Band of Bikers 1962/1972.
By Scott Zieher.
powerHouse Books, New York, 2009. 80 pp., 112 four-color and black & white illustrations, 5¼x8¼".
In the basement of an apartment building in Manhattan, Scott Zieher discovered a pile of photographs among the effects of a recently deceased tenant. These photographs, presented for the first time in Band of Bikers 1962/1972, offer an intimate portrait of a group of gay bikers in the city and the woods, and a touching snapshot of an entire generation at its carefree zenith.
A pithy narrative can be drawn from these two groups of photographs taken a decade apart. The black and white sequence from 1962 reveals a hushed, simmering milieu romantically enhanced by antiquated photographic techniques. By 1972 the photographs are more confident and considered, as are their subjects. Newly aware of muscle and biker magazines and their heavy-handed eroticism, photographer and photographed instead brim with a subtly vibrant, chromatic pride.
The photographs as a whole bring into focus a brief, specific period of relative innocence, when middle-of-the-road Americans more often than not failed to perceive the homoerotic undertones of their most heterosexual of institutions. With conceptual light cast by issues ranging from anonymity in homosexuality and underground motorcycle chic, to vernacular photography’s pop-culture ramifications, a warm and generous spirit of camaraderie pervades this subterranean survey. Like a real-world set for Scorpio Rising casually captured by an unpretentious extra, presented as Band of Bikers 1962/1972 and accompanied by an essay by Zieher, this found cache of old-school, leather party snapshots attains archeological significance.