In August 2005 I moved to Chicago. One month later, on my birthday, I was given a practically brakeless garage sale bike and taken on a terrifying ride from Logan Square through the “crotch” of Wicker Park. I wasn’t so sure about even riding a bike in the city, but somehow I found myself in an enclosed wooden back porch welding two bikes on top of each other with almost no information about how to use a welder. Without much thought and even less fanfare I was a member of Rat Patrol Bike Club, a group that prides itself on being welcoming and inclusive with no formal prospecting procedure.
At this point I was in my second semester of college. Looking for a project and enthusiastic about my new club, I began to take portraits of people and their freakbikes. Posed portraiture popped up here and there over the years but my developing love of documentary photography prevailed. The next few years Rat Patrol Bike Club became integrated into every aspect of my life, as did my work documenting the club. I documented members as they conceived and created bikes from all kinds of scrap, some more functional than others. But as much as the club celebrated resourcefulness and inventiveness, I was bothered by some social aspects of the club.
Despite being heavily involved in organizing and running Rat Patrol, there was always a feeling of disconnection between myself and the club. Male-dominated and heavy on the alcohol, my identity as a sober woman set me apart. This separation has greatly influenced the perspective of my photographs. I’ve always appreciated intimate and quiet moments within the larger social setting. My project is just as much about one person standing on the fringe of the group as it is about fire and sparks of the club as a whole.
Constant alcohol use and the never-ending displaying of masculinity continued to push me away from the club. “You can’t ever quit, anyone can join but no one can quit we just don’t have a procedure for that," was a facetious concept I may have started or just perpetuated, and it leaves me forever connected to the club. I still photograph the club, still traveling to see new and old friends in other clubs across the country but I've found a way to distance myself from the added stress of cleaning up after alcoholics and fragile male egos.
Rat Patrol has always been about taking trash and turning into something that better suites you, whether it’s a bicycle or the club itself.