David Goldman is a professional photographer who has spent most of his career travelling around the planet capturing images of people in third world countries and sharing their stories. But he also has a passion for motorcycles and has been taking portraits of some of the biggest names in the motorcycle industry. We chatted to him about ‘The Motorcycle Portraits’ series and all the incredible people he has photographed over the years.
Can you introduce yourself to our readers?
My name is David Goldman, I’m a documentary and portrait photographer/filmmaker. Many people know the album packaging I shot for Blink-182’s Enema Of The State. I used to work in the music and celebrity world. For the last 12 years I’ve been working more overseas to bring attention to issues such as human trafficking, maternal health and marginalized people. In places like India, Bangladesh, Cambodia, Ethiopia and the Northern Territory of Australia.
What was your first motorcycle?
I’ve always been attracted to bikes but truthfully when growing up I wanted to be a race car driver. I bought my first bike when I was 16 – a used Suzuki GS 550 ES… I think. But it broke down all weekend so my mum made me return it and I got an old used Honda Accord two door. It wasn’t until I turned 40 that I actually purchased my first bike. It was a 1976 CB 400F Supersport from a college buddy.
How did you get into motorcycle photography?
I don’t really think I am a “motorcycle photographer” I’m a portrait photographer with a love of bikes so I just put the two together. My images are more about the people than the bikes. I did want to shoot F1 racing back in the day so I learned a lot about shooting moving cars etc which I’m sure has informed a bit how I think about photographing bikes and people in that space.
Have you got a favorite bike photo you’ve taken?
I think my favorite so far is this first shot of an old Honda in the back of a VW pick/up that was used on Bike Exif that was part of a set from the Quail gathering a few years ago. :
Tell us about The Motorcycle Portraits series. How did it start?
I had been doing work in S.E. Asia and it was so clear how motorcycles in developing countries were most often used as a utilitarian tool. One that could help a father take his kids to school to get an education and help to get out of poverty or for farm work etc. VS in the west where bikes are predominantly used as a luxury item. I thought back to how Honda had that slogan “you meet the nicest people on a Honda” I approached them to see if they would be interested in working together to create a series that featured all the amazing people who ride Honda’s around the world. Although initially seemed interested in the end they passed. So I just kind of kept shooting the portraits on my own. When I was in a location that I knew someone of interest might be there I simply reached out. I focus on people whose lives are deeply connected to motorcycles; racers, builders, collectors, world travelers. I want to show the inclusiveness of motorcycling. Not another group of white dudes. I feel in the times we are living in it’s important to encourage diversity and by showing it I think that can inspire people who may have thought it was not for them.
There’s a real diverse mix of people in the series. How do you find the riders?
Many of the subjects I was initially turned on to by social media. Once I introduce myself (and it’s getting a bit easier now that there are many people and a website) I find out if they are open to participating. Assuming they are and I do the portrait then I always ask them who they think would be a great subject. From those suggestions I have been introduced to some incredible people that I’m sure there is no way I would have learned about. Many are just working away in their garages not looking for any fanfare whatsoever. When I meet them I feel like I’ve discovered a treasure.
You really capture the subjects personalities in each photograph. What’s the trick?
Thank you! I think that is something that separates a professional from an amateur. It’s a muscle that must be worked on for years. To make a subject feel comfortable and to trust me in the limited amount of time. However, I will say that the subjects have been great at just sharing their stories. I think how I ask the questions and the order I do it allows the trust to grow and like an onion most are able to reveal more and more. It’s really wonderful to hear these often very personal and intimate stories.
Who was the most fun to shoot?
By far the most fun was Ryan Stewart who I photographed in Calhan CO last year. At the time he had been a pilot for United Airlines for 30 years. He lives on a farm and had built his own 1/2 mile banked dirt track. He owned a small two seater plane. His energy was that of a teenager. I was warned not to go in the plane with him and that he would ask. So when he inevitably did ask I thought to myself am I going to miss this opportunity because of some fear or am I going to embrace the random and trust that he loves his wife and wanted to get back to her. So up we went and the next thing I know we are doing barrel rolls over the farms. I want to look back on my life and feel I lived it with color. How can I do that if I don’t exploit these moments?
Did you go for a ride with Kevin Schwantz after you photographed him?
No, he had to take off but it was a joy listening to him share some of his stories, plus he would probably lose me before the first stop sign.
Love the photo of Elliott and Brandon Scott. What’s the story behind that shot?
Thank you, I love it as well! So I met them and one of Elliott’s friends on the start of my second day riding. I was heading to Tucson AZ. It was so hot in mid June this year. Close to 116 degrees. I’m all dressed up in travel/adventure gear which essentially looks like a snow suit. So I had to make a pitstop and get some water/cool off. I see two big Honda Goldwings and one had one of those trailers that match the bike. I go into the rest stop and see two men and a young kid about 12 years old. I introduce myself and they introduce themselves. Tell me they are doing an Iron butt ride from Atlanta to LA and then back to Florida before getting back to Atlanta and all in what seemed like only a few days. Honestly I could hardly believe it. I got their info and asked if they would be open to being in the series when I came through Atlanta. They agreed and I took off. However, as soon as I started to ride away I was kicking myself. I was so pissed that I didn’t try to do a portrait at the rest stop but on the other hand it was so bloody hot I could hardly think. I felt I needed to get into the mindset of asking to do portraits when I meet people and not counting on finding them again. Sometimes it takes a bit to kind of get into gear when I’m on a trip like this… or any really. Since I was only one day out I had not really switched into photographer gear. I was not going to make that mistake again. When I did get to Atlanta I looked them up and made sure I got a great shot.
You do a lot of traveling for your job. What’s the best place you’ve ridden?
The most beautiful ride I did was last year north of Eureka CA. I went through some of the most amazing roads. I believe it was route 299 from CA into Oregon. Through a forest of winding roads out of Humbolt County. Simply incredible!
What’s motorcycles do you own?
I have a 2019 KTM 790 Adventure S
Dream bike if money wasn’t an option?
I have spent some time with Walt Siegl and have really enjoyed his company and learning about his bikes. I’d love to own a Leggero or maybe one of his Adventure bikes.
Is there one bike you wished you never sold?
I would still like to have my 2004 Triumph Thruxton but I needed to sell it for the KTM. Seems one needs at least two bikes.
What’s your fondest memory on a motorcycle?
Whenever the weather is between 68 and 75 and the roads are winding I’m a happy camper. Oh and no wind 🙂
Who would you love to photograph in the motorcycle world that you haven’t yet?
There’s a few like Gloria Struck, John Penton, Anne France Dautheville, Elspeth Beard, Valentino Rossi, Jay Leno, Ewan McGregor, Charlie Boorman, Lyndon Poskitt, Keanu Reeves. The list goes on and on.
Who do you think would be a good subject?
Check out the full series of photographs with audio on themotorcycleportraits.com