My Life In Pictures | Adventure Photographer Josh Cunningham’s Favourite Shots

In 2015, writer and photographer Josh spent 11 months cycling 22,000km across 26 countries

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Photography by Josh Cunningham

If you’re browsing the internet one day and you stumble across an epic shot of someone riding their bicycle across big landscapes underneath big skies, check the credit as there’s a chance it will have been taken by one Joshua Cunningham. Formerly a full-time editorial member of Cyclist Magazine and Bikes Etc, in 2015 Josh spent 11 months cycling 22,000km across 26 countries; starting in London and ending up in Hong Kong. His massive, stuff dreams are made of, adventure is documented in his book ‘Escape By Bike’.

Prior to starting his career in media, where he’s worked as a writer, a photographer, and a marketing consultant, Josh lived in Belgium as a full-time athlete. Originally hailing from the seaside town of Eastbourne, he now resides in that big old smog known as London.

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Pictured: Josh Cunningham, taking a break from riding his bike.

I studied A-Level photography, but after college I barely picked up a camera for five years. Working as a writer, and as such spending a lot of time working alongside photographers, it was then that I my rediscovered my appreciation of it. When I decided to ride to Hong Kong, it felt like the perfect opportunity to start shooting again, and so I bought an entry level setup just a week before leaving; a Canon 550d with 17-85mm and 50mm lenses.

I shoot where my interests take me. The outdoors, people on bikes, landscapes, and general travel stuff. Living in a major city like London, I’m always looking for special moments that appear amid the chaos  and so always have a little Sony RX100 ii at the ready. Generally speaking, I love looking for contrasts – be it in context, scale, light, texture, colour, emotion – and you see contrasts everywhere, regardless of the subject matter.

“Being somewhere new forces you to look at your surroundings in a different, more observant way”

When I was at school, a friend and I did a month-long cycle tour through Europe during our summer holidays. The trip shed a light upon the richness of experience that bike travel offers. Life then ran its course for a bit, but I always knew I would one day embark on a long-haul cycling adventure, and Eurasia – with the variety of human and physical geography within it – was the perfect location.

Being somewhere new forces you to look at your surroundings in a different, more observant way. This is obviously really beneficial as a photographer. I feel like this ‘enlightenment’ can follow you back home sometimes too, and can help refresh the way you look at your own street, workplace, commute, or whatever. I take a lot of inspiration from travelling.

My heroes’ work leaves me wondering “How on earth did they see that?” I look looking at the work of people like Harry Gruyaert, the painter Edward Hopper, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Steve McCurry, William Egglestone and Martin Parr.

There’s a collection of images shot by the explorer Wilfred Thesiger from his time in the Hindu Kush, documenting the mountains and its people during the mid 20th century, that I wish I’d taken. They provide a portal into a part of the world that is very much off-limit these days, but which has such history and natural beauty. I’d have loved to have been a member of those exploring parties – and shot some of the photos.

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Shot on the Pamir Highway in Tajikistan.

Location: Pamir Highway, Tajikistan. The approaching storm and desolate nature of the landscape are quite intimidating, but the light is incredible, and both the cyclist in the road and fence to the right – the Chinese border – provide a real sense of scale. I had dreamed of visiting the Pamirs for years, and scenes like this made the wait worthwhile.

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Shot on a 1,000km long stretch of road in southern China, a journey that had it all; from the urban chaos of megacities to the rain forested mountains of Yunnan with rural scenes like this one scattered in between.

I followed this road through southern China for over 1,000km; a journey that took me from the rain forested slopes of the mountainous Yunnan province, towards the sky scrapers and urban chaos of China’s megacities. I like the way this image merges both rural and urban elements, as it is indicative of the spectrum of experience that this portion of the journey offered.

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Young monks play on the steps of a monastery in Kaza, India.

Young monks playing on the steps of a monastery in Kaza, India. I just love the playfulness and dynamism of the children’s body shapes, contrasted against the sharp lines and maturity of the monastery. Both are equally colourful though, which is an apt description of this culturally Tibetan valley in the far reaches of Himachal Pradesh.

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A young boy comes over to investigate during a puncture repair stop in the Wakhan valley of Tajikistan.

A young boy offering to help with puncture repairs in the Wakhan valley, Tajikistan. The contact with local people that bike travel offers is without doubt one of its biggest draws; not a day goes by without some sort of interaction, and most days contain many. The way he’s crouched between us inquisitively, as we fix our bikes, epitomises the intimacy of such interactions.

