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Submitted to MotoPhoto Madrid this self portrait of Alberto Gracia Alix – the authentic Movida: a countercultural movement that took place mainly in Madrid.
Before MotoPhoto Madrid I’d made one brief visit to the city. What little I saw appeared very dignified with grandiose buildings everywhere and a little austere. I was sad that I had not had time to discover Madrid’s charms. The excuse of attending Davida MotoPhoto gave me my chance and I discovered a beautiful, vibrant and artistic city.
On the first day, I found myself on a narrow street outside Motos Mazarias, Madrid’s Royal Enfield and Davida dealership, and MotoPhoto’s venue, listening to an excellent pianist practising, a warm, dry breeze on my face, I knew I’d like this town.
A local contact in an unfamiliar city is invaluable and we lucked out in Madrid by having an artist by the name of Antonio Merinero helping us out with the exhibition, putting us up in his studio, solving problems, making sure we got to see the real Madrid and lots more, all with a very easy-going attitude. Introduced to us by Sideburn magazine, Antonio worked with Moto Photo Curator, Sharon and Victor Osorio from Chopper On magazine putting the exhibition together, I helped out when I arrived, there was a lot to do. In Antonio’s studio all the photographs had to be put onto large panels, lifted down a spiral staircase and walked around the corner to Moto Mazarias, a working shop was transformed into a gallery in just a few hours though it never felt stressful.
On the opening night it was quite an exciting scene on the street outside the shop especially if motorbikes are your thing, I don’t think any of us expected so many, the surrounding streets were thronged with exotic machines of all types, plenty of café racers and inevitably there was a plethora of Harleys, chopped and not.
The atmosphere was charged with the sound of loud pipes a lot of the time, a music of its own. It was somewhat of a convention for the Madrid bike scene, the ‘faces’ and characters were all there catching up. I couldn’t say there was a dull photo on the wall anywhere anyway and it makes a big difference having local submissions to the exhibition, including a self portrait of motocycling photographer Alberto Garcia Alix, the ‘Wild One’ looking adventurous in his Davida Speedster, also of David Boras of El Solitario MC stylishly shot by another celebrated photographer Luis de las Alas. Elsewhere there were some touching and evocative photos, a couple honeymooning on a Vespa in Mallorca in 1958, another showed Alfredo Calles, Aldolfo’s Uncle with his 1959 Indian Chief in the Franco era
Organised by Federico of Café Racer Obession, the after-show took place in a great bar/club not too far away, with drinks paid for by the main sponsor Moto Ciclismo Clasica and being Madrid went on ‘till the early hours. Frankly every night was a late night while I was in Madrid as invariably Antonio, Sharon and myself would get back from late meals and talk for hours, Antonio showing us his artwork (amazing stuff by the way).
We went for a ride into the mountains on the Saturday, the good people, Rubi and Emilio of Motos Mazarias very kindly lent me one of their machines. Once out of the city Antonio swapped his city Vespa for a ’72 Harley kept at his mum’s place, the machine had formerly been ridden by one of Franco’s outriders. I’m not crazy about Harleys but this one was a beauty, reassuringly over-engineered, black, with a nice art-deco look to it set off nicely with a sprung, leather, solo saddle, hand made by Antonio. Thing is, cool though it undoubtedly was, it couldn’t go round corners for shit. On right-handers the exhaust hit the deck at approx 30mph and on lefties the crankcase sent sparks flying at the same speed. How Franco’s outriders could have kept up with any kind of pursuit or flight, the mind boggles. With fascists it was all about getting the aesthetics right I reckon.
His mum was great and insisted on feeding us delicious homemade delights washed down with beer and coffee. While we were there Antonio showed us a BSA petrol tank he’d had made in India, the metal had been painstakingly hand-beaten into shape with just some photos for reference and rough dimensions, it was a work of art.
The Enfield was a joy in the mountains, small and agile with just enough grunt and a nice tone. After a few days in the narrow streets of our Madrid neighbourhood, never experiencing a vista of more than 100ft, getting into the great wide open is good for the spirit. Riding along a tree-lined stretch in the evening sun I had one of those moments where you’re suddenly aware how perfect that moment is and how lucky you are to be there, I’d stop short of saying it was an epiphany, not far off though.
In contrast to the desert around Madrid, the mountains keep surprising you with fresh sights, lakes and terrain. We stopped at a famous biker hang-out, La Crux Verde (The Green Cross), maybe fifty bikes, interestingly, many of the riders women, we kinda decided that bikes are seen as cool on the continent by successive generations in a way that isn’t the case in the UK for whatever reasons. We kept on on the road to Portugal and the coast, none of us wanting to turn back towards the metropolis, the sun was low and we had a dinner to get to and no warm gear with us, next time.
Sharon spotted some bulls destined for the matador (literal translation: killer), we’d discussed the ethics of bullfighting with David Boras of El Solitario MC, his take on it was that the bulls live the life of Reilly for 8 years or so before they’re dispatched in the ring, which made it ok. Food for thought, still reminds me of the worst excesses of the French revolution or of the dying days of the Roman empire. I’ve killed a few animals in my time for food but I can’t imagine dispatching them slowly for someone else’s vicarious thrills. Sangria.
You might be interested to know, though perhaps not surprised, to learn that it has not rained in Madrid since May, it being October, the city is choked with pollution and aridity, your lips feel dry and cracked after a day, you have to drink a lot of water. The good news is that, just around the time Antonio predicted, the heavens opened as we boarded our plane, that man knows his world.
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