Profiling six skateboarders who kill it in front of and behind the lens, have a scroll and check out the work and words of Ben Gore, Arto Saari, Vincent Coupeau, Jerome Campbell, Gabriel Engelke and Jerry Hsu.
1. Ben Gore
Ben Gore - a San Francisco local and Floridian native, Ben's skating is fantastic to watch and the pure street output he has is admirable. Every bit of footage or coverage I see of him makes my day and really makes me want to go and skate. His skating and photography are seamless in his approach to them - both very stylish and quite simple, they will both stand the test of time. In his recent interview with Kingpin in our photo issue (118), here's a few of the relative points he made about skating and photography (not in linear format of the original interview):
I can see from the photos on your website that you shoot film and I guess you print yourself? If so, how are you getting along with getting the right printing exposures?
I am shooting film and printing myself. There's always good days and bad days, but either way once the print is done I'm always happy. I think finishing a print feels the same as landing a trick that you've been working on - complete satisfaction. I'm a strong believer of using the darkroom; if you're shooting film and not printing yourself I honestly feel bad for you. That's like trying to film a line but only landing the first trick.
...Why do you shoot photos?
There's about a hundred ways to answer this but mainly I shoot photos for memories. Being able to look at all my photos 10, 15, 20 years from now seems really important to me...I also like the artistic side of it, constantly watching and waiting for something to happen. I never let my guard down when I have my camera; I'm 100% aware of my surroundings.
Why choose Black & White?
I just always think about what I'm going to look back on and black and white just seems more iconic. I really like how black and white makes a photo seem like the past because the past is exactly what a photo is. It was there at one moment, you shot it and now it's gone.
Clearly Mr Gore takes a lot of care to ensure that the photos he lets other people see are of the utmost quality. It doesn't seem like he is rushing to put himself out there and garner a lot of attention for his photography - and he doesn't do it because he is a professional skateboarder and people would be paying at least some attention to him doing it anyway. The attention for his photography has come naturally. His photos are quite striking and beautiful in a simulacrum of city and street-life in monochrome. Choosing to develop and print his own photos, shows that he really is in total control of their creation - from the click of the shutter to hanging them up to dry - and doing so only with film (which he mentions he has been shooting with for around 6 years) shows that he is committed to photography as a craft. Most people who start photography these days, would do so with a digital camera, which despite its many practicalities as a medium, doesn't take the same amount of commitment and the individual learning process that film does. Enjoy a selection of Ben's photos on this page and on his website.
2. Arto Saari
Arto Saari - undoubtedly one of the most powerful and influential European skaters to make it in America. He's conquered some of the gnarliest spots around and showed the world that he had no fear, especially when it came to rails. Having gotten past trying to go bigger and bigger with his skating, he's seemed to have mellowed out a bit in the past few years, building a pool to skate in his back garden seems to have been a good start and his output now is a lot less to do with a stair count and more to do with a naturally great style. His portraits and skate photos are of an equally high standard - he seems to have a natural eye for a good photo. Check out his website here for his photos, including an insanely rad shot of Lance Mountain airing an Alva board amid flames. Here are two of his responses towards skating and photography from his recent interview on the the Leica blog:
How did you first get into photography?
My 7th grade art teacher was super cool and would let us borrow a 35mm camera with a few rolls of film. We would take off from class and go shoot skateboarding around town. Later as a pro skater, I was around photographers all the time and became interested in it again. One of them sold me a camera and gave me a little cheat sheet to help me learn. I’ve been hooked ever since.
What has skateboarding done to the way you see photography, and vice versa?
Skateboarding tends to take you to new places all the time. You might be in a fancy part of town one minute and in the ghetto the next. Wherever you hear of a good spot to skate, you want to go there and check it out for new possibilities. Photography is very similar. It can be a vessel to travel and explore, it gives you a purpose for being there, and you get to show other people what is going on in the world. They go hand in hand for me. Photography has also been a great teacher for me as far as what to do and what not to do on a skateboard. I’ve been blessed with the chance of being on both sides of the lens and know what skate tricks will look like in a picture. I really enjoy being behind the lens these days. Skateboarding has been extremely kind to me and allowed me to do a lot of traveling over the last few years. I am hoping photography will do the same for me."
Arto deserves to find a future in photography; he definitely has the skill and flare to make as much of a reputation for himself as a photographer as he has done as a skateboarder.
3. Vincent Coupeau
Vincent Coupeau - a Parisian local and Witchcraft skateboards rider, Vincent's photos don't exactly reflect what you might have expected them to look like from watching him skate. On a board he has quite a aggressive, I guess you could say 'hesh' style of skating: punk rock, pulled up socks and slappies. However his photos are quite gentle and reflective, demonstrating great examples of black and white skate photos, among a Parisian setting. Here are some of Vincent's responses in his interview from our photo issue (no.118):
You still do film photography, why this choice?
Because the final result is definitely better on film for black & white in my opinion. It's also a different way of approaching photography. With film, you really concentrate; you look for the right angle with your eyes first instead of shooting 20 picture and checking the result on your small screen. i feel like it's closer to reality, less mechanical...But you should know that recently I started digital and colour, mainly because I had no other choice; the pictures had to be sent off rapidly. And moreover, the cost of film is getting hard to bare...
I know you're as good on a skateboard as some of the people you shoot. Isn't it too frustrating when you are on a spot and would like to skate but have to shoot photos instead of skating?
