On Your Bike with Photographer Bridget Fleming of Downtownfrombehind

Born and bred in Newcastle, New South Wales, Bridget Fleming moved to New York in the winter of 2008. Upon her arrival, the 31 year old bought a secondhand bicycle and started to explore the architecture of downtown Manhattan.

Dividing her days between “riding around and looking up” and teaching herself Final Cut Pro, Fleming began creating streetscape footage and photographing friends riding their bicycles. Her core idea is that by photographing her subjects from behind, it takes away their self-conscious feelings and creates a more humble portrait; the subject shares the limelight with the street.

Fleming set herself a goal of photographing each street below 14th Street in downtown Manhattan and began compiling the photographs for a potential exhibition.  After receiving critical press from The New York TimesThe Huffington Post, and Coolhunting, Fleming used her background in PR and expansive New York networking to secure a meeting at Abrams Books. Within two short days, Fleming had landed herself an offer to have her project printed.

Australian subjects are commonly captured in Fleming’s projects– “The people I’ve photographed can be mapped out in a very interesting family tree, and it’s made me realize how small the Aussie community is in New York,” she says. “If I wasn’t shooting Australians, then they at least know Australians.”

Conversely, Fleming has conducted a few cold calls to subjects that have inspired her, including Robin Standefer and Stephen Alesch of Roman and Williams.“I admire their work and I feel that they have had a significant impact on space and environment in New York,” explains Fleming. In her interview for The New York Times, Fleming mentioned that she was interested in Green Depot founder Sarah Beaty, whose friend forwarded Beaty the article, and the two connected.

Shooting her images certainly has its challenges– the busy streets of downtown of New York being one, and the freezing winters being another. Jamie Massam came off of his bike on the way to the shoot arriving slightly battered and bruised, and Timothy Brennan O’Mall had to receive several stitches after drinking and riding.  While shooting her now boyfriend, designer Evan Clabots (on a 22F (5C) day), Fleming’s fingers became so numb that she couldn’t click the shutter button on her camera. She’s convinced that Clabots’ feeling a bit guilty had something to do with him asking her out a few days later.

Fleming supports her project by shooting street snaps with photographer Sean Cunningham during Fashion Weeks across New York, Milan, Paris and London. She also juggles a variety of photography assignments, most recently working with Marie Claire UK and Lindsey Kelk, a columnist that has written a series of “I Heart” city guides. With her keen fashion eye, Fleming’s style is a mix of international, local (US), and Australian designers. “My all time favorite designer is Isabel Marant,” she says. “But I’m a big advocate for filling in the gaps with a good piece from Zara. You just need to dig.”

Fleming’s love of design extends into her home, and she’s currently immersed in the renovation of the Bushwick, Brooklyn residence that she shares with her boyfriend. She describes the area “like living on the edge of Redfern and Surry Hills, except that Surry Hills hasn’t gotten cool yet.” Another part of Sydney at the forefront of her mind is the beach, an aspect of home that she misses the most. “There’s nothing like diving into a cool deep ocean,” she says. “I haven’t been able to find a pool in Manhattan deeper than four feet.”

Bridget’s food and drink favourites:

Coffee at Abraco –  “I almost hate to give it away! It’s super local, and the coffee is amazing. Saturdays Surf is another gem. It has a great hide out and Mitch makes a killer coffee.

Burger at Black Market – It’s all organic, super tasty, not too big, and there are no sesame seeds on the bun.

Fancy dinner at Goat Town in Alphabet City. The space was designed by Evan and Oliver Haslegrave. It’s a bit of a sleeper because it’s gone under the radar in terms of press…but it’s incredible.  They have a garden out the back, which is almost bigger than the restaurant.  It’s all so fresh, organic and tasty!

By Kate Williams

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