The number 33 stands for something way more than just it's insignificant value as a number to all of us motorcycle and chopper lovers, 33 = CHOP CULT! It represents a lifestyle that one woman has put way more effort than most to highlight, protect, and cherish. Lisa Ballard, editor and chief of ChopCult.com deeply cares about a community full of garage builders, independent business owners, free thinkers, and artists all while preserving our culture and bringing it to the masses. She is probably one of the hardest working in the motorcycle industry, a one woman army that puts in way more hours in than work should allow when it comes to managing Chop Cult and continually growing the DIY motorcycle/chopper culture from the ground up. To boot, she is a pretty awesome photographer as well. I asked Lisa to be a part of Fuel Cleveland not because she is a close friend but because her skills behind the lens never get highlighted, she's the one always looking to let others shine and bask in all the glory. Lisa deserves just as much credit when it comes to contributing photos and writing key features for Chop Cult, The Horse, and too many other publications to name. Surrounding her self around motorcycles 24/7 she seems to capture some of those rare moments and that's what I love so much about her photos. Word on the street is Lisa is going to make the adventure all the way from Cali to Cleveland on May 9th. I'm super stoked she's coming out to represent her work, it's always good to see her smile. Here's a little one on one we did the the other day, enjoy!
- Mikey Revolt
L: I currently reside in Lake Elsinore, CA with my husband, Duane, and son Wayne. “Originally from” is kind of a funny question for me because Duane and I have moved a lot. We have been residents of Florida, Arizona, Kentucky, and New Hampshire during our 24 years of marriage. I’m very proud to say that I was born and raised in Lowell, Mass.
Where does your passion for two wheeled machines come from?
L: My husband Duane. It’s all his fault, lol. I never really experienced the motorcycle lifestyle as a child. My Dad and Uncles preferred to work on old cars instead of motorcycles. Duane’s father owned many motorcycles throughout Duane’s childhood. I believe he influenced Duane a lot.
When Duane decided that he wanted to start leather crafting, it was my job to get his product noticed. That meant holding the wall at MANY events, waiting to speak to the powers that be. These events opened my eyes to the craftsmen, artists, and fabricators of the industry. Over the years, Duane’s admiration of Hondas started our journey in the world of bike building. I absolutely love Duane’s bikes and find his latest build, The Kosmosaki, the most comfortable bike to date. I know some people think its weak not having my own bike, but I really have the best seat in the house. When I’m behind Duane, we are one.
When did you get into photography?
L: My love for photography started as a young child. My grandparents and parents always had cameras at any get together; it didn’t matter if it was a trip to the beach, family gathering or holiday. Cameras were always present in my life. I remember my grandfather allowing me to hold his camera and take photos as a child. I received a Kodak Pocket Instamatic kit for A Christmas gift. It was by far the best Christmas present ever. I also remember my Mother telling me not to waste the film because I had to pay for the processing. I believe this taught me to take my time, really focus on the subject, and make every photo count.
How long have you been editor and chief of Chop Cult? What challenges do you face with the site and separating yourself as an artist?
L: I’m heading into my third year as the acting editor in chief. There were MANY challenges in the first year. I had to figure out how to tone down the overall lack of respect from the website. There was a “throw them to the sharks” mentality, and it hindered us from obtaining content. People were leery to showcase their work; afraid of being ridiculed for their craftsmanship and vision. It took awhile for the members to realize there wasn’t a need to slam each other’s vision publicly. I believe respect is now instilled throughout the site, thanks to the CC moderators Allen, Brandon, Torch and Nina. They have been the driving force to eliminate the thieves, scammers and haters. I also had to prove to the members and followers that I could handle the editor’s position and keep the site alive. The previous owners set the bar of expectation very high for website content, and handled most of the features themselves. My thought process has always been to shine the light on new talent and let them get the recognition they so rightly deserve. I started with a few contributors and am going into 2015 with an amazing crew. The only downfall is I’m doing more computer work vs. shooting features. I’m hoping to work on this in 2015. One of my many duties for the site is laying out the content for every published feature. I’m very fortunate to work with some of the best talent in the industry. Each photographer inspires me with their photography and talent. I’ve never really considered myself an artist, I’m just lucky to be given this opportunity.
You stated to me once that you don’t use Photoshop but you do use a digital camera, “what you see is what you get” you told me I believe. Is that part of staying true to the image you are portraying or any other reasoning?
L: I prefer to showcase the subject in natural light, and in its own beauty. For the most part, when I secure a bike to feature, it’s normally the paint that wins me over. I love eye candy and details that you don’t really see from afar. I love shooting items on a bike that influenced the builder to dig deep and gave that part his all. I’ve heard many times “that part almost ended the build” and by the end, that part made the build. I know some folks enjoy using Photoshop and tell me often that I should give it a try. I prefer to let the natural light dictate what I capture. Photography is like bike building: everyone has their own vision.
Living in California it’s probably hard to be anywhere else, but is there another place you would love to be at right now or live?
My heart will always be in New Hampshire as that’s where my mother, siblings, daughter and extended family reside. It will always be home to me. Moving to California was done to take the Duane Ballard Custom Leather brand to the next level. We had the clientele in New Hampshire, but California made sense due to the year round riding. Plus, Duane was not a fan of the New England winters.
Who or what are some of your main influences or inspirations towards your photography and vision.
