In pictures: Cycling 5,000 miles in a city of change

Published
Image source, Geoffrey Hiller

In early 2020, a month before the coronavirus took hold in the US, Geoffrey Hiller bought an electric bicycle to explore the wider area around his home in Portland, Oregon.

Over the course of the year, he cycled almost 5,000 miles, observing as the city was shaken by the pandemic, frequent protests against police brutality, and nearby wildfires.

A documentary photographer for nearly 50 years, Hiller decided to use his smartphone camera as he cycled through streets and surrounding countryside, while the world around him changed.

"I found myself photographing more landscapes than people, as I usually do," he says.

"Some of the images appear pastoral, but that shouldn't hide what is often taking place behind the facade."

Here is a selection of Hiller's photographs and comments, as he reflects on a year spent cycling around a changing city.

Image source, Geoffrey Hiller

"In the middle of March, our governor imposed a 'shelter in place' order for Portland residents.

"The weather was exceptionally mild and the cherry blossoms were in full bloom along the Willamette River Waterfront Park, one of the most popular bike paths that run through the city.

"It felt like any other day of the year.

Image source, Geoffrey Hiller

"Portland has taken a huge hit on many levels since the pandemic.

"The city used to have a reputation for being such a liveable place, but that has definitely changed.

"These local high school students have not attended classes in person since last March."

Image source, Geoffrey Hiller
Image source, Geoffrey Hiller

"I saw this on the way to Oregon City and almost fell off of my bike.

"I didn't ask how it happened, but the driver came out without a scratch."

Image source, Geoffrey Hiller
Image source, Geoffrey Hiller

"The number of people living on the streets has multiplied.

"Below the freeway across from downtown, a non-profit organisation set up individual mini-pods for the homeless.

Image source, Geoffrey Hiller

"In June, when protests were turning violent in downtown Portland, I got into the habit of riding my bike to a retreat centre a few miles from my home.

"It felt like an antidote to all of the chaos happening in the city.

"For five months straight, people were out every night demonstrating.

"What began as a protest in a three-block radius around the federal building spread to other parts of the city.

"It was an extremely tense time in the middle of the pandemic.

Image source, Geoffrey Hiller

"Normally, long lines of people are waiting for food in front of St Andre Bessette Church.

"Riding down from the west hills of Portland in early December, I was shocked to see a desolate downtown, in part because of the stay-at-home order."

Image source, Geoffrey Hiller

"In September, forest fires raged through the state of Oregon.

"Most Portland residents stayed indoors because of the smoke and poor air quality.

Image source, Geoffrey Hiller
Image source, Geoffrey Hiller

"I've ridden 5,000 miles in less than a year and even now, during the winter season, I continue to feel energised riding and discovering new places.

"There is something about watching the world go by, while getting a workout, that does something to your endorphins.

"One of the prerequisites for being a photographer is having strong feet - with a bike, it's having strong legs."

All photographs by Geoffrey Hiller.

Related Topics