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Interview: Photographer and Filmmaker Todd Blubaugh

Posted on April 1, 2011 by Scott in Other. 24 comments

Todd Blubaugh is one of those guys you hate. He is very talented at what he does, he loves his job and he gets paid to fly around the world taking photos of models, snowboarders and motorcycles. We came across a trailer for his documentary a few months ago called ‘We R Winning’ (he was winning way before Charlie Sheen) and loved what we saw. The series is all about different people’s experiences with motorcycles and how they’ve changed their lives. Of course, when we originally tried to get in contact with Todd he was in China on a job. But as soon as he got back, he answered a few questions for us:

Can you tell us a little about yourself and your background?

Born 30 years ago in Mcpherson, KS (literally the middle of nowhere, look it up). My parents were amazing (still are) and recognized my passion for motorbikes early on and allowed me to ride as a youngster (thanks Mom and Dad). They made me go to church when I was little and the only way they could get me to sit still was to have me draw pictures of motorbikes during the sermon… So I went to school for art. After graduating from the University of KS I moved to Seattle WA where I live now and have WAY TOO MANY (yet somehow not enough) motorbikes. I have a full time job working as an artist for a great company, K2 Sports, and I make movies and motorcycles with my friends in my free time. I also like kitties. That pretty much covers it. 

You have shot so many beautiful bikes. Have you got a favourite?

I think that would have to be the Goldhead (pictured above and below). It’s an RD Twinline built a few years back. It’s the best café job I’ve seen so far. Really sleek lines. They just finished an S1 Triple that I’m excited to shoot. It’s a real head turner. I plan on doing a pretty special shoot for that bike so keep an eye out.


You shoot a lot of bikes for Twinline. What is your relationship with them?

It’s kind of a long story. I’ll try to articulate …

I see Twinline as a natural step in the evolution of the culture. It’s always changing. Ian (owner) keeps it operating with an organic process. It has evolved from a shop into a brand all the while remaining open as a clubhouse. It is a support system for people like me who want to learn or need an escape.

I met Jeff (Tower – manager) and Analog roll’n around Seattle one summer and they introduced me to the shop. Ian gave me a key after I spent enough time help’n out. I ended up building my XS 400 there last year and got to know all the guys. Now we are on big family. Sometimes a dysfunctional family but what family isn’t, eh?

Shooting our finished products was a way I could help out considering I do it for a living. I love pictures and motorbikes so I was happy to provide if it helped pay the rent.

What is ‘We r Winning’? How did you come about making the film? What was the inspiration?

We R Winning is a definitive series of documentary films that explore the literal and figurative places that motorcycles have helped people discover.

The inspiration came from all the amazing stories I’ve heard passed around the shop. So many of them are full of wisdom. My goal is to give these characters a venue to tell their tales so they can motivate other people the same way they have inspired me. Motorbikes are just a symbol of the bigger picture… The real subject matter is passion. I’ve collected six stories to tell that will make up the series. Introducing Twinline is the pilot episode. I used the shop because first because it was accessible to me while I was still getting to know the guys. So the interviews were honest and came pretty naturally. They all gave me so much good material. It was tough to edit that project down.

The music really helped the success of this picture. Spencer Moody did the intro song (which was dead on). The super talented David West composed the amazing underscore. During the process I’d send him a cut and the next day he’d send me a piano track to audition into the picture. It was a really rewarding to feel the sequence come to life with Dave’s music. Thank you Dave.

My buddy Josh Lane helped me produce the project while Connor Hair and I shot it. The three of us made a number of projects together that year but this one was the most fun.

What other projects are you working on?

I’m working on the other 5 episodes right now. It’s a hell of a lot of work :/ I need to raise some serious cash to finish by the end of the year. As far as bike projects, I’m working on a 75 XLCH. It’s my first American bike. I traded my buddy an FZR for it. My goal is to be finished by July. It’s coming a long nicely. Nick D is working on a similar project right now and we plan on riding south as soon as the bikes are road worthy. Other then that I’m just trying to find more ways to spend time with my friends. I don’t want to be one of those lonely old motorcycle dudes living in a trailer surrounded by rusted old motorbikes. No offense to anyone. It just scares me a little cause I’ve seen the writing on the wall.

What bikes have you previously owned? What do you ride now?

My first bike was a KE Kawasaki. After that I got DT 125 and rode it for years. In college I started riding road bikes, got an FZR then a FJ 1100. I moved out to Seattle from KC with the FZR and got a KZ 750. Now I have The XS 400 (my daily driver), the KZ, a GS 550, and finally the Ironhead project. But now I really want a TT so I might have to get rid of something to accommodate for that. I have a one in one out policy now that Jeff and I live together. We had to start putting bikes in the living room. Good thing my girl moved out I guess, eh? 

