Vladimir Antaki Finds His Philadelphia Guardians

Curtis Anthony | Via Bicycle

The HAHAxParadigm office is located right off of 4th & South and I'd never visited Via Bicycle on 9th & South until prompted by Antaki.  Our entire time together was one inaugural event after another, landing in shops I'd meant to get around to visiting or sadly hadn't noticed.  

Vlad's way of approaching life is a crucial ingredient to the success of his photo series, The Guardians

I don’t plan my days, I let them happen. Each encounter leads me to the next. Planning takes away the excitement. Be open - you miss out on opportunities by being too rigid with life.

Nothing was scheduled or orchestrated ahead of time. We walked for countless hours each day as if we had no prior knowledge of Philadelphia, re-discovering our city with Vlad as our tour guide, in search of magical places.

The Guardians was born out of Vlad's desire to document and pay tribute to the guardians of urban temples we encounter on a daily basis without really noticing. He defines these 'urban temples' as a store, artisanal shop or workshop where a human being puts his heart and passion in what he does.  The Guardians bear and safeguard tradition, the know-how, and memory of their temples. They represent the antithesis of supermarkets, shopping centers, and the big chains. 

He takes the Guardian's photo within moments of meeting them so the viewer can experience that feeling of inquisitiveness when meeting someone for the first time. I witnessed the photo sessions quickly become intimate narratives. Vlad's personality is infectious; his body language is all-at-once familiar and humble. Which, I think, accounts for why the Guardians agree to let him record their origin stories within minutes of him coming from behind the lens. 

He found his first Philadelphia Guardian at Via Bicycle.  We were strolling down the street without intent when Vlad looked up at the facade of the shop and immediately started sizing it up with his lens. The outside of this local bike shop is spectacular, one of those architectural gems that get ignored because you're too busy looking down at a phone or racing against the clock to that next urgent 'something'. 

Via Bicycles is peppered with cool historical items that send you on expeditions into decades of bike lust. They do not sell new bikes -  part of the charm is making your way through the shop, spotting vintage beauties lying in wait among the reconditioned. 

We'll let Vlad continue this story...

Meet Curtis Anthony, 57, from Philadelphia. He's been in the bike business since 1982.

He opened Via Bicycles 34 years ago with a $5,000 loan from his mother, backed by an antique bed for collateral. "I'm blessed, I love what I do. We treat people like we want them to come back. The people who work here, we demand that they treat people fairly and honestly and most people we do want to see again. A small percentage we hope never return but the bulk of the people we want to come back. This is our third location. We focus on vintage bicycles, something that I really like is that most of our customers use their bicycles as tools rather than toys. So we really do provide a service for the community, which makes me feel good.

Upstairs, we store vintage bikes that we've collected through the years. Sometimes because I'm a crappy businessman we have to sell nice bikes from our collection to keep the doors open and the lights on. We've had the pleasure of working on some really nice bikes, many of them we ride. Our bikes range from the 1880's up until the present. We work on just about anything, if there's something we can't handle, we'll recommend who can do it for you.

I would like to see our business continue when I decide to retire, it's tough finding people that really care and want it to go on, cos sometimes it's not about the money, it's about what we do for people and keeping the shop afloat." 

Curtis' photo is now up on The Guardian website. We've also posted behind-the-scene shots & video on our Instagram. Stay tuned to our blog for more Philly Guardian stories.