It was a pleasure to catch up with Dominic Marley for this 5000 Words interview. This features his picks from a decade of skate photography…
Caught in the act in Crystal Palace. photo: Alex Skrzynski
Dom has been a good friend of mine for many years. He gifted skateboarding some incredible images during his time in the trenches. Dom was a craftsman from the beginning, a true photographer in love with the process. I was so happy when he said he was down to do a 5000 words because his photos have a heavy relevance now. Not just for us but for new eyes which wouldn’t have seen them the first time around. They were first printed when magazines were our vital portal to what was happening, years before the digital realm ruled the roost. Now they take on new life in all their backlit glory and many of the subjects here are still the heads out there progressing the thing we love.
From around 2000 onwards Dom was out every day shooting photos for ten years. Many of those days involved Slam as meeting point or a pit stop to and from the lab so we joined him on his photographic journey and shared some of the missions. He picked a few of his favourite photos for this article and we spent some time talking about what went into making them. These photos scratch the surface of a decade spent shooting what was happening in our city and much further afield.
Words and interview by Jacob Sawyer
Brennan nollie flips in front of the big Barcelona sky
Brennan in Barcelona, who was on that trip?
Me, yourself, Charlie, Brennan, Skinner and Toddy. I think it must have taken a couple of minutes to shoot that. We were on our way back to drop our stuff off and then go out for the evening. We were skating back past the city and the light started to drop. I remember just looking out and thinking how sick would be to shoot a photo there. I popped a couple of flashes up and said to Brennan what have you got? He had a nollie flip this day.
I shot a Polaroid first and it looked cool. There’s something about that photo I quite like, with a lot of skate photos there’s a bit of a formula to them and this one is a bit flat really. But the reason I chose this photo is that I was never ever happy going to the lab for about a decade. I would be there every week, shooting every day. I’d always look through the film and see that we could do this, could do that but this one definitely brought a smile to my face. It’s a bit blurry but you can see what’s going on, there’s quite a bit of atmosphere.
Was there a happy accident element to it?
No it was deliberate blur but I was trying to get the detail, a silhouette but a flash lit silhouette against the blur so there was a play with shadows and light in there. It was all back lit and nothing from the front with a slow shutter speed so you get that moment where the back of his foot is lit, the board is lit but you can see where he’s moving and where the board is going. The thing about film is that it’s magic, you didn’t quite know how it was going to work until it got on the light box and this time I was stoked, the colours look good.
The thing about film is that it’s magic, you didn’t quite know how it was going to work until it got on the light box
Any good Brennan anecdotes from this time away?
I think this is the time where Brennan went from being a vegan who doesn’t smoke or drink to the complete opposite in the space of a day, it all went out the window in an evening. There are too many other things. I do remember going to this manny pad down a hill, a high manny pad into a slope, it was big. He did a nollie pop shut it manual roll first try. I think it’s the best thing I’ve ever seen him do, he did it first go and he was so surprised.
I remember a faulty hash transaction where the amount expected was instead a thimble sized nugget and a shopping trolley full of recycling the entrepreuner was arguing made it up to the equivalent value.
Ah man, he is the best.
Nick Jensen kickflips the bar at Gas Banks
How did the stars align for this one?
I remember going here regularly, this spot was a real bust, you would always get kicked out straight away. I remember going there and it being so dark that you couldn’t really see what was going on. This was the cover of Kingpin. Nick is a determined person and his work ethic on a skateboard is something else but I remember this trick evading him. He really wanted to do this for make Friends With The Colour Blue and we had been back quite a lot.
Gas Banks was always part of the run, the skate from Holborn station down to the viaduct. We would hit it up on the off chance you got some time there which hardly ever worked out, so going after this with generators must have been a serious mission
He had come close a few times but we were always busted. That night it worked out, it’s gnarly, that bank is hard to ride up, getting a kick flip over that bar is amazing. We had been there on other nights in the dark. I always quite liked shooting stuff long lens, fish eye can’t really do that justice as to how gnarly that is. I think long lens told a better story, the catch is good, look at it.
I spoke to Nick to get his memories on this. He got a big fine doctoring another bar in Queens Park so he was a bit paranoid because he had to unscrew a bar here too, for this reason he put tape over his number plate even though he had parked streets away. Add in to the equation that he is skating the spot alone in the dark with you taking photos and Magee filming plus the added generator factor, it’s a pretty intense situation to begin with.
