Keeping it Real in Chicago


So often, fashion photography falls into the realm of escapist fantasy, proposing scenarios cut loose from any mooring in reality. Because children and teens (adults too) aren’t taught to be critical consumers of images, this can be problematic. Despite Cindy Sherman and Photoshop, millions still believe on some level that models actually look like they do in the advertisements.

I see the trend toward street fashion photography, epitomized by The Satorialist and published by Vogue.com and The New York Times, as a welcome alternative. I may enjoy a sip of escapism now and then, but mostly I want the sartorially-driven images I consume to look like slightly more glamorous versions of my friends and me – as if the photographer found regular women looking their prettiest. Specifically, women I can identify with.

This is why I love Bike Fancy, a cycling-focused side project of Chicago-based Martha Williams photography. Part portrait, part documentary, part fashion photo (with a dash of activism), Martha’s posts include interviews with riders about what they’re wearing, what they’re riding, their favorite routes, and what they think would make their city more bikeable. In short – everything I always want to ask more experienced cyclists.


What first endeared Bike Fancy to me were the images of smiling, confident women conquering Chicago’s snowy streets. I fed myself a steady diet of Martha’s portraits this past winter when my family thought I was crazy to tackle winter biking in Minneapolis. “Look,” I told people, “my friends and I are not crazy and we are not the only ones who do this.” “Look,” I told myself, “these women look beautifully happy! They keep saying that it’s not that bad.”

Thanks, Martha, for sharing your lovely images, and for amassing a huge collection of cycling tips from a biking community with legitimate winters.


2 comments on “Keeping it Real in Chicago

  1. “Cut loose from any mooring.” I can’t imagine a better opening line. Thanks for the great pics and writing throughout the blog!

  2. I love Bike Fancy! Great slice of real female cyclists.

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