Sturgisbook78
The Photography of Michael Lichter
168 pgs, $29.95
Motorbooks International, copyright 2003

 

by Sev Pearman

As this issue goes to press we approach the start of another Sturgis Rally, that ten day celebration of chrome, skin and riding. This month’s selection is an outstanding collection of ‘biker’ images by noted photographer Michael Lichter. Mr. Lichter is a rider and has been attending the Sturgis Rally since 1979. He has photographed the rally for Easyriders magazine since 1981.

The book is divided into several sections including three galleries. “The Road” features riding shots of ‘bikers’ en route to the rally. “The Faces” is an excellent collection of portraits. “The Place” centers on shots of people, riders and racers in the immediate Sturgis area. All three galleries include photos from the author’s first trip, in 1979, up to the present day.

Anyone who has attended the Sturgis Rally or ridden in the Black Hills will recognize the distinct highways full of curves, dips and switchbacks. Mr. Lichter captures riders among the pines, granite walls and fields of prairie flowers. You are easily transported into their ride. Local readers will recognize the Faribault Harley-Davidson name, sewn on the leathers of their rider Billy (AMA racer #87K) in “Harleys at the TT Races, Jackpine Gypsies’ Track, Sturgis, SD, 1994” (pp. 114) MMM wonders if he is still around.

While the photography is excellent, the text is written in clichéd “Biker Poet” style. Take this caption for the beautiful “Blue Night, Sturgis, South   Dakota, 1988” (pp. 153)

“It is great to ride through town, weaving the streets, on a warm sunny night. You feel like it is all yours, but not in real time or even the real world. There is an abstract quality, like a swirl of streetlights.” (pp. 152)

If you like that kind of prose, you will love the writing. If not, simply skip the author’s descriptions and concentrate on his images. Whether or not you enjoy the narration, the photography is outstanding. Those clamoring for “Instant Righteousness” may enjoy the rambling forward by Peter (Easy Rider) Fonda. High-milers can skip ahead to the photography.

Books about Sturgis and “The Scene” are as common as skull shaped tire valve caps on a Road King. Mr. Lichter has assembled outstanding images that document The Sturgis Rally and its riders from 1979 to the present day. His excellent photos make this month’s selection one of those rare books able to illustrate what it means to be a rider. Only the text disappoints. Recommended with three-out-of-four cylinders.

VERDICT:

Yearns to Ride—Images and text will increase your longing.

Trailer Jockey—Lichter brings home the essence of The Rally.

Safety Dork—Don’t these folks wear gear?

Sev Pearman and MMM welcome your comments and book recommendations. Send e-mail to mnmc@comcast.net Please put “Book Review” in the subject line.

M.M.M.

 

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