There was a rail he had to unscrew on the bank so this could even be possible which had an absolute comedy screw that was about a foot long. He didn’t have a ratchet spanner so he’s there throbbing it before he had even begun because of how long it all took to get ready. He said the adrenalin pumping from the preparation gave him the jelly legs which meant he couldn’t do the kickflip he envisioned. It’s absolutely incredible that kickflip though and the product of pure street mining stealth.
Charlie Young hops the fence for this 360 Flip
This is early days of you taking photos…
This was in a London article in Kingpin. I started taking photos in about 1999 or 2000. I was always into taking portraits. It was 2001 0r 2002 when that article came out. We had just been skating Croydon that day, I think I had just started to work on the Hasselblad a bit more. I had shot portraits with it and it was my favourite camera, then magazines would ask specifically if you could shoot with the Hasselblad. It was quite a fashionable thing to have that square thing running over two pages, the quality just jumped out when you had that.
This was at an old workshop in Purley and I remember Charlie saying he had found this spot. We went there and he jumped over the fence. It was an old school workshop and the guys who worked there came out, they weren’t cussing us they were more like “what are you doing?” Charlie explained that he wanted to skate this bank and they didn’t care at all, just let him get on with it. That place has been knocked down. I don’t know how old Charlie would have been then in 2001
He’s got the Air Max 1’s, I remember him skating in them and those ACG Wildwood’s
He’s got the Air Max on, it’s lit with flashes. I was getting to grips with it, the Hasselblad has a fast shutter sync so it means you can go out in the day time and use a bit of flash to pick things out and you would get a nice photo. That was a lot of daylight and a bit of flash shot on film. That’s an early Charlie Young photo.
Charlie was motivated to find spots and go and shoot photos early on
We would skate together a lot. It was always us lot together at Fairfield. Around then I shot photos but got more into shooting skating. I’d skate with Charlie, Callow, yourself and Dominguez all the time and then there was this new added element. It was nice for everyone to get photos of what we were doing. Charlie found that spot and saw the photo possibility.
Those were the days when I was starting out but I’d still want to go skating myself. I remember the lines blurring, I went to meet Jensen once, he wanted to shoot a photo but he rang me and said are you coming out skating? I remember meeting him in Slam and he asked where my camera was and I was like “I’m just coming out skating” Hahaha and the plans for the day changed. When you have camera kit you can’t really forget about it and go skating for the day.
Fairfields RIP. Charlie Young Backside Noseblunt slide. Original hand print of the magic.
This must be one of your first skate photos…
I was looking back on all these photos and then there’s this backside noseblunt photo of Charlie shot at Fairfields. This was really early on, I’d just got a new lens for my Nikon. We were just out skating for the day and the light was like that. Charlie was doing his backside noseblunts and we just chatted about it and decided to shoot it. That’s the original hand print scanned today. Those two photos of Charlie are different in terms of their production. The backside noseblunt , I just quickly picked up the camera as it’s happening. It’s black and white, grainy, I shot the photo and the camera is back in the bag. With 35mm cameras it’s quite disposable.
Years later I had this thought that with the Hasselblad when you’d shoot with flash light in the daytime, it’s one of those things I don’t really like looking at now. Lots of stuff was just that, really polished, flash lit daytime photography shot on the Hasselblad which is amazing quality. But at a point in time I questioned whether that was how I feel skating is. Both of these photos have different narratives. One we had gone to a spot specifically with an idea to make a photo look a certain way with kit whereas the other it was just the two of us at a spot we would always skate.
I just picked up the camera, shot a photo, the kit was so much less and it encapsulates just what it is. I got to thinking how much more fun certain trips to amazing places around the world would have been. Rather than carrying a Hasselblad, a sequence camera, various lenses, tripods, flashes and all this stuff. You’re trying to skate around and capture these moments but it slows you down at the same time. That backside noseblunt is one of my favourite skate photos, it’s one of the early ones and it’s immediate.
It’s classic, it’s a portal into skating Fairfields at that time and the feel of the spot
I remember going down there one night with Charlie to try and fill one of those planters in as well. We tried our best to concrete one in and shortly after they filled them in any way. I like the photo, the composition, the trick is banging, the dappled light, it’s what I think skateboarding should be really. It’s of the moment and the image reminds me of that.
Often when you look back, for instance with photos which ran in the early nineties. There were far less bells and whistles in terms of kit but a whole heap of iconic photos produced which document the time and the energy.