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Beautifully coloured skies over the Kyzylkum desert in Uzbekistan.

Riding through the steppes and deserts of Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan was an incredible experience. The unchanging, infinitely flat landscape actually made for quite an introspective journey, but I like this image because looking at it just makes me wish I was there, about to set up my sent underneath that incredible sky, with nobody around for miles.

You can follow Josh on Instagram @coshjunningham, and learn more about him on his website joshuacunningham.info. His book, ‘Escape by Bike: Adventure Cycling, Bikepacking, and Touring Off-Road’, is available at Waterstones, WHSmiths, Stanfords, various independents, and Amazon.

Check out the rest of the My Life In Pictures series here. 

You can read the rest of this month’s Remote issue here.

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Chris Froome Naked | Tour Champ Strips Off For ‘My Sporting Body’ Series in The Times

Froome got his kit off for photographer Marc Aspland on Col de la Madone…

Chris Froome on the bike in yellow. Photo montage: iStock

Chris Froome on the bike in yellow. Photo montage: iStock

“Imagine Chris Froome naked.”

Despite the Kenyan-born Team GB’s star’s unrivalled success on a road bike, we don’t imagine this is a statement that’s heard an awful lot.

And that’s meant with no offence to Chris, of course. After winning his fourth Tour de France alongside his first Vuelta in 2017 there can be no doubt that he’s one of the finest human specimens on the planet. It’s just that whenever Froomey is in the public eye, he’s normally about 17 days and hundreds of miles into a gruelling road race, surrounded by bruised, bleeding, exhausted and sweaty men with enormous legs and small, little shoulders.

There’s something about imagining any grand tour rider naked after they’ve been going through all that pain and endurance that just doesn’t seem quite right. We’ve all seen the gruesome post-ride Tour shots after all. The veins for days (and months and years) don’t normally make you say “corr! Would love to see the rest of him”, as represented by Polish rider Pawel Poljanski below…

Photo: Instagram / Pawel Poljanski

Photo: Instagram / Pawel Poljanski

But anyway. Enough about how we’ve never thought about Chris Froome naked before.

We’re thinking about Chris Froome naked now. And, as it were, we don’t have to ‘imagine’.

Photo: Marc Aspland / The Times / Instagram @chrisfroome

Photo: Marc Aspland / The Times / Instagram @chrisfroome

It’s part of a series from photographer Marc Aspland called ‘My Sporting Body’, in which athletes lay it bare besides a chat about exactly what they think of their current physical state, not unlike the famous, if controversial annual Body Issue from ESPN, which action sports stars such as Courtney ConlogueTravis PastranaLaird HamiltonCoco Ho and whole hosts more have stripped down for before.

It’s a fascinating premise, and Froome’s conversation, which you can read in full on The Times website, really is interesting stuff as well.

“I can recognise the proportions are ridiculous,” he tells the newspaper. “Skinny upper body, massive thighs — I do feel a bit ridiculous looking in the mirror. That’s what it takes, but I am looking forward to getting in the gym when I retire and doing some bicep curls, getting some shoulders to balance things out a little.”

Other athletes who can have been on the other end of Aspland’s lens include GB race walker Tom Bosworth, 2014 Commonwealth silver medallist Kelly Edwards, jockey Lizzie Kelly and Paralympians Robert Oliver and Emma Wiggs.

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Cycling UK | Group Call for New Offence for ‘Car-Dooring’ Cyclists

Figures show 2009 cyclists were injured, and five killed, by car-doors between 2011 and 2015

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Bike Couriers New York City

The handlebar view of a male bike courier going past cars on both sides in a traffic jam during rush hour. Photo: Getty

Cycling group ‘Cycling UK’ have begun a campaign to highlight the dangers posed by car drivers and passengers opening their doors into the paths of cyclists – and are calling for greater punishments for those who do commit the ‘car-dooring’ offence.

The cycling group say that figures released to them by the Department for Transport show 2009 cyclists were injured in so-called ‘car-dooring’ between 2011 and 2015, including five fatalities.

They add: “Cycling UK believes that these figures are not fully representative of the scale of the problem, as not all car dooring incidents will be attended by the police” and have written to transport minister Jesse Norman MP to urge for action to be taken over the problem.

