The summer of 1967 was, famously, “The Summer of Love,” during which over 100,000 of flower-bedecked and sexually liberated youth descended on San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury district to catch a Janis Joplin show—or, as Joan Didion reported, turn their toddles “on,” to LSD. Though California was the hippie movement’s epicenter, counter-cultural waves of sexual permissiveness and civil rights activism were washing through most of the country’s urban areas, and even a few of its idylls. That year, 1967, urban photographer Sylvan Rand got a ride from New York City to rural New Jersey on the back of a motorcycle, where he spent a weekend documenting a rare community: a gay motorcycle club. Unlike the Hell’s Angels, who rode as a full-time gang, this crew of men led quiet, perhaps sequestered lives during the week, becoming a group of leather-clad, amorous guys only in the privacy of farmland hundreds of miles from the cities in which they worked. The fishing equipment, as it were, remained unused.
The rare photos, now digitized, offer a poignant glimpse into the midcentury lives of a subculture whose big civil rights push during the later Sixties wouldn’t bear fruit for decades. Plus, there’s a good smattering of vintage American iron.