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MOTO PHOTOS: South Africa’s Devin Paisley

Posted on October 14, 2017 by Andrew in Other. 21 comments

Time for another instalment of our regular ‘Moto Photos’ stories. Tonight it’s South Africa’s turn in the spotlight; specifically Cape Town’s crack lensman, Devin Paisley. His recent shoot for local shop Hutchbilt really impressed us. So much so, we wanted to see what other goodies he had in his camera bag. So here they are. Enjoy.

Can you introduce yourself?
Hi! I’m Devin. I am lucky enough to call Cape Town, South Africa, home. If you haven’t been here yet, best you book a flight asap. We’ve got some of the world’s best riding on our doorstep. I settled back here after 6 years traveling Asia and Europe working as a model. My father was a photographer in the 70’s and 80’s, so photography is in the blood; my brother is a cinematographer. I picked up my first decent camera in 2007 and started documenting my travels.

The Hutchbilt BMW shoot

Why photograph motorcycles?
To be honest, I think motos chose me. When I moved back to Cape Town the custom bike scene was on the up and up so a mate and I started building bikes. That’s when I started shooting motorcycles and it kind of snowballed from there. After I figured out building custom bikes wasn’t feasible, I started a new project called The Woodstock Moto Co; it’s a community-based DIY motorcycle garage aimed at bringing people from all walks of life together around bikes. The community that has developed has been a major influence in my journey as a moto photographer.

Do you shoot any other subject matter?
Yes. I shoot a wide variety of subjects from travel and portraits to property, but I prefer shooting machines so I’m moving into industrial process photography. I enjoy capturing a production process that is not usually visible to the end-user. I’ve also been documenting an artist friend’s aluminium smelting project which is fascinating.

What’s your go-to camera and lens?
I shoot on Nikon DSLRs. I have a D750 and my old tank D700 for the dirty work. Why? That’s like a KTM vs BMW argument, but my father used to shoot on Nikon and has lots of old glass so I could use it on my camera. Lens-wise I shoot on primes most of the time: a 50mm f1.8, 85mm f1.8 and an old manual focus 135mm f2. I also have a 18-35mm wide. Primes are usually sharper and faster than zooms but they also force you to move around to find your shots. I also have a small Fuji x100t as my pocket camera, which has blown me away.

What’s the best and worst things about shooting bikes?
I think the best thing is seeing the connection between man and machine – and particularly with motorcycles – it’s such infectious fun. I try to shoot in a way that makes non-moto people sit up and take notice and pique their curiosity in something they always saw as dangerous and serious. It also allows me to ride some great bikes I would never have the opportunity to own.

The worst thing? I guess it’s the money. The motorcycle market in South Africa is tiny (which is surprising due to the year round riding and amazing roads) so getting the motorcycle brands to trust you with a decent budget to produce top-notch content is a real struggle. I think this ties in with what Stan Evans was saying in your last Moto Photo feature.

Looking at some of the local bike brands social media accounts is ultra cringe-worthy when the opportunity to expose our epic roads and moto-heaven is so evident. I’ve started looking overseas for clients and recently shot some images for Rev’it, a great company that I think is in the lead when it comes to their attitude to motorcycling, oh and of course ICON.

Sinking feeling?

Where do you see your local moto scene going in the future?
Motorcycles are pretty expensive in South Africa, making them a luxury item. Through the Woodstock Moto Co I am trying to promote “Motorcycles for Everyone” by providing an open and inclusive community of bike lovers that is not intimidating to people who don’t own a bike yet. We also provide classes in basic bike maintenance so that people can buy a fixer upper and breathe new life into it. I think motorcycles provide a practical solution to three of Cape Town’s biggest car problems: petrol, parking, traffic.

Regarding popularity, I think people are realising that an adventure motorcycle doesn’t have to be a large capacity touring beast. Most of my friends ride small capacity dual sport bikes, and those that don’t often miss out on the freedom that small, light bikes provide.

What’s you’re favourite bike from the past few years?
That’s a tough one. Internationally, the one that kicked off my interest in custom bikes was Wrench Monkees Gorilla Punch CB750. The lines were just so right and proportions were bang on.

Locally we’ve had quite a bit going on for such a small scene, Octavia by Hyde Designs, Race8 by Wolf Moto, Johnston moto’s projects but the one that blew me away was Skyway by Hutchbilt. When Jeremy first sent me a few snaps before I shot it – I couldn’t quite get my head around it. But then spending quite a bit of time on set with it – the closer I looked, the deeper the detail and engineering went.

It is a fascinating build which took him 2 years and he persevered through some pretty heavy obstacles. It was pretty polarising too, which I think is good for the scene. I’m bored with seeing the same recipe applied to BMW airheads.

Bump start


[ Devin PaisleyFacebookInstagram ]

  • guvnor67

    Good work. My personal faves here are the 2nd & 3rd pics and the white Bee-Em with the power line behind, oh, and the one of the bike hitting the deck in a big cloud of dust.

    • That dust dude is damn committed. I would have bailed at the first sign of trouble; not them. I tip my hat to them and their burnt leg.

      • guvnor67


        • Like a captain going down with their ship.

          • guvnor67

            Except, luckily, this ship can re-surface and carry on!

  • martin hodgson

    So many incredible shots, every single one reminds you that you could be standing in the exact same spot, with the same camera and take a pointless pic while Devin composes a masterpiece. The final picture is absolutely incredible but I really like pic 6, the woman riding at night…., not sure what it is about it but it just captures so well that feeling of being on a custom bike in that cool night air.

    • guvnor67

      And, a lady on a custom bike is just that little bit kooler still.

      • That Hutchbilt BMW with white wheels really split the crowd, but I still like it a lot. As Devin says, BMW airheads need a good shake-up.

        • guvnor67

          I can’t remember what I remarked when it was featured, but I like it. It’s fresh, clean.

          • martin hodgson

            I loved it, yes it was different to the crowd but to me that’s a good thing and the build quality is off the charts!!!

          • guvnor67


  • Marlon

    That XT500 shot is a killer!

  • properjob

    As someone who worked at the sharp end of photography for nearly twenty years, travelling all over Asia on assignment for magazines and commercial clients, I take a real interest in the photography of motorcycles.

    Sorry, but Devin’s work looks like the output of someone who only recently took up photography, and is still trying to find his way. I wish him well, but would advise him to keep looking over his shoulder, as unless he gets some of the basics down quickly, someone better than him will always be looming back there.

    • Your lack of a real name and the obvious troll in yr comments lead me to think you’re probably just a frustrated photog who can’t take a decent shot, or someone who’s lost out on a job to Devin. Maybe less trolling and more practice would help you?

      • properjob

        Wrong on all counts Andrew. Never been to South Africa, and was (past tense) a photographer with an international folio Devin might envy. Sorry if my opinions don’t coincide with yours, but I do know what I’m talking about.

    • I’ve worked with Devin on numerous projects and spoken about his work behind his back to numerous people in the know, and you’re the only one that’s made that assessment. I don’t know your credentials or how you’re judging his work, but as far as I’m concerned he’s killing it…he’s also too busy running from one assignment to the next right now to look over his shoulder.

  • martin hodgson

    Anyone know more about the tracker fourth from the bottom? I loves it!!

    • Wolf Moto from South Africa. It’s a Suzuki (DR650?) with a Kwaka tank. It was on EXIF late last year. I’d link directly to it, but then I’d have to kill myself… 😉

      • martin hodgson

        Cheers! lol I’ll find it on instagram or elsewhere….