Mike Blabac is a true legend with a deep history. We were stoked when we found out he would be accompanying Josh Kalis on his visit to London to celebrate our DC collection. Mike started working for DC in 1999 and his often iconic photographs are synonymous with the brand. It is obvious speaking to him that shooting skateboard photos is far more than a job to Mike though, it’s vital. We asked him to contribute some photos for a 5000 Words feature and it quickly became apparent that this needed to be more expansive to give them space to breathe. For that reason this will be a 3 part series starting today. Without further ado let’s pass this over to Mike…
I’ve always been drawn to the artsy fartsy, basic photographs of skateboarding. Whether it’s a flat ground trick, an Ollie, or simply a push photo – it’s something that anyone who’s ever ridden a skateboard can relate to. These photos have always been fun for me to make. Here are 10 of my favourite arty skate photos…
1. We were skating this plaza in China, and while everyone was warming up – I couldn’t help but stare at this massive structure. I immediately thought it would be rad to fill that empty space with a flat ground trick. I asked Matt if he’d do me the favor of doing a Switch Heel (because he has a great one) at the top of the stairs. After a few tries, and moving around a bit – I managed to place hime exactly where I had imaged as I blankly stared at this thing moments earlier.
2. In 1996, I was working for Madcircle Skateboards. We were filming for the “Five Flavors” Video. I was shooting some 16mm footage of Bobby Puleo with an old Arri Camera. As I was filming – I thought his push would frame up nicely as a vertical photo – so I decided to shoot a photograph of it too.
3. The Nikon 80-200 f2.8 has always been one of my favorite lenses. I had purchased a new one just moments before shooting this photo. I wanted to test the depth of field – so I focused on this parking meter in the foreground while Scott Johnston was doing B/S Smiths on the ledge. The thing I love most about this photo is that SJ’s style is so remarkable that it’s still easy to tell that it’s him even though he couldn’t be more out of focus.
4. More people have asked me if this was Photoshopped than any other photo I’ve ever taken. I was on a shoot where the Bay Bridge was going to be shut down – so I asked Kalis if he’d like to shoot a photo pushing across it. We decided to go with the whole “It’s better to ask for forgiveness than permission” theory while there. We only had the bridge for three 4 minute intervals – so I knew we could pull it off the second time on the bridge. The crew went one way, and Josh and I went the opposite direction. A few people were mildly upset, but calmed down once I showed them what we had just shot. It was a once in a lifetime opportunity, and I’m glad that Kalis was in town to create this photograph with me.
5. Warp Magazine wanted a cover photo of Jason Dill in 1998. Dill and I drove around LA for a while, and ended up in Downtown LA. This photo was his idea. I couldn’t fathom this considering I’m afraid of heights. He did the nose manny a few times. We were both hyped on the way this came out, but Warp didn’t want to run it. They wanted us to shoot “just a skate photo” which we did, and this photo never ran until using it in my book, Blabacphoto The Art Of Skateboard Photography in 2009. Either way – I’m thankful Jason had this idea!
6. Grant Brittain’s pushing photo of Tod Swank is one of my favorite magazine covers ever. I snapped a photo of this shadow with my phone, and it immediately reminded me of Grant’s iconic image. Here Kalis and I are paying homage to both Grant and Tod in the fall of 2016.
7. Zach Miller and I wanted to shoot a unique photograph together. Zach came up with the idea of skating with a road flair. This is the result after a bit of testing, a lot of thought, and some more trial and error… Luckily we didn’t burn the ramp down! Zach had to skate in almost complete darkness using only a little light from the evening sky coming through the sky lights so that I could leave the shutter open long enough to create all the light trails.
8. Not too many people look like Evan Smith on a skateboard. This is a photo of him skating along the river in his home town of Pittsburgh Pa.
9. T Funk is very intense on a skateboard. Everything he does is with maximum effort, but not in a bad way, but charging in a Cardiel type of way. He’s seemingly always trying to get the most from his skateboard. This photograph of him pushing in NYC sums that thought of Tristan up for me.
10. If there was ever a flat ground photo that looks like a jump ramp was used – this one is just that! Tiago Lemos Switch Flip in DTLA.
Massive thank you to Mike for taking time out of his busy schedule to put this together for us. Stay tuned for the next two instalments. Here is a gallery from Mike’s exhibition while he was HERE