Sunday, January 18, 2009

Photographer, Author, Artist, Garage Girl - An Interview with Sara Liberte

Sara Liberte graduated from Montserrat College of Art in 1997. Since then Sara has been a professional photographer. Motorcycle and portrait photography have been her passion. You may have seen her photos in Easy Rider, In the Wind, Hot Bike, Street Chopper and Iron Works. Her fine art photography work focuses on “Image Fusion”, a technique she uses to combine images. You can see this technique in her “Women and Machine” and “Builder and Machine” photos. And I’m sure you have seen the GEICO Motorcycle Insurance Ads that she created in 2007 for their print campaign. Sara is also staff photography editor for The Cycle Source Magazine.

Sara's passion for motorcycles lead her to becoming co-owner and operator of RT’s North Hills Cycle Inc. in Pittsburgh, PA. She designs custom paint jobs and builds custom cycles. When she's not wrenching on motorcycles she is managing the parts and services department at RT’s.

Sara has been part of the motorcycle industry for over a decade and has been recognized as one of the leading motorcycle designers and photographers at the Sturgis Rally. House of Kolor named RT’s North Hills Cycle as the prestigious painter of 2007. This award is the most elite award in the custom automotive/motorcycle paint industry.

If you haven’t already you should check out “How to Repair and Maintain American V-Twin Motorcycles”. Sara penned this book to help motorcycle enthusiasts who want to be able to service their rides but lack only the know-how. You may also recognize the name Sara Liberte from her “Garage Girls” seminars and website that she created with friend and fellow builder, Jody Perewitz.

Sara took some time to answer a few questions for me recently on her life and career in the motorcycle industry.

When were you first introduced to the motorcycle lifestyle?
Early in my life I started out on 3 wheelers, back then they were considered safer then motorcycles.

Did you always know growing up that you wanted a career in the motorcycle industry or did you have other passions first?
No, I never set out with any goals, just took life day by day. I knew I loved art and would end up doing something with art.

What has been your greatest accomplishment or are there many?
Tough question, I’m proud of many things. Mostly the friendships I have made over the years and my relationship with my family.

When did you decide to start “Garage Girls”?
I decided I needed to do more to reach other women interested in the garage lifestyle after I wrote “How to Repair and Maintain American V-Twins Motorcycles”. So many girls were approaching me and wanting to know more about the mechanical aspect of motorcycles. I decided a website would be the best way to rally us all together.

Could you tell me about the site and what people can find there?
The site focuses on maintaining a balance between our body and our machine. The motorcycle becomes an extension of our body so we need to take care of them both. We offer info about motorcycles and info on maintaining a healthy lifestyle. We also have a section dedicated to animals. “Cruisin’ Companions” celebrates the 4 legged friends of our lives. We do product reviews and offer technical info. We share info on trying to stay healthy with health and beauty info, exercise and nutrition…you name it.

Do you have any mentors or people that you look up to?
Of course! My parents have taught me so many valuable lessons that I’m so grateful for. There have also been a few teachers, Christine O’Brien and Linda White, they both taught me lessons I use daily in my world of art and motorcycles. I have many friends I am grateful for as well.

I noticed you have a tribute to Johnny Chop on your website. Could you tell me how he touched your life?
Johnny was one of the guys I would look forward to seeing at the events year after year. I enjoyed our conversations about motorcycles and the struggles of being in business for yourself. We connected especially about the struggles. He had a generous ear and usually words of inspiration at the end of our conversations. I miss Johnny. Rallies just aren’t the same without him.

Have you found it difficult to get people to take you seriously in such a male dominated profession?
Yes… I could go on and on about the struggles but no one likes to hear you bitch…

What is your advice for girls and women interested in careers in the motorcycle industry?
Be involved because it is your passion. The only way you can be happy in such a tough industry is because you truly love this stuff. You eat, sleep, and breathe it! You can’t imagine yourself doing anything else. That is pretty much the only way you’ll survive this world!

Your photographs are beyond words, beautiful. Do you have any favorites?
I have so many favorites because they all take me back to the moment I created them. Whether it was a conversation with someone, or a shot as I was riding in a beautiful landscape or a moment I was alone with an incredible machine.

How did you decide on the concept for your “Women and Machines” and "Builder and Machines” photos?
Women and Machine was born in my head as I was heavily focused on the idea that the machine/motorcycle becomes an extension of your body. You control this machine, it becomes a part of you. “Builder and Machine” is my series that focuses on Craftsmen. Craftsmen are the rare breed, the dying breed. The craftsmen are the guys who can pretty much do anything like metal fabrication, drawing, engineering, machining, wrenching, and fixing broken parts, painting, bodywork, along with mechanical knowledge, etc. I set out to explore the true craftsmen in the motorcycle and automotive culture. Using my Image Fusion technique my goal is to create a portrait of each craftsmen combining a piece of who they are via their unique work. I was also studying certain quotes at the time, this one was a big inspiration for this project, “One Machine can do the work of fifty ordinary men. No Machine can do the work of one extraordinary man.”-Elbert Hubbard.

