Every summer, Portland's bicycle community puts on an extravaganza called Pedalpalooza, a celebration of everything bicycle, from pedal politics to polo to porn.
Yes, that's right. Bike Porn is an entire fetish genre created and promulgated by one man, our own Reverend Phil. Each year Rev calls out to the most degenerate elements of the community to create their own porno films with bicycle overtones, which he then weaves into a festival called Bike Porn, now in its fourth year. Bikes and bike parts having sex, people having sex with bikes, people having sex with people on their bikes, or any other coming together of images you can imagine.
So I shot Rev a note suggesting I make a bike porn slide show that would run before and between the other films. He ran this invitation for me on his web site:
Dude Ward, aka CityLife Photography and Studio 303, is deeply enamored of us and all of our pornographic body and bicycle parts. In that spirit, he wants to make a bike porn slide show to run before, between and after the films. To that end and in support of all porn efforts contained herein and forthwith and to the exclusion of all other contradictory erectile functions, we invite and propose the following.
If you have a body and a bike and want to flash your ass:
Step 1: Contact Dude Ward at firstname.lastname@example.org
Step 2: Advise Dude Ward that you would like to be in the Bike Porn Slide Show.
Step 3: Arrange a date and time to meet at Dude Ward's photography studio.
Step 4: With all your body parts, bikes, dildos, chocolate syrup, barbed wire, and whatever else makes you feel whatever it is that you love to feel the most, show up at the studio and make some fucking art.
Things to know: The studio is completely safe and private. We will build our photographs together and your boundaries will be absolutely respected. Conversely, you are free to take your image wherever you want to go. Dude Ward's only boundary is that nobody goes beyond anyone's boundary. Lastly, anonymity is yours if you want it and yours to toss away if you don't.
Before long I had a list of a few guys and dolls who wanted to wag their bikes for the camera, and away we went! I pulled together four shoots, shot several hundred frames, and spent about twenty hours melting these down in photoshop and forging them into a six minute slide show, all of which was layered over a cover of the Beatles' Sexy Sadie and burned to DVD for the good reverend. (If you are 18 and of good moral character and want to see the show, send an email here and I'll take you there.)
After Rev saw the final product, though, he flipped out over it, decided that rather using it for a warm-up act he wanted it as the grand finale. I drove the DVD to his house at 2:00 pm on the day of the show. He grabbed the disk and ran into the house to get it uploaded to the digital tape master; he uses a tape system rather than disk because it is better able to recover from errors. So he flips the disk into his computer and it won't read the disk. Four shoots, 400 images, 20 hours of post-production, four hours till showtime, and it won't load. He used a word, I can't remember what it was, but it related to coitus in some way... Anyway, I got his call before I'd turned off his street, so I pull over and we scratch our heads. To make a long story short, he got it to run in his DVD player but had no way to get it from the DVD to his tape system, so we had to pray that the theater's DVD projector would read it. No time to burn another copy or to fiddle with settings, no time to make a practice run with the projectionist, who now had to change media halfway through the screening to get the DVD in the show.
The first show was at 7:30 and about ten people showed up. Phil grabbed the projectionist and started his rant about getting everything cued up and when the music would start and when to trip the DVD, and then he stopped talking. He pawed frantically at his pockets. His eyes rolled back in his head.
"Oh Lord, no. Please, no... Alright, look," he said, "the tape is at my house up in northeast. I'll be back in like ten minutes, Serious."
No way. It was a 20 minute drive and he was on a bicycle. Ten minutes out, the cell phone rings. Phil. "Look, the tape's not here. You see my pack there anywhere?" Little leather pack with a red triangle on the flap sitting on the table at the popcorn machine. The tape and DVD were in the pack. I gave the tape to Seth, the projectionist. He went to set it up. 7:30, show time, Phil falls through the front door and pants his rabid stream of thoughts to Seth, Cue the tape, I'll talk for a minute, run it and stop at 55 minutes, I'll run the DVD. He grabs beer and heads for the stage. The show is on.
We set the tape to playing and everything went fine and at 55 minutes darkness fell in the theater and the room went silent. Seconds ticked by. Nothing. Where's Phil? Drunk bastard, no idea. I wandered out of the theater to the street. The ten confused souls in the audience started to filter out. Seth? He thought Phil was going to hit
Ok, no time to cry about it. It's 8:45 and this time there is a line outside for the 9:00 show. I mean a serious line. This is an annual event and there are three bars within 50 feet of the theater, and the people are already in the mood. The theater fills to the aisles, hundreds of souls. And this time, somehow, Phil and Seth seem to be back in the land of the marginally functional. There was a semi-nude bicycle carnival act, sort of a BMX acrobat strip-tease duo and then the films start. Bike chain sperm fertilizes a bike sprocket egg, naked bike riding lesbians wrestle under the St Johns Bridge, a dude who is crippled by sexual performance anxiety keeps breaking out of his girlfriend's embrace to talk about his bicycle. All as good as no-budget indie niche camp can be.
55 minute mark. The theater goes dark and quiet. Seconds tick by. My poor frayed nerves. And then...
Yes! It flickers on the root menu and the invisible hand hits play. Images flash and dissolve, and the music pounds them home. At first, the audience is quiet, but soon images are greeted with whoops and hollers, whistles, and by the end it is bedlam.
I can't say that the show was a work of art or that the audience was who I would have imagined for myself, but there were a lot of things about the experience that really left me feeling happy with it all. First, it was really fun seeing the thing projected on a big-ass movie screen with music crashing across the room. There were a handful of shots that I really do like and it was wild seeing them at that scale. Second, it was really fun getting such an immediate, visceral rush of responses from a big crowd of people like that. When does a photographer get to feel like a rock and roll singer? (I even had a drunk girl try to lick my tonsils!) I guess the challenge of the project was to read my audience and make something for them that I would be willing to sign my name to. It won't hang in MOMA, but my audience wouldn't go to MOMA either. And I got to know some really spectacular folks!
And it makes a good story. I won't show the DVD to my mom, but I did tell her the story. She laughed like a songbird.