David Goldman

The Motorcycle Portraits: Anya Violet Aghababian

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 Anya Violet Aghababian: rider, event organizer, entrepreneur.  Anya co-founded the all-women ride/camp weekend Babes Ride Out, the women's dirtbike gathering Babes in the Dirt, and the women's motorcycle gear company Atwyld.  The term badass comes to mind when considering Anya's accomplishments and cultural impact, giving women not only safe places to gather and ride, but also the gear to get there in.   Here are some of Anya's thoughts on riding:

Anya Violet Aghababian photographed at Running Springs CA, Sept, 30 2020. [David Goldman]

First Experiences

I first got into riding motorcycles when I was about seven years old, running on a 50 cc dirt bike. Both my parents had a background in motorcycling, my dad riding a street bike and my mom on any dirt bike. And yeah, we all used to ride trails and race on the central CA coast where I grew up, and it's something that has trickled over into my adult life.

What Does it Mean?

So what does motorcycling mean to me? Fun, it means fun. Every time I'm on my bike, I'm having fun, whether it's by myself or with a group of people. That's pretty much the only reason I ride is for fun.  Today we're in Green Valley Lake at the entrance to some of my favorite off-road trails.

Great Experiences

One of the greatest motorcycle experiences I've ever had was actually this year. Earlier this year, me and seven other girls rode dirt bikes through the Sahara desert for five days, it was an incredible experience through crazy sand dunes and just out in the middle of the desert and dry lake beds. And it was absolutely beautiful. It happened actually right when the whole COVID thing hit: we thought we might get stuck in the desert in Morocco. So we ended up having to cut the the trip a little bit short and banzai back to  get out of the country before they closed the borders. So we ended up being the adventure of a lifetime essentially because so many things happened while we were gone basically the world was falling apart. And here we are ripping through the desert on dirt bikes, trying not to care about it. But when things got really serious, we had to turn around and get out of there and we basically got out of the country by the skin of our teeth.  The memories of that trip will definitely last a lifetime. One of the greatest moments of that trip was climbing this 400 foot tall sand dune - it was crazy. It was like this sea of sand dunes and you're kind of like surfing them, it really feels almost like surfing a wave: you're kind of cresting and coming back down and then peaks and valleys and there's this one 400 foot tall dune and you just gotta like really power up it, but right when you get to the top you have to let off the throttle a little bit so you just peak right at the very top of the dune and it is the most beautiful overwhelming feeling when you are that high up and all you see is an ocean of sand dunes and it's it's was such a surreal moment - I will never forget that.

 

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.

The Motorcycle Portraits: Robb Talbott

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 Motorcycle Portraits session is with Robb Talbott, owner of the Moto Talbott Collection in Carmel Valley, CA.  If you've been to the Quail Motorcycle Gathering or the Las Vegas motorcycle auctions, you've seen Robb and some of his amazing collection of motorcycles, and if you're lucky, you've had a chance to talk with him and experience first hand the joy and enthusiasm he brings to the motorcycle scene.

A Great Memory

One of my great memories and greatest stories happened in Colorado Springs, Colorado, in the winter of 1971. I was drinking beer with my buddies at this pizza parlor in Colorado Springs: later on in the week was a pretty momentous motorcycle race. So after three or four beers (or I think maybe more), my good buddies talked me into doing the Snow Run, which was a race up Pikes Peak on January 1.  And I thought, wow, I've never done that, and it sounds like a pretty exciting race. So they talked me into it. I prepared to get up at five o'clock that morning, and we drove up Pikes Peak to Glen Ellyn (which is somewhere around 8000 feet): the race started there, and it was 25 degrees out. And I was sitting there freezing, I thought 'this is pretty cold'. But I was in my black leather racing suit, and I was really excited to start as number 220!  Then we started, all at once. The adrenaline was pumping. We raced all the way to the top of Pikes Peak, which is 14,110 feet high. I did fairly well out of 225 bikes, I rode to sixth place!

