Allison Cordner

I met Allison in Montreal, QC back in June.  It was one of the busiest evenings of the entire eastern tour with three photoshoots and an event; and one of the hottest, muggiest evenings to boot!  Allison wanted to do a tin type photoshoot with us, which was an incredibly interesting process to witness.  I felt so honoured that such a talented portrait photographer wanted to use her vintage camera equipment to capture a stop of the Women of Moto tour.  So after she was finished her photoshoot of us and amidst her capturing the event at MR250Bar; we were able to sneak away so I could finally photograph her.  I have to admit, I get so nervous photographing other photographers, but Allison was such a humble soul to be around.  We hit it off and got along great and I go to know her a bit.  I am so grateful for the relationships I have built across this country with such strong women.  At the end of her interview there's a little bit about her current photo project!  

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What inspired you to start riding?


I was going through a very tough time in my private life when I made the decision to learn how to ride motorcycles. My life was crumbling around me, I had just lost my step father suddenly, only having the chance to say goodbye over the phone as he was dying due to complications during a transplant surgery in Halifax. My 11 year relationship and marriage completely fell apart and my family and friends abandoned me as I had taught them that I was only useful when I was generous. When I couldn’t provide that anymore as I became single, nearly homeless and alone, the people who were not authentic melted away like butter. I now see the true blessings in all of this misfortune. The motorcycle was a means to finding my power, my inner strength and independence. The next years were about self growth and empowerment- I decided to do things I had always put on the back burner like learning to ride. I finished all the steps to acquire my full riding licence in Québec in June 2017. 

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What kind of motorcycle do you ride and why?


I chose to upgrade my learner bike, a red Suzuki Blvd to a Harley Davidson ’48 within the first riding season. The sporty was the only motorcycle I could reach the pedals and ground on due to my pint size stature of 4’11” 1/4. I am now eyeballing a 2017 softail slim as my next bike as I am much more confident and experienced in my riding. I will most likely keep my sporty as a city bike and keep it for my kids.



4. What is your dream bike?


My dream bike is a Harley softail customized to me. I would want it lowered, painted and incorporate a custom tintype image as an air filter plate that I would create using the vintage process of photography called Wet Plate on aluminum. 

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Were you intimidated by the male dominance in the riding community?

I Never feel intimidated by male riders. I grew up with only boys so I feel at home with men- in fact I love them. I feel like I can easily fit right in as long as we skip the sports talk.



6. Did you have female friends that rode who helped you get started?

I had many Litas girls come to help me in Montréal as the rules are so strict you cannot ride anywhere even after passing two tests— I was lucky enough to be staring my motorcycle licence process at exactly the same time as the Montréal Lita​s chapter was established so I got to attend the very first meet-up.

Many, many great women, english and French were generous enough to come get me and bring me back to rides- I look forward to being able to pay it forward in two years when the law permits me too. In the meanwhile I always tell girls they can and should learn because if I could anyone can!

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How has riding helped you in your personal and professional life?


I am a high anxiety overthinking artist and business owner- my mind just never sleeps- the only way I can calm it is by getting on my bike and riding. I love nothing more than road trips; they allow me to dream, clear my thoughts and meet people that I would have otherwise never met. In my first summer of riding I completed 7000 km.

I feel proud of that. It is pretty ambitious for a rookie rider.

Riding has allowed me to feel like I fit into something- a community of sorts.

I have never felt like I fit in. Riding makes me more outgoing and makes me feel like I have an extended family. 

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Do you have any women in the moto industry that you are inspired by? Why?


I find every woman that dares to ride inspiring. My great grandmother rode a motorcycle in the 1920’s and man oh man would I kill to find a picture of that but only the story survives.



Have you been to any women’s only moto meetups? Which ones? How was your experience?


I have been to a bunch of Litas meet ups- it is weird for me as I am shy around girls- I identify much more with men- but getting out there is teaching me to resolve my mommy issues and that not all women are mean- in fact women who ride are are the coolest around!