Definitely, on camera flash and a fisheye. Something happens and bang you quickly shoot it and then you’re off moving around. I think at the time when I started getting into it, magazines wanted stuff shot on a Hasselblad. It would give you kind of an edge because the mags would get sent a lot of photos. Right at the beginning I would hand print a lot of my photos. Instead of sending them a negative I’d send a 12” by 16” hand print, a black and white thing. There was something nice about the prints.
Print is another stage in the process, it is it’s own organic thing. This photo really is what skating means to me
You look back now and that thing just ages so well. Print is another stage in the process, it is it’s own organic thing. This photo really is what skating means to me. I’m not taking away from the other stuff. You look back on all the effort of carrying all that stuff around and you do get nice photos from it but is it necessary? Years on I got to a point where it felt over saturated and a bit too polished. It took the fun and spontaneity out of it.
This was shot when you were still studying photography?
Yeah I did a degree in photography at Chelsea college and this would have been shot just as I was finishing. As I was finishing my degree I started getting photos published in Sidewalk so it was kind of a seamless thing. You develop your own style I think, I would look at mags and see amazing photos shot on slide film, you look at stuff like that and you have your own take on what you would like to do.
You always like photos that were instantly recognisable as being by the person who shot them, a Gaberman photo for instance…
Yeah definitely, something you could spot. I think Benjamin Deberdt had that, I always liked his stuff. He had that with 35mm when people were shooting on Hasselblads, super polished, amazing stuff but Benjamin had his own very natural thing going on and Wig Worland. Wig helped me out a lot in the early days giving me some film as Benjamin did too. They both had their own recognisable style.
Preserving the mythical. Andrew Brophy Switch Ollie at Southbank
Let’s start with your relationship to Southbank on this one
Well my old man used to work with the homeless people around Waterloo and Elephant & Castle so I remember going to Southbank when I was a kid.
This is when cardboard city was a thing, where the Imax cinema stands now there was a massive homeless community
Absolutely and my dad worked with them, they all knew him so they would stop and chat. So that is what Southbank was to me as a kid but I remember getting to about age 11 when I first started skating. My mum and dad took me down there one day. Southbank was a very different place back then but I wanted to go and skate down there. My mum spoke to Clive (Daley) and asked him if he could keep an eye on me while they walked down the river.
They went for a walk and left me and I remember just sessioning nollies with Clive which was obviously banging because he’s the best dude. But Southbank was such a different place, it had an edge, it was exciting to go there. For some reason this Brophy photo still captures some of that going on with it for me. Brophy is one of those guys, you can’t really do justice to his skateboarding in a photo, you kind of have to be there to witness it. Around this time it maybe wasn’t cool to have people in the background of a photo but in this instance you kind of have to, it makes it.
Southbank was such a different place, it had an edge, it was exciting to go there. For some reason this Brophy photo still captures some of that going on with it for me
It reinforces where it is and how it happened. This just happened in the middle of a session right? It wasn’t an orchestrated thing
No exactly, I think he wanted to do it and everyone wanted to see him do it by the looks of it. I remember watching Brophy skate for the first time at the curvy block in Canary Wharf. We were all skating this block and he straight tre flipped over it and everyone was like “whoah who is this guy?” He was the guy who would just do something all of a sudden.
I think when someone skates like that that you have to shoot quite quickly. If you were going to do something and it’s gnarly you don’t really want to hang around and contemplate it too much. Looking in the background you’ve got Lev, Brennan, Rob Mathieson, Nugget peeping in behind the block, Rory behind him. It’s amazing, so many people in it and it’s just that time.
This was the time where Brophy would skate there every day and the whispers would reverberate of what he’d done. “Brophy frontside ollied up the 7” etc. This is part of the folklore. Absolutely ridiculous, that thing square is longer than the main ledge everyone skates down there today, it’s monstrous. If somebody ollied that at the time it could have been a photo and he switch ollied it.
Yeah it says something about how big Southbank was at the time too to be able to get the speed to do that coming from that direction. That block was by the end of the beam skating towards the seven. He’s obviously going fast for that, that photo is gnarly.
Look at the sheer height of that switch ollie! As you said with Brophy, lots of photos, even if it’s a big set of stairs or a super high ledge it doesn’t always translate but with this one you can’t argue with it.
There’s a few people like that, I always remember skating with Smithy. You’d skate a spot and just because of the way he skates people would stop to watch him. People who don’t skate or know anything about skating were transfixed, he’d draw a crowd and with Brophy it was the same. You would be skating then all of a sudden he would do something.
