denies the breadth and depth of the content and scope of the magazine. Launched six years ago and since published eight times a year, Rouleur also produces books and photography annuals, focusing on the drama of the sport rather than race reports or reviews of bike products. With an emphasis on high-quality design and reproduction, Rouleur adopts a reportage approach, and its pages are filled with multi-page photo essays and interviews. Photography is given pride of place throughout.
"We look for approaches to photographing the sport in unique and original ways," says editor Guy Andrews. "Our intention is to continue to publish books and magazines that get deep inside their subject matter - be it through photography, design or writing. We are all about the back-story of bike racing, and archive material that shows an alternative view of the sport. It's the underpinning for the meaning and significance of the races and the racers themselves."
In Rouleur's latest issue (issue 34), it has dedicated 24 pages to photographs by Henri Cartier-Bresson taken in 1957 at the Vélodrome d'Hiver in Paris. The images are shown without captions, sometimes spread across two pages. Interestingly, the photographs include images of the crowd as well as the riders themselves. Amongst the unposed portraits, a cyclist is shown reading a newspaper, cyclists are seen resting post-race and being attended to by a trainer.
Spreads from Rouleur magazine.
The images capture the excitement on spectators' faces and tend to focus on what was going on around the action, rather than the action itself. "A bike race is a rich visual environment for the photographer," says Andrews. "The human story around cycle racing is the most exciting element of the sport. Photographers of the time (and now, too) are preoccupied with capturing shots of the stars and the race itself. Cartier-Bresson clearly wanted to capture the whole story, hence there are as many images of the crowd and the riders behind the scenes as there are of them racing. It seems obvious that Cartier-Bresson was there for quite a while - long after the crowd had departed."
This isn't the first time the magazine has shown archival imagery in this way. In issue 31 (July 2012), Rouleur published photographs of the 1939 Tour de France by Robert Capa, and it has worked with Magnum photographers John Vink, Guy Le Querrec and Harry Gruyaert in earlier issues. "We have used a lot of archive material in the past, but nothing of the weight of the stories by Cartier-Bresson and Capa," says Andrews. "I thought the Capa and Cartier-Bresson cycling archive material would be off-limits, but Magnum was happy to let us publish them. Cartier-Bresson's images are all so good we decided to publish all of them," he adds. "Although, since going to press, a couple of alternative images have resurfaced."
Just one of the shots used for the cover had to be cropped slightly to fit the magazine's format. "We were fully aware of Cartier-Bresson's feelings on the subject of cropping images, and the eventual image was approved by the Fondation Henri Cartier-Bresson," he says.
Spread from Rouleur magazine.
Rouleur may publish more archival material in the future and is considering a couple of stories from Magnum photographers, as well as other photography archives, says Andrews. He believes magazines have a responsibility to help support, promote and preserve these archives. "There are many lesser-known photographers' archives that are exceptional," says Andrews.
"We use a few sports archives across Europe and they are struggling to keep going. Photography is in danger of losing a lot of material and there is no doubt that archive work will need more support in the future. Found work such as the photography of Vivian Maier needs to be celebrated, and we'd like to do our bit.
"The Cartier-Bresson work is still very fresh and exciting, and shows a different side to the sport that is rarely seen these days," adds Andrews. "So far, the reception for the story has been extraordinary - a lot of readers have said how much they love the work."
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