by Valerie Valentine
The motorcycle lifestyle imprints itself into the flesh, heart and soul of bikers. Diverse individuals absorb the culture and keep it thriving. Biking is not just for outlaws anymore. From the roughnecks to the refined, myriad riders have been romanced by the road and its risky thrill.
At the100th Anniversary Celebration of the Harley-Davidson Motorcycle Company in August and September 2003, Michael Pry decided to document the people who represent the pastime in his photography series, Without Wheels, on exhibit at Icebox Gallery.
people have been seduced and enthralled by the classic image of a Harley rider:
cruising down the road into the sunset, wind in his hair and “Born to
be Wild” playing in the background. But in this exhibit, Pry takes it
down a notch by bringing the bikers into the studio and shooting them in stationary
positions. The riders reflect a rich culture, even without their motorcycles.
Black and white stills give them a classic aura and timeless appearance. There
is also a mug shot element to the images, but all in good fun.
As the photos illustrate, bikers are easy to spot if you recognize the gear.
And the style is not just for fashion’s sake—it’s practical.
Leather blocks the wind and protects against road rash in the event of a spill.
Sunglasses shade the the sun’s bright rays and shield the eyes from wind
and bugs. Doo-rags prevent sunburn on the skull, and for men, facial hair serves
the same purpose. Heavy boots are a necessity for protection and for shifting
gears. Tattoos are not required, but in this culture they illustrate people’s
passions, represent one’s flair for independence, and suggest resilience
Essential or not, by sporting the road vogue people also perpetuate a persona.
It’s a unique uniform that permits passage to the cult-like club. Beyond
the accessories, though, bikers have to be able to afford the machine, too,
which raises the bar even higher.
each photo Pry describes the bikers’ occupations, revealing true variety
among his subjects. There are truckers, contractors, nurses, massage therapists,
welders, engineers and more. Pry photographed a number of tough-looking biker
chicks, too. Some are students, others are laborers in traditionally male professions,
like heavy equipment operating and roofing.
For some, riding is a leisure-time hobby. For others—like James, a Harley
mechanic, and Jimmy, a custom Harley builder—it’s a lifestyle. The
freedom of the road is so intoxicating and uplifting, it’s little wonder
so many enthusiasts aspire towards the riding life. ||
Without Wheels: Harley-Davidson Motorcycles runs through
April 30 at Icebox Gallery, 1500 Jackson St. NE, #443, Mpls. 612-788-1790. Gallery
hours are Tue., Wed. & Fri. 10 a.m.–6 p.m.; Thu. 10 a.m.–9 p.m.
& Sat. noon–5 p.m. Closed Sundays and Mondays.