Roman Candles - 2016
Doing a project on skateboarding just made sense. The very first rolls of black and white I developed by myself were of skateboarders. I also was introduced to both photography and skateboarding around the same time. The two fields seem to compliment each other well.
Skateboarding is so swollen the stuff that makes photos easy. Photography trims a whole gesture into fantastic, single split second. I did end up staying behind lens instead of in front of it though. I dabbled in downhill long boarding for a bit, but soon found out other board sports let you keep your skin when you bit it. And even though I would much rather be on snow or water, I don’t think snowboarding or surfing is nearly as interesting, or as photogenic, as skateboarding is.
Since people have been riding these things, someone has always been following with a camera; and more often than not, someone who doesn’t have a clue what they are doing. And documentary isn’t a separate thing from the sport; it’s a part of the whole activity. It’s a fast sport and there’s a lot of finesse to it. Cameras are used as shotguns rather than a rifles; throwing nets over time to catch a moment. Because, for the most part, the photos aren’t art, they’re evidence.
Motion blur, grain, harsh flash, leaks; pre-digital skate photography ran the full gamut of what could go wrong with analogue photography. I love it for that, a lot of people do. Skateboarding culture still demands that raw aesthetic, but now, all of these artifacts have to be reverse engineered. Modern cameras have gotten good at ironing these problems out. They don’t really need people anymore. The work which was once considered a craft has been left for an algorithm. You used to be able to see the photographer through the cracks in the image, photos used to be way more human.
It was more than just my own fascination with photography and skateboarding that made me start this project. I was seeing a shift in the public perception of skateboarding. Skateparks don’t feel like gutters carved out to collect the delinquents anymore. I don’t think this is the case across the board, but there are more than a few examples of skateparks being built in order to get kids active and to build community. This narrative seemed too good to be true (and in some cases, it is), but it was looking like the skateparks that used to “ruin” kids are now being built to save them.
Skateboarding is a pretty unforgiving struggle against gravity. If you know anything about it, you know that it’s a losing battle. The house wins over ninety-nine percent of the time, skateboarders usually go home with less blood than they came with. But after a long enough time, these gambling addicts turn a profit. The fear of breaking bones has never stopped those who understand how great the payoff can be. I think pain plays a huge role. People try to separate pain from reward, and sometimes they do, but it cheapens the result. You can play pretend with video games, but I don’t think we need an algorithm when gravity isn’t going anywhere. When did we stop seeing the benefits of real-time gravity, physical exhaustion; when did reality stop being real enough?
This body of work is a celebration of people who get it. It’s a personal exercise in optimism and a hopeful (however naïve) view of humanity. It’s titled after fragment in Jack Kerouac’s On The Road, “…the only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars”. 2016 has been a pretty exhausting news year, it seems like there’s a lot more tragedy than usual. I rather hunt for what’s good; to melt down circumstances and keep what was worthwhile. Not because it’s realistic, but because it’s necessary.