Photographer Ray Gordon really lives the life, surrounded by bikes and babes, all the while documenting high-octane moments with his camera. He’s been around this hot-rodding his whole life, and sometimes feels more at home on a smoky drag strip than anywhere else. After a crazy successful photo show at Weiden & Kennedy advertising agency, Ray set sights on Los Angeles, with his new show “Throttled,” presented by COMUNE and opening Oct 8 at the Holding Company. It’s gonna be a hell of a party! RSVP’s open now!
LF: First, tell us a little bit about your collab with Weiden & Kennedy (one of our fav ad agencies). How did it all start?
RG: I’ve been working with W+K as a photographer in some form or another for a really long time. They’re my home team. So, when they asked me to do a solo show in their gallery, of course I did it. I was flattered but I wanted it to be more that just an up tight art show where people mill around and act like they give a shit or don’t give a shit about what I have on the walls. So we made it an event. We permitted the street out in front of W+K and invited my friends from all the local car clubs and bike builders to come out and park their tin right out front during the show. Instant party. It was awesome. A giant culture clash. A really great mix of people that work at W+K, people that were out for the night to see some art and people that work really hard on their cars and bikes, all mingling over 6 kegs a beer and a DJ.
LF: The name “throttled” is quite fitting for your body of work. Is this kind of how your life is, fast and furious?
RG: Yeah (laughing) the work really named itself. The dual meaning was very fitting. I mean chances are that if you are like any of my friends and you like to build really fast, loud cars or build really fast, loud bikes then most likely you like to party. It kind of goes with the territory. And girls love guys with cool cars and bikes. That’s just standard. Add a camera and it’s all over. Done.
LF: You are at home with the hot rods, vintage motorcycles, drag strips and custom bike shops. And hot women! When did you become involved in this high-octane lifestyle? What does it do for you?
RG: I know it might be hard to believe but a loud, smoky drag strip is a place I can go to feel at peace. It’s home. It’s also a destination to get away with friends and family. Thor Drake from See See Motorcycles just texted me a pic of a ramp that he had just built for a shoot that we’re doing for his bike shop. He’s going to jump some cars on a street bike that he built. Not a brand new idea by any means but always fun. The ramp is all home made and insane. That’s what it does for me.
LF: Where are you from originally? Were you exposed to this lifestyle at a young age?
RG: I’m from a place far away called Lake Milton Ohio. It’s in between Youngstown and Akron. I have been around hot rodding my entire life. I have a step father who is a drag racer. He helped (along with my mom) raise me. He is an obsessed car nut. He’s got it bad and he passed the disease on to me. It’s like some kind of family sickness. Like herpes.
LF: What kind of car/bike do you drive?
RG: Right now I have a 1951 Chevy Coupe that is being built by my friend Cody at Hurst Racing Tires. We are turning it into a nostalgic drag car. It will look like it rolled out of a time machine that was set to 1961. That car has consumed my thoughts. I also have a late 60’s BSA that Thor at See See Mototrcycles is building. Hard-tailed chop. My everyday driver is a 1996 full size shorty pervert van. It’s very suspicious.
LF: Do you drive cars/bikes like in your photos?
RG: I do and I think that’s why my photographs come across as authentic. It’s in my guts.
LF: When did you first pick up a camera?
RG: I got a Kodak Brownie camera for my 6th birthday and I used to prop out my younger brother Matt with all sorts of weird stuff like candy canes and football helmets and take his portrait. I would actually take my time and set up the shots. Fine tuning them until they were perfect. I still have some of the photos. Poor guy.
LF: Can you tell us a little bit about the high-speed nature of these sports and how you work with your camera to capture the best moments?
RG: Some serious photographer once said something like if you live your life, the photographs’ will make themselves. It’s like that. And pure luck.
LF: Your portfolio on your website is organized in a pretty humorous way, and the images all fit perfectly together. Tell us a little bit about your editing decisions…
RG: Photography is really is all about editing. I just pick the images that make me feel good. The ones that make me laugh or the ones the ones that are full of the things that I want to look at. I’m not trying to gloss up the world up or prove that I have some special vision. I just want the image to stand on it’s own and be badass and if it doesn’t, it gets kicked out of the house.
