The Motorcycle Portraits is a project by photographer/filmmaker David Goldman, who travels the world making documentaries, and takes time out to interview interesting people in the motorcycle scene, wherever he might be.  The result is a single exemplary photo, a geolocation of his subject, and a transcribed interview.  The audio of his interviews can be found on The Motorcycle Portraits website.

The following portrait session is with Paul d’Orléans, publisher of The Vintagent.  David Goldman caught up with Paul in November 2021 at the Petersen Automotive Museum while wearing his Guest Curator hat, and shooting a short film with David Martinez about Paul’s current exhibit, ADV:Overland.  David Goldman asked Paul a few questions about motorcycling: here are his responses.

Paul d’Orléans captured at his gig as Guest Curator at the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles, Nov. 15 2021. [David Goldman]
“I’m Paul d’Orléans, publisher of The Vintagent since 2006. I’m also a guest curator at the Petersen Automotive Museum, an author, a motorcycle nut, a historian and an event producer and TV presenter/ event host.

“What started me off in motorcycling wasn’t really the beginning of my motorcycle career because it was strictly utilitarian: I was 15 years old and wanted to graduate from high school a year early.  The only way to do that was to take night classes at the local Community College, so I bought a little Honda 50 to ride at night in Stockton.  I did graduate a year early, and was super grateful to the motorcycle, but I didn’t ride too much through University – it wasn’t till after UCSC.  I’d set up a little printing press in my mother’s basement in San Francisco and had a partner who was a journeyman printer by the name of Jim Gilman.  We published books and printed posters for punk and political events, and Jim rode a 1950 BMW R50 that he’d found under a staircase. Jim had every issue of Classic Bike and The Classic Motorcycle which in 1984 had only been publishing for a couple of years, and one day he gave me 3 milk crates full of the magazines.  I just devoured those magazines and it ignited a passion for motorcycle history for me – I became really hungry for learning about motorcycles, and that started me reading books about bike.

That led to owning about 300 motorcycles, and kind of put me on the path to where I am today. I’ve had so many amazing experiences that I could only have had on motorcycles: I’ve ridden motorcycles literally all over the world and all across the United States four times on the Motorcycle Cannonball Endurance Rally.  One trip in particular that stands out as unique was in 1987 my girlfriend Denise Leitzel and I each bought MZ motorcycles (little 250cc two-strokes from East Germany) in London, and we rode into the Iron Curtain countries – Poland, Czechoslovakia, East Germany etc.   We tried to get into the Soviet Union but they wouldn’t let us!  That trip was amazing because the Berling Wall fell a year later.  You know, we would not have seen that other world unless we had those motorcycles.  We were able to explore all the nooks and crannies of those countries, off the freeways and outside of towns, where no trains went, no buses went.  We saw an amazing and actually beautiful and now vanished world.

What motorcycles mean to me – that is a big and loaded question for a professional in the motorcycle industry! I’ve carved out a niche in this world without resorting to any sort of professional employment, so obviously motorcycling means a tremendous amount to me. I’ve just found so much richness in my life: I found personal growth I found a kind of strength and overcame a lot of my own demons and weaknesses just by dedicating so much time to motorcycling;  solo long-distance or really really fast.  I’ve made friends all around the world because of motorcycles, and feel like I owe motorcycles a lot.  My life is basically dedicated to giving back to something that has given me so much.”

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