Cycling UK want to see a law-change that would establish the new offence of causing ‘death or serious injury through negligently opening a car door’. Car-dooring is already a crime, but can currently only be punished with a maximum fine of £1000.

There have been numerous occasions in the past few years when cyclists have been car-doored and thrust into other vehicles, or nearly so, as in the video below, which was filmed outside of the UK.

The issue was brought into the spotlight in tragic fashion recently after cyclist Sam Boulton was killed in Manchester after being thrust off path and into a van by a taxi passenger who opened her door and caused him to veer.

The passenger in question was fined £150 and the driver, who had illegally parked on double-yellow lines, fined £995.

Cycling UK chief executive Paul Tuohy said: “Some people seem to see car-dooring as a bit of a joke, but it’s not and can have serious consequences.

“Cycling UK wants to see greater awareness made about the dangers of opening your car door negligently, and people to be encouraged to look before they open.

Man pulling handle to unlock car door. Photo: Getty

Man pulling handle to unlock car door. Photo: Getty

“In the Netherlands they are known for practicing a method, known sometimes as the ‘Dutch Reach’, which we think could be successfully encouraged in the UK.”

The Dutch Reach is a method where the driver or passenger in the car opens the door of their car with their further away hand, allowing them to look behind them as they do so.

“Cycling UK has written to the Department for Transport asking them to look into this [the Dutch Reach],” Paul continued, “and highlight the dangers of ‘car-dooring’ through a public awareness THINK style campaign.”

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Cycling in Togo | The Kpalimé Cycling Project is Changing Children’s Lives With Bicycles

“The best school children in Kpalimé are those who are part of our program…”

The Kpalimé Cycling Project was created in 2013 to develop cycling and education in the city of Kpalimé and across the country of Togo in Western Africa.

The locally-run club have done some astounding work since then. Founded by 23-year-old Togolese national road cycling champion Abdou-Raouf Akanga, the club provides the opportunity for children to learn to cycle – providing they get good grades at school. They also help them achieve the latter with financial support and resources.

“Today the best school children in Kpalimé are those who are part of our program,” says Akanga.

Kpalimé Cycling Project cycling in Togo

Founder and 23-year-old Togolese national road cycling champion Abdou-Raouf Akanga with the Kpalimé Cycling Project kids

The club also runs the only women’s cycling team in Togo, something particularly notable given the stigma surrounding women’s cycling in Africa, and supplies all of their riders with bicycles and cycling gear.

Now the Kpalimé Cycling Project are re-developing a house into a cycling centre for the city. The centre will have means for accommodation, education – including mechanic courses for locals, crucial in maintaining and growing the cycling movement in the country – and will be the central hub for the project as a whole.

“The cycling centre would be a great start to help improve children’s lives through cycling”

Having run out of the “means to continue developing the project” though, they need your help to finish the job.

The cycling project recently launched a fundraising campaign for their cycling centre, the funds of which will go towards finishing the restoration of the house and investing in different cycling programs “like cycling development and also the education of our riders” – so they don’t have to turn anyone in want of an education away.

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Kids training with the cycling club in Togo

The project is only asking for €2,000 to reach their goal. €4 can support a child for a month. €25 for six months. €50 for an entire year. That full €2,000 could support 40 children for a full year. You can donate now through the fundraising page.

We spoke to Abdou-Raouf about the project, and about exactly what the centre and funding would mean for the community.

“The cycling centre would be a great start to help improve children’s lives through cycling,” he told us.

Kpalimé Cycling Project cycling in Togo

The cycling club take to the roads in Togo

“We recently bought the house that we are restoring now. The house will have sleeping rooms, a library, a bike room, a mechanic’s room, a kitchen and a hut for our meetings. In this house our riders will help each other to master their school programs.

“It would be the base of all our activities and people from all over the city, even if they are not a member of the club, could come and borrow books from the library.

“We are working to extend the practice of cycling by giving bikes and other materials to kids and youths who wants to be cyclists. We also intervene in the education of our riders by giving them with school supplies, paying school fees for those who come from poor families.

“There will be mechanic courses, and courses to teach them things about cycling in which they will have exams. The money will help us to finish the restoration work and then we’ll invest in different programs like development and education.”

Kpalimé Cycling Project cycling in Togo

The Kpalimé Cycling Project hub, in construction

The club currently trains three times a week, riding both road bikes and mountain bikes, and the impact on the community even outside of cycling is clear to see.

