Everyone with a phone is a photographer, and today, updating Warhol’s old saw, everyone is famous for 15pixels. Between filters and apps, we can fool ourselves that we’re good, but confronted with an artist evidencing rare gifts in the medium, the chasm between our humble snaps and his staggeringly beautiful work is clear.  If I could keep Bill Phelps in my pocket, I’d throw away my cameras.  There will never be a Phelps app, because there’s no algorithm for the emotional connection between the man and his subject matter; Bill captures some mysterious quality in people, machines, and even grime, which scratches at our souls.

Bill Phelps is best known in the alt.moto world for a series of exquisitely composed shots of models with old bikes (Vincents, Velocettes, Nortons, etc – all his) most of which were taken in 1998/9.  He has since moved on to professional work for the likes of Condé Nast, and his work is shown at Robin Rice Gallery in NYC, but he remains an oil-stained gearhead, eager to reveal the epic from a familiar mix of people and machines.  I’ve featured his work in 2010 (his gallery collection) and in 2013 (from Wheels+Waves), and it doesn’t age a bit.  The current collection is perhaps his best yet, hinting at his maturation as an artist.

Our schedules coincided last month, and Bill was able to stretch a magazine shoot in Strasbourg to a weekend at the Vintage Revival event in the Montlhéry speed bowl. The storied race track, combined with the deliciously gritty subject matter, was catnip to Bill, and he’s produced a new photo series, a few of which I’m lucky to share on TheVintagent.  You’ll see more in print soon, which I’ll announce via my Facebook and Instagram accounts.  For now, enjoy his work!

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Bill Phelps

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