Thursday, March 4, 2010

Ten Minutes with Motivity Photographer Rolf Hagberg

I met Rolf Hagberg sometime in the 1990's when he was working with Jeff Frey and Associates here in Duluth. It seems like whenever I was at Jeff's commercial photography studio for a shoot, Rolf was either entering or emerging from the darkroom.

Jeff had assembled a strong team, and many top Twin Ports photographers have been under his wing or associated with his studio in one way or another. Because of the high caliber of their work Jeff Frey and Associates has also become a key resource for many of the region's top artists (for example, internationally acclaimed water colorist Chee and the crayon artist Don Marco) who use the studio for high level reproductions and giclee prints.

During a recent visit, to get my Portrait of Chief Sitting Bull painting scanned, Jeff mentioned that Rolf was now (among other things) doing some remarkable bicycle photography. Remarkable is an understatement. The work has to be seen to be believed.

This week I caught up with Rolf and, among other things, we compared life notes. He showed me a few photos he'd taken and how they're being presented. The images are striking, and the presentation really shines. Over a bowl of hobo soup I picked his brain a bit about the work he's now doing. The bicycle photo business now has a name: Motivity.

Ennyman: How did you get into shooting bicycle photography?

RH: I've been a commercial photographer for almost 25 years, so I've been around photography a long time. My youngest stepdaughter, in her late 20's, is married to guy in Colorado who's a big time mountain bike guy. So, they're mountain bikers now, and a few years ago I thought I would make some art pictures for Christmas for them. So, I kind of just took a couple of my bikes and took them into the studio and started playing around, spinning wheels and tires, and having flashes go and putting hot lights on them, and trying to do all these different things. Eventually that led to me doing more outside events, where I would bring a number of people together that had bikes, and we'd find a spot that had a background that would work. There's a process using available light and tungsten, which are continuous light sources, and then a big flash at the end to kind of combine all of those things to make it work.

E: So you've been doing bike art for a while.

RH: Yeah, a few years. Last February of 2009, I had a show at One on One Bike Shop down on Washington Avenue in Minneapolis, and I hung 43 prints. The biggest were 2 feet by 5 feet, and then a lot of them were 11 x 14, 16 x 20, and they were framed, matted, glass, and then I had a number of this gallery wrap style. Everybody kind of liked those more.

E: And "gallery wrap" is a presentation format?

RH: Yeah, it's actually a style. It kind of talks about it here in this brochure, and on the website it even shows close up pictures. They take the print and then they wrap the image around that, so that it continues to show, and then these are printed on a metallic paper so the spokes and the white parts and the silver parts just really pop. It's really fun. It's kind of the whole other side of the Giclees. Super Duper, they're real archival. They have a coating laminated over them. They're 100 year prints and you can just wipe them off with a rag. It's kind of a combination between sign technology and art, but these bike guys just went, "Cool, we want this." They don't want pictures that look like their mom got them in the grocery store. So, that show went well. I sold some stuff, made some nice leads and kind of followed up. I also had, I don't have any more, I had 2 big prints that sold at Art Resources gallery down in the International Market Square and I'm working with them to try to do more bigger installations and more corporate venues, because the prints are real scalable. You can take one of these images and make it big as a wall. You could make it wallpaper and it would have a nice pattern.

E: What about books, do you think a book of your photography would go over? You've got some really great shots.

RH: Could be, could be. The goal, or not the goal but the market, I think, and a number of other guys think, is bike enthusiasts who have 3, 4, 5000 dollar bicycles sitting in their garages... and what do they have on their walls? Who knows, probably nothing really cool that's bike oriented. So there's a good market to try to do that. I've been talking with Steve Flagg, the source behind Quality Bike Products in Minneapolis. They're a wholesaler, huge wholesaler -- one of the biggest in the country -- and he feels there's a market for this, too, and he would love to be my wholesale distribution guy, so if we could kind of figure out what size and what type of images and how to sell it, he could push it out to his San Francisco guys, or his Dallas guy, whatever. We'd pick half a dozen or 10 different shops and we'd start to try to move some prints that way, make it bigger and bigger and bigger. Everybody in the world has a relationship with a bicycle.

E: We all remember our first bike.

RH: Yeah, in developing countries and in other parts of the world it's even bigger.

E: Our church is trying to raise money for bicycles for people in Africa who are doing ministry. What about your first bike, what was your first bike?

RH: The first bike I bought was, well, my first bike was probably a Huffy, kind of a single speed, smaller red kind of thing. But the first bike that I ever bought, that I saved my paper route money for was a Schwinn Varsity. It was 10 speed. It was purple, one that would have been early '60's probably, maybe '64, '65.

E: Are you from Minnesota originally?

RH: Yep, born and raised in St. Paul.

E: Thanks for your time, and for letting us show some of your stuff. Good luck with your efforts to put your work in front of a wider audience. It's worthy.

Check it out:

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