Under-bikes: Photographing bicycles from Underneath

By Silvija Daniunaite

Every day, thousands of bikes cruise through the streets of The Netherlands, but few people ever stop and wonder what they look like from below.

Andrius Burba, a Lithuanian photographer and founder of the Underlook project, has finally revealed this seldom-seen view of the bicycle, one of the most common artefacts of Dutch culture.

The Underlook project came into being in 2016 when Burba began photographing the soft underbellies of our four-legged friends, including cats, dogs, rabbits, and even horses. This time Burba turned his lens towards the two-wheeled companion of the Dutch.

Just as most first-time visitors of Groningen, the Underlook photography collective was shocked by the vast number of bicycles in every corner of the city. In fact, The Netherlands has the highest bicycle density worldwide, with about 1.2 bikes per inhabitant, which makes it the world’s only nation where bikes outnumber people.

Upon arrival, the Underlook team set up their temporary studio at the Church Mansion, a former monastery now serving as a vibrant student house. Collaborating with LEBLK Apparel and Bikes in Groningen, Burba worked from morning till dusk, documenting the underside of Dutch transport and translating its rich cultural heritage to photography.

© Blksm

Photographing bikes from underneath was a much bigger challenge than Burba initially anticipated. When shooting, he noticed that the majority of typical, worn-out “granny-bikes” had either bent frames or wheels, making it impossible to capture a balanced underside view of the bike. For those, Burba had to photoshop two photographs into one  to stay consistent with the overall concept of the project.

The three-day shoot culminated in 43 intimate bike portraits. The newest Under-bikes series illuminates the never-before-seen character and charisma of Dutch bicycles, ranging from rusty, battered ‘granny-bikes’ to hand-crafted masterpieces.

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In The Netherlands, cycling is an integral part of everyday life, so bikes with rattling mudguards, loose chains, and bent wheels were not a rarity during the photoshoot. Others, however, were more like carefully crafted pieces of art—a metal cruiser bike built entirely out of rusty pliers and wrenches or a fully wooden one decorated with sand-colored linen threads. After the photoshoot, Burba said he was surprised how much a bike can reveal about its owner, becoming a means of expressing one’s identity rather than just a mode of transportation.

For all bike enthusiasts, Underlook is releasing a limited edition of T-shirts, posters, and textile prints, which you can find at their e-store.

More info: Underlook | Facebook |Instagram

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