Robb Talbott taken at his Moto Talbott Collection in Carmel Valley CA. [David Goldman]

Sitting up on top though, we understood. We understood how cold it was. There was a thermometer on the warming house Warming House door that said it was minus 32 degrees! And the warming house door was locked! All of us sat there at the top of Pikes Peak, on that barren mountain, freezing to death. The race was run on ice and snow, and of course it wasn't paved in those days. Going down was the coldest! It was a lot colder than racing up because I didn't have adrenaline. People were covering themselves with anything they could find, and one poor fella put duct tape on his face to act as a windshield, but when he pulled the duct tape off, his skin pulled off too. We were back at Recife's that night where the whole thing started - drinking beer. I wouldn't have missed that race for anything in the world. It injected me with enough adrenaline to get me into motorcycles and now I'm almost 73 years old. I'm still into going fast on motorcycles. so I'm really glad I ran that race at speed.

Riding keeps me young

To me riding a motorcycle is one of the most complex, thrilling adventures that I can do for myself.  It can change how I'm thinking for the day, for the week, for the month.  The term 'freedom' is always used, and yes, you're free to a point, but you have to focus so you don't kill yourself. We have cell phone drivers, we have deer, we have animals. We were taught never to hit any animal bigger than what you could eat that night on a plate. Where I live, the fears and worries of hitting deer are incredible. But what does it mean when I get on a bike? I I focus on riding. I focus on the area. I love turns. I love mountains. I just went to Colorado and put almost 4000 miles on my Ducati driving over passes and enjoying the scenery. But that focus is important to keeping young for me: riding keeps you young because you're not in a car surrounded by a heater, or Bluetooth or air conditioning, with rolled up windows. You're smelling roadkill, you're smelling the sage, and when you cross Nevada. you're smelling the fires that have run through. For example, up in Wyoming there were 17 fires in the summer of 2012 that I rode through: you are involved with the world that you're riding through, you're involved with nature, you're involved with temperatures, from the animals to the sun, it evokes danger, it helps your adrenaline stay up.  It's exciting for me going fast on a bike out in the West, that's my favorite place to ride. It wouldn't be the same on the 95 going to Boston from Florida, which I've done.  Riding keeps me young, and I look forward to it, and when I get off that bike, hopefully I'm sore and a little bit cold. I've had a good ride. My day has been made. And then I started planning my next ride. I don't know how I could live without riding, it's definitely in my blood. It's certainly part of my character, and I meet the best people on bikes too. All of us seem to have a common ground. That is amazing. So stay young, stay safe, and ride a bike. I love them. That’s so cool.

 

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.

The Motorcycle Portraits: Megs Braap

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 Motorcycle Portraits session is with Megan Griffiths, better known on Instagram as @megs_braap, a dedicated dirt bike and trials rider.

Megan Griffiths by David Goldman.

"My name is Megan Griffiths, also known as @mags_braap. I got into dirt biking when I was 17 years old.  Ever since I was a kid, I wanted something with a motor, something that could take me places, and eventually, I had enough money to get one. I was choosing between a quad and a dirt bike, so I walked into a Yamaha dealership, and saw a beautiful TTR 125. And thank God, I chose that over the quad.

"Regardless of your size, or your gender, or whatever it may be, you can do anything anyone else can on a bike. I mean, people tend to shy away from riding certain bikes or riding difficult terrain because 'oh, I'm a woman,' or because 'I'm small and I can't touch the ground.' All it takes is more work. It's just more work putting in the time, and you can do anything.

David Goldman (DG): How old were you when you bought your first bike?

Megan Griffiths (Megs): 16 or 17? I can't remember.

DG: And where you grew up, is it common that 16 year olds are buying these kinds of vehicles?

Megs: I think most people start when they're younger, and their parents get them into it.

DG:  When you bought your bike did the salesperson think twice about you being a woman?

Megs: They didn't seem to think anything of it. I mean, it was a complete beginner's bike. I'm a small person, and a TTR 125 is a really small bike. So they actually pushed me in that direction. It was a good beginner bike for me.

DG: And where you grew up were there tracks to ride on?