L: My Aunt Mary was a big influence on me as a teenager, because she took great photos. I have a piece of her work above my workstation. It’s a black and white photo of a bay window with an American Flag hanging in it. This photo brings me home daily as it showcases everything that I love about Lowell, Mass. Tough cobblestone exterior and American pride. Adam Wright, Courtney Halowell, Holly Anderson and Colleen Swartz have inspired me for many years.
What code do you live by?
L: To always be polite, respectful, and accountable for my actions.
You recently visited Japan for Mooneyes Show. What was some of your favorite moments from Japan and the show? Eat any crazy food or do anything out of the ordinary?
L: By far the best moments were spent meeting our social media followers. It’s absolutely mind blowing to connect with someone from another country and build a friendship from a follow. I never expected Duane’s brand to become this successful. There were guys that passed our booth and would throw out a fist and yell “DB”. That little fist has opened doors for us that I never thought would be possible.
I’m not one to try different foods so I stuck to my norms during the trip; Ramen, beer, pot stickers, and beer. Duane was more adventurous on this trip than the last. The best thing about going to Japan is that you could go down the sketchiest dark alleyway and come across amazing food. We visited this little 400 square foot restaurant that made the best meat kabobs. Duane tried pork tongue one night; I went with a beer instead ☺
What is your favorite thing to take photos of?
L: The ocean and sunsets; they are both my happy places. I also like photographing Duane tooling leather. It’s awesome to capture his process and watch a piece come to life.
What’s next for Lisa Ballard, any future big plans or projects in the works?
L: I just want ChopCult and Duane’s brand to keep moving forward. I would also like to see the Hippy Killer Hoedown, Just Kickers and the David Mann Chopper Festival grow in attendance this year. It’s my main focus at this moment.
You just won Cycle Sources, 2014 Motorcycling’s Woman of The Year award, I know how hard you work day to day and it must be such an honor, how does it feel to see your efforts get recognition to such a high degree of fashion?
L: I feel that was me coming full circle with Cycle Source Magazine and Chris Callen. When we moved to California I couldn’t get a job so I asked Chris who helped him in California because I couldn’t find his magazine anywhere. He didn’t have anyone, so I offered to help him. Duane gave me some space in his booth to promote Cycle Source and attract new subscribers. During a late night conversation, Chris asked me to become his blog editor. I didn’t know the first thing about blogs or social media; I was a cook by trade. I was so nervous about messing up Cycle Source’s website that I made Duane do the first couple of posts so I could observe him. Time went by and then Chris asked me to obtain content for the magazine. I was shit scared, but Chris walked me through the dos and don’ts of motorcycle photography. He gave me advice, encouragement and even bought the Canon EOS 60D that I still use today. I worked as Cycle Source’s west coast editor for three years and during that time helped raise west coast readership 35%. I also promoted many brands and events through my marketing gig, Shiny Side Marketing. I met most of my clients through Cycle Source and the Limpnickie Lot. I never had manuals to learn from, everything was learned solely thru trial and error. I created something out of nothing and have met some incredible, talented folks along the way. Fast forward six years later and I’m able to help others grow in the industry by showcasing their talents through ChopCult. To be the Woman of the Year is humbling, to say the least. I just try to do my best daily and hope that people enjoy what I put out to the universe.
What’s your preference in cameras?
L: I love my Canon EOS 60D and G11.
Do you ride motorcycles your self or solely a back seat kind of girl?
L: I really like the back seat. I wish I had the confidence to learn but the California roads and the drivers scare the shit out of me. I like when Duane is in control.
Any crazy stories you would like to share on your adventures and travels?
L: Duane and I don’t really get to travel because of his workload. I wish we could figure out how to change that and ride more. The only story that comes to mind was our trip to Salinas, CA. Cole Foster was putting on an event and asked us to join in. We drove to Salinas, stayed at a fancy hotel, and woke up the next day to all of our gear stolen. The thieves took over $4000.00 in leather products, our booth set up, Duane’s helmet, hell they even stole our business cards. Duane and I were heart-broken and just wanted to grab his bike and head home. We drove to Cole’s to break the news to him, Jeff Decker and Rico. We told them, “We’re done and too upset to set up.”
Jeff Decker walked up to the two of us and said, “You have to stay, there are people coming who want to meet you. Stay, enjoy yourself and head home after the show vs. driving home upset.”
Duane and I actually took Jeff’s advice and had a great, enjoyable day, despite our recent loss. Jeff’s words of advice have never been forgotten, and it helped me accept that there are days that might just completely suck, but they will get better. Surround yourself with good people and the rest is pretty easy. We’re very fortunate to have made friends with Cole, Rico, Jeff and many others.
Whats your favorite Ice Cream?
L: Black Cherry Ice Cream
Anyone you would like to give shout outs to and thank?
Thanks to Duane, Wayne and Ashlee for being my biggest supporters. Most people think being an editor is easy but it actually takes many hours of my day. A very big thank you to every ChopCult contributor, member, and follower who continues to support and use ChopCult as a part of their everyday lives. I believe we are making a difference for the good and see progress daily. Lastly, thanks to you Michael, for giving me a chance to display my work. This is the first time my photos will be showcased, which is awesome and kind of scary at the same time.
Any words of wisdom you would like to share?
L: Think before you react and always follow through.
Be sure to come see Lisa's work at Fuel Cleveland May 9th, and for more of her writing and photography you can go to www.chopcult.com and www.theshinyside.blogspot.com