From the moment Boston-based photographer Ken Richardson was referred to as “a fairly good basketball player” by his high school art teacher, he knew a creative career was in his future. When not working for clients, he’s wrenching on a leaky old motorcycle or pointing his camera at anything with wheels for a project that includes, but isn’t limited to, inflatable SUV’s, drag races, broken motorcycles, homemade bicycles and burnouts. Altpick had the pleasure of talking with Ken about his photography and his fascination with wheels!
Altpick: As a photographer what do you like about riding a motorcycle?
Ken Richardson: I’m not sure why but a lot of my photographer friends ride motorcycles. I have loved motorcycles since the first time I ever sat on one when I was little. The noise, the smells I love all of it. Looking out of a helmet is sort of like looking through a viewfinder too. It just makes you concentrate on what is happening in front of you with complete focus. For me it’s also awesome to unplug and work on something mechanical with your hands after spending too much time on a computer. Going to my garage to work on an old bike is a great way to clear your mind. I find that to be the most fun thing about bikes these days.
AP: While you were on the Isle of Man photographing the race, did you venture out and ride around the island?
KR: No, but I got to drive the course in a car with Dave Roper (a past IOMTT winner) and Bill Burke (friend, photographer and multiple TT visitor). Being in the car with Dave and hearing about every corner from a racers perspective was amazing. I had a hard enough time driving a car a few blocks on the opposite side of the road. It was cool to be submerged in the place and the historical race. I was photographing for a couple of different stories while I was there so it was nothing but pictures and motorcycles, oh… and some warm beer.
AP: Tell us a little about how you got into photography. Who was the person that turned that light bulb on?
KR: When I was young skateboarding was the biggest thing in my life. I grew up trying to photograph my friends on skateboards and snowboards like the pictures I saw in magazines like Thrasher and Transworld Skateboarding.
When I was 13 or 14 years old two skateboard buddies and I cobbled together a darkroom in one of their basements and that did it. I started photographing all the time, and when it came time to think about college I went to art school. There I studied the masters and spent MANY hours in the darkroom. No specific person really. Just the chemicals, the cameras, the places a camera took me and all the magic stuff that happens when you make photos.
AP: If you had a choice what would be your favorite camera to shoot with?
KR: My favorite cameras that I used a lot were the Mamiya 7 and Mamiya 645. I loved printing the negatives from them. They seemed like the perfect compromise between a 4×5 and a 35mm camera to me. Portable, nice to hold and you could make big prints from them. I still like to use them but I haven’t been in the darkroom for a few years. Lately I’ve been using Canon digital cameras. They are pretty amazing.
AP: What is your favorite subject to photograph these days?
KR: I have been working on a personal project for a long time on wheels and wheels culture. I am going to be in a show this winter called The Wheels Project with some friends. I’m excited to see how that turns out. For client work, I love shooting anything, but I get really into editorial work. I like getting an assignment to photograph someone with only an address or telephone number to go by and you have to go find a photograph. I tend to shoot smart science people, people who make things, motorcycle stuff and just generally interesting people. Meeting interesting people and going to a new place every day is amazing. I feel lucky that is what I get to do for a job.
Thank you Ken!