“Kpalimé Cycling Project is now the best cycling club in Togo,” Akanga continued. “We have the first ever kids and female team. We are the first and only cycling club in Togo who give bikes and other cycling accessories free to its rider and also giving financial support to the riders for their education.

“With Kpalimé Cycling Project, kids have the luck to go to school and also having a good cycling program with us. It’s something unique in Togo for the moment.”

We first spoke to Abdou-Raouf Akanga about the cycling project in February this year while exploring the ongoing movement around women’s cycling in Africa.

Kpalimé Cycling Project cycling in Togo

The women of the Kpalimé Cycling Project in action on the roads

The stigmas surrounding women and cycling seem to have no ends on the continent, and simply getting on a bike can be a taboo, but the Kpalimé Cycling Project dismissed those stigmas to create the first ever women’s cycling team in Togo. They had 11 women riders at the time of writing in February.

“I try to show people that women can also be cyclists and do the same thing we are doing,” Abdou-Raouf told us. “I also go on the local radio and try to change people’s minds about women on racing bikes being something bad.

“Like everywhere in Africa, women are the busiest in the house. It’s the same thing for female riders on my team. Sometimes they can’t come to training because of domestic work.

“Women also have the right to discover the joy and freedom of cycling. Cycling helps teach lessons of courage and skills that will be useful at school and in normal life.”

To find out more about the cycling project and donate to their crowdfunding campaign, click here

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Nelson’s Tour de Test Valley | Too Many Men Are Suffering in Silence With Depression. This Cycling Sportive Aims to Change That

“Within snowboarding and cycling we’re supposed to be upbeat and healthy all the time. There isn’t room for being depressed or down…”

“Nelson was undoubtedly one of the most talented snowboarders on the British scene. He rode with incredible edge control, had a real spacial awareness, skill and bravery. Some of his early video footage is just incredible. But despite how amazing he was, he was so underrated because of his humble personality.

“He undoubtedly was, and I’m not over-exaggerating here, probably the most popular chap in British snowboarding for all of those reasons. Both for inspiring so many people with his talent and with his humility. When he died it was a huge shock to most people because of how loved and how talented he was.”

We’re talking to Marcus Chapman, the best friend of the late snowboarder Nelson Pratt.

Nelson Pratt

Nelson Pratt

Nelson was one of the most talented snowboarders to come out of the UK. He had a lengthy partnership with K2, coached bronze-medallist Jenny Jones and more as part of the Team GB set up in the lead up to the Sochi Winter Olympics and is described by everyone who knew him as one of the most down-to-earth, friendly guys on the scene.

Nelson had everything going for him, but in 2012 at just 33-years-old he tragically took his own life.

“His popularity was second to none, so it was a real shock,” Marcus continued. “Personally, I knew Nelson struggled with ups and downs. And he had a family history of mental-health problems. We talked a huge amount about his ups and downs because I’ve had ups and downs as well and we had a real kinship because of that. We lived together for a long time, but none of us ever thought – myself, his brother, his family – that he would ever go as far as taking his life.

A rare portrait shot of Nelson Pratt. Photo: James Bryant

A rare portrait shot of Nelson Pratt. Photo: James Bryant

“He really inspired a lot of people. Even towards the end he was coaching the British team along with Hamish McKnight. He was coaching Jenny Jones and Aimee Fuller, just as they were heading towards Sochi. And Jenny Jones puts a lot of her success down to Nelson. Nelson really pushed her freestyle, pushed her coaching. It was a huge shock. A huge loss.”

Nelson pulls a massive method in New Zealand

Nelson pulls a massive method in New Zealand

Suicide is the single biggest killer of men under 45 each year. Roughly 75% of all UK suicides each year are men. It kills 12 men a day and over 4600 a year in the UK. For contrast, an average of around 1,700 people (a number covering both men and women) have been killed in road accidents each year since 2012.

Research from the leading charity dedicated to preventing male suicide, CALM (Campaign Against Living Miserably) shows that men are three times more likely to take their own lives than women, largely because they are less likely to tell someone when they are suffering from depression.

CALM’s research shows that only 55% of men who admit to depression are likely to talk about it, that 30% of men are too embarrassed to do so, and that under the age of 45 in the UK, more than 4 in 10 (42%) of men have contemplated taking their own life – less than half of whom spoke to anyone about their problems.

