My good friend Ben Wentzel I’ve known for a very long time, since our days riding BMX with the same friends when we both lived in Philadelphia. Now, years later, we’re both working photographers/lighting technicians/digital techs here in New York City. We’re only a few degrees apart, and I couldn’t respect Ben more for the mutual respect and mutual support we share as good friends. Ben has been killing it lately, and traveling as much as he can when work schedules and money align. It’s not always easy when you work for yourself and want to spend your time traveling and shooting photos. I know the struggle all too well. Ben shot some amazing photos during his time in BCN and hell, here’s his story on his trip…
Barcelona began for me as a bored eighth grade student paging through a copy of Ride BMX magazine while my teacher droned on about “Of Mice and Men”. An article on the BMX utopian city of Barcelona instilled an ambition to find this, at the time, unreachable paradise. Many years later a pairing of new financial liberation and a bet drawn up over quite a few beers finally introduced me to the winding alleys of that Mediterranean city. My good friend Jesus and I were searching for a destination that expressed a completely opposite view toward BMX than Brooklyn had for us. Brooklyn being a home to overly skate stopped ledges, uncompromising police and a fairly bland approach to architecture. In short we wanted a vacation, but one built around what we enjoyed most, riding BMX.
The idea that public space is subject to the interpretation of the individual, within reason of course, lives well in the Catalonian city. An overly used analogy and deservedly so is to say that the city is comprised like a level from the video game Tony Hawk Pro Skater. There are enough variations of rails, banks and ledges to occupy oneself on a single city block for far longer than any timespan Expedia could conjure up. On our first day in the city, shortly after building our bikes from the large flight bags we travelled with, we cruised the uncharted streets and alleys in search of a tire pump. We wanted to waste no time digging into this momentous treat laid out before us. No longer than 10 minutes from setting out we were introduced to fellow riders who took us to the pump that would have taken us all day to find, even with luck. In no time we were being treated like brothers and our new friends would subsequently show us a side of the city only those who’ve grown up there would know.
During this past September Jesus and I made a return trip, this time with my brother joining us. Carrying the knowledge of our favorite bars, favorite spots to ride and of course where the best foods like Paella and Fideua can be found left us with an unachievable “to do” list. I can only speak for Myself in saying that the best part of our return was not cruising through the ancient alleys once again or riding the incredible spots, but revisiting the relationships we had formed the year prior. Through a simple connection like BMX, opportunities like conversing over a home cooked meal with our friend’s family may otherwise go inexperienced. I wouldn’t have shared the unspoken bond of being trusted to tag along and shoot these new friends painting graffiti without the relationship thats formed over a BMX bike. I traveled to Spain just to ride my bike but I feel incredibly lucky that a city like Barcelona could befriend us in the way it did.