Twinline owner Ian Halcott monkeying around.

Any last words of wisdom for the readers of Pipeburn?

Three things I try and remind myself constantly…
– Don’t take yourself too seriously.
– Be patient with your friends.
– And teamwork makes the dream work

PS.The film will be screening in NYC at The Shop in Brooklyn, 290 Metropolitan Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11211 (between Roebling & Driggs) April 10th, at 6pm.

  • Not too keen on the intro track but thats just me, the rest of it is really good though, nicely shot and I think I want to work there too!
    Fairplay to the guy who lost his leg, glad to see it didnt stop him and he got back on. friend of mine lost his arm in a bike crash, doesnt stop him either.He regularly rides track days and not in the slow group either.Inspirational.
    Cant wait to see the rest of it.

  • Gary

    I feel PB is becoming the best MC blog out there. Keep up the good work.

  • sid23

    Really great video. Not just because of the beautifully shot bikes and biking scenes but more because of the passion the people have for what they do. In the end, that is the only way to be really good at doing what you do and the only way to be happy with that and yourself.

  • Ken

    I agree with CHris on his assesment of the opening track and the desire to work there or at least hang out there and learn everything I could! I definitely would stock their fridge a time or two!

  • Norm

    A true tribute to what riding and riders are all about. These are very passionate young men doing something they believe in and extracting the best they can from life. I think Brendan Gillum says it all when he says that you know what can happen but you confront it and do it anyhow. If you don't you aren't really riding.

    I have been riding of and on for over 40 years now. I have been down in the dirt more than once and have the broken bones and the x-rays to prove it. Seems like the only time I am ever truly alive is when I am pushing it to the limits, sometimes a little too hard. LOL But the passion still burns and it's flames have never dimmed………

  • Nate

    Well done……damn it to people actually living the dream full time, but god bless those who appreciate the inner beauty of vintage japanese motorcycles……..this sneak peak worked (i'm all torn up and quiting my job tomorrow).

  • Dave in Kalifornia

    Cool vid. I think the music fits well. It's simple, and slightly evocative of grace. Love to see more/finished film. Good job!

  • DS

    I dig the positive grip on reality (name of film while the flame still went out). Lot to absorb in such a short film.

    Intro music is good.

    "..when you drive a car, you're basically standing still.." true.

    Had the privilege of seeing the 350 in person.

  • Kenoath

    Ok so who wants to come open up a vintage bike shop in Melbourne.

  • I do… I'm trying to visit this summer actually… and hoping to make a contact out that way. Hmmmm?

  • this is very nice
    living the dream, ha
    can't stop thinking about doin it…

  • The Dude's a friggin "Rockstar". After spending 2 days flying back from his shoot in China – he was dropped off at Touratech here in Seattle at 6:00 where he volunteered his services to shoot all the event stills throughout the night for the one and only Austin Vince event.

    It really shows that Motorcycles and photography are truly a labor of love…

  • Love you Todd! So thrilled to see where you take the series and your life, my friend!

  • r.m.

    i loved all of it. i'm a musician/songwriter of 21yrs, and a motorcyclist of 20… and, i'm looking here in the first place, so that should tell you where i'm coming from, where my head is at. my opinion is of value, as i'm the demographic of which you speak, to who you connect… good job !!

  • hangaround

    now this is what i am talking about! We know that you can get killed on a bike, but we're doing the ride anyway!

  • Sooty

    Fantastic documentary! Really captured all of passion those blokes had for what they do. Really inspiring.
    'Kenoath' I'm keen to open a shop like that in Melbourne!

  • Poops

    damn near brought me to tears, and its only the first episode?! fan…wait for it…tastic

  • Mattro

    the goldhead has been in heavy rotation in my motorbike whack-cycle (or "desktop background image collection") since i first saw it. one of my favorite customs, ever.

  • hey, where did the link go?

  • Scott

    @Chris _ Unfortunately the link was only posted for a limited time at Todd's request. He didnt want to ruin his chances in an upcoming film festival. We will post the vid again soon.

  • Jerfle

    Great trailer. I think the track is perfect and passion is there–both there's and yours. Well done.

  • Josh

    Fantastic film, I was lucky enough to see it at The One Motorcycle Show in Portland back in February. Also thanks for the kind words about my bike, the Goldhead.

  • very cool work todd! cycles and documentary. the premise is fantastic. i got to a point where i was completely burned out a couple years ago. managed to get 3 weeks off from my corp gig and rode for miles and miles all across the country. kept a journal and photos at advrider fro friends and family.

  • Bogey

    Your film transends far beyond the bike culture. It captures passion that each person has to find for themself whether building a bike, writing, music, athletics or raising a family. Your patience, creativity and not only love for what you do but most of all how you value and respect your friends shines through.

    You bring me great joy son.