Photographer and athlete Andrea Schilirò does what most of us only dream of doing. He prioritises to have fun.
”Ciao Silje, I’m stuck at the moment with the storm in the south area, I think I can make it maybe 10 minutes later”, the text signed Andrea reads. We look out at the sky that just a few minutes before bursted open with heavy rain. No way that ride from downtown and up to Isola would take 10 minutes. To our surprise it just takes a couple of minutes before Andrea rides up to us. Drenching wet he smiles and lets us know that he lives just around the corner, and that he will be back in a few moments. When we sit down and start chatting 20 minutes after the initial text, we are sure of one thing. With Andrea Schilirò, things move fast.
“I’m from Rome, which is a huge city with a lot of traffic and hills. When I moved to Milan 16 years ago to work as a photographer I discovered that the city was really small and completely flat. It was only natural that I started to cycle,” he tells us.
Back in Rome he used to ride BMX but quickly realised that he would not be able to use that for commuting in Milan.
“I was in New York for work when I spotted a fixed gear bike. To me it looked like a large version of a BMX: no cables, no brakes, no anything, just super simple. With the help of a friend I built one up for myself. That was 12 years ago and nobody was riding fixed gears in Milan”, he says. “The fixie is easy to like. It is a crank, a frame and two wheels, and your done”, he says clapping his hands as to demonstrate just how straight forward it really is. Or it could be that he just felt like he had to move. That is the other thing that you quickly come to learn about Andrea: he is unable to sit still. At least for the 35 minutes our conversation lasts. His passion for cycling and everything he does is inspiring and obvious through every fibre of his being. Or as he himself puts it:
“When I find something that I really enjoy I want to share it. It is the same as when I find a really cool pizza place. I want to tell all my friends about it and recommend them to check it out. I’m really enthusiastic about everything that I do. I do everything with an open heart. If I like something you’ll see it and if I don’t like it you will definitely see it.”
He started riding more and more, and even did some work as a bike courier. Not for a bike messenger company like the ones we know today though. Andrea was riding for a traditional messenger company where all of his colleagues were on scooters.
“Back then traffic to me was like “lets do this”. It was fun, like playing a video game. You need to find the smoothest line through the city.”
His bike became his regular companion on photo shoot and championships all around the world. At the same time he shifted from working with fashion to doing more sports photography. Taking advantage of his background he started shooting for BMX, skateboarding and snowboarding. Instead of just using light as a practical necessarily, he put the light-set up for fashion and used the light to draw images.
He started getting more into sports on a personal level as well, riding longer and harder. Day by day he wanted to go further.
“We did a big trip in Australia, where we went from Perth to Melbourne. That is like 4 500 km. After that I started riding a proper bike. I continued with the fixie, but when I would go up in the mountains I would use a different bike. I started to enjoy riding more and more”.
Today Andrea is a Rapha ambassador and combines his riding with travelling and photography. Still he follows the fun and the stuff he likes, a lifestyle that colours his entire being.
“You have to do the stuff that gives you pleasure. I can still take an assistant job on a shoot just because I like it. If it comes down to it I prefer to have 500 Euros in the bank instead of 5000 if it means that I can have more fun or do the things that I really like. I will rather have a few jobs each month and time to enjoy life instead of making a lot of money”.