Every artist has a shtick. For photographer Michael Lichter, it's the biker lifestyle, a milieu he's gone with, like the wind, for over twenty years -- that is, when he's not designing annual reports or doing other commercial work for large corporations, the bread and butter of his professional life. And every year, Lichter leaves the coporate world behind, hops on his Harley and rides to Sturgis, South Dakota, for that city's annual biker bash. Life just wouldn't be the same without it, and an exhibit of limited-edition prints culled from the wild side of his career, opening this week in Boulder, shows why: It's a world unto itself, and a fascinating one, at that.
"I've been riding since '77," says Lichter, who still owns his first Harley -- a workhorse he bought used back then -- though he now rides a newer, nicer bike sporting the modern-day amenities. "I call it my rolling camera bag," he adds, noting that the days when it was simply uncool for bikers to carry even a sleeping bag on board are long gone. Though the hardcore bikers will still sleep in the dirt at Sturgis, they do it alongside the RUBs -- executives, lawyers and doctors called Rich Urban Bikers -- who pull up in custom two-level trailers loaded with custom bikes. Even women are hopping on their own choppers these days, including stockbroker gals who ride with laptops strapped to their bikes after an early morning of e-trading en route.
What's the attraction? We're all born to be wild, Lichter says: "Everybody has that side to them. A lot never explore it." It's simply become more acceptable to live on the edge, at least on a lark. And, well, it doesn't hurt to wear a $20,000 bike between your legs. "When you get in a car," the photographer says, "it's quiet -- you're insulating yourself from the environment. But when you get out in the wind, you sense every nuance. It forces you to interact -- to stop at the cafes and the truck stops and meet people."
Rev up your engines: Michael Lichter will show you who those people are.