Kevin, tell us the story behind these photos– where were they taken and how?
My good friend Sukeun (the manager of the infamous City Cycles bicycle shop/racing team that Keith Haring did the store logo for) and I drove from NYC to Colorado Springs in 1986 for the Professional World Champion Cycling road race. The race happens once a year at the end of the professional racing season and features all the top racers from each and every country, which meant all our cycling heroes would be making a very rare appearance in the US. Sean Kelly, Francesco Moser, Guiseppe Sarroni, Greg Lemond, Laurent Fignon, Bernard Hinualt, and many more would be racing. This was the same year Greg Lemond became the first American to win the Tour de France.
It was quite the road trip, and like most road trips that you do without your parents, the car broke down. Luckily, Sukeun could fix anything–and he did–but it took me riding a folding bike (yes, we packed one) to find a nearby mall with a Sears that had an enormous selection of Craftsman tools that I swiftly purchased and then pedaled back to Sukeun who was eagerly awaiting my return. We finally arrived the day before the race and as we drove into Colorado Springs we found ourselves driving on the actual race course. We came across some riders out on the course training and it was as if we just spotted Bigfoot: it was Bernard Hinualt himself, the five time Tour de France champion.
Needless to say, I popped out of the sunroof of our now smoothly-running VW Rabbit and started snapping away. It was probably the most exciting moment in my photographic career, which hadn’t really started yet since I was still a photo assistant in NYC. When I sat back down in the car, after experiencing a thrill of a lifetime, I became very nervous. Silly me, I had Kodachrome film in my camera. Basically, I had a bag of leftover film from shoots with photographers I had worked with. Most photographers I worked with at the time shot with Ektachrome film. Ektachrome–EPR as it was better known– was great; you could have the lab snip off a piece of the film and develop it and tell you if your exposure was good. If the exposure was off, they could then alter the developing and correct your exposure.
Kodachrome was different, clip tests were unheard of, and it was a different process entirely. So you better get the shot the first time, or else: a nail biting experience that photographers in this digital age have never experienced. Well, it turned out that I did get the right exposure and caught the moment: one of my favorite photos.
How did taking these images compare to your commercial work?
Sometimes you get lucky enough to photograph your heroes, like these pro cyclists. I was really excited about photographing them, just like the time I photographed Russ Meyer, one of my other heroes.
Kevin, you’re a NYC fashion world icon: give us a fashion story!
I’m no fashion icon but I worked with a few. I remember I was working for Steven Meisel as a photo assistant. The job was photographing Mick Jagger for Rolling Stone. Steven loved doing photos with energy and motion. He also loved shooting with a 4×5 camera which can be tricky since you are not looking through the camera when the actual shot is taken. That is why we shot so much Polaroid film, we could see what we were getting in 90 seconds–or less if you had hot armpits to speed up the development. I’m not joking.
The shot idea was to have Mick look over his shoulder really quickly, as if we had just called his name. You can imagine: Mick was loving this, dressed in a brightly colored Stephen Sprouse jacket, the wind blowing in his hair, and every time he turned his head towards us, he had another great MJ expression. We had just shot a bunch of 4×5 polaroids. The 4×5 polaroids were big in comparison to the typical polaroid. They have a luscious smooth tonal color range that everyone looked good on. The light was beautiful, the colors bright and energetic. The anticipation of opening the first Polaroid was huge. This was Mick f*cking Jagger, dude! I opened the first Polaroid: I knew, as a rule, to make sure Steven saw the Polaroid first, cause you just never know. First Polaroid open, handed it to Steven, RIPPPP, second Polaroid open, RIPPPP, and so on. Other early lesson learned, always keep your expression the same, so no one can read what you are thinking or seeing and I was thinking a lot!! Apparently, the movement of Mick’s head was a bit too fast– the polaroids sort of looked like those jet pilots when the G force pushes back their facial skin back to their ears. Not attractive! A very awkward moment to say the least when you rip up all the Polaroids and you have Mick Jagger looking at you, like WTF? We trashed the movement idea and the rest is history.
Do you think NYC today is a good place for cycling?
Cycling in NYC is not easy and can be quite dangerous but I actually think I would rather ride the streets of New York than a lot of other cities.
One thing about NYC is that there are so many people riding bicycles that cabs and buses are somewhat used to cyclists buzzing around them all day. In cities with less cycling traffic, the cars, buses, and trucks are not used to you and don’t know how to react when navigating around a cyclist.
Central Park is a great place to ride, at very particular times. Apparently, some cyclists don’t know that when the park is busy it is not a good time to ride. A few cyclists make us all look pretty stupid. When the park is quiet, it is such a pleasure to circle the park. I must say the bike paths are best thing since sliced bread! I rode for so many years in NYC without the bike paths and cannot imagine cycling life without them. Also, for the energetic types, we have many miles of scenic riding across the GW Bridge in NJ, which is not NYC but is so accessible that thousands of cyclists do it every weekend.
Enough about cycling: you’re a longtime hockey player. How ’bout those Rangers?
Yes, Im very excited how the Rangers are playing. I’m very impressed the way they are coming together. This could be our year!
Lets Go Rangers!! Clap, clap,clap clap clap!! Lets go Rangers!! Clap, Clap, clap clap clap!!
See more of Kevin Hatt’s work here. His show at Rapha Cycle Club, 64 Gansevoort Street, NYC, will be up through Jan 31!