Portland, Ore., Ducati dealership MotoCorsa shot these "girl on bike" images in 2012 to promote the Ducati 1199 Panigale. A few months later, it recreated the shoot using male MotoCorsa employees in identical outfits.
The images have become a viral sensation. You probably saw them on Facebook or Twitter or on one of numerous news websites that showed them off.
Both sets of images were the brainchild of Arun Sharma, general manager of MotoCorsa. Last year, he wanted his shop to be the first to circulate promotional images of the hotly anticipated Ducati 1199 Panigale.
Photographer and "Moto Lady" blogger Alicia Mariah Elfving helped style and shoot both sets of images.
They shot the photos featuring the female model the same day the Panigale arrived in the shop. Sharma said he achieved his goal of being the first dealership to circulate images of the hottest bike on the market, bearing MotoCorsa's name and logo. As they spread throughout the world, much of the response was positive. There was some backlash, too. Tasteful or not, some said it was just another set of images of a model draped on a bike.
Inspiration struck Sharma a few weeks later, he said, in one those "You know what we should totally do?" moments: "We should totally do the same poses with the guys in the shop."
Sharma called a meeting and announced the plan to reshoot the images using MotoCorsa employees. A few refused to take part, he recalls, but most were enthusiastic. They drew numbers to choose who would pose for each shot.
Senior technician A.J. Ralston was one of the last to choose. "I thought it was a fantastic, hilarious idea," said Ralston, who has worked in the shop for 11 years. "It seems like we always get a lot of flak from customers whenever we put something up on our Facebook page that has a beautiful woman on a motorcycle, so making light of all of that and having a good time doing it seemed like a good idea."
Sharma said there's been some negative reaction toward both versions but much more positive attention, overall.
"We just did it for fun, for the notoriety, and it went crazy," he said. "A lot of people have turned it into something it wasn't intended to be, but that's the beautiful thing about artistic interpretation."
Jensen Beeler, editor of American motorcycle blog Asphalt & Rubber, said he hopes it's a wake-up call to the motorcycle industry that female riders might be attracted by a more balanced approach to marketing.
"If you want more gender equality in the consumer base, we have to have more gender equality in marketing and the way you're approaching things," he said.
"Gender roles are still an issue that people find relevant, and I think that's why we saw it getting picked up in niches and exploding from there," he said.
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