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Have you experience any competitiveness or negativity in the women’s moto community?


Never at all!! And that is what is amazing because I kind of came in expecting that and it was so not like that.



How do you feel you have broken stereotypes as a female rider?


I am petite. blonde, artsy, a mother and I started riding at the age of 34. I think that is pretty odd. I am not sporty in the typical sense- I prefer drinking wine over beer- I like dresses over t-shirts and I love sequins!

Where do you see the women’s moto movement/culture in Canada heading over the next few years?


I am hoping that more and more women continue riding and that things stay open and not too commercialized.



Why do you think women’s moto events/groups/projects are becoming so popular?


Women want to be equals and break boundaries- we are getting bolder. 

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What do you do for a living?


I am an award winning photographer who has been specializing in portraiture for over 11 years. I am a mother of two children aged 5 & 7. I got my start in the art world early in life by training in contemporary dance & theatre with visionary creatives such as Micheal Montanaro, Sylvie Panet Raymond, & Margie Gillis. My vast experience creating many live installations, unique multimedia pieces & choreographing and performing live, led me naturally into photography & image making.


I have a reputation for creating hauntingly simple yet impactful portraits, making the seemingly regular, extra ordinary. I am also one of only a few photographers in Canada to have the skills and knowledge to create Wet Plate photographs (tintypes, ambrotypes).

I have two art series in progress that lead me to travelling across north America documenting dying circus culture in the USA and I am producing a long term series entitled ‘Silver Unicorns’ that is meant to document and empower all women to defy convention and take emotional and physical risks. I am exploring the faces and personalities of women who ride. So far the images are soulful, and the personalities and stories impactful. The series will be part of an art book that I will be presenting to publishing companies and crowd funding. The glass and aluminum portraits will be showcased at the Roll the Bones Old School Motorcycle & Art Show, which is inspired by the madness of the 1970’s Kustom Kulture. Guest bike builders, a motorcycle exhibition, an art gallery and live music will be presented in the industriel atmosphere of the Darling Foundry. A first on the east coast of Canada taking place in the heart of downtown Montreal. A one day event.


I am hoping to expand the project to men and motorcycles as well- I see this project lasting years and taking a life of it’s own.

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What is your dream moto trip?


I would love to ride across Nothern Ireland, Ireland, through Scotland and Whales- I want to understand my ancestry and what better way to do it than on a motorbike! Also I would like to do Australia, Thailand…it will all happen .



What is one word you would use to describe the feeling you get on your motorcycle?


Connected



What is your favorite place to ride?


By water

Who is your favorite person(s) to ride with?


Myself 


What would you like to see in the moto community for gear, bikes, etc.?


More options for women to learn how to fix our own bikes or female garages to go to. I even looked into the motorcycle mechanic programs in Québec to learn about tuning bikes but the options are nil here. The good programs are in Grand Prairie Alberta. I envision this super old school garage filled with hot babes fixing bike for women and men I think it would sell like hot cakes regardless of the male maybe Sayers who tell me they would never let a women fix their bike and it wouldn't work. That makes me want to schlep myself over to Grand Prairie just prove some folk wrong.

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More on Allison's current photography focus..


Unicorn

A mythical species of horse that is extremely hard, if not impossible to catch. If you manage to capture the unicorn, you will obtain immortality. Don't cage in a unicorn when you keep it. It will run away.


The Silver Unicorns Project is an art series by artist Allison Cordner aimed at empowering & inspiring women to break boundaries, by going against their fears and societal 'norms'. Allison wants to bring to light the full range of women who are pushing the limits by learning to ride motorcycles.


All the portraits taken are of women of many backgrounds, looks, sizes and motorcycles. Allison does not believe in rules or limits. The images themselves are made using a highly specialized historic photographic process of making images on glass or metal, called wet plate. The pieces are fragile, one-of-a-kind and hauntingly beautiful in their imperfections. Allison truly believes that the fragility, freedom, spontaneity and soulful aesthetic of this medium lends itself perfectly to the theme of women who ride motorcycles.