With this I think I remember setting up the lights, we chatted about him doing it and everyone just wanted to see it go down. It was such an epic thing, I like the way he is facing the camera and so is everyone else. Kind of an accidental moment but the people in the background make that photo. He’s towering over Lev’s head
Lev Tanju dipping a switch back smith
Nice lead. What’s the story with this one?
Stripes, stripes and stripes. He’s got a good dip on the switch back smith, good spot. I don’t think I shot a fisheye of that, I think I just shot a roll of film with Lev and Charlie at that spot. I remember seeing the light and the stripes and it just looked nice so we shot it on black and white film. I’m pretty sure that is a scan of a print from 2001. It’s a fibre based print which holds a really nice quality.
It’s a banging Lev move, good shape, he’s got the Dill DVS shoes on. This was around the time Lev was working in Slam
That was that time, Ventures, those shoes, stripey top, it’s good. I think this photo has aged well. There’s a lot of lines, the smith is dipping down, the shadow is going in that direction. It seems like everything is going in that direction. I even like the guy in the background looking over at the vantage point, the stripes in black and white, the stripes on the jumper, finesse to the trick, it just works.
All of these photos transport me to skating those spots, just by the surface in the foreground. Smooth tiled floor here, the slabs at Southbank, the more uneven floor at Fairfields. They all represent how it was to skate the spot in some way.
This is shot on a Hasselblad with a standard lens or a slightly longer lens which will give you the real picture. But that’s skating in London, the floor, the block, the weather, Lev’s wearing a jumper because it’s cold.
Bobby Puleo’s wavey backside flip from Static II
What brought Puleo to London?
I remember this well. Puleo had come to London to film for Static II. Some stuff had gone down on this wave, Snowy’s nollie flip, Scott Palmer’s 360 flip, this spot is hard to skate. Bobby wanted to go there, at this point in time I had just got a Hasselblad fisheye, I had wanted one so badly. I had this Hasselblad Xpan camera, I went into the place where Hasselblad sold their stuff and finding a second hand fisheye. I had been trying my best to get one, I ended up swapping a camera for this one and I was so stoked on that lens.
This was the first day I had gone out shooting photos with it. Then we had the conversation about shooting this backside flip and Puleo saying you’ve got to shoot it long lens. But I was so set on fisheye, I liked the wave and I really wanted to use that lens so we did in the end. Then we went back to the lab to look at the photos and then went back again afterwards to shoot it long lens. We shot both and I did a print of it long lens. Then we spoke about it after that, discussed which one was better and decided to go for the fisheye. They were both good, the long lens one was shot from quite a distance away so you really see the steepness of the thing.
Josh ran this photo as a poster alongside the video too
Yeah it was a poster for the video and it was also in Kingpin magazine. It was early on for me when I had photos appearing in different places and it was Bobby Puleo so it was a good one. People loved Puleo, he would find the maddest spots. Through him people would realise things were skateable that they would maybe not have looked at and end up skating random spots. That was thing, he had an eye for it and the quick feet to make it happen.
People loved Puleo, he would find the maddest spots. Through him people would realise things were skateable that they would maybe not have looked at and end up skating random spots. That was thing, he had an eye for it and the quick feet to make it happen.
I like this photo because like the Lev one it reminds me of a time when it was all really new and exciting for me to be out there learning. It was like being out skating because it was something I enjoyed doing, to then make prints and watch it all unfold. With the Puleo photo, to just get that fisheye which was the lens to have. I think Wig got one first from what I can gather and people like Oliver Barton too and their stuff just looked amazing. That lens just sucks up light, it’s so nice to work with so that backside flip I was really stoked with. I like the lines, the stripes in that sculpture look like that’s where he’s coming from.
Jacob Sawyer. Wallride Nollie Out
Wow, this is the pinnacle here. Where did this photo run?
This was from a Guilty By Association with Charlie Young in Sidewalk where you both shot wallride nollie outs. I remember we shot a football photo where Charlie is fouling you and you’re flying which I loved. I really like this photo, this is with the same Hasselblad fisheye, I like what’s going on in there, popping out and into that little bank. It’s Jake, we’re old friends mate, reminds me of our Domino’s pizza lunch times.
