Rally Bikers – Connecting to the individual through the community that defines them
Monday, July 16, 2012
SoHo Apple Store (103 Prince Street, NY, NY)
Free Admission (seating is limited)
*no advance registration is required
Join us afterwards at a local bar (TBA) to continue the conversation!
About Michel Leroy:
Driving a mile past the bend of the main Boulder Route, after the pavement ends, is the log cabin where I grew up. Milk, eggs and butter came from the O’Shenko ranch just down the valley, meat came from our herd of Herefords, and vegetables came from the garden. Every month my parents would load up the Suburban and drive two and a half hours to the ranch supply store in Billings, Montana. What seemed like a journey across the world at the time was the beginning of a lifelong thirst for travel. From the end of that dirt road to my apartment in New York City, I have been driven by a passion for exploring new places and meeting new people.
The good fortune of my early career afforded the opportunity to travel the globe assisting magazines and companies with the common goal of photographing the people that define our time: from China’s leading industrialists in Shanghai to Nobel laureate economists in Paris to former President George W. Bush in Washington DC. Repeatedly, corporate clients including Nike, Intel, Pfizer, Lonza Biologics, Merck and Wal Mart have trusted me to connect their brands to customers through images with insight and humanity. My editorial work has appeared in The Huffington Post, The New York Times, People Magazine and The Times (UK).
The nature of commercial assignment photography leads to new locations and people everyday, but often not much longer than a day. After years of shooting in this manner, I began to crave long-view projects with more depth and broader focus. To fulfill this professional need I began a two-month personal project to photograph motorcycle rally culture in America. The result was a portfolio of unrelenting black and white images revealing a personal connection and shared humanity previously unachieved in my work.
Rally Bikers comprise a spontaneous community of ordinary people defined by common interest. I attend motorcycle rallies and create portraits of riders ranging from 7-year-old kids on 90cc hill climbers, to middle-aged firemen on 1200cc road bikes, to sun-burned grandparents on 1800cc luxury touring marvels. The style is unrelenting black-and-white images that reveal texture and detail beyond the casual glance.
Meeting bikers on the street, in parking lots, or at a car wash, I photograph them in a portable studio to capture that initial moment, the point of simple truth while communal humanity remains in our eyes. The studio removes visual distractions and allows for a more intimate portrait, a brief shared moment to reveal the truth and the facade of identity.
Through portraits of Rally Bikers, I am looking for the significance of the individual in the community that defines them. Biker cliches, based on the notoriety of outlaw motorcycle clubs, do little to describe the other 99% of ordinary people who live for the freedom of open roads, camaraderie, and the love of bikes. The leather, the Kevlar and the tattoos are trappings of a lifestyle that riders have chosen as an alternative to the everyday obligations of a 9-to-5 weekday existence.
My task was to create a portfolio of images representing the diversity of biker rallies through the people who keep the spirit and legacy of the community alive. The goal is to bring greater attention and understanding to the lifestyles of individuals and their surrogate communities through exhibitions and published books.
Main Image: Russell, Harley Shovel Head