photography: Michael Schmidt
We’ve talked about this before, but we’ll say it again: underground motorcycle culture is at its best right now. It’s hard to pinpoint, but when Jason Jessee and his Black Tibetan were featured in a magazine in the early Nineties, the spark found a little fuel. Bring it up roughly 12-15 years later and Jason’s compadres – the Sinners Brotherhood Of Love And Friendship – presented that same aesthetic in ways that took hold of what the ad industry calls the “tastemakers” of the culture and it was a refreshing revolt against the bullshit bling-a-ling of the fat tire iron cross Walmart douchebag brigade that had taken over the chopper consciousness of the previous decade.
With Jason Jessee as its reluctant messiah, skateboarding had found choppers and a beautiful, energetic, prolific underground culture – complete with its own art, shows, music, style and uniforms – emerged. And really – there’s no other automotive scene that has produced more great stuff – custom shops, handmade apparel lines, parts brands, magazines, books, films, personalities and off-shoot sub-sub-subcultures than this one.
And photography. We’ve been fortunate to work with some of the earliest names in this scene, but one of the latest we’re huge fans of is Michael Schmidt. He’s done some really wonderful work for Matt and Dean over at DicE magazine, as well as some campaigns for some iconic brands, book projects, the list goes on.
What we love so much about Schmidt’s work is what we love so much about underground choppers: there’s a strain of authenticity to it that got lost in the bullshit of the fat-tire era. Sure, it don’t take but a few weeks to grow a beard and buy a 70s-era chop, but even then, the entire approach of this scene that Michael is working in is so much more about respecting its history, building and riding for the love of real freedom and staying way out of the mass media shitstorm.
Schmidt can effortlessly walk between the work of recording the world around him in his editorial style and the commercial work that puts the “pro” in professional photography. He knows how to make some beautiful images. We hope to see so much more of Schmidt’s work before that douchebag element of choppers ruins it. From what we’ve seen, he’s got about a year – we’ve seen the lineup for Born Free 6 and it looks like the times, they are a changin’…