Miguel Tres subscribes to the belief that a picture is worth a thousand words in his book Custom Motorcycles that is chock full of cool photographs with just a touch of text mixed in.
his native Spain. These events had a profound effect on Miguel. His love of biker culture is apparent in his work and he’s done an admirable job of catching small vignettes of the motorcycle lifestyle in his photography.
Motorcyclists who like to check out pictures but aren’t much into reading, this book is for you. The book is primarily photos. There’s just enough text in between to preface each chapter, but Miguel lets his pictures tell the story. Which isn’t easy when your work environment is bike shows and rallies where you have to compete with people walking into your shots, bad lighting, difficult angles and limited accessibility. I know from experience the difficulties involved, so the fact that he was able to pull off a book’s worth of usable photos is commendable in its own right.
It’s entertaining to see the faces and places because in the book, they’re the type of photos that you look at closely to see if you recognize any of your friends. Some shots will make you laugh, like the shirtless guy with his tanned belly hanging out on page 131 who’s wearing open-toed sandals while riding his bike, a motorcycle complete with bullhorns up front and an American flag out back as he readies to ride through the Badlands.
I know firsthand the challenges of shooting bikes at shows, like catching your reflection in all of that chrome, people absent-mindedly walking into shots, and difficult lighting. But Miguel does an admirable job of getting some solid shots.
The book is divided into seven chapters. In the first chapter, some of the photos are a little flat, but Miguel is dealing with the uncontrollable variables mentioned above. In the next chapter, appropriately called Details, the images are crisper and more colorful. Chapter Three, On the Road, includes interesting photos of biker haunts while the Meetings spread demonstrates the common bond that motorcycling represents.
There are some areas of the book that could have used more attention. As an editor, I have to take umbrage with some of the text. The most glaring mistake is leaving the hyphen out of Harley-Davidson. H-D is mentioned so many times in the text it’s hard to miss. Then there’s small things, like the extra ‘s’ (p. 11) on Kings Mountains (Indian Motorcycle’s current home is in Kings Mountain, North Carolina) and the fact that they referred to famed custom bike builder Ron Finch as Rob Finch (p. 68). I’d also be careful of printing claims like Harley-Davidson is the “World’s leading maker of motorcycles” without making certain that I’d done my research.
The book also could have benefited from a more creative layout. For the most part, every page features one or two rectangular pictures against all-white borders . Some variety would have been helpful. I understand that having an all-white background focuses all the attention on the photograph, but after 231 pages, the layout becomes repetitious.
Maybe it’s not fair that the book I reviewed prior to this included the photos of Michael Lichter and the words of Howard Kelley, which left my expectations at a very high level. In Miguel Tres’ Custom Motorcycles, the photos are intriguing but the text and layout isn’t on par. And for a coffee-table style hardbound book with an MSRP of $39.95, my expectations aren’t the only ones that are going to be high.
Custom Motorcycles by Miguel Tres
Text by Claudia Matheja