From the streets of Barcelona to the peaks of the Alps: the heterogeneous cycling lens of Albert Gallego

This is a photo of a Simca 1000 taking a corner on two wheels. A photo my father took about 30 years ago. We lived in a village near Girona where they used to make rally car races. My father always liked car races, and as an amateur, he would go there to take pictures. The camera he used, a Konica T4, was always at home, and without knowing how it worked, I liked to “play with it and which one I’m still using. I wonder if playing with that camera made me years later; I would end up working as a photographer through graffiti. It was the early 2000s, and Barcelona was a war with graffiti and graffiti writers, so we would move among the abandoned factories outside the city. That’s when I started to take pictures of what we painted in those abandoned factories to have different images than just the wall. Of us painting, of the space, we were in, etc. From there, I started photographing the world of hip-hop, rap artists, breakdancers, and graffiti writers… I started to do things more focused on advertising photoshoots until the golden age of fixed gear came to Barcelona.”

Albert Gallego’s cycling compositions combine sporting tumult and sublime scenery, emotional jolts and lights capable of communicating, explaining, and empowering each moment, placing it in an inspired gallery of speed and fatigue. Known as ‘Brazo de Hierro’ because of a broken humerus, this Spanish photographer is defining contemporary cycling imagery, especially urban cycling, tying himself to iconic brands like Dosnoventa and making his lens dance between fixed gear and professional riding. His quest, which began without brakes, has continued among pro teams such as CANYON/SRAM, NESTA and EF Education-a quest that always takes on the connotations of two wheels.

“In Barcelona there was a big fixie boom at the turn of the 21st century. I immediately fell in love and joined other riders, so I started riding all over Barcelona and Catalonia. Then I got informed, studied and discovered the bike messenger concept, the heritage and the meaning of this job, which also became mine for some time. During the 2008 crisis, however, I was laid off and so I focused totally on photography, alternating between concerts, music covers, velodromes, criteriums and urban cycling. And urban cycling is synonymous with Dosnoventa. I’ve been connected to this company for a long time now, and I’m realizing more and more how it is becoming better known and more celebrated everywhere. If you have a Dosnoventa bike, you have a specific status. Whether you are in Madrid or Copenhagen, people recognize this brand and the riders connected to it. For example, I have recently been in London, working for Dosnoventa and photographing their collaboration with the clothing brand MAHARISHI. For this shooting we portraied the rider Duke Agyapong-one of the iconic riders of the best era of fixed gear. Dosnoventa is phenomenal in building distinctive imagery around its products, and I am very proud to be part of this process.”

And the imagery created by ‘Brazo de Hierro’ is a thrilling cycling sequence plan capable of combining macro and micro, details like the goosebumps of a cyclist and huge natural sets like the verdant Spanish hills. Each shot in his production manages to be synecdoche of the two-wheeled universe and its infinite reflections. Fashion, World Tour, metropolitan streets, Alps… Albert’s lens succeeds in uniting very distant scenarios-an operation made possible by his distinct aesthetic and, of course, cycling sensibility.

I want to stimulate observers to visit a place, I want to inspire them to explore with their bikes the natural sceneries that I portray and that I face while cycling. I think for example of the Pyrenees or the French Alps, where I developed the ‘Among the Giants’ project. In the midst of those giants you feel you are on another planet, where nothing is easy but everything is wonderful. At the same time I want to show the huge alternation of emotions and reactions of each cyclist. The body language, the position on the saddle…. Everything reveals the suffering, the joy, the state of mind of an athlete on two wheels. I recently started following professional teams, both men’s and women’s, and decided to respectfully show the normalcy of what many consider superhuman and focus on those moments of their performances that are often snubbed by more canonical photographers. I didn’t know how I would fare in the racing universe, because I don’t consider myself a sports photographer, but I’m enjoying it and I’m getting great feedback, which encourages me to continue on this path. Outside the world of cycling racing, when I have to work for brands of clothing, accessories, or bikes, it is closer to fashion than the competition. In racing, you must be in the right place at the right time. But in commercial shooting for brands, you must take care of every detail. Models, lighting, location, or the preparation of the whole shooting. Sometimes I have to work with models who don’t know how to ride a bike or cyclists who are models but need to know how to pose in front of the camera. You must deal with things like that to get what the brands ask for.”

The aesthetic synergy between urban and professional cycling is a new global trend that, undeniably, finds in the lens of ‘Brazo de Hierro’ one of the most prolific and convincing interpreters: a synergy that is spread out on various levels, as Albert himself confirms, telling us about many founding members of the global fixie community who, today, find themselves heading the upper echelons of major cycling companies. Mixed in his testimony is nostalgia for kaleidoscopic events such as the Red Hook Crit and realism related to a present that needs his eye to continue the fusion of metropolitan style and Great Classics, but also to narrate situations much larger than races and rides, such as the recent pandemic.

I remember with some nostalgia incredible events like the Red Hook Crit. It was the highlight of the year, it allowed me to meet and connect with fixed-gear lovers, to go to parties with them…. I am grateful to have fully experienced events like that. So many of those participants have now entered the cycling industry and are in a wide variety of roles. All these people who come from fixed gear and are currently in the cycling industry are a breath of fresh air in this sport, which was necessary. These people from the fixie community helped this overall evolution a lot, and all the ties we had formed in the past are coming back cyclically for shared projects and ideas. I am happy because my work allows me to be constantly in touch with something I love and feel an active part of, because I also ride a lot during the year. To date, my most recognized and awarded project has been the atypical ‘Life Behind Lockdown,’ in which I acted as a remote director of photography-I contacted various cyclists, professional, non-professional, or amateur, that during the lockdown couldn’t leave the house to training outside. Then, I explained to them how I needed to set up the cameras to make the series of photos I had in mind. Now I’m focusing on the cyclocross season, I may return to Belgium, and I already have several personal projects in progress, among other works, that will soon see the light.”

Photo Credits: @Brazo de
IG @Brazo de Hierro
Text by Gianmarco Pacione