Cover image for American bikers : photographs
American bikers : photographs
Miller, Sandro.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : te Neues Pub., [1998]

Physical Description:
1 volume (unpaged) : illustrations ; 32 cm
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Call Number
Material Type
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Item Holds
TR681.M69 M55 1998 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks-Oversize

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American bikers are the cowboys of the 20th century. Rebellious, nomadic, and clannish, they are often perceived as violent and dangerously antisocial. This arresting collection of duotone portraits displays another side of this unusual population, one which portrays them as vulnerable, romantic, and compassionate. 63 photos.

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

Eight new topical photo books differ in practically everything except the capacity to please the eye. Avedon has had plenty of recognition as an artist, mostly for his pitilessly highly lit portraits, such as one of President Eisenhower that communicates his age with hammer-blow force. Given young, "buff" figures, however, as in commercial work for fashion designers like the late Gianni Versace, Avedon's style evokes icy but enticing eroticism. That sexiness is what most of his Versace images are about. A few pictures of celebrities, though, are glamorous but ridiculous because their subjects seldom have the right look. No matter, for Elton John in glittering black drag doing a karate move, and what-used-to-be-called-Prince once again pointing out where his pudenda are, are even more indelible images than those of the perfect bodies (often in set-ups in which one or more clothed figures complement one or more nudes) that surround them. Whereas the Versace pictures are captivatingly strange, Barbieri's 21 two-page cityscapes and one landscape are disquietingly strange. Not that their visual subjects are weird. They are just buildings, machines, trees, public artwork, and a few people, most of them asleep. The pictures' strangeness is a function of technique. They were made at night with minutes-long exposures, low shutter speeds, and only ambient artificial light. That procedure resulted in utterly recognizable imagery colored--as no painter probably would ever think to color it or any passing glance remember it--in glowing, powdery pastels that are strictly tangential to "normal," daylight hues. Artificial lighting floods Brambilla's book, too, but it is the boring glare suffusing airports, in which all the photos were taken. The transit of the title is Brambilla's own, but the only trace of him on view is an enormous white suitcase blazoned with his initials in black block letters. The bag's appearances on luggage carousels and platforms from Milan to Paris to all over North America are interspersed with commonplace airport interiors and close-ups of signage. Softly focused, the color pictures present a gently amusing slant on the normally deadening experience of trudging around airports. Ferlinghetti gets coauthor credit for Felver's book of photos of him because his poem "Autobiography" is reprinted in it. He also contributed a note concluding with a slogan, "Death to the State," that is one perfect expression of a life spent "fomenting art and anarchy" via his bookstore and publishing venture, City Lights, as well as the best-selling original U.S. poetry collection of the century, A Coney Island of the Mind (1958). Felver's delightful informal portraits show Ferlinghetti with his literary cronies, in and outside his bookstore, at his Bixby Canyon cabin, and in his painting studio at different times over the course of 18 years. He appears ageless--always bald and white-bearded, smiling mischievously, with twinkling, confrontative eyes. Perhaps he will outlive the state. Horvat's album of animal portraits is the trickiest book here. Its somber color depictions of zoo animals in the wild are photomontages. The creatures seen actually live in zoos, and the settings in which they appear are not their species' native habitats but just places that look like they might be. A hippo bellows in front of France's Loire River. Emperor penguins strut a rocky beach in Ireland's Aran Islands. Elephants and giraffes walk the savannas of California. Close looking detects the artifice, but without Daniele Brolli's tortured introduction, would anyone realize there is a moral ("only doubts give substance . . . to the world") to the pictures? In contrast to the varying degrees of artifice of the preceding five books stands the documentary naturalism of a book featuring many never-before-published Elvis photos. As art director of Seventeen in the 1950s, Israel (1924^-84) got a crack at Elvis during the singer's first flush of stardom. He shot Elvis before and during a performance in Dayton, Ohio; at home in Memphis, where Israel also caught Vernon and Gladys Presley in the new house Elvis had bought them; and in New York at the opening of Elvis' first movie. Israel's photographic coevals were Robert Frank, Lee Friedlander, and other New York^-school stylists who captured, ala Cartier-Bresson, perfect visual moments out of the flux of existence and gave them emotive weight by manipulating the photographic grain and evoking blacks that seem to encroach on light. Such pictures have a movie-ish feel--composed and casual, intense and diffuse at the same time--and Israel's of Elvis are classic examples of the style. This is the best single-artist book of Elvis photos ever. There is more documentation in Kral's depiction of Florida cattle ranching, but it is deep-dyed in the romanticism associated with riding the range in a nation steeped in the mythology of the West. The initial fascination of Kral's work lies in its disclosure of cowboys not in the West but south of the deep South, where in fact they have been since the sixteenth-century Spanish settlement of Florida. They are called crackers because of the sound their bullwhips make, and Kral captures them laboring and relaxing in rich monochrome photos that, when meticulously focused and organized, sometimes echo the sculptural character of Ansel Adams' work, and when more softly focused and grainier, resemble impressionist paintings in--oddly enough--black and white. American Bikers makes a fashion statement as homogeneous as that of the pretty people modeling glitzy duds in Versace. It consists of worn leather and denim clothes, hair either extremely long or cropped to the scalp (plus luxuriant beards on the men), and lots of exposed skin to show off the ultimate accessory--tattoos, the bigger the better. Sandro renders his subjects in waste-up or closer shots, nearly all centered against a studio sheet (often a U.S. flag), and in sharp focus ala Avedon's famous portraits, only softened by directed rather than suffused light and dark rather than stark white backgrounds. The lighting makes these exceptional-looking people appear more congenial and some of them even cuddly. But put in a room full of them, would you still feel like a teacup in a crowded bull ring? Definitely. --Ray Olson

Library Journal Review

These two volumes offer powerful portraits of people on the margins of society. To want to look away from the documentation of these disturbing "others" would be to deny a valuable aesthetic and sociological experience. First coming into contact with biker culture in 1990 at a bike rally raising funds for handicapped children, Miller spent five years photographing bikers at rallies across the United States. Likened by Keating to the work of Mathew Brady and Edward Curtis, these beautifully lit black-and-white images show men and women gazing directly into the camera and displaying the buttons, patches, sunglasses, piercings, and beards that are the trademarks of their outlaw status. Identified by a name, a nickname, their motorcycle, and/or their hometown, they epitomize their dream of being constantly on the move. "Robert Bergman's color portraits of people encountered by chance on the streets of American cities address the viewer with captivating simplicity and directness, in an idiom that is unencumbered by the norms or conventions of a period style," says the late Columbia University scholar Schapiro in his afterword. Traveling by car throughout the Rust Belt and the East Coast region, Bergman created a poignant portfolio of pathos that has been masterfully reproduced in this book. Morrison's introduction concludes, "In all its burnished majesty his gallery refuses us unearned solace and one by one each photograph unveils us, asserting a beauty, a kind of rapture, that is as close as can be to a master template of the singularity, the community, the unextinguishable sacredness of the human race." Both books are recommended for photography collections.‘James E. Van Buskirk, San Francisco P.L. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.