Looking Inside, Not Outside
By Mickey Strand
I began the project of shooting photos of bikers and mostly motorcycle club (M/C) members, wanting to make really nice images in my new studio, of my friends and loved ones. It did not start as a noble cause or a way of putting out the message that most bikers are great guys and gals who just want to enjoy our lifestyle. What most folks might call a hobby, without being persecuted by law enforcement. Over the first two years, after making a couple of images of M/C and non-M/C members, it took on a life all its own. I did not realize that I had so much to say about the members of my community, I just knew that they were cool looking folks out there with amazing stories.
I was thinking that this could make a great continuing project and might even be able to be used as a social commentary on the folks in our community.
Community: “A unified body of individuals; a body of persons of common and especially professional interests scattered through a larger society,” as defined by Merriam-Webster.
What Merriam-Webster fails to include in its definitions is the persecution that comes to a community because of the perceived values of this community based on their outward appearance. Just because we choose to display our membership in a community is no reason to change the direction of reaction in the way we interact with one another as citizens.
I started my first invitation to produce and display a print show by asking for participation from club members who I thought would make amazing images as stories. The first two years of image collection and talking folks into sitting in the studio started slow. These members were guarded at first, but as the project grew and I posted images via social media, interest also grew. Today I have folks interested in having me come to other cities and grow the project further than I ever thought it could go. Lesson there is, don’t get in the way of what a project or a message can turn into.
Beyond the Cut project updates
I have been photographing bikers and patch holders for four years. I’ve had three print shows in San Diego at Nelson Photo on Midway Drive, as the featured artist, and am grateful for their support in moving my project forward and offering us an opportunity to display the art and the message. We have had open houses, show openings and our community has filled the store with more visitors than ever before. I have photographed members of twenty different clubs including both 99% and traditional 1% club members. I have completed over sixty portraits and have been invited to bring the project to other locations. I have even been invited back three times for another print show. No biker has been in more than one show, with only one person having more than one image at the same show. This invitation opportunity keeps the project active, with me needing about twenty new portrait sessions each year.
Some amazing stories have come to me while working on this project. I’m sure that being a member of the community has opened the door to these interesting portraits and stories. I was even asked to capture the love of a biker and his ol’ lady before he wasted away and passed from cancer. This allowed me to produce a lasting memory of the love of these two members of my community. His club brothers, wife and son trailered both bikes to the studio and we photographed Tomcat as fast as we could between his emergency trips to the bathroom, the reaction of the chemo, for quick breaks. I captured images of him and some of both him and his ol’ lady, side by side standing and then straddling their steeds, “a memory of better days gone by.” We even grabbed a quick group shot of Tom and his club brothers who made this day a possibility and the success that it became. Amazing portraits of Tom, Tom and Leann and the group shot made a loving set of memories of the best of our community during the worst of times.
I look forward to continuing to work on this project in the years to come. Having work to show folks also opens up the door to members that would never have thought to be part of a project. Occasionally folks call and ask to have me shoot them, more of a commercial endeavor. I shot one or two of these and having not selected the subjects makes a difference in the art in the prints. I have stayed away from turning the project into a money making venture and have been able to keep it as a social statement and an art project being selective in choosing folks I want to shoot, and making amazing pictures.
From Pastor Z., Bikers for Christ Motorcycle Ministry Intl. HQ:
This project by Mickey Strand should be an eye-opener to both society, and law enforcement in general that you can’t judge a book by its cover. As when many encounter me personally – they may immediately have the wrong assumption of who I am, and what I actually do for my passion, my job, etc. as a Minister to the General Public, and also to the Motorcycle Community.
I have long reddish blonde hair, a goatee, and a couple of piercings in my left ear. I am pretty much covered in tattoos. I also wear a backpatch that emphatically proclaims that I am a member of Bikers for Christ M/M, and a front tag that identifies me as the Founder, Intl. P (Pastor to my flock) and President of BFC M/M to the M/C guys & gals.