Motorcycle Run: back to 1967

Photo: Sylvan Rand

One weekend morning back in 1967, a good friend stopped by to see the photographer Sylvan Rand. The friend was riding his motorcycle and was on the way to participate in a ‘motorcycle run.’ He invited Rand to ride along with him.

Even though Rand didn’t own a motorcycle he was familiar with the gay motorcycle sub-culture through friends who did. He was always on the look-out for something  interesting and different to take pictures of, so he enthusiastically accepted the invitation and hopped on the back of his friend’s bike.

When they arrived at a remote farm in the countryside, many participants were already gathering to share food, drink, and good times. Most arrived on motorcycles, but some came in cars from distant cities. Some were close friends and others strangers who heard of the ‘run’ through the grapevine. The prevailing view of bikers back then was of the Hell’s Angels out to harass people, which was what Hollywood and the press emphasized. For this group, nothing could be further from the truth. They were men who worked hard during the week and just wanted to get out of the city for a weekend of camaraderie, not to raise hell. In an era when arrests and intimidation were still common, these ‘runs’ were not just a reason to ride your bike, but a chance to be yourself and enjoy the company of like-minded guys. As it turned out, the festivities did not present the expected dramatic situations to photograph, like races or other riding events, but there was a lot of mingling, horseplay and bonding which was what the photographer concentrated on. Rand hoped that the pictures would express the empathy he felt for these men, and he was grateful to them for allowing him, an outsider, to step into their world.

Sylvan Rand is 81 years old. He studied photography at the Art Center School in Los Angeles, California. He joined a fellow student in opening a photography studio, but it turned out that commercial photography wasn’t for him. After a few years he went back to his hometown of Philadelphia, where he graduated from the Univ. of Pennsylvania and worked for a manufacturing firm. He now lives in Southern California. Photography has always remained an important avocation for him. His pictures have recently appeared in numerous online publications, among them “Feature Shoot” and “El Pais.”  His website is .

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