It started in July 2001. After 30 years working in the motor industry, I decided that it was time to take a break from all the pressure and the endless travelling.
But by mid-2002 I found myself being courted by Harley-Davidson to set up am HD sales company for Australia and New Zealand. Harleys had been sold in Australia and NZ for many years but always through importer/distributors. America’s iconic bike maker had decided it was time to go solo.
Agreeing terms for my employment was a rather protracted process and, anyway, I was in no hurry because I was also being wooed by a car company at the same time. But in September 2002 I found myself in Atlanta, Georgia, at a Harley 100th Anniversary Road Show event and still negotiating.
I had flown over from Sydney a day earlier and at the last minute, I had put my Leica M6 with a 35mm lens and some Ektachrome slide film into my bag. I thought I might have a tad of spare time to take photos of Harley riders and their bikes. Fat chance. I was on a 6 pm deadline to leave Atlanta to catch a flight to LA and then a late evening trans-Pacific flight home.
By 5 pm I had wasted the day on and off negotiating so I went out into the event area to take some photos and to get some air. Sadly I had the opportunity to take just one photo before I was back talking. At 6.15 we finally agreed on a deal — just as I was putting my papers into my bag ready to go home. Then it was a mad rush to Atlanta airport. I just made the Sydney flight in LA and, much to my surprise, so did my bag.
The image below is that solo shot — a scan from the Ektachrome slide. I remember the circumstances very well. The rider is a really typical American Harley guy and, as is almost always the case, very friendly and eager to talk.
No gun Aussie
He was very surprised to learn that I was Australian and that I spoke English so well (!) and even more surprised to find out, after he raised the subject, that contrary to the fake news he had recently read in the NRA journal, Australians were overwhelmingly in favour of the strict national gun control laws which had been introduced a few years earlier.
He really could not get his mind around the fact that I had never ever even handled a gun let alone fired one — and that I was typical of most Australians in that respect. But at least he did not ask me if I lived near where they filmed the Sound of Music.
I really like the photo because of the memories it evokes: That conversation was a precursor to so many similar encounters in the US during my years with Harley.
After that occasion I did not take a single Harley-related photo for the full six years I was running Harley-Davidson Australia/NZ. Why I am not totally sure. I was always very busy but also my usually keen interest in photography definitely waned during that time.
The only other two other Harley photos in my files were taken years after I had retired. The first of these is below. Chenz is everyone’s image of a Harley rider — beard, shades, attitude, big and muscular with a shaved head and tattoos all over his arms (and who knows where else). He was with his bike at the 2015 Chromefest Hot Rod Festival at The Entrance here on the Central Coast.
In the bag
A photographer with a big Nikon DSLR was already lining Chenz up for a photo when I came across him. She was changing lenses and fiddling with the camera’s controls and Chenz was getting a little edgy. I had my Leica X1. No lenses to change and no decisions to make. While Ms Professional was deciding which lens to use, Chenz was in the bag. I don’t do monochrome often nowadays but I do think that it suits Chenz.
My favourite Harley image is the header photo. It was taken at the very popular Jerry’s Cafe, at Kulnura in NSW. On a Sunday morning, Jerry’s is full of riders about to head up the road up to Wollombi and the Hunter Valley. I often call in at Jerry’s with car enthusiast friends for a coffee and a bite before we drive that same road.
That particular day we were having a cars-and-coffee morning and the Harley Owners Group (HOG) riders were saddling up ready to for the off. The light was right and I saw my chance just as most of them were firing up their bikes. Another grabbed X1 shot.
Stick with Hoggies
Although some of them might look a little intimidating, HOG riders come from all walks of life — lawyers and doctors to tradies and retired oldies and most are amiable. Nevertheless, a little bad-boy-or-girl attitude is part of the brand’s appeal.
The real “bad” bikers or bikies are not HOG members but outlaw motorcycle gang followers such as the Finks. They are the ones with gang “colours” on the back of their leather jackets. It’s probably best to exercise extreme caution when photographing them without consent — which you are unlikely to obtain. My advice is stick to the Hoggies if you’re looking to photograph chrome and leather.