This photo is rotting on my hard drive. I like it, but it’s unusable. It’s not the composition, the exposure, or the rider that kills the photo. It’s the fact that Andrew Bigelow never landed this tailwhip. There’s an unwritten rule in action sports photography that if the trick wasn’t pulled the photo doesn’t run. It makes sense, but it renders this image totally useless.
“The only gray area is when someone films a trick (without shooting a photo) and then they go back to shoot it,” says Jeff Zielinkski, associate editor at Transworld’s Ride BMX magazine. “If they come close (putting a foot down, not totally crashing) but can’t pull it again, and if the trick in the photo looks the same as when the rider pulled it for video, it’s not entirely off limits. Technically, they did do it. As long as the rider doesn’t look like they are doing the trick better than the first time, because then, the photo would be exaggerating what really happened. Like I said, it’s a gray area.”
There’s no gray area here. Bigelow didn’t pull it. He probably could now. He could probably double whip it now.
But the fate of an image like this is to sit on a hard drive, not even collecting dust. Just disappearing into digital oblivion, a gathering of zeros and ones, undistinguishable from a billion other kilobytes.
It’s a sad demise for what started with so much potential; the cumulative amount of work, travel, planning, timing and practice that went into this shot is staggering. But the nano-second after this image was created, Bigelow crashed. And with that crash, all hope for the future of this photo vanished.
So why is it so hard to hit delete? Why do I still have this file?
They say in this digital age there are 2500 photos taken every second. That’s something like 78 billion images a year.
But to each of us, as individuals, every image represents more than just a bunch of pixels; they’re like a time machine transporting us backwards. Offering a glimpse of who we used to be.
And I guess that’s why I can’t delete this file. I don’t see Bigelow’s failing here; I see his potential and all the above-mentioned effort. He has since become one of Ontario’s best freestyle mountain bike riders and I guess, owning this file means I’ll always be able to say to him, “Remember when you couldn’t land a tailwhip?”
Here’s some of Andrew’s latest riding: