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 Jamie Nelson, a professional fashion photographer, whose legendary pink house with its extraordinary interiors is often a character in her photo shoots. If you mash up Marylin Minter‘s glitter portraits with ’70s era Oui and any era Easyriders magazine with some Barbie set design, you have glimpsed the soul of Jamie Nelson’s art. David Goldman caught up with Jamie at her home in Los Angeles on February 16 2023, and asked her a few questions about motorcycling: the following are her responses.

La Vie en Rose: Jamie Nelson. [David Goldman]
Please introduce yourself.
My name is Jamie Nelson. I’m a fashion and beauty photographer. We’re here in Los Angeles at my pink house. And I’ve been riding motorcycles for about 10 years,

How did you get started with motorcycles?
I was living in New York City doing the whole fashion photography thing.  It was interesting that everybody was wearing these leather jackets, and motorcycle fashion was on trend at the time. And I was kind of sick of seeing all these girls wearing motorcycle jackets and not riding and I was like, I want to wear that and actually ride.  Some of my girlfriends expressed interest in going to a class with me, and it just didn’t pan out. And they kept delaying and delaying. So I just went by myself.

Jamie Nelson in her backyard with her pink Honda. [Jamie Nelson]
I didn’t have any support system, I was raised by a single mom. So I didn’t have any kind of father figure at all to help me with anything like that. And to be honest, it was a big fear of mine. And that I wanted to conquer. So I went to the DVS safety school was out in the middle of New Jersey, and I was only one of two girls; the other girl ended up crying and going home. And I had this bike, the throttle was was too far for my hand, and it was stuck in position and wouldn’t ever close. So I ended up going off into the forest. And it was terrifying. And I was like, ‘I actually think there’s something wrong with my bike.’ I know enough about bikes and was pretty sure I was following instructions. But I did pretty poorly. But I was like, ‘I’m not gonna quit’. And I was there with all the guys and I was the worst one, but I made it through. And then I just was riding on my own despite all my friends fears of it, and just working my way really slowly into everything.

Typical weekend at Jamie Nelson’s home. [Jamie Nelson]
I got a [Honda] CB250, which I recommend, everybody should start with one, guys included. I sold it pretty quickly, but it was a perfect bike to drop, and didn’t cost a lot, and was small to park and negotiate everywhere. Then came riding from Jersey City through the tunnel, and the first day of like going through the Holland Tunnel was probably the scariest thing for me, because everyone kind of worked that up in my head. And I finally did that, and then some bridges, and riding to Brooklyn, just one step at a time. I joined the Miss-Fires, which is a group of girls out there [co-founded by our Film Curator Corinna Mantlo – ed.]. And I ended up getting bigger and bigger bikes. I got a ’66 Triumph Bonnie and then moved on from there. And we started doing some some trips in the Tri-State area.

A recent cover Jamie shot for Vogue Portugal. [Jamie Nelson]
I think riding really got me to discover who I am. I found the freedom that I had from riding out in the mountains, going to all these events, meeting all these people, it was my time to feel the breeze literally and take off my clothes. As free as I possibly could be. I became ‘Naked Girl’ because I was going to some of my friends’ events out in the Catskills. And liked it was a comfortable environment. For me, I started doing it there [riding naked] and just being out in nature and feeling the breeze and going at low speeds like it was you know, perfectly safe, but it was just this moment of strength and femininity. And like all the guys were taking their tops off playing around and I thought I should be able to as well and so I continue to do that at events, and almost got thrown out of multiple times, which I don’t think is very fair. But people just started see me as that and I got coined, the Naked Girl.

Sparkle land: a recent editorial shoot by Jamie Nelson.

Its’ interesting because like it first I mean, everything takes practice, including getting naked. At first you’re shaking – I dropped my bike in front of everybody – but the amount of support I got from other women…coming up to me saying, ‘You’ve inspired me, you’re so brave, I wish I could do that.’ And it just became a thing that I did over and over.  I’d meet people they’d say Naked Girl. And they remember me from all these different states, all these different events I go to, I found that so interesting. But that’s something about just being brave. And being yourself; that takes practice too.  And you can connect with people on that level, even if it’s just getting naked. It sounds kind of superficial.

The furry interior of Jamie’s pink Mustang, with chain-heart steering wheel. [Jamie Nelson]
What is a great story or experience that you can attribute the bike to?
I have a lot of good memories with a particular girlfriend of mine, Adrienne, and we would go to all these different events together. She actually passed recently, from a lot of different health issues she had. And it was amazing seeing  the community, with the Miss-Fires and everybody, sharing all the memories we had and seeing videos of all of us having such a good time. And those were the best moments for her, being on her bike.

If it doesn’t sparkle, it’s not Jamie. A recent magazine editorial shoot. [Jamie Nelson]
And there’s so many things like that, like with photography, one of my favorite shoots was in Brooklyn in this Hasidic Jewish neighborhood. I had to ride in the shoot, so had my assistant take the camera and do the shots, because I had the model on the back of my bike. So we ended up being styled in these clear vinyl outfits, and we’re both naked under vinyl. This Jewish guy walks by and gives this look in his eye. And we caught him on film, just staring at this girl with her whole ass out in the middle of this neighborhood. And we got screamed at, but it was one of the most memorable experiences, bringing the photography community together, and then me with my riding skills, and really combining all of those passions together.

Jamie’s outfits on her Instagram feed are to die for. [Jamie Nelson]
What do motorcycles mean to you?
Motorcycles, for me mean strength, ultimate femininity, freedom, and really just a break from what I’m doing on a daily basis, to being my true self, and conquering things that I’m scared of. There are so many different types of riders, and I’m able to connect me with people that maybe I wouldn’t have connected with in any other way. It’s also just, you know, an escape from a certain industry. I think it allows everyone to be a little trashy and fearless and reckless. And I think we all need that in life, right? This is a break from the day to day grind.


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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