The photographic record of Ted Simon’s journey
Ted Simon is famous for a motorcycle journey that lasted four years, from 1973 to 1977. His book is believed by many to have changed their lives. Ewan McGregor attributes at least part of the inspiration for his and Charley Boorman’s journey as described in their book, Long Way Round to Jupiter’s Travels. The pair actually met Ted Simon on their journey in Mongolia. The book was published in 1979 and it chronicles Simon’s journey of over 100,000 kilometres (62,000 miles), through 45 countries on a British bike, a 500cc Triumph. The journey was sponsored by The Sunday Times and the Triumph was one of the last bikes to get out the door of the factory before workers at the Meriden Triumph Factory went on strike. A strike that lasted almost two years, until a workers cooperative started manufacturing motorbikes there again.
When Ted Simon, a chemical engineer who became a journalist after his studies, had completed his four year motorcycle journey and gone to his publisher, nobody even enquired of him if he had any photographs of his travels. Thousands of readers wrote to him after reading his book and he says almost nobody asked why there were no photographs included in the book. Now, just a few decades later when we are bombarded with millions of digital images on every media platform, that seems almost incredible to believe. In the past, readers of books and even regular publications were fascinated by what they read, and their “mind’s eye” developed images in their brain to correspond to the story before them. In today’s world we can’t even focus on a subject for more than a few moments. We are so accustomed to instant gratification and many multiples of images on our social media and all the other platforms that we encounter every day.
Ted Simon’s published works include Jupiter’s Travels in 1979; The Gypsy in me in 1997; Riding High in 1998; Dreaming of Jupiter in 2007. In 1973, a friend had recommended bringing a couple of camera bodies and a few lenses on his epic journey and he had brought them along reluctantly. It must have been a right old pain having to lug all this equipment and try to take care of the exposed rolls of film. Nowadays you can scroll through your days’ images and delete anything not worthy of being kept, instead of holding on to roll after roll and hoping that, eventually, when they have been developed, you will have at least a few good ones. In 2013 Ted Simon published a photographic record of his journey around the world from ’73 to ’77. His book “Jupiter’s Travels in Camera” is comprised of three hundred of the pictures that he took on his journey. This is a big book physically as well as a great read. The pictures are stunning and it is amazing that they are of such quality and still so interesting forty years later. I recommend that you get your hands on a copy and I think you won’t be disappointed reading the newly composed words and browsing through the pictures.
The featured image is a photo I took of the front cover of the book and the one of the child wearing the helmet is from the back cover. The other image is to indicate a typical layout of a double page. Original images are not mine, obviously.