Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: Admittedly this seems like an unusual photo for me to have purchased. Like yesterday’s post, it might typically have been one that I would have a look at, but not purchased. Photos with old motorcycles in them tend to be in demand and they largely fall out of my realm of vintage photos of cats and toys. However, it caught my eye, mostly because accidentally or intentionally, it is a very good photo. And in the end, we here at Pictorama are ultimately suckers for a good photo and will follow our nose in any direction really.
There is no information on this photo and no evidence of having been in an album. Like the photos from yesterday’s post of traveling musicians (which can be found here) it came from the Midwest and I would hazard a guess that is where it was taken. (As yesterday a nod to my source, IG seller @MissMollysAntiques, for this purchase.)
I gather that WWII was a major boon to the motorcycle industry and disenchanted former soldiers continued to favor riding them after returning home postwar. Their leather flight jackets ultimately morphing into the biker look as it evolved through the 1940’s into the ’50’s when Marlon Brando takes it centerstage in film and makes it iconic. However, the guy in this photo looks like square one with his open necked shirt with sleeves rolled up, boots, jaunty hat and a whole lot of attitude posing with his bike. Although his face is in shadow, we otherwise get a good look at him.
It has to be said that the car to his right is the other star of this photo. I know nothing about old cars, but the shining grill on this one is great with a certain anthropomorphic charm, grinning genially at us with wide eyes. Someone better versed in cars and bikes could probably date the photo with some accuracy. I put it in the late forties.
I love moving back further into this photo and looking at the row of folks with their backs to us on a park bench in the middle ground. The guy with the suspenders and the straw hat just gets me. They all seem to be looking at or watching something, other benches are scattered around and there seems to be a playground or more likely a pool in front of them. That part of the image, in a puddle of bright sun, cannot be made out entirely. It is a picture of two worlds, the one of the biker and the other where everyone is enjoying the day and whatever it is this park offers.
On the other side, behind the car, we see folks gathered and walking and some concession type signs. The edges of the photo blur and only the center is entirely in focus. The tree behind him and in the center neatly divides the photo into light and dark, but the front wheel of the bike and his leg compose this composition perfectly. The person taking the picture had a great eye for putting it together or it was very lucky shot.
This photo of my dad, Elliott (a photo I wrote about in an early post which can be found here), was probably taken at least several years later. My father is shown with a broken down old bike which, according to family lore, got him part of the way across the country, but which ended in him hitchhiking back. Dad, a city boy, is exuding somewhat less cool than his Midwest counterpart, shown here in Washington Heights as he starts off on his odyssey. However adventure and the open road awaited him nonetheless.