If you haven’t heard of Meredith Devine, you’re about to get an eye and ear full! Meredith is a staple in the motorcycle scene. She has created her own space in the very male-dominated community that the motorcycle world is in California. Through her art and her ideas, Meredith has brought back many artistic attributes of motorcycle culture from the 60s and 70s with her own girl-power twists.
‘Meredith’s Painted Ladies’ series put her on the map. I remember the first time seeing one of her shoots – a topless woman standing in a field, covered in painted flowers perched up on a beautiful motorcycle. It wasn’t as sexual as it was badass. There’s an unspoken spin on this series of painted women on choppers that screams empowerment, and it’s everything that the motorcycle community needs these days.
Through her diverse skill set, Meredith has combined photography, makeup, styling and her eye for a cool-ass chopper to create a job, a line of products and some amazing photos that support her life in LA. She does everything from choosing a bike, choosing a scene, a model, doing the paintings on the women’s bodies, to the photography itself, creating merchandise from the photos and even making a book that shows the final products of her work.
The Painted Ladies series isn’t even all that Meredith does. If you have seen her on social media you will notice that she’s a model herself, she shoots weddings, she makes her own woodcuttings, she does brand work and more. When Revolution Motorcycle Magazine asked me to cover Meredith for its upcoming issue, I was excited to learn more about Meredith and hopefully finally grasp all the things she has her hands in.
I’ve known Meredith for about three years but we’ve never really got the chance to hangout. It was cool being one-on-one with her at her house in LA. I checked out her work space and her perfectly fitting home art. I also got to ask her a couple of questions and take a few photos of her and her space. Here’s some of what we spoke about:
Who are you, where are you from and what do you do?
My name is Meredith Devine. I’m originally from Philadelphia and NYC. I moved to LA in 2013. I am a photographer, makeup artist, and creative director.
What are you most known for?
I’m most known for my Painted Ladies. A photo series I started over 4 years ago. In 2017, I published my first book called Meredith’s Painted Ladies, the culmination of a photo series started three years prior. The book is a full-colour 180-page hardcover book that features 15 women and motorcycles. The Painted Ladies series is inspired by the 60s & 70s motorcycle culture and a reflection of female empowerment in a historically male dominated subculture. This series is a true representation of my passion, vision, and talent.
I’ve shot 30 Painted Ladies and bikes. I’m currently working on my second book I will be publishing later this year, Meredith’s Painted Ladies: Vol. II, which will include the next 15. The book will be available in the winter of 2021. This is a body of work I plan to continue for many years.
What came first, bikes or photography?
I went to college at the Fashion Institute of Technology where I studied Graphic Design and Photography. Right after that I knew I wanted to start a career as a makeup artist. I was shooting photos for fun when I got into motorcycles in 2010. I started shooting bike events on the East Coast and then I bought my first bike in 2011. Around 2013 I started getting my photos into bike magazines and then my professional career as a photographer took off in 2014. To answer your question, photography came first but it kinda all happened around the same time. I did a lot of learning as a photographer when I started shooting bikes and portraits. I considered both motorcycles and photography to be hobbies until 2014 when I actually started getting paid.
How do you make money from this?
Since starting this series I have expanded a lot on the type of art and merchandise I sell. I’m always looking for creative new ways to sell my photography. A few years ago I started to lacquer my photos on slices of wood using epoxy resin. I call them woodcuts. It took me two years to nail down the process because it isn’t easy. I had seen some Davin Mann posters from Easy Rider lacquered on wood from the 70s and thought that would be a great way to display my work. No frame necessary, you just hang it up. I’ve also expanded and made woodcut key chains, pendent necklaces, and rolling trays which you can also hang. A lot of work goes into each piece. I also sell various types of soft goods like shirts, sweatshirts, and of course posters and prints of my photos.
Who are your biggest influences?
Some of my biggest influences in the photography world come from fashion. It’s always been one of my biggest dreams to shoot fashion editorials. Helmut Newton is my ultimate inspiration. I’ve studied his work vigorously. His ability to capture a story and the power of the female is exciting. His work has definitely motivated me to shoot more film and continue to push myself and grow in this industry.
