Irving Penn’s Hell’s Angels

Bikes People

Irving Penn is undoubtedly one of the true masters of the photographic portrait. When he photographed a bunch of Hells Angels for Look Magazine in 1968 all the classic Penn elements were there – there was the stark backdrop; the steely monochrome and the naturalism of the sitter’s attitude and expression.

Wether or not Penn’s subjects were the rich and the famous or a bunch of hairy bikers he always managed to capture something lasting and resonant about the individuals involved. And these two prints manage to be incisive without resorting to cliché; revealing without being intrusive.

This is an incredibly sensitive portrayal of what must be one of the most widely hyped and misunderstood subcults in human history, from a time when the clubs’ notoriety was perhaps at its peak.


  • Stronzifonzie2003

    i have this second picture below here in the list for real in my boxes of cool black and white wall decoration, never managed to frame it…does anybody want to buy it?? my e mail is..

  • Panhead

    Good photograph, but it looks a bit too contrived. They could all be models dressed up for the part. Didn’t see any like this when I was touring the South West USA at that time.

  • Dave Croshaw

    Great stark monochrome images complement the dark iconograhy.

  • Big Papi T

    Then you were looking in the wrong place. That’s the infamous Terry the Tramp (Oakland HAMC) kneeling to the right (arm on mc wheel). I believe the HA standing behind Tramp is original Frisco chapter president Frank Sadilek wearing Lee Marvin’s striped jersey from 1953’s The Wild One. Again, I don’t know where you were looking, but these brothers & sisters are indeed representative of the HA’s of the late 1960’s (as well as other clubs like the Gypsy Jokers, Satans Slaves, Galloping Gooses, etc).
    This is how I remember 1%ers and their associates looking like in the late 1960s, 70s, & 80s. I only wish they still looked like this!