LF: You’ve got an incredible eye for the portrait. What’s your trick for getting an emotive image?
RG: Tiny penis jokes.
LF: You are a contributor for COMUNE. What kind of work do you do with them?
RG: Those guys are great. They let me hang around and act cool. They have made a couple T shirts with my images on them. I love it. Corey Smith has been a really good friend for a long time. Come to think of it, I think Corey might be my spirit animal.
LF: We are excited about your upcoming exhibit in Los Angeles in October, where there will be new images from the Bonneville Salt Flats. Anything you want to say about these new images?
RG: Thank you. If you haven’t ever been to the Salt Flats for Speed Week you have to go! It was a life changing experience for me. My whole entire life I have read about the salt and dreamed about someday going. I finally made it this year. I have always seen the pictures in the magazines and they look really serene and beautiful, even peaceful. But in reality it’s a violent and harsh environment. 100 plus degree temps and nowhere to hide from the sun. The salt gets EVERYWHERE. It feels like the salt is making your skin rust. And then most of all the cars that look so quiet in the photographs are just brutally deafening loud monsters that are just ripping across the salt at terrifying speeds.
It’s beautiful. I’m going to go every year for the rest of my life.
LF: What’s on your playlist right now?
RG: Right now… Loretta Lynn, Tom Petty, Merle Haggard, Jay Z, AC/DC and of course Rick Bain and the Genius Position.
LF: How FAST do you live?
RG: I have two kids. That’s how I live fast. Before my Daughter and son were born I was just doddling through life. Yes that’s a word. I was completely unaware of time. Never ever gave it a thought. Didn’t matter. Then these two children come into my life and suddenly, in an instant, life is ripping by like a freight train. Everything matters. Every moment is important. It’s scary how fast days go by. I see how fast they learn and grow and it’s just mind boggling. I want to install pause buttons on their backs.
LF: Art Talk: What inspires you? Favorite art or work?
RG: I get really inspired by craftsmen. People that make things with their hands. People with vision. I love to watch people that know how to shape and fabricate metal. I suck at it and I get really jealous. As far as artists? Hmm, There are so many it would be impossible and insulting to even mention just a few. They know who they are. That’s right Jackson Pollock… I’m talking to you.
LF: Sex Talk: What gets you off? Literally or figuratively?
LF: Travel Talk: Favorite destination or travel stories that you want to share?
RG: I was in Jamaica on a shoot and one of our locations was a local fruit stand. At one point someone from the agency decided that the fruit stand didn’t look Caribbean enough so they brought in a crew to paint it a brighter blue and put a new roof on it, stock it with truck loads of fruit etc. I could see the 81 year old Rastafarian lady who owned it looking what I thought was a little distressed. White people from the U.S. were climbing all over her roadside fruit stand making it look more authentic. So I approached her to let her know that I could help put a stop to this nonsense if it was overwhelming her. “No no no” she said. She then went on to tell me that she had been praying for us to come her whole life. She thought that we were angels that were sent to fix up her fruit stand and to help her family have a more successful business. She then said that her and her sons wanted to take us to these beautiful waterfalls in the jungle where she prays everyday. Awesome. Right? I mean, doesn’t every good travel book tell you to wander off into the jungle with pot smoking locals? No one on that whole crew would go except for my friend Ken. We went alright. Deep into the jungle. Once we got to the falls one of the sons handed me a giant joint. “No thanks,” I said. I was actually scared shitless at this point from all of my bravery. “Why not Mon” he replied. I went on to explain that weed makes me paranoid and gives me “the fear”. “What fear Mon” he said. I then told him that if I smoke weed, it makes me want to lock the doors and shut the blinds and turn off the phone and hide in a closet. He started laughing hystarically and stretched his arms wide and started pointing to our surroundings. ”Ah Ha ha ha ha ha HA ha ha ha… WHAT PHONE MON”???!!!!!!!!!!!
Needless to say, I took the stick out of my ass and hit that joint and had the best afternoon in the waterfalls with my new friends.