I had unconsciously acknowledged their presence as I walked the streets of Paris. At any time of day or night, rain or shine, their two-wheeled silhouettes would whizz past me, barely noticed. Within a few months, food delivery riders have come to occupy an important place in our lives. I wanted to get to know the stories of those about whom we know next to nothing, except the shape of their instantly recognizable, multicolored insulated bags. Do we see them as migrants? Undocumented workers?
Quick and always on the move, it wasn’t easy to catch them or gain their trust. It would take months to encounter the same rider again, since their job allows for little personal time: “I’ve got almost no life,” one rider told me. They described their working conditions: the rules they must follow, dictated by a gig economy built on an unsustainable model—the mandatory on-call hours; the diligence required to maintain one’s statistics; the dangers of a job that forces workers to take risks in order to gain speed and reach profitability.
Then I discovered the stories of the men who are on the job for different reasons, but each following a dream. Their itineraries were mapped by circumstance; their narratives were touching, and sometimes full of hardship. As I made more portraits, I wanted to stop making assumptions and record their life-stories. I wanted to nourish these encounters with my presence just as much as their images made an impression on my film.