There are few definitions of the word inspire but this one resonates with me when it comes to Josh Kurpius. Inspire - "to cause some one to have a feeling of emotion." When you see an image of Josh's, it's like no other and bleeds with emotions, ideas, and motivation. His images have inspired countless amount of people to get on their bikes and to discover new places and things on two wheels. He has literally paved the way in this generation of motorcycle culture photography. Working close with Harley-Davidson, Josh has helped significantly with the chopper and the DIY building of motorcycle culture as it exploded into the mainstream. All of his images are so surreal and make you feel like you are right there with in his eyes, all while he's telling a story throughout his countless adventures. Truly inspiring in every way.
For me, personally, Josh has inspired me to do what I want to do with my life and follow my dreams. I have followed his work for a pretty long time and I have always been a fan. I remember the first time I ever rode with Josh, he was riding his Ironhead "The Locust" like a bat out of hell and swinging this bulky Canon DSLR from side to side, snagging shots every which way. It was like watching a symphony, natural, and effortless. It put the biggest smile on my face to see the madness in person. Josh is super gifted when it comes his talents and I am truly thankful for all the inspiration he has given to me and the world of motorcycles. It's such an honor to have Josh as a part of Fuel Cleveland and he will have some of his inspiring work on display on May 9th. Here's a one on one we did a little while ago, enjoy!
Josh Kurpius, where do you call home?
J: I call home Rockford Illinois... although I don't spend much time there.
How many times have you been coast to coast on your bike and has it gotten better each time?
J: I've been coast to coast 3 times on The Locust…. but have basically been living on it from Spring to Fall every year since 2009… Its seen a lot of interesting places. Riding Coast to Coast is different every time you do it but the U.S. seems to get smaller and smaller with each time you do. Stops along the way seem to feel more like home and the people you meet become more like family.
When did you first pick up a camera? Has it always been digital or have you done film as well?
J: I started shooting in 2001 which was before digital technology was really advanced enough to be viable at an affordable level. While in photo school at Columbia College Chicago I was forced to use a computer, something I had never done before. I hated computers. Digital photography then involved scanning Film Negatives into the computer which took forever…. after which you could run through Photoshop. Back then I was shooting a lot with a 4x5 view camera and medium format. Ultimately the Digital SLR took over.
Where is your favorite place to ride?
J: I love to ride anywhere whether it's long straight roads or the twists and turns of the mountains. The U.S. provides so many beautiful and diverse landscapes it's hard to say. I just love to ride. But I would say that I'm drawn more to the west… I love the desolation.
What is your all time favorite photo you have ever taken and why?
J: That's a hard to say… I'm more drawn to photos that bring me back to a place or time that I really enjoyed. It's crazy how a photo can take you right back to that moment. I guess one favorite is a silhouetted photo of my friends on Lake Michigan in the UP. The sun was setting as we took a wrong turn that dead ended into the lake. It was an amazing day all the way around.
You have been a really big inspiration to, not only me but I’m pretty sure, everyone shooting motorcycle photography these days. How does it make you feel as an artist? What and/or who inspires you as an artist?
J: It's good and bad… The chopper scene has become very popular to the mainstream in the last few years which has also brought a lot of photographers to the scene. It's cool that so many of them are inspired by my work but sometimes there is a fine line between inspiration and just plain ripping off. The problem is that there are so many photographers that give their photographs away. The editors and even large corporations know they don't have to pay for Photographs anymore. There is always some one that will do it for free. The photograph is worth almost nothing now because of it. I actually don't love photography… Maybe it's because of this.... My love is in the motorcycle… I use my camera to keep me involved in Motorcycles 24/7. I don't look at other peoples work… I never really have. I'm inspired by the places I've seen and the people I meet.
If you could ride only one bike for the rest of your life what would it be, your absolute dream bike?
J: Well I'm never going to get rid of "The Locust" The last thing I ever wanted was an Ironhead but it was all I could afford. That bike has literally taken me around the world and back. It's brought me to where I am today… and has created so many amazing memories. So I guess it would be The Locust.
In your recent travels last year, where was the best place you have been and why?
J: I've certainly seen a lot of amazing places over the last year but I would say that I had the greatest time being in Milwaukee. I had a lot going on at the Harley-Davidson Museum and the lady I was seeing at the time lived there and treated me really well. We made so many wild memories in that town on my Chopper.
Tell me one of the all time craziest stories you have been apart of or witnessed over the span of your photography career?
J: Shit that's a hard one... I've seen/done a lot of crazy shit over the years doing what I do. It's hard to just pull one out of the hat. Most of which I probably shouldn't speak about.... all of which involved wild women, going fast, a lot whiskey and too many drugs.
What's your go to lens or lenses that you are always happy with?
J: I like shooting with a standard 50mm.... it's small, sharp and never fails.
I have followed your work for a long time now and I have always noticed you have been a Canon guy, any reasoning or favorite functionality over others?
J: I've always loved Canon Digital. Mostly the 5D Series bodies. They are almost indestructible. I have been riding and shooting with them for many years now. Riding in a pack of choppers across the U.S. will subject your camera to so many of earths destructible elements. I've shot with them while riding in the rain... dunked them in the salt water of the Salt Flats, filled them with dust of hundreds of miles of gravel roads... covered them in the sand of the oceans beaches and the ice and snow of frozen lakes. They never seem to fail. I actually dropped one from my bike for the first time in my life last month. It went down at 75 mph and still works. That's why I love Canon Cameras
Where is the one place you have yet to ride a motorcycle and really want to?
J: I'd like to ride to Alaska at least once in my life.
Any big projects in the works? Is there going to be a book in your near future?
J: I'd really like to get my Panshovel back together but it's hard when I'm stuck on the computer filling out questionnaires like this... Ha! As for a book I always say I'm going to put one together but travel so much it's hard to put one out... and when I'm home I'd rather be working in the shop.
Any goals you have set or things you want to be doing in the next few years?
J: Na... I just always work hard but take the path of least resistance to bigger and better things... I like to have too much fun in the now.
Is there anything you love to do or are passionate about besides working on bikes, and taking photos of them?
J: I hate taking photos... love riding bikes... I also love old cars and driving them... I'm passionate about creating... fabricating.
I have noticed some of your close friends call you “Kid”, is it just a nickname or some kind of story behind it?
J: When I first started hanging out with guys that were into motorcycles there were very few younger people into Harley-Davidson Motorcycles and Choppers. I was always by far the youngest... So people around me would call me Kid.
I know blogs aren’t the cool thing any more but any chance "Kemosabe and The Lodge" will make a revival? A lot of the stories you and the others would write on there and updates on your trips were really fantastic things to see and read.
J: Na... Instagram killed the Chopper blog... and I'd much rather not ever sit behind a computer.
Any life mottos you live by?
J: Not any that I consciously think about.... I just feel that being a respectful person will take you far in life.
Are you a chips and salsa or ruffles and french onion dip kind of dude?
J: Ruffles and French Onion dip for sure.
Anyone you want to give a shout out to or thank?
J: All of the people the have supported me through the worst. My family, My close friends/lovers..... Also Mike Lowney at Harley-Davidson.
Be sure to check out Josh's imagery at Fuel Cleveland on May 9th and if you want to see more of Josh's work head on over to www.joshkurpius.com and www.instagram.com/kurpius