That's the whole problem...And I think the worst part for me is that I never see photos of myself. I always see people quite happy to see themselves in the pictures I shoot, for the memory it brings back to them, and I would really like to experience that feeling too, but it almost never happens. But still, I'm not complaining; I'm very happy with what I shoot and that's what matters most."
Vincent seems to have his head screwed on pretty well. Although it is a sad thing to admit, film photography (while looking far better and more real) is quite an expensive pursuit. As he has his photos published and used, using digital is more practical for him. Although he may seem a little bit bummed out that he doesn't really have all that many photos shot of him, at least he can consent to enjoying being a photographer and a skater, even if it means not always having evidence of what he's done on a board.
4. Jerome Campbell
Jerome Campbell - Sheffield local, smooth operator on a board and a very talented photographer; things have been picking up pace for his photography in the last year or so, with exhibitions, shows and zines galore. The Polar Skate Co. pro seems to have an effortless style in both of his chosen fields. His photos have a grittiness to them, that perhaps reflect his northern roots. His collection called "Sheffield Now" boldly portray the city's inhabitants going about their daily business, managing to capture candid portraits of these strangers and describing their physical personalities perfectly. All of his chosen subjects - from buildings, to nature and skaters - are made into really great photos, that either look timeless, or give a snapshot for the future to look back on. In his CafeCreme interview last year, he was asked:
What are some of your upcoming projects?
A lot of my time is spent shooting photographs and working on other creative advertising projects, it’s keeping me nice and busy. I think its really important to have a few things going on to keep your mind moving, I have a few small exhibitions coming up in the near future as well as a couple of collaborations with shops and friends.
Your other passion is photography, what do you shoot usually? How have you been involved?
I love shooting photographs on skate trips just saving dope memories of who you were with and where you were at, I have been shooting pictures for about 8 years. I studied photography at university in Leeds which was mad fun; I just love it. I would say I have the same amount of passion for it as I do for skating perhaps more as it doesn’t give you shinners.
Like the other photographer skaters in this list Jerome has as much of a passion for his skating as his does for his photography. Us mere mortals can only marvel at how these guys can be so good at two things - both highly creative and time-consuming outlets. Check out his website here and his blog in the link in the question above.
5. Gabriel Engelke
Antiz's Gabriel Engelke was a bit of a last minute addition to the list but luckily for us he was really keen to be featured in it and sent over a few of his favorite shots. He explained that they are a selection of analogue photos taken on trips over the last 2 years. What made him go for these ones is that apparently a bag in which he kept most of his photo gear got stolen recently, leaving him only with his digital camera. According to him it's "a tribute to the good old analogue times".
6. Jerry Hsu
Jerry Hsu - is undoubtedly one of the most talented skaters of all time. His abilities as a tech skater, with every kind of flip trick you could imagine were demonstrated early in his career. His fearless ability to tackle some of the scariest spots was demonstrated in his "Bag Of Suck" part, with seven and a half minutes of non-stop destruction. And his dedication to filming his "Stay Gold" part nearly entirely in switch is a testament to the lengths he has gone as a professional. Besides all this Jerry has been a great photographer alongside his pro career for a number of years and has published some of his work and displayed it in exhibitions. His work is very raw and almost like the work of war correspondents: he is very involved with the situation and manages to depict what he is capturing in an honest way. A lot of his work is also pretty tongue in cheek and his blog "N A Z I G O L D" will show you that. In his interview with Vice Magazine, he discussed skateboarding and his photography, including some of the books he's released and shows that he's done:
Tell me about your zine, Our Moment Together?
It’s photos I took of kids taking photos of me with their cellphone cameras. That’s what kids do now; they just stick phones in your face. So I decided to start taking photos of it and I had lots of them so I made a whole 'zine out of it. They’re pretty funny because it’s not just the kid with the cell phone covering his face but it’s their friends in the background and they’re pointing at you and smiling. It’s a weird thing that happens. What you don’t see is that these kids are taking photos of their friends with me, so there’s this nervous kid’s hands on me as I’m trying to take a photo, which is kind of funny.
Tell me about The Killing Season photo book from your Vietnam trip.
That trip was fucked, but in the best way imaginable. It happened in February 2012 and it was a Jonathan Mehring trip. His whole thing is to do wild shit and throw skating into a situation where it doesn’t belong. I couldn’t go on his last trip to the Amazon because I just read a book about how they have fish that jump into your pee hole and they have to chop off your dick when that happens. Luckily no one’s dick got chopped of on that trip, thank goodness. I was like, “I’ll go on the next one," and the next one happened to be this Vietnam one where the idea was to fly into Hanoi in the north and we all buy motorcycles and drive those motorcycles 1100 miles to Saigon, skating stuff along the way. Then we would sell the motorcycles when we got to Saigon and fly home. I said, “I can’t do that. That sounds insane." But he kept calling me about it and eventually I went because I knew no one would ever invite me on a trip like that again and I could probably get some really cool photos. The funny part was I wasn’t very good at riding a motorcycle. I learned to ride one before, but you kind of want to have some actual road experience before you go to a country with absolutely no rules. It was like Mad Max on the roads and on the freeways. It was the most scared I had ever been in my life. I really thought I was going to die all the time. The reason the book is called The Killing Season is because it was during the Asian New Year and everybody was riding around wasted. We couldn’t have picked a more dangerous time to do it.
Jerry's ability to make social commentaries with his photos, whether from his encounters with overly-brave young fans, or his photos while travelling the world (like the barbecued dogs) displays a witty intelligence that matches the honesty of his work.