Riverwest Artists Association
Press Release

The Riverwest 24 Portrait Project

Susie Seidelman and Lois Bielefeld

By - Mar 1st, 2016 03:21 pm

Riverwest Milwaukee, WI.  March 2016.  Two hours… two hundred photos… two hundred fifty-eight riders… and one delightful sunrise. When this photo project was said and done, it created a historical document of the Riverwest 24 and the awesome community that forms around it. Susie Seidelman and Lois Bielefeld had a goal of capturing the simple humanity of this community event and of the individuals passing through each frame.

The Riverwest 24 Portrait Project will be on display March 4-8 at the Jazz Gallery Center for the Arts, 926 E. Center Street, home to the Riverwest Artists Association in Milwaukee’s Riverwest neighborhood.  An opening reception will be held Saturday, March 5, 6-10pm, with a second reception on Sunday, March 6, 11am-2pm.
To create this exhibit, Seidelman and Bielefeld set up a bonus checkpoint at the top of Reservoir Park. “We shot in the early morning, as the sun rose,” stated Seidelman, “to highlight the constant change that happens throughout these 24 hours in Riverwest. There’s something, too, about shooting half way through the race, when people have been on bikes for 10 to 12 hours already, knowing they’ve got 12 to 14 more to go, that just makes for some honest portraiture.

No special lighting or make-up was used.  There were no “do-overs.”

“Participants were sweaty, exhausted, and sometimes a bit drunk,” says Bielefeld.  “Each of them was a beautiful representation of the imperfection and inelegance that somehow adds up to the most magical 24 hours in Milwaukee.”

They wanted to shoot on film because it is rarely done anymore, and especially not medium format.  Maybe it was a stretch, but both artists felt there was a kinship between film and bikes. These are old technologies.  For many users, they’ve been replaced by faster, more convenient things.  But neither film nor bikes are dying, and those who love them understand that sometimes convenience is overrated.

Seidelman and Bielefeld stress the following:  “Making these portraits was an attempt to preserve a brief moment in the life of each rider, without any preparation or pretense.  They are now part of a historical document, a window into a two-hour period of time in a much larger event that means so much to so many people.”

The exhibit and receptions on March 5 and March 6 are free and open to the public.  Refreshments will be served.  Visit www.riverwestart.org for additional information.

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2 thoughts on “The Riverwest 24 Portrait Project”

  1. Christina Zawadiwsky says:

    Every art opening reception I’ve attended at the Jazz Gallery has been interesting and particularly friendly. This one should be especially exciting, considering the content, photos taken from Reservoir Park of the races!

  2. Christina Zawadiwsky says:

    I attended this opening last Friday night, and it was packed! I talked with Susie and Lois about their process (getting to Reservoir Park to set up at 4:30 AM and seeing an already-formed line of bikers waiting to be photographed, and then proceeding to take 200 portraits in two hours, a selection of which were shown, without names, on the gallery walls). Even though they were exhausted, most were young riders (the bikes didn’t show in the photos) enthusiastic about what they were doing. A few oldsters were there too (possibly bike enthusiasts), and the photographers used film instead of a digital media so that the entire process took much longer (and was not immediate). Everyone seemed to also like to look at a wall of small photos of even more participants. The photographers stated that if they were doing it again at any point in time, they would have chosen different portraits to enlarge. A true community effort!

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