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 Anne-France Dautheville, the first woman to ride a motorcycle solo around the world.  David Goldman caught up with Anne-France on September 1 2023 in Paris.  David asked Anne-France a few questions about motorcycling: here are her responses.

Please introduce yourself:

My name is Anne-France Dautheville. We are in Paris, in a little restaurant which is called Á la Ville d’Epinal, next to the Gare de l’Est, which is the railway east station, and it is the place where I give all my appointments, where I have my lunches, and it’s my place in Paris. I’m an old lady now, going to be 80, and I have got an incredible life.

Anne-France Dautheville photographed September 1, 2023 Paris, France. [David Goldman]

In fact, because I rode a motorcycle, and with this motorcycle I rode around the world, around Australia, around South America, and so many different places, traveling by myself, which is my happiness, considering I drive exactly like a shit, because I’m not a good driver, I’m not a sport woman, I just survive on a motorcycle. I started my life as a copywriter in advertisement agencies, and in 1968 we got huge strikes, even a revolution in Paris, and I had to walk. There were no metros, there were no buses anymore.

What was your first introduction to motorcycles?

So when the peace came back, I decided that I should be on my own, even if there was another revolution. I had no driving license of any sort, so I bought myself the only thing with an engine you could afford, which was a CB50. The first minute I sat on it, I said I made the biggest mistake in my life, and the second minute, anybody who would touch my 50cc would be dead.

Anne-France in 1972 during the Orion Raid from Paris to Iran, riding a borrowed Moto Guzzi. [Anne-France Dautheville]

And during my holidays, which I took always in September, I decided to go and see the Mediterranean Sea, which was something like 700 kilometers from Paris, and everybody in the agency said, “you’re crazy, you go by yourself?”, yes, yes, yes, but it’s dangerous, can’t you go? And I made the best trip of my life, came back, and back through Alsace, which is the northeast of France, came back to Paris, and so during my years in advertisement, every weekend I used to jump on my motorcycle and ride to a place with a nice hotel, with good food, good wine, etc. And during this month of September, I used to drive around, and after a few years, I began to say that I’m very, very happy during 11 months of the year, and I’m so perfectly happy the 12th, so when I die, I will have only one twelfth of my life, which will be perfect, and I left everything, jumped on the motorcycle, and began traveling around the world, because I love traveling, I’m built for the travel, and writing, because travel without writing is only half of the problem.

Share a great story or experience that could have only happened thanks to motorcycles?

Which story for me, oh, it was a good one.

An unexpected wardrobe change with the 1973 Kawasaki 175 which was her mount around the world in 1973. [Anne-France Dautheville]

Let’s go to 1975, the north of Australia, there is a gravel road which goes to Normanton, from Georgetown to Normanton in Queensland, I’m riding a 750cc BMW, it’s my first gravel road, I didn’t know how to drive this big motorcycle on the dirt road, so I start at the end of the afternoon, so there was a city in Georgetown, but no, there was no city, it was just a ring for car races twice) a year, but on the map it was like, okay, so I go to Normanton, something like 150 kilometers of gravel road, and the sun goes down, down, and when the light is not so hard, suddenly I see a huge brown frog jumping from my right, so I bump my horn, and the huge brown beast stops, and it was a kangaroo, and I stopped in front of the kangaroo, and I looked at him and said in French, you crazy man, and he looked at me and said, oh motorcycle that’s talking, and in fact I learned that day, that when the kangaroo jumps in front of you, if you bump your horn, it stops to know where the noise comes from, so that was a very good lesson in my life.

Anne-France on her Kawasaki 125 in 1973 during her round-the-world adventure. [Anne-France Dautheville]

What do motorcycles mean or represent to you?

What do motorcycle represents to me?, it’s a machine, it’s just an assembly of things that make it roll, it doesn’t talk, it doesn’t think, it’s just a machine, but that machine allows me to go around the world, to go into places, and in fact it is the link between the nature and me, I mean when I am on a motorcycle, I have all the perfumes of the earth that grows from my nose, I didn’t ride very noisy motorcycles, so I can hear sometimes hard crying birds, or things like this, if I go near the wood, I have that sort of freshness of the air, because of the trees, when I’m on a road, every little pebble on the ground makes a sort of a movement in the front wheel, and goes through my arms, so my whole body is alive, when I’m on a motorcycle, if I’m in a car, I’m just like a fish in a can, you know, motorcycle is a way to have a permanent discussion, exchange with the nature around you, and the fact, all my life I will remember the first shot of lavender I got when I was on my little 50cc in the south of France, I was on top of the mountain, and suddenly the wind brought me that huge perfect smell of lavender, it’s still there, I wouldn’t believe that, so perfectly, if I were on foot, because I go slow, with the motorcycle, I can pile lots, lots, lots of sensations, and this is happiness.

[Please read our previous story about Anne-France on The Vintagent: The Unstoppable Anne-France Dautheville]



David Goldman is photographer and filmmaker who has traveled the world on projects documenting human trafficking, maternal health and marginalized people. He also interviews and photographs motorcyclists in this travels for his series The Motorcycle Portraits. You can follow his website here, his IG here, and his FB here. Explore all his stories for The Vintagent here.
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