This was that thing where it’s just something little but I was excited that we could go and shoot a photo together
Yeah that’s what I mean, it’s fun. We’d go skating all the time but then there’s this other thing we could do where I shoot stuff and you skate and we come back with a photo. There were definitely times where I could go out really wanting to shoot a photo and people would just want to skate, so that could get in the way and the lines got blurred. But it’s great to just go out with your mates and shoot a nice photo and then years on we’re sat here talking about it, it’s cool.
I’m stoked to have this photo in here. Gareth Skewis taught me how he did this trick at Baker Street park but I could never properly wire it. Then we skated this spot one day and that little bank put my feet in just the right position to hoist off the nose. You and I went back there to shoot this and I haven’t done one since.
That makes it even better.
Signature Matt West shapes adhere him to this wallride to fakie
Now this is in the same sort of league as my wallride…
This wallride is gnarly!
Matt is a force of nature…
Yeah he just goes at it one hundred percent. He is flying up that wall. This was a day with Matt, Snowy and Ben Jobe. We’d gone to this spot and I had already shot a few photos here but I just couldn’t get my head around how high he was going off the bat. We were cracking up, Ben Jobe was playing the flute and shouting, then ocassionally he’d take a few pushes and ride up the wall and then start playing the flute again.
Matt was charging, Snowy was skating it, the energy of that session was just amazing. Matt would go to a spot, be really stoked to be shooting a photo and do the gnarliest shit. He’s from New Zealand and this was the cover of Manual magazine over there. I can’t believe how high he went, he almost hit the roof.
I remember Matt doing a tail slide at Stockwell and kind of having conversation throughout the slide. He was like “Im in it, no I’m not, I’m slipping out, I’m going in” and then making it, he’s amazing. This is going to be used in something else soon too?
Yeah this company FAT from Tokyo are going to print this on a jumper. Matt is a funny dude, he lives in New Zealand now, he does building work. That’s what is amazing with skateboarding, you’re mates with so many different people. Matt was definitely one of my favourite people to go skating with just for pure fun, his energy is amazing.
Rory Milanes navigates a narrow one for this frontside flip
So this Rory photo was from the early days of Ben Dominguez having a video camera?
Yeah Ben had just got a camera and he really takes to things, when he gets into something it’s full on, if it’s cycling he doesn’t just get a bike he’s doing Tour De Australia you know what I mean? It was the same with the camera, he was figuring it out. He had got really into filming and he had driven us out here.
I remember meeting Rory really early on. The first time I met him I was shooting a photo of someone at this spot in Monument and I was sat on my board shooting the photo. Rory came over and sat on my board with me and he was energetic and hilarious. This photo was taken a little while after that.
Ben would be making a lot of those missions happen?
Yeah he was stoked to do it and he had a car and no-one really had a car back then. But also because he fixed washing machines he would be driving around South east London in his van all the time finding random spots as he went along. He’d be finding these spots and know who he’s want to go to the spot with. I remember driving up to this spot for the first time, that frontside flip is gnarly. You have to have enough speed to get over the rail but you have to thread the needle to get in there.
Take a little left and back on course
Yeah it’s like you have to do a trick before doing the trick, you have to navigate the start with speed. That frontside flip is textbook and it’s a hard one to do over something. There’s a tiny little kicker and the bar is quite chunky. Look at Rory, he hasn’t really aged much has he? Good catch on that, good frontside flip. Again that’s shot long lens, couldn’t really shoot that fisheye because you’d lose the perspective of the bar you have to go through and you need to show the whole scenario, it’s a gnarly pavement too, not a fun one to skate. This was shot around the same time he did a nollie backside flip at Bloblands which ended up being a cover. Rory is a good lad.
Lucien Clarke backside smith grinds not far from where Dom’s photography studies began
Where was this shot?
This was shot in Croydon. Me and Lucien would go out shooting photos every day at this point. Whatever mission was going on Lucien would join or vice versa, we were meeting up daily. Lucien has an amazing ability on a skateboard, he skates good every day. He could session a set of stairs and then go and skate something else, where other people would be worked or not skate the next day. We shot so many photos over the years, kickflip nose slide at Moorgate early on.
This back smith I chose because I like it, it’s shot at night and it’s in Croydon. Not many people skated this spot, it’s a really tucked away thing to skate and it’s super slippy, I think Steph Morgan was there on this one
This looks like it could have been shot in the states
Yeah it’s like New York or something. What this photo doesn’t really tell you is how tight and narrow that hallway is or the ride out. That’s another Hasselblad fish shot. Wheneever Lucien had an interview or something come out we’d go and have a victory dinner, a Nando’s victory dinner or something. I think this one ran in Kingpin.