Most men reported that they didn’t want to cause a fuss and almost a third said they didn’t speak up because they didn’t know who to speak up to.

Marcus Chapman and CALM are working to change this. In 2013, the year after his best friend’s death, Marcus (along with Nelson’s brother Chris Pratt) set up Tour de Test Valley, a mass-participation cycling event in memory of the snowboarder.

Chris Pratt and Marcus Chapman

Chris Pratt and Marcus Chapman

The event brings together around 800 cyclists each year to ride one of three routes – either 25, 50 or 100 miles in distance – and has raised more than £200,000 for CALM, which goes towards funding the charity’s call centre, and as Marcus puts it, “towards reducing the stigma and giving people like Nelson another outlet”. Support comes in from every rider who participates, and from sponsors like Vans, whose UK team (pictured top) raised over £1500 last year. Nelson rode on the Vans UK snowboarding team for years, and the company has been a main sponsor of the Tour de Test Valley since day one.

The event is now in its fifth year, with the 2017 edition set for 16 September. It follows some of Nelson’s favourite routes around the Hampshire countryside, with the 100-mile route being the first 100-miler that Marcus and Nelson ever rode together.

Riders chill out on the big day at the sportive

Riders chill out on the big day at the sportive

Tour de Test Valley is a crucial event for raising awareness of the stigmas that surround men and mental health, particularly in the world of action sports and the broader sporting world, where top-level athletes are seen as almost invincible.

He said: “Within the worlds of snowboarding and cycling we’re supposed to be upbeat and healthy all the time. And I think that’s something that Nelson and I struggled with. Especially the British scene, it was about who was the funniest, who was the loudest. It used to be a bit of a fun drinking culture and there wasn’t room for being depressed or frustrated or down.

“Athletes like Jenny Jones have a lot more support now. They have access to a full coaching team through Team GB. It became a lot more professional and a lot more open and I think Nelson would have benefited from that. But stigma exists in sport. How many footballers have admitted that they’ve had depression? Probably about two.

Jenny Jones and Aimee Fuller ride in the Sportive

Jenny Jones and Aimee Fuller ride in the Sportive

“There are a couple of skateboarders now who have come out – but in sport, the stigma exists massively. It isn’t something that is freely talked about and applauded. Or that makes you feel comfortable to come out. Nelson definitely, definitely suffered from that and I’m sure there’s lots of other people who still do suffer from it, but I hope that Nelson’s story and our voice and CALM has helped people come out since then. I know that it has.

“As a bloke Nelson didn’t open up as much as he could of to other people but he was failed really by the GP because he was very anxious but there wasn’t any therapy he could get quickly and he wasn’t really suited to online CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy). He went to the GP very close to his death but they didn’t do a great deal for him and I think he felt really let down by that. I still feel a bit guilty myself that I didn’t do more.” Though of course, he shouldn’t.

“Even with all of the stigma now being reduced a bit and all of the talking and all of the media, there is still a massive gap from the media and celebrities talking about it to the actual front line – but that’s where CALM comes in. Their call centre and their voice and their communication hub can help them and signpost them.”

The TdTV is open to anyone who wants to ride...

The TdTV is open to anyone who wants to ride…

Over the last five years CALM has grown from a handful of full-time staff to an office of 20 working full-time. In that time they’ve recieved increasing support and seen steady growth thanks to not only the likes of Marcus but also the work of Princes William and Harry, who promote the cause through the Royal Foundation.

For Marcus and Nelson’s family, the annual sportive is a way to remember and celebrate Nelson’s life, and to make his tragic story into a power for good.

“We get a lot of people along who have just entered the event and then they hear Nelson’s story and it creates a real positive legacy,” Marcus said.

“People come and talk about him and about mental health in a really positive way, and that’s what CALM is about – the message is positive. It’s brash, it’s upbeat, it’s direct, and that’s what we want the event to be. We want it to be a positive memory and turning something really negative for the family into something positive.

“We just need to keep talking about mental health and CALM and promoting it online and telling blokes that it’s alright to come out and talk about it. As soon as someone starts talking they realise they’re not alone. And that’s the most important thing.”

For more information about CALM, the Tour de Test Valley, and how to enter the sportive, check out their official website

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The post Nelson’s Tour de Test Valley | Too Many Men Are Suffering in Silence With Depression. This Cycling Sportive Aims to Change That appeared first on Mpora.