Q & A with Torsten Kjellstrand of PDXCross

Cross Crusade '08 - Alpenrose-12.jpg

Torsten Kjellstrand
(Photo © J. Maus)

The seasoned crew of professional photographers that publish the PDXCross blog are back at it again for 2009. Last year, “the improbable group of un-hipsters” established their site as a must-visit destination following the weekend’s cross action.

Their photographs are poignant, expressive, exciting, and funny — and that’s just a few of the many words that describe them.

With the 2009 season already underway (and the big Cross Crusade opener this Sunday), I caught up with PDXCross photographer Torsten Kjellstrand (who also happens to race now and again) for a little Q & A. Below he shares more about their reception by the community, the photos themselves, the PDXCross team, and more.

2008 was a great year for PDXCross. You earned a lot of kudos for your work. Was that reception unexpected?

When we started pdxcross, we didn’t really know what to expect. Mostly, we were hungry to have some freedom as photographers, and cyclocross seemed like a lively, interesting place to give that a spin — especially since many of us were planning to come race the Cross Crusade series in any case.

What about covering the cyclocross scene last year surprised you most?

What surprised the most was the reception our photographs received in the cyclocross community. We showed the mud, the smiles, the crashes, the weird little side shows, as much as we could lay our eyes on. In some communities, that would get you a reputation as a gadfly. In this community, it made people laugh. That made us laugh, and it made us want to continue to make pictures.

Can you give us an update on who makes up the PDXCross team (and what their roles are)?

We’re a loose bunch of friends who make pictures, design websites and pages, and write. The regular crew of photographers are Pamela Royal and her husband Jamie Francis, Mike Davis, Torsten Kjellstrand, and Tim Labarge. Deb Pang Davis designed and manages our websites as well as our book with her husband Mike Davis. Heidi Swift sometimes swoops in to write something that makes us seem way more hip than we are. Photographer Rob Finch needs a year to tend to his growing family with his wife Fran Genovese, also a web and publication designer, he won’t be regularly making photos at the races this year. We still hang with him, mostly so we can see his sweet new daughter.

The PDXCross crew.
(L to R: Mike Davis, Rob Finch, Pamela Royal, Torsten Kjellstrand, Tim LaBarge. Seated is Jamie Francis)

I noticed some changes to the website. Is there anything else new this year that you have planned?

The challenge now is for us to find some kind of sweet spot that continues what we’ve done, yet also finds ways for us to see in new ways. So, we’ll be trying some new ways of telling stories, some new kinds of photography, some new ways of covering the sport and the culture around it. We hope something cool happens along the way, and we’re willing to risk making fools of ourselves, too. I mean, we’re hanging around people who play in the mud, after all.

Deb Pang Davis has worked to make our website more gallery-like. We hope the new look presents our work in a way that is easier for our friends who come see our work, and we hope it allows us some more flexibility in presenting individual pictures, picture stories, essays, and such. Look for mid-week madness, too, every so often, just to keep us jazzed for the coming weekend.

How’s the book doing (they released a compilation of their photos, Dirty Pictures, at the end of last season)?

As far as we know, Dirty Pictures has not been banned anywhere, which kind of disappoints us. We continue to sell a few here and there.

Where can folks expect to see you this year?

Bicycling and photography are our pasttimes, so Real Life sometimes reaches out and holds us back from being at a race. But it would be an unusual race that didn’t have at least one pdxcross photographer lurking about. We’ll be at Oregon Manifest photographing the Builder’s Challenge Race, and we’ll be all-hands-on-deck for Nationals in Bend in mid December, with a gallery of photographs downtown and some slide shows from each day of racing.

Between now and then, we’re going to have some laughs and, we hope, make some photos that people enjoy.

Portland is lucky to have such talent behind the lens covering our ‘cross scene. Check out PDXCross.com for the latest galleries.

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor)

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor)

Founder of BikePortland (in 2005). Father of three. North Portlander. Basketball lover. Car owner and driver. If you have questions or feedback about this site or my work, feel free to contact me at @jonathan_maus on Twitter, via email at maus.jonathan@gmail.com, or phone/text at 503-706-8804. Also, if you read and appreciate this site, please become a supporter.

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14 years ago

If the yahoo who was using a flash on the S-es by the Velodrome reads this, please take pictures next week using available light.

14 years ago

Hats off to Torsten, Mike, Rob, Tim, Jaimie & Co for pushing the bar with their wonderful photographs. They are amazingly good at capturing the soul of cyclocross, and not just what’s happening on the course. Glad that they’ll be around for another season!

14 years ago

Ditto on the kudos. Great site and great end of year book. Keep up the great work!