Monday, April 14, 2014

A bike, a camera and plenty of time: Nick Hand's Conversations on the Hudson.

Every now and then, you meet someone who does something so perfect you wonder why you never thought of it. That's the way I felt when I first stumbled across the book Conversations on the Hudson a few weeks ago at a book store in Rhinebeck. This small, hardbound book is filled with gorgeous photographs that illustrate the stories and interviews author Nick Hand shares of the 20 artists and artisans he meets in his cycling journey from Brooklyn to Hudson Falls north of Albany. Nick's tale is a magical one in which he finds interesting creative people all throughout the Hudson Valley with wonderful stories to tell.

Conversations on the Hudson is not Nick's first project. He accomplished a similar (if more ambitious) journey several years ago in his native Britain. More information and photos from that project, known as Slowcoast, can be found on his website here. The book that grew from the Slowcoast project, entitled Conversations on the Coast, can be purchased through his publisher's website (and presumably in a few book shops in Britain). Another feature of Nick's brilliance is his creation of "soundslides," which are short films that include photos from each interview accompanied by the audio he captures during each interview in which his subjects describing their lives, work and passions. Think Studs Turkel for the 21st Century on a bike with a gorgeous visual sensibility.  Once you start watching these, I guarantee you will become hooked. Warning: they are quit addictive. You cannot watch just one.

British clothing designer Paul Smith discusses his life-long passion for cycling.

A tea taster explains the intricacies of his work.

A collector discusses the history of cycling in Britain from the earliest days.

A hat maker enjoys making people happy.

My lovely wife picked up a copy of this book for me several weeks ago at Oblong Books in Rhinebeck and when I noticed that Nick was coming to town to do a reading, I quickly added the event to my calendar. I knew the best way to attend a reading about cycling the length of the Hudson Valley was by bicycle and luckily the weather cooperated. With temperatures reaching the high 70s I was able to ride with a short sleeve jersey for the first time this season. After being held up by some computer troubles at home, I took advantage of some fabulous tailwinds as I rode north to the bridge making great time and turning what might have been a lazy saunter into a full-out sprint.

Miraculously, I made the 19 miles to Rhinebeck in about 1:04 and arrived in plenty of time to find a seat and settle in for a very enjoyable talk as Nick read from his book and showed several soundslides he created on his journey. Nick was joined by Ken Greene of the Hudson Valley Seed Library who's featured in the book and who told us about his fascinating work preserving heirloom seed varieties in the region. After the talk, I introduced myself to Nick, had my book signed and took off to cycle to Vassar College 20 miles to the south where I met my wife and daughter for a performance by the amazing ZviDance Company.

Another great day in the Hudson Valley. Nick reads from his book at the Rapha Cycling Club in NYC on Wednesday evening. Check it out if you're in town.

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