Herb Ritts, Steven Meisel, Irving Penn, Mario Testino are also huge influences and motivators. My love for fashion photography has really helped shape my Painted Ladies series. It’s not just motorcycle photography, I’m telling a whole story, and there are a lot of elements that make the images successful. I put a lot of thought into the location, styling, motorcycle, and the model. It’s important that they all work together. I’m very detail oriented so it’s a process I enjoy. My intention for this series was to bring power, beauty, and sex appeal to BOTH the model and bike. Equals represented in a respectful, righteous way.
What motivates you?
I have always had an imperishable desire to be successful and independent. When I have moments in life where work is slow or I took time off, I am very hard on myself and I get that fire lit inside me to go even harder. When I first moved to LA, it was difficult to make money with the cost of living so high. I had to figure out what I wanted to focus on more: makeup or photography. I had been working for MAC Cosmetics for five years and was getting a few commercial and music video gigs. I was busting my ass for like 10 hours a day on set and making little money or being an assistant and getting no credit for my work. Photography was really exciting to me and I realized you can be unique and have your own style in that industry. There are so many makeup artists and photographers that are trying to get it out here and all over the world. But what motivates me is that I have my own vision, style and drive. If I keep pushing myself the opportunities will come.
What is it like to be a woman in the motorcycle industry? How do you think your job would be different if you were a man?
I think the motorcycle industry has changed a lot since I got my first bike in 2011. It was very male dominated and hard to break into. It still is, but it’s been cool seeing more women getting involved and everyone is really helping each other out, and I genuinely want others to succeed. I’m so grateful for everyone I’ve met in this industry and have gotten work with. Men and women!
I remember when I first started with my Painted Lady Series I heard some photographers and industry people talking shit but it was all petty comments cause they were butt hurt 🙂 If you are doing something cool and different you are doing something right if the haters get mad haha 😉 I’ve gained a lot a respect with my work over the years and now that I’ve been working on my Painted Ladies series for almost five years I think I hold my own in the industry.
I don’t think my Painted Ladies would be as successful and vast as it is if I were a man. I actually talk to my models often about this! Women trust me and feel very comfortable with me when I’m painting and shooting them. It’s a very intimate hands-on job. If I were a man, especially in the time that we live in, I think it would be very hard to convince women to do this sort of shoot. It’s unfortunate, but often when women work with men there are feelings or attraction that can cause uncomfortable situations or potentially dangerous ones. I’m not putting ALL males in the industry in the same category but it’s WAY too often that women deal with this. I feel very grateful to be a powerful woman in this industry and I do not take people’s trust for granted. I never want to dominate an industry or take over ‘a man’s world’ I just want to have my own.
How do you find your models and who are they?
I often find my models through friends or social media. A lot of my Painted Ladies are actually my good girl friends. I wanted the important women in my life to feel powerful and sexy and to show that to the world. A few of them ride or it’s their boyfriends or husbands that have choppers which I wanted to shoot them on. Not all of them are seasoned models. It’s not a requirement. I just like to work with beautiful, talented women that have the confidence I am looking to capture. Someone good in front of the camera and that has something unique about them. It’s important to me that they are excited about the series and are into the bike and vision!
Could you do your job if you were not in LA? How does being in California help your career?
I’m grateful I can physically work from anywhere. Shooting, editing, emails can get done on the fly. In terms of actually running my web store business and job opportunities, LA is the best location for me. I do most of my work in my house in the Pasadena area. I live in a quiet neighbourhood. After living in cities, that’s all I really wanted. Hopefully one day soon I can afford my own studio.
Outside my personal work I do freelance photography and makeup for clothing brands, film industry, weddings, and I am always doing personal shoots for clients. My goal is to shoot Fashion and Commercial editorials. Also, it’s always been a dream of mine to shoot celebrities/music artists. It’s NY or LA if you want to make it. I already lived in NY and I’m only looking to visit there. LA is my home and there are so many opportunities here. Can’t stop hustling.
What do you do besides all this?
Besides shooting and riding my motorcycle. I love to travel, workout, cook, and hang with my pups! Since we can’t do much traveling right now, a few friends and I have been taking small weekend trips to the desert or mountains to get some time away from LA.
Are you available for hire?
Always available for hire! The best way to contact me is through email.