Four years ago, Portland, Oregon, photographer Lanakila MacNaughton had lost her way: "I'd just gotten sober, and I didn't think anything would be exciting again." But a year later, after a particularly lucrative assignment, she decided on a whim to buy a motorcycle—and the instant she hit the road, she felt exhilarated. Soon she was seeking out other female riders to join her; she found women who were far from the stereotypical "biker chicks" just accompanying the guys who did the real riding. "They were independent, stylish, and strong," says MacNaughton, 26, "not sitting on the back of a man's bike."

MacNaughton began photographing her fellow motorcyclists in their natural habitat: the open highway. Riding alongside her subjects, whom she finds by word of mouth and via Instagram, she shoots with a 60-year-old camera and changes rolls of film while cruising at 40 miles per hour. In 2012, she launched The Women's Motorcycle Exhibition in Portland to share her spirited images—a woman in vintage goggles sailing past Delaware cornfields, a group of leather-clad friends coasting along the San Francisco Bay. "Suddenly, women from all over the world were emailing to thank me for inspiring them to ride."

The exhibition has appeared in eight cities, from Portsmouth, New Hampshire, to Vancouver, in art galleries, motorcycle dealerships, and coffee shops. This summer MacNaughton is on a cross-country tour sponsored by Harley-Davidson; next she hopes to document the biking culture in countries like France and Thailand. "Sometimes I get nervous about being in new places and talking to people I've never met," she says. "But the next thing I know, we're flying down the road and no words are needed."

Photos are a courtesy of The Women's Motorcycle Exhibition.


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