Photo: Adam Corbett

When Adam Corbett first heard about Bikestormz he didn't realize it was a project he'd be sticking with long-term – but five years later, the photographer and filmmaker found himself headed back to document the massive group ride.

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The annual freestyle ride-out brings together thousands of young people in London to raise awareness and protest knife crimes – calling for 'Knives down, bikes up!' This year's route snaked through Central London, with thousands of attendees biking past London's iconic landmarks like St. Paul's Cathedral, Tower Bridge and Big Ben.

DPReview caught up with Corbett to ask about his approach to covering Bikestormz, how it has changed over the years and his advice to working on a long term, ever-evolving photo project.

Photo: Adam Corbett

What was it about the Bikestormz community that was interesting to you and made you want to keep coming back and documenting it?

The ride is all about community and creating change through movement. This is something I’m really passionate about and features a lot in my personal work. In 2018 there was a lot of negative press being thrown at youth culture in London, I really wanted to change that somehow. I saw the potential and creativity within Bikestormz and wheelie culture, I loved how disruptive it was and knew it was a matter of time before it took off in a big way. It felt as though I was at the bleeding edge of a new sport – it still does.
Photo: Adam Corbett

How has your approach to photographing Bikestormz changed over the years?

I definitely began with a documentary approach to the event, immersing myself in the crowds and trying to keep up with the action as it unfolded before my eyes. I wanted the imagery to feel immersive, to give the experience of being on the ride. To capture everything I was shooting fast, jumping between wide and long lenses a lot.
As time passed and the project grew I shifted the focus more toward portraiture. I realized the story behind the bike was one of identity and expression. I wanted to capture the coming of age story and individualism within Bikestormz. For the portraits I began to select subjects that interested me, take them aside away from the crowds and spend a little more time with each of them. Each portrait became more of a conversation and I got to know people properly. Most recently I set up a studio on location at one of the rides.
Photo: Adam Corbett
In previous years how were you traveling once the ride started? Were you shooting from a bike?
I hired a courier company called PedalMe which would come with a driver. I would often be hanging off the side with a single small belt wrapped around my waist to hold me in. I tried shooting whilst cycling once and it was too dangerous to repeat.
Photo: Adam Corbett
This seems like an event where there is a lot going on, what's your process like for connecting with the individuals in the pictures?
Be bold, perceptive and encouraging when approaching for the first time. Be decisive in what you want and if needed take the time to explain your idea. Finally I always try be inclusive and respectful and will capture photos for anyone that asks me, not just the people I select. It only takes a moment and can mean a lot to someone to be included.
Photo: Adam Corbett

When you first attended and photographed Bikestormz did you realize it would become a long term project?

Not exactly, but I knew after the first ride that it would become a long form project of some sort. I never put a time limit on it for a reason either; I knew from the beginning I wanted it to evolve organically and it was as much about the purpose as it was images for me.
Photo: Adam Corbett

What tips would you give to a photographer looking to start a long term photo project or currently in the midst of shooting one?

Have a purpose, message or story you want to communicate before you start and remind yourself of this throughout. It will be your north star and provide intention. For me, the beauty of a long term project is the opportunity to reflect, learn and grow with your story. Plan the shoot, but don't lock yourself down or overcomplicate it – leave room for mistakes, improvise and embrace the imperfect image. Lastly, always focus on quality images you love, and be brutal in your edit. Always ask yourself 'why this image' and don't be afraid to cut it if your answer isn't convincing or if it strays from your original intention.