Do you sell your prints and if so how does one go about ordering them? The "Woman and Machine" series is limited to an edition of 150 prints of each image on photographic silver gelatin emulsion paper. All prints are available in 2 sizes of 16x20” or 20x30”. “Woman and Machine” was featured at the Belknap Mill Gallery in Laconia, NH for bike week 2005, as well in the Laconia Television show “Riding with Rossi” which aired on the Travel Channel. This series was also featured on “Corbin’s Ride On” and American Thunder, Speed Channel and also on the Documentary DVD titled “Invasion of the motorcycles, Laconia”. "Builder and Machine" is available as a fine art poster print.

What cameras do you use to shoot your amazing photos?
I am a Nikon fan, I love their glass.

Along with being an amazing photographer, you also wrote a book. Could you tell me about it?
The book is a comprehensive guide to servicing a motorcycle, with useful information for those who have the will to service their rides but lack only the know-how. Part of owning a motorcycle is the pleasure of servicing and repairing it on your own. A motorcycle is a symbol of independence, and whether you're wrenching in the garage or making an emergency repair on the side of the road, doing it yourself is part of that independence. By doing much of the service work yourself, you'll save money and time, and you'll have the gratification of knowing what went into your ride.

Do you have any big projects in the works for the future?
Lots of exciting things for . I'm hoping to shoot more work for Cycle Source Magazine and develop our garage-girls column more in the magazine. I have some new images I'll be releasing as well.

What is your favorite rally or do you have more then one favorite?

Where is the best place in the country to ride?
White Mountains New Hampshire.

Do you have any upcoming events that you will be at and if so where?
Lots of events going on! Carlisle Summer Bike Fest is one I'm looking forward to most.

Do you have any motto's that you live by?
My mom shared this with me, "the only thing achieved in life without effort is failure."

What are your other passions beyond motorcycles and photography? Animals, they are god’s creatures and deserve to be treated with respect and love. They have little souls and feelings. Too many people neglect that fact.

If you would like to learn even more about Sara Liberte you can visit her websites.
I'd like to thank Sara for taking the time out of her busy schedule to do this interview with me! Art and Motorcycles...what a gig she has!


Anonymous said...

Thank you for the informative post. I am a women rider and also have my own site about my experiences as a woman motorcycle rider.


"Joker" said...

What you are doing for women in motorcycling by conducting these interviews and putting up posts like this can't be understated. I'd never heard of this lady before. I think what she's done is great, and I'm glad you've brought it to our attention. As you know, women make up a big part of my HOG Chapter, and sometimes I don't think they get the respect that is due. Women like you and Sara are a huge part of making sure that changes. Awesome post!

B.B. said...

Hey Steph, been missing you. Thanks for another great interview!

Dean "D-Day" said...

Good interview Steph! I've been a fan of Sara's work for quite a while and it's nice to see her finally get some well deserved recognition.

Mr. Motorcycle said...

Damn Great post!

Glad she is getting some recognition.

That girl has it goin on, and she aint' too hard on the eyes either!

Thanks for the post, and great interview.

Webster World said...

Steph, Great post. I think her work is awesome. First found her on This lady does some great work. An artist she is. I think her work is the best.

FLHX_Dave said...

Awesome! Yeah...she can work on my bike.

You are becoming the a pretty boss cycle reporter yourself. You have some good stuff here.

All I post is total least you have informative and inspiring content here.

Keep it pinned!

IowaHarleyGirl (Stephanie) said...

Thanks for the comments everyone! I'm glad you enjoy the interviews!!! Sara is one cool woman!!! And talented...DAMN!

Hey have a great site! You have more visitors then I do by far...I've checked out your little tracking dealie-o!

BB - Missed you too! I think my life is finally getting back to normal. Although the overtime was great all work and no Steph makes for total dullness!!! :)

Joker - Glad you are back in the land of the blogging!!! We've missed ya my brotha!

Mr. M.- Glad you dropped by and I could help you out with the eye candy. :)~

D-Day - you and I like too many of the same things. I think you are my brother from another mother or something. LOL

Web - She is a true Artist.

Road Captain said...

Great interview!

Big Daddy said...

Sounds like the both of you are my kinda girls.
Ride on!

Lady Ridesalot said...

WOW! Sara is such an inspiration to women riders. I really enjoyed reading your interview with her. You provide us with such goodies! Thanks for all your effort!

Harley Exhaust said...

I have to agree with one of the above posters, great article and had never heard of this woman until now.

Pretty cool.

TRT said...

Great post, I'm a fan of photography and her work is top notch.

Liz (rippin kitten) said...

Where is the best place in the country to ride?
White Mountains New Hampshire.

I concur!

Great interview! Congrats!

Wink said...

I worked the rally circuit for a dozen years doing sound and lighting for the old 'Spoke. I have run into Sara several times around the country at rallies. She is a real lady that walks the walk. I admire her work.