Since Day One, we’ve made it a commitment that high-quality photography be one of the tenets of the Iron & Air brand. Over the past 42 issues, we have been fortunate enough to have worked with some of the greatest photographers in this industry and beyond. When we brought in Scott G Toepfer as guest editor of this issue, we agreed that we should celebrate as many photographers as we could — specifically, those who have played a role in building the foundation of Iron & Air. We asked many of them to share their favorite photo of the past year and explain why it is meaningful to them. The following pages are a collection of these images, accompanied by the voices of the photographers who made them. The images and words brought joy, pain, laughter, and hope, and we are excited to share them in this very special issue.
To me, motorcycles are a way to get away from day-to-day life and away from all the noise. They can carry you into nature where everything takes care of itself. This image reminds me of that. It was taken right before the entire world changed in March 2020. The conditions weren’t ideal, and the news around the world was grim. We set out anyway, finding empty trails and beautiful, snow-dusted landscape. For that day on the trails, with just us and our motorcycles, everything made sense.
I’m sitting here in my basement on a gloomy Pacific Northwest night right before Thanksgiving, 2020, during what has become Oregon’s second lockdown of the year. Looking through these images while listening to old, depressing Bing Crosby records is an unintended and appropriately nostalgic soundtrack for this submission. I took this image shortly before COVID-19 on a fun trip to the Oregon coast with the best of friends. Pictured here are two of the best: Kenny Wright and Casey Lynch on Kenny’s knucklehead, laughing it up. Man, what a great day! Just look at it. I want this image to not only remind us of the good times we have had, but also to remind us that better times are yet to come. Yeah, that’s right — 2020 has turned out to be one giant asshole of a year, but it’s not going to hold us down. Fuck you, 2020.
This has been a year like no other, where we have become afraid of crowds, yet yearn for human contact. It was this notion that inspired me to take my 1985 Austin Mini Mayfair and travel the furthest away I could get from the rest of the UK population: the most northern tip of the Shetland Islands. At the point this photo was taken, it was almost as if COVID-19 didn’t exist. It was just me, my car, and 800 miles to get back home again.
In May, rapper Killer Mike stood at the podium in Atlanta and told America “Now is the time to plot, plan, strategize, organize, and mobilize.” The next week I was at his house shooting new press photos and talking about the times we were living in. Mike and I’ve been friends a while, and I always learn something new when we get together.
The year 2020 has given us all a bit too much to think about. I spent some time thinking about what it means to shoot, what I shoot, and how I shoot it. I figure when I’m doing my best work I’m simply recording data while attempting to put as much feeling into it as possible. The global situation has inspired me to shift from an ambitious frame to a more thankful one. I am simply thankful that, through this chaos, I was still blessed with an opportunity to create some images, with some good friends, of an epic custom bike that they were able to finish. This single image represents elements of all these points. It’s Shaun Guardado sitting with the freshly finished SMCO GT466 bike. It shows completion against all odds. It feels like setting your eyes on a brighter future and holding fast through the darkness. It implies that with humility, strength, and brotherhood, achievement can be seized through anything.
What a year, folks! We really have to be brave and tenacious to stand up to the endless difficulties of recent months. And right now, when we’re all stuck in our homes, scrolling through our Instagram feed, slumped on our couch, we’re dreaming of post-COVID times. Today, the motorcycle world is at its worst; everything is falling apart. Passions give way to security and normalization of desires. Exit vintage motorcycles, these objects declared useless, dangerous, and polluting. They become vulgar junk heaps of iron in people’s minds. Any object must be necessary and rational.
Fortunately, some rebels resist, hold on, and move on despite everything. Fortunately, some still dream in front of an old machine with a weathered look. Some still laugh at the wonderful absurdity of a 2,500cc engine from a Rocket 3. Some still vibrate in front of the innovative design of a piece of metal. And some still savor a beautiful magazine that talks about their passion — with passion. All is not screwed up, folks! Be rebels!
Scott G Toepfer:
I’m not one to take time off to explore my creativity, and the spring of 2020 had me rattled and uninspired. Then I got a call in the early summer about a story I’d been chasing around rodeo. I brought all of my gear, hoping for an opportunity to catch something intense. I got a bit more than I bargained for, and was promptly kicked in the face by the first bull of the day. I was shaken up for a few minutes as I lost sight in my left (camera) eye, but stayed and continued to photograph. This shot encapsulates my whole year: the unsteady balance of the cowboy as he tries to surmount the unpredictable force of nature beneath him.
Having lived a nomadic existence for the better part of two decades, I’ve been guilty of allowing some important relationships to slip. When normalcy shut down early this year, I received an unexpected call from my younger brother, inviting me to quarantine with him and his family in a mountain town above Los Angeles. Realizing I barely knew them, I accepted. I stayed for nearly four months, rebuilding relationships I didn’t know I needed. This image was made on my Yashica T4 during the drive up to what would become one of the most important trips I’ve made.