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Ollie Porter x (Steph Bolam + Rebels Alliance) = SB35

The story of Sideburn's latest cover shoot starts with a conversation I had with Sarah, a lady at a company I was working with. She told me her boyfriend was a photographer and he liked bikes. I've seen a lot of photographers over my 25 years of motorcycle journalism, so I was polite, but didn't expect much. The partner turned out to be Ollie Porter (aka Ollie Portis) and when I visited his website, my mind began racing. This guy wants to work with Sideburn? The images were more like works of art than simple photos, with massive amounts of creative post-production. He also has a very impressive client list, but that isn't unusual for Sideburn, a lot of our contributors are heavy hitters. These are some of the images that got me fizzed up. (See more at


DIVERSION - Sideburn's covers have developed over the years, though we have always maintained our wraparound cover (despite the back cover being a very attractive and profitable advert spot to offer for sale).

In the early days I wanted the covers to be very uniform, always an action shot, always an unusual crop - that I loved when Ben Part first came up with that style for SB1, and always a dynamic image. That changed with SB13, when we put one of Mick Ofield's technical drawings on the cover. Then we reverted to action, until SB19, the Lenny Schuurmans surreal jellyfish grasstrack illustration. SB22's cover was our first static, a great Mark Kawakami shot of The Speed Merchant's 'Seminal' Harley liquid-cooled 750 Street framer perched at Perris short track.

SB23 was a heavily photoshopped image of Sharon on Jason's Borile (with two 'alternative covers' featuring Roland Sands and Guy Martin).

SB24 was the first magazine with Kar Lee as art ed. By this time, there were more indie motorcycle mags being produced around the world and some of the mainstream titles were being inspired by the minimal covers of Sideburn and other independently produced trendsetting titles, so I felt we had to experiment more to stand out and continue to innovate. Toria of Stay Outside Studio created the Clear Your Head cover for SB24. We used cover lines for the first time on SB25's Rusty Butcher cover. We had more traditional covers, like SB29, then SB32's Yamaha Speed Block 'In Camera' cover was a stand-out for me, but I love all our covers, except perhaps one.

You can see ALL the Sideburn covers in our SIDEBURN MAGAZINE ARCHIVE. That brings us back to the main reason for this post, the SB35 cover. Diversion over...

RETURN TO SCHEDULED PROGRAMMING - Ollie and I agreed we'd do something together, it was just a case of waiting for the right opportunity. Then I visited Rebels Alliance to research the Shop profile for SB34. When I was there I saw their Rough Diamond Yamaha SR500. It looked the perfect bike for Ollie's style of image making. He agreed so we had to find a model, and it had to be a woman who rode bikes. I contacted Gemma of VC London to see if she knew anyone who would be up for it. She suggested a few friends, then quickly followed up with... 'Ooooo, I have a good suggestion!! Steph Bolam. Bloody rad girl. Lives in London. Rides off-road. Maybe too edgy.'

I didn't know the name, but saw some photos and thought Steph's radical tattoos would work well with Ollie's radical photography. Luckily Steph was already a Sideburn subscriber and was up for it.

A date was set. A location was sourced, Steph found a hair and make-up artist who would work for our small budget and it was all systems go.

I drove the trusty Sideburn van to collect the bike and Boots, one of Rebels Alliance's honchos, early on a Monday morning and drove the couple of miles to the location. Steph turned up on her Beta with the clothing she'd sourced and options of footwear, and then changed into see-through latex trousers and a leather boddice.

Ollie and his assistant set up LED lighting. It took ages to get the angle of the cover shot that Ollie was happy with. The portrait shape of our cover wasn't working with what he had in his head. Steph's hairstyle was changed. I kept fetching hot drinks, so Steph didn't freeze in a very cold location.

It was an eight-hour shoot, in all including set up and breakdown, but the results are great.

In the time between shots Steph explained the cold location, though not what she'd choose, wasn't so bad because she is preparing to attempt the the Mongol 100 race for charity. It's a 100-mile race across a frozen lake. You can cycle, run or skate and she is choosing to run, hoping to cover the distance in four days in a predicted average temperature of -40C (coincidentally -40F). The charity she is representing is Children with Cancer UK. If you want to donate to her fundraising, go to

The photos straight out of the camera would have been fantastic, but then Ollie did his magic in post-production and manipulated them to make model and machine a bio-mechanical mass for both the cover and the eight-page feature in the mag.

Steph ready to ride home after the shoot.

The finished cover. BUY SIDEBURN 35

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