Alex Irvine Of London Interview

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Last year saw the release of the very first Of London yearbook. This offered us a neatly bound chronological account of skateboarding in the capital in 2014 from a wealth of different photographers. This year it is back and is set to launch this Friday. We are proud to be involved with the London launch and the book itself. We caught up with Alex Irvine who is the man behind the London edition of this expanding yearbook project. This interview was set up to offer you a little background to this project and encourage you to join us at some stage to leaf through the book and see some of the photographs in a larger format…

First of all can you explain your involvement in the Of London Yearbook?

Thomas Busuttil, editor and co-publisher of the Yearbook series, met me one day at a tradeshow and we started talking about the project. This was shortly after year one (De Paris Yearbook 2013), the project had just dropped and I was really interested with the feel of the title – I hadn’t seen anything like it before.
It was full of full-page ‘lifestyle’ photos that often get second billing in a magazine and had an overall different feel to it – no real narrative except the imagery.
It was constrained by the natural timeline of what happened when, where, unlike a magazine where the constraints are imposed by article page count, inferred advertiser demands and the far-flung articles needed when making a monthly publication. The monthly skate mag is essential to skateboarding but the rooted nature of the project fitted my lifestyle more, I was busy with other work & family & the slower pace appealed to me. I sound like a grandpa, ha.

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How did the idea for this project come about initially?

Thomas had worked with the French skate press for a while and I think he wanted to do something himself. He saw the large amount of quality, interesting imagery that fell by the wayside and figured out a format that it could work well in. Not all the imagery is new to the eye, some has been in print or online elsewhere, but we obviously try to limit that, it’s getting less like that the more established the Yearbooks become. I think that’s something interesting too though, that the Yearbooks ignored a skate publication taboo: reuse of an image. It means sometimes you can give an image that has been used online somewhere a new home in print. At the same time you give the image a sense of permanency through it’s place in the timeline of a year, I imagine people flicking through a book 10 years down the line and remembering a moment in time not thinking, ‘Oh, that got a few likes on so and so’s insta’.

Was it easier putting this copy together than the first one?

I would say the process, as a whole, was made easier merely by the fact more people are aware of its existence. We’re about halfway towards people shooting something specifically and submitting retrospectively – finding something that fits. It’s tough for people to shoot specifically for a publication that has such blurry boundaries I think. Sometimes a well-lit, well-composed action shot that took hours to land can be trumped by a spur of the moment, half blurry candid shot. But I think that’s an interesting part of the process: figuring the storyline out of an unlinked sprawl of imagery. Often the feeling of a candid shot conveys more information than one containing action.

How long does the whole process take?

We start working on our respective titles around 6 months prior to the end of the year, I’d say. Personally I’m shooting for a yearbook continuously and a fair few of the photographers are thinking about it all year too I think. Then 90% of the submissions are in by October/November. Once the end of the year hits it’s time to start trimming it back to see how it comes together. Then there are a couple months back and forth as the designer, Nico, is based in France, so it’s wetransfer mayhem. Then polishing the turd and printing.

What is the most challenging aspect of putting the book together?

I’d say it is still making the cuts, as in not being able to fit everything you want in there. You end up trying to condense a story in a couple of pictures, but then it’s also a bit of a blessing to be so limited in that sense, you have to be more selective.

Are there any surprise submissions from photographers we may not have heard of?

Well this year there’s a lot of action stuff from Rafal Wojnowski, which I wasn’t that aware he shot at all, that’s interesting from my perspective, he has a really different view of London, just down to who he shoots with. There’s some rad random single shots from guys like Rich Hart too, I like that, when someone who’s not based in London passes through and has an outlet for their photography as it may not be relevant to anyone other than the Yearbook. Other than that I’m really stoked to see the progression of (Joe) Buddle’s work. 2014-2015 was a real step up in quality, it’s rad to see someone’s work develop like that.

Are you happy with the cross section of different scenes?

You can always do with more variety, but the main, real reason why a scene isn’t represented in the Yearbook is if there wasn’t a photographer present or there was and they didn’t submit their work. This isn’t meant to be an exclusive club, this book is supposed to be a representation of a scene through the prism of a twelve-month period. Well an attempt at it. Kind of a disclaimer!? Haha. If you want your scene represented, shoot it nice, or find someone else to and send it to me here: [email protected]

Do you have more of your own photographs included than in the last book?

I put less of my own stuff in this time, I think. I don’t want these books to be a portfolio of my own work. I try to always make it the first to get cut if something has to go.

This year sees the addition of Berlin to this yearbook series, do you see this expanding even further next year?

If Thomas could take the stress of organizing it and handle another year putting the profits into another title, then yeah, why not! But you’d have to ask him about that, ha ha.
They did a little Of S.F. thing with Rich Hart (PUSH PERIODICAL ISSUE 3: OF S.F.) earlier this year – kind of a mini collab thing. Cool to see that.

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What can we expect to see at the launch on June 3rd?

People in black turtle necks & berets stroking their chins, hot art chicks, drunk skateboarders. Greg Conroy bouncing the door from 6pm. In addition the three yearbooks will be launched for the first time, there will also be an exhibition of selected works from each of the three cities, some drinks and we’ll be showing the new tri-City film 3 – which features edits from each of the capitals.
I think Lovenskate are supplying tea and biscuits too. Register yourself for the launch free HERE

There will also be an exhibition of some photos at Slam after this?

Yeah the exhibition hangs for three days at 15 Bateman Street in Soho then we change up the selection and move it to Slam City West, launching the book for sale in store ahead of anywhere else. Stoked to keep the visuals going and get the word out about this project.
Thanks for the time.

We hope this has you looking forward to the event on Friday. For full information please click HERE. See you there!