Behind the scenes with Dylan Leeder shooting bike couriers in winter

Photos courtesy of Dylan Leeder

Behind the scenes with Dylan Leeder and Toronto bike couriers

Story by Jonah Brunet

On February 22, photographer Dylan Leeder drove alongside a group of bike couriers, chronicling their ride through the slick, slush-caked streets of downtown Toronto.

Here's the behind the scenes video.



dandyhorse got in touch with him afterward for a quick Q&A about his experience capturing professional city cyclists in action on these mean winter streets.

What motivated you to do a shoot with bike couriers?

"I’m a big fan of photographing sub-cultures and interesting people. Living in Toronto and being an avid cyclist myself, I’ve always been intrigued and impressed with the couriers I see ripping around the city. I thought they would make for an interesting subject to shoot as, aesthetically, they tend to have a worn, weathered look and I seem to gravitate towards that. I like photographing people that have an edge to them."

Why did you choose to do this project in the winter?

"I thought it would better highlight the endurance it takes to do their job. As we all know, cycling in the winter can really suck and these guys and gals ride through some of the harshest conditions. Also, I knew the textures of the snow/slush would make for more interesting images."

What did you learn about the world of the bike courier in downtown Toronto?

"Honestly, the shoot was a whirlwind and we didn’t get much chatting time. We met around 3:30 and the crew had to be ready to start working around 4:30. The Oscars were on that night and that makes for a busy night for couriers [especially those who deliver food].

I’m hoping to do a more ‘day in the life’ style shoot this summer where I explore more what goes into the job and hopefully get more personalities [on film]."

What about urban bike couriers were you hoping to capture with this shoot?

"Mostly just how bad-ass they were. With using this flash technique ... I knew I would be able to create images that I haven’t seen before. With this, I just wanted to create some bad-ass images that showed off the the couriers and environments that they work in."

Did you have any safety concerns for the couriers as they rode alongside your car? Were there any issues or close calls?

"No issues at all. Obviously the riders are pros so I just explained what I was looking for and left it up to them to decide how it would work best. The couriers chose the route and we basically just followed them around in big circles downtown. Luckily there were bike lanes for most of the route so that made it a lot easier to get some distance between us.

"Although there were no risks, my driver did mention it was intense staying aware of his surroundings while trying to get me the angles I was asking for. I was completely oblivious to anything other than the couriers so there were a few times where I was yelling to speed up as he was coming up to red lights."

Check out Dylan's full courier shoot here.

Dylan shot our Soulpepper #dandySANTA series this past holiday season too. Check it out here.

Related on the dandyBLOG:

dandyARCHIVE: Saddle up with Austin Horse

Toronto couriers prepare for strike with benefit concert

Q&A with Lucas Brunelle on the making of the film Line of Sight


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