This was back in the DVS days
Yeah DVS time, you remember that Hammersmith gap back nose blunt? That was pretty sick too. Lucien’s amazing and he’s still progressing. Him, Jensen, Rory, they’re good at skating, clearly love it and that’s why they’re still absolutely smashing it. That’s what’s nice about this and looking at earlier photos where I’m learning to shoot photos and they’re cutting their teeth too, we share that time. I remember getting a flash for the first time and shooting my first lit photo of Nick doing a kickflip as high as he was, vertically not metaphorically.
That’s what’s nice about this and looking at earlier photos where I’m learning to shoot photos and they’re cutting their teeth too, we share that time
Colourful blast of Americana. Steve Brandi 50-50’s in Miami
Your second colour choice of this selection. How did this one come about?
This was shot on a trip to Miami, I went over there with Joleon Pressey. It was a Static filming trip and Josh Stewart had asked me to come over. Prior to this I’d been burgled. I was out in London shooting some photos with Chris Pulman and I remember taking the digital camera out with me. If I knew what I was going to shoot sometimes I would take the digi so I could go skating as well and not carry a load. This particular day was one of those times, when I got back that night my house had been burgled and all of my camera kit had been nicked. The only gear I had left was a digital camera.
When I got back that night my house had been burgled and all of my camera kit had been nicked. The only gear I had left was a digital camera
I decided I could either sit and wait for months for the insurance money to come through or get out there and get on with it. I spoke to Josh about this trip and to Will Harmon in San Francisco. Then I booked the trip to Miami and then SF with no camera gear. I borrowed stuff from people out there. I spoke to the mags and told them what had happened and they ran some articles so I could get gear back. Josh had some flashes and a Hasselblad. Went to Miami, bought film and shot a whole Miami article. Then we went to SF and a friend of Will Harmon’s lent me a Hasselblad, fisheye and some lights so I spent a month in America shooting photos on other peoples kit.
This was in Miami, I shot a Polaroid of it and I couldn’t believe how Miami it looked. It’s like the opposite of the cobbles you associate with London. When I think of Miami I think of candy sunsets, neons and Art Deco stuff and this had it all. I set up lights but the Polaroid I shot was black and white so I couldn’t see the colours and it just worked, Steve Brandi was down to 50-50 it.
It’s like a postcard with a skater in it
Yeah it’s interesting, I don’t know what the purpose of that blue line is but it’s great for a 50-50. It wasn’t very grindy at all that’s for sure, lots of wax to get up that thing. It’s an amazing sign, that pink neon. I really wanted to try and do that justice and neon is difficult to work with, you have to under expose it a little bit with the background so everything is dark apart from the background. With digital you can nail that but with film it could have come back bleached or not bright enough and then there is not much latitude to change that. But it worked out, from no camera gear to shooting that in Miami, a photo we are looking at today that I’m stoked on. Drinking from coconuts with Joey straight from the tree. Thanks for the loan Josh!
Ronnie Creager grinding some Harrow history
This is so sick because it’s just not a Ronnie Creager photo
It’s not the Creager photo you expect. When I think of him I think of Annie Lennox, the Eurythmics, switch tre fakie manual.
Trilogy on loop and Chino XL in the stereo
Definitely. This was a trip for Sidewalk magazine. Ronnie Creager, James Craig and Jake Brown came over on a Blind trip. We travelled around the UK for a little bit. He’s one of those guys, when he skates, everyone stops. He’s in Trilogy, that says it all.
One of the best to ever do it
Yeah as a technical skater he is just amazing. He is not the kind of guy where you’ll suggest a spot, he just does what he does. I remember Ben Powell just saying “keep an eye on whatever he does” It was my mission to shoot whatever he did. He was skating the bowl, maybe he did a kick flip nosewheelie out of the bowl across into this one. He was flipping it, throwing it out there.
Then he started skating the bowl and Ben said shoot anything in there. I set up the flashes and asked him if he wanted to get something. He said he reckoned he could get a grind out of this and then he just did this frontside grind. That thing is gnarly, that’s an all rounder for you. Looking back at shooting skating that’s a nice thing to have.
