Go Skateboarding Day occurs on the 21st of June and was started up by the International Association of Skateboard Companies to increase skateboarding accessibility. 2012 will be the 8th anniversary of this day with an increasing amount of events worldwide to celebrate and encourage interest in this increasingly popular extreme sport. To celebrate the day, I went out with my camera and shot some skateboarders, some of whom shared why they picked up a board in the first place.
Skateboarding is something I’ve had a passing interest in for many years as I’d say I was actively involved in my local “alternative” scene; going to gigs, getting tattooed and pierced and generally immersing myself in more alternative social groups. Unfortunately, the closest I’ve come to being a skilled skateboarder is beating my brother by sheer fluke at Tony Hawk’s Playstation 2 games. However, when watching either films or in person, skateboarding does hold a certain fascination and a slight regret that I didn’t pick up a skateboard at a young age and force myself to work through the painful early stages! I love looking at the bright skateboards and wheels in my local skating shops and I live in my faithful Vans… shame they’ve never even got to touch a skateboard, really!
After receiving an assignment to do with skateboarding I sent round a few text messages and got the ball rolling to take some pictures of local skateboarders. I was immediately struck by how friendly everyone who got in touch with was and how willing they were to get their friends involved and do some leg work for me without previously knowing me. At the skate parks, everyone seemed to know the etiquette, letting each other have equal turns dropping in and watching respectfully. The guts they have when they have a brutal fall and just get up and try again is insane! As a social thing, skateboarding seems to be up there with being in a band for fun stakes!
After watching the skaters up close, I definitely decided that I’d be safer enjoying this sport from behind my camera lens. I picked up some back copies of Sidewalk magazine and started looking through the different styles and techniques. Some of the high octane action shots seem to be taken with a myriad of expensive and complex equipment, particularly lighting set ups, but I found myself drawn to the more simple portraits of the skaters. I liked the urban looking environments shot in steely black and white and these confident (mostly) men staring straight into the camera with their friendly personalities shining through. I decided to utilise this style and set out to capture black and white images that hopefully epitomise the camaraderie, skill, determination and swagger of these boys with an added hefty dose of an innate sense of humour for good measure.
What did I learn about shooting skaters? Make yourself known to begin with, talk to as many of the skaters as possible and once they seem to be happy with you being there with your camera, don’t be afraid to get up close and stuck in for those dramatic action shots. Obviously use your common sense and watch the routes they seem to take and keep your wits about you as you don’t want to hinder their performance or cause an accident by being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Once you’ve got all the action shots you want, try and blend in and get those “off duty” photos that really capture the personality of the skaters. Keep an eye out for artistic close ups and use the location to frame your shots or add interest. The more unobtrusive you are, the more relaxed they will be around your camera. Decide on the style you want to achieve and use work in this style to inspire your creativity.
And if you’re braver than me, don’t just snap them, give skateboarding a go too!