GOGGLES AND DUST
Reviewed by Richard Peploe
TITLE: Goggles & Dust
AUTHOR: The Horton Collection
DATE: October 2014
Digital photography has increased the quantity of photos that we take today, if not always the quality; perversely, it might reduce the quantity of photos available to us from yesteryear, albeit those that remain will be of better quality.
This principle is explained by Brett Horton in the introduction to this small selection of photos from the extensive archives of The Horton Collection: “As the conversion to digital archiving has enforced a de facto selectivity, the variety and number of images available for general viewing have shrunk.”
The images that are chosen for digitisation are likely to be spruced up and can gain a wider audience, and those that are not chosen risk a deterioration in quality and a life of anonymity.
The Hortons are doing their best to preserve and promote images from cycling’s past: this book draws from the 350,000 plus images in their collection and covers the pre-WW2 period, joining a previous work (Cycling’s Golden Age) that covered the post-WW2 period.
You might ask why they have amassed such a collection: “The only reason we originally acquired [original vintage bicycle racing prints] was to document and help authenticate some of the older racing jerseys and accessories in our collection” – and things developed from there.
Once a selection has been made, appropriate renovation takes place: “all of the images printed in this book have undergone some degree of restoration”. The original image remains untouched, but wherever possible what we see in the book has been restored to its as-new condition by removing things like fingerprints, stains, dust – and some previous attempts at re-touching. The results are of a high quality, and (subject matter aside) sometimes you could believe that that it was a modern picture.
The result is 100 images with only the briefest of captions, covering cycle racing from 1900 to 1940. Sometimes the year, the rider, or the location is unknown, but this does not make the image any less worthwhile. It is interesting to see how dominant the Tour de France was then, much as it is today.
Some readers will enjoy the pictures simply because of the riders involved; a few examples present are (in alphabetical order) Binda, Bottechia, Buysse, Christophe, De Waele, Leducq, Magne, Pélissier, and Vietto – names that will prompt twinges of nostalgia amongst cyclists of a certain age.
Other readers will look in amazement at the equipment in use and the conditions in which it was used. Road surfaces were often poor, and punctures (and the equipment required to mend them) feature frequently in the pictures.
We see how other things have changed compared to today’s races: the crowds are modest, even at the tops of mountains; the vehicles accompanying the riders are small in number and un-branded; and feeding during the race was often a very different experience.
It is surely a good thing that someone is looking after these photos for current and future generations, and it is even better that we all get the chance to view them with books like this.
All images are used with the kind permission of The Horton Collection and VeloPress.
REVIEW FIRST PUBLISHED 2015