Megs: Yep, but I didn't know about them. At the time, I didn't even know we had such a beautiful trail system. I would just explore fire roads, logging roads, stuff like that. And then eventually I discovered single track. That's where everything started to take off. I didn't have any friends that I rode with. My brother and I actually took turns on the bike: we'd go out together and one of us would like stand in the parking lot while the other went out. And then we'd switch.

Megan Griffiths by David Goldman

DG: You're pretty big on social media. You have like 130,000 followers. How would you say that happened?

Megs: The right people shared my posts. I mean, I started doing some pretty gnarly stuff. When it actually started was when I posted a video of a three foot suspended log crossing. And I guess most people don't picture a five foot three woman riding over stuff like that. That got shared a lot, and people started seeing my stuff, and it started growing from there.

DG: Did you have other young women reaching out to you, saying that you inspire them?

Megs: Yeah, it happens all the time. And it's actually really empowering, to know that I'm having an influence on other women and men. I mean, that means a lot.

Megan Griffiths by David Goldman

 

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.

The Motorcycle Portraits: Bobbee Singh

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.

Bobbee Singh at his motorcycle workshop in Delhi, India in 2019, by David Goldman.

"My name is Bobbee Singh. I make motorcycles in India. I have a company called Old Delhi motorcycles, building mostly vintage Royal Enfields. I’m a so-small lad, and I’m a school drop-out, so pretty much all my life till now - I’m 46 years old - I’ve been building bikes. It’s for this particular feeling: when I was an eleven-year-old boy on my birthday, my parents (my father especially) insisted that I go to the toilet!  And I walked in and I put the lights on from the outside and there it was - a faded blue secondhand motorcycle.  It’s for that feeling primarily that I build motorcycles.  I love bringing a little surprise and a little personal and I love telling a story in a motorcycle.  That’s how the disease started in me.

Then I had a neighbor who used to park his motorcycle inside his only room, and put on a big yellow lightbulb and clean it in the night.  And I would just sit around him and put grease on my face and on my fingers and just be part of it.  I think that’s how it pretty much started. I just fell in love with them.

Ever since the beginning when I got on a motorcycle, I have never really been able to look at it as a scientific phenomenon. You know, it's kind of a magical thing for me till this date, it gives me a mindfuck to see that you sit on something and you kick it, and a sound comes and you do something with your left foot, and you release your right hand. And this thing can take you from here to Himalayas. And it's your balance that rides it. So it's unlike any other experience, you know, that's the spiritual side of it, the spiritual inspiration.

It’s the only time I get to move and think and create and sing and be myself.

All that I am gets complimented by the concept of motorcycles, especially old motorcycles, because I have a mind which lives in the past. I love the old school lines, values, aesthetics, music, style, especially motorcycles. So it's given me not just... I'm not just a professional, it's given me a purpose. You know, I wake up for it every day. All that I am able to put into a motorcycle, it's everything, man -  the style, the movement.  I think I would die if there were no motorcycles in my life. It's the only time I get to move and think and create and sing and be myself as the ultimate way of rejoicing my life.  Building them is another story, you know, thank God that I can build motorcycles for people. And I build them really well: I get into it, piece by piece, hand carved.

So I get these vintage, old motorcycles from villages in the interiors of India, and they are dug in the ground and the owners never want to sell because they love it. So I somehow get there through a clandestine network of informers that's very KGB, and we reach there and have to deal with their fucking egos and tell them 'don't bury the bike man! Let me have the bike, sell it to me and let me make it.'   And I get such bikes and I completely open them up and restore them, cycle parts and engine and design on them, and make a unique motorcycle.  These bikes get to Stockholm and Paris and you name it - New York, London. And on random days I get these messages of videos of people just standing around these bikes and the owner taking a video from the side and loving it you know, that's that's a big reward for me to see. People really enjoying and loving this motorcycle."

[Editor: The Vintagent crew first met Bobbee in a film submitted to the very first Motorcycle Film Festival in NYC in 2013.  He was the subject of a film about his motorcycle shop in Delhi: 'Old Delhi Motorcycles', which you can watch below.]

 

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, and his Instagram here.  [Photo by Noah Stone]