It’s like seeing a photo of Stevie doing a handplant
Haha, I remember I heard a rumour when I first started skating Fairfield’s that Tony Hawk came down there and boardslid 360 degrees around a whole plant pot. So it’s kind of like him doing that, which I did actually believe for a bit. Before they were filled in I will add.
I heard a rumour when I first started skating Fairfield’s that Tony Hawk came down there and boardslid 360 degrees around a whole plant pot
After that I shot a photo of Jake Brown doing a frontside air in the pool that was so high. It ended up being the cover of Sidewalk. I shot both on a Hasselblad fisheye, which I’ve already said is an amazing lens. The lens hood because it’s so wide angled, the top and very sides, because it’s corner to corner view have no lens shade around them. Instead there was a really well made metal shade which just came around the edge of the glassat
I shot Jake Brown and got in there to try and get the whole air feeling and he slipped out and fell backwards. The board was out there and I could just feel it was coming towards me. I couldn’t move because I was in a funny position so I held the camera above my head. His board nose dived into the edge of that Hasselblad lens shade and bounced off it. I lifted my head up with no idea how it hadn’t hit me. I was sure the horrendously expensive lens would be cracked but it just bent the lens shade a tiny bit. I put the lens before me, the lens shade saved the lens and then we shot the cover long lens to be honest.
contact sheet from Olly Todd’s Interview in Sidewalk magazine
Tell us about this contact sheet
I always had an idea of how I wanted things to work out. Olly had just moved to London and I just started to shoot for Sidewalk. I remember Ben Powell wanted me to work on something, my first proper article. Olly had just moved down and Ben knew Olly was quite picky with who he chose to shoot with but we both got on so that became my first piece for Sidewalk. So we went on missions.
I’ve always like shooting with Olly and have done a lot over the years and we’ve always come up with winners. The thing I liked with Olly is we could discuss the idea of it beforehand. Not just impressive tricks captured. Olly was stoked on how I shot black and white and hand printed things. This suited Olly’s style anyway. Olly never wanted a photo to run he wasn’t stoked on, as people should be.
It was a full collaboration, not just meet this guy at the train station
Absolutely, it was his interview. In those days there were a few magazines. To get an interview in Sidewalk the usual progress was you would have a First Light, then a Haunts and then an Interview. You wouldn’t have two interviews, your interview was like a video part, you’d want it to be good. More than just a display of hard tricks, a bit more substance.
Olly had an idea of what he wanted and I did too, we were both driven to make it as good as we could. I shot sequences in that interview and I hand printed every frame, that was the level of care
Olly had an idea of what he wanted and I did too, we were both driven to make it as good as we could. I shot sequences in that interview and I hand printed every frame, that was the level of care. Olly wanted to blast an ollie out of this and I was never happy with anything I did. I look back at this contact sheet years later and I’ve coloured in the background of the top right frame, the amount of background bugged me and I didn’t want it there but really it doesn’t matter. It just amused me I’ve gone to the effort of colouring it in.
It’s a big blast of an ollie, photographically I would change stuff but this is nice to see twenty years later weirdly. There it is, the contact sheet. I’ve never stopped shooting film. Even jobs now where I shoot digital and it’s someone or something I want to look at in years to come I’ll always shoot a roll of film even if I don’t use them. Just put them away. This is the same thing, the reason why you shoot film. In years to come it doesn’t just age well it improves with age.
Olly Todd Frontside 180 Fakie Nosegrind shortly after starting a new chapter in London
This photo where the journey started is the ender
This was a spot. It’s shot on Nikon long lens with a few flashes. It was a Nikon F90, I couldn’t afford the D5 one I wanted. It was my 80-200 lens which I eventually left in my camera bag next to a bottle of Lucozade. The cap wasn’t on properly and I filled the lens. Anyway this photo, I remember it being a bit of a bust but Olly had this trick he wanted to do. I really like this photo, I remember printing it and exaggerating that tree in the foreground to add a bit more three dimension. It’s back lit and lit from the front.
He’s got the Lennon T-Shirt on
Yeah the Lennon shirt, Liverpool connections
And it’s super hard to do that…
Yeah to do that from flat, that thing is high, riding back into that bank and he’s doing it with finesse. He’s not all crunched up, he’s managed to do that and you know he’s grinding with his Krux trucks. I like this photo, it ended up being a double page in his interview. It was a starting point for Olly and myself. His move to London and me shooting my first interview. It was a good link, not quite the level of Guy Mariano skating to the Jackson 5 in Video days but in our own personal way, it’s a nice connection we still laugh about today.