Dan Cates 5000 Words Part 1

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So loud and so annoying!
That laugh!
The stupid shit he comes out with!
Who does he think he is?
What’s he wearing? What is he doing?
That’s the sort of stuff you hear people say about Dan Cates.
Dan and I have been friends now for over 25 years and I think between the two of us we have seen and done it all, but he brought way more to skateboarding than me and most others I know with a huge bag of creativity… fun, anarchy and hell-bent determination to do it HIS WAY! Never shy to have a go or have a point of view and just simply saying it as it is, which I always think is a good trait in any person because sitting on the fence just doesn’t cut it! Dan’s artistic ability and knowledge of skateboarding has led people to realise that he’s no clown, but a very important part of the UKs rich skateboarding tapestry. All these years on, Dan still kicks arse in my eyes. He’s lived the dream and has made some amazing contributions to the most important part of skateboarding… the fun!!!
Stay strong Cates 👊

We are stoked to be bringing you the first part of Dan Cates’ 5000 Words. Part one is put together of some memorable situations skateboarding has found him in around the planet…

When ‘normal people’ say: “Kazakhstan? is that even a real place?” you know it’s some where that you should probably put on your to do list. I was lucky enough to be able to make a two week trip around this little known (to your average westerner) country in the summer of 2011 and from the point of view of tourism/photography/history/culture and of course skateboarding it did not disappoint. from ex-labour camps the size of France and Krushchev era Soviet tower blocks, to the golden cupola’s of grandiose Russian orthodox church’s and the futuristic new capital of Astana (pictured) Kazakhstan is a real eye opener.

I was taking my camera for a walk around down town Belgrade one afternoon earlier this year, when I turned a corner and walked right into this demonstration opposing the Nato bombing of Kosovo during the Balkan war. I saw this image making it’s way towards me on the pavement and for once in my life I was quick enough to more-or-less capture what Henri Cartier Bresson might refer to as ‘the decisive moment’. One love to the former Yugoslavia.

Words cannot do Cuba justice. Make sure you make it to Havana before you die! Chances are you’ll have nearly as much fun as this guy had had when I snapped him taking forty winks after one too many Cuba Libre’s.

Random sighting on the streets of Quito. An exciting way to make a family portrait if I say so myself. Saw this opportunity and ran out into midday traffic with my point and shoot. Besides almost being flattened by the ruthless South American driving style that is common place in Ecuador, I was buzzing about the moment that I had just captured as a keep sake from one of my favourite cities. Viva Ecuador.

I was about to go into the final year of a fine art degree and my plan was simple: to somehow take the greatest photographs of my life and go back to uni with a darkroom project that would impress all of my tutors and guarantee me a good pass. Easier said than done! Especially as I am really not the greatest photographer. However, one thing that I have noticed throughout my travels is that some times half of the battle is actually finding the very things that you really want to shoot, so if you go some where that is so epic and so off limits and unknown to the rest of the world that you don’t even have to be good at pointing your camera in order to come back with the gold, your chances of success will be a lot higher. So of course, to make a long story short, I chose North Korea as my subject and after what will probably remain the most fascinating trip of my life, I came back to London with a bag full of film to be developed and spent the next 8 months in the darkroom. At the end of which, I got my degree, graduated from University and the rest is history. Thank you North Korea, I don’t think I could have done it with out you.

This was taken at one of the main skate spots in Athens. My good friend Jay and I ended up crashing a UK DC shoes trip to Greece back in 2003 and tagged along for a week of skating and good times with the likes of Snoopy, Neil Urwin, Amir Williams, and Leo and Jody Smith. I just really like the juxtaposition of the palm tree, which to many is a symbol of paradise, off set against the hypodermic needle, which for me represents a vision from hell. Don’t do drugs.

I met this guy in the Siberian city of Omsk during a trip across Russia with filmer extraordinaire Patrick Walner and his ‘Visual Travelling’ crew. He was part of a group of local skaters who were more than happy to show us around their spots and much like the other cities that we visited in the world’s largest country, we were pretty much greeted with open arms where ever we went. Despite his menacing 6’6″ frame, ‘Stay Away’ tattoo, and penchant for taking on huge stair sets on his 9″ pool shaped board, he was a true gent. But I’ll never forget the image of him actually crying when it was time for us to leave for the next city and we bid farewell to our new friends as we headed off to the train station.

In the summer of 2010 I made a solo trip to the North East to stay with Bingo (RIP) for a few days. My plan was to hit some obscure spots with the ‘Big Man’ and film a few clips for Death’s ‘Ordinary Madness’ before getting the train across to the North West and spending a couple of days doing a personal photography project on Sellafield, the UK’s most notorious nuclear power station. And sure enough, after logging some clips with one of the best guys ever, I set off for Sellafield. This shot of Sellafield golf course, taken while hiding in a bush along the train tracks is my favourite from that trip. The juxtaposition of the two retired women enjoying a pleasant game of golf totally oblivious to the looming nuclear hell zone behind them was worth the long train journey to get there in my opinion.

While on a truly memorable tour around the Ukraine with Moggins and some Russian friends we decided to check out Chernobyl. In case you were in the dark as to exactly what that means, it’s the site of the world’s worst nuclear disaster. While being shown around the now deserted near by town of Pripyat, we were greeted by this macabre seen when we walked into the canteen of a primary school there. A sea of children’s gas masks covered in radio-active dust.

Got this guy to pose with his guns for my point-and-shoot while on a Death trip to Istanbul. As far as subject matter goes, this is pure gold in my book, I just couldn’t pass up this opportunity. Would you buy a gun from this man?

Sometimes photography can be just as meaningful when it’s used to document engineered subjects as opposed to naturally occurring objects and happenings. I’ve always hoped that this image I made in the studio entitled ‘Smack Box’ fits that bill?
I built this flocked jewellery box to be as nice an object as I could make, and then filled it with the most sinister subject matter I could think of in the hope that the end product would be an intriguing juxtaposition. I hope you like it.

Writers note: I have never been a junkie.

I snapped these obliging subjects selling their wares at a flea market in Romania. As is always a real treat when you shoot strangers in the street, these guys were totally into it and played along perfectly, allowing me to snap away for a couple of minutes without a care. I was drawn to the bright colours and thought that I might come away with an image reminiscent of something from Martin Parr’s back catalogue. However, the son posing hard for the camera and his parents almost deliberately looking away just makes it for me.

Stay tuned for the second part of Dan Cates’ 5000 Words which we will be putting out there soon!