Archive for June, 2015

Beyond The Lens: Interview with Sam Ashley, Photo Editor at Free Skateboard Magazine

 

LLSB caught up with renowned London-based skate photographer, Sam Ashley, who found time to talk to us ahead of launching the new pan-European skateboard magazine, Free Skate Mag. Sam has been a staple in the UK skate scene for over a decade with his photos gracing a great deal of magazine covers. He also was an integral part of the Long Live Southbank campaign.


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Thanks for taking time out to chat to us Sam, we know you’re always super busy! Let’s crack straight into it and start at where it all began… how did you first get into shooting skate photos and what camera did you first start working with?

 

Getting into skate photography just came from reading skate mags in the late eighties. If I wasn’t skateboarding I was obsessively reading these things. I figured it would be cool to shoot my friends and try and make it look like the stuff we saw in magazines. My first camera was a really crappy plastic point and shoot, it really wasn’t capable of achieving the results I wanted, which at the time would’ve been something that looked like it was from R.A.D. or Transworld. I probably wasted quite a bit of film through this thing before finally giving up. I didn’t really shoot much again until the mid-nineties, by which point I’d managed to persuade my school to let me use a darkroom, that kind of changed everything, as it allowed me to understand how the physics of photography worked. Soon after that I bought a Nikon FE2, and ended up using that camera for about 15 years after.

 

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Nate Jones by Sam Ashley (2004)

 

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it eh. Some readers might not know about your photography outside of skating. Do you think you would have been a photographer were it not for skating, or do you think that skating as a creative outlet opened your mind to this sort of career?

 

That’s kind of hard to answer, as I never really expected to make a career out of it. I actually trained as a newspaper photographer, and after my training had a couple of offers to join local papers, but by that point the skate stuff was kind of paying me a bit, I thought I may as well run with it and see what happened, I could always join a newspaper later… It’s now been 16 years. To be honest, the newspaper industry has been struggling pretty badly since about 2001, I think I kind of dodged a bullet really.

 

The newspaper industry’s loss is skateboarding’s gain. What was it like the first time you saw a photo of yours in print?

 

It’s the best feeling, one that I doubt most photographers ever really replicate ever again. After all the covers, photos in US mags, 20 page features etc etc, that first B&W half page photo in Sidewalk remains the one that I was most excited to see.

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Chris Jones backside lip by Sam Ashley (2012)

 

You’ve done a fair amount of documenting Southbank over the years, cheers for letting us use so many of your images throughout the campaign! What are the major challenges of shooting in a space full of light and dark spots?

 

I think the secret is not to try and fight it, use the contrast to your advantage, it can be very dramatic. Personally, I think the main challenge is actually the history of the spot, all the great skaters and photographers that have produced stuff there; how is this photo going to stack up? How are you going to light it differently? How are you going to find that new way of seeing it

 

it showed everyone that standing up for something like this is worthwhile

Well you’ve come out with some gems over the years mate. Both skate shots and documenting the space in general. Does shooting photos at SB feel different after putting in so much effort to conserve the space?

 

Not really, I’m always just amazed that it’s still there, but I often thought that before the campaign.

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LLSB Objection Delivery Day by Sam Ashley (2014)

 

We were blown away by how many people care about the place and what it represents and wanted to contribute their bit. The fact we all skated the UK’s largest number of planning objections the 3 mile journey from SB to Lambeth Town in Brixton was a real pivotal moment. Great to have had you there with us to document that. What do you think saving Southbank meant to the UK, and worldwide skate scene?

 

I think for the skate scene, it showed everyone that standing up for something like this is worthwhile, I think before this happened a lot of skaters would assume that these battles are pointless, as the money always wins.

 

On a wider cultural level, I think it highlighted that there’s been a general shift in attitudes towards skateboarders, people just understand it better these days.

 

Yeah we’re seeing that shift and a move to understanding and appreciating skateboarding and our ethos and values. What’s your favourite Southbank shot you’ve taken? 

 

I was stoked how Vaughan Baker’s fakie flip came out.

 

It’s a sick shot, the perspective angle and the shadow of Vaughan on the concrete backdrop are so rad!  What about your favourite SB shot taken by another photographer?

 

There’s so many other good photos that have been shot there. I really like Curtis McCann on the bank to wall by TLB, The Gonz hippy jump by Skin and Ben Jobe’s back tail on the beam by Wig.

 

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Vaughan Baker fakie flip by Sam Ashley (2001)

 

print mags are actually more important than ever

 

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Rory Milanes back smith by Sam Ashley (2012)

 

 

That’s a rad selection of images right there! Feel an exhibition coming on haha. Given Sidewalk’s recent shift away from print, do you feel that there is a long term decline in print skate media, and if so, is this bad news for photographers, and our appreciation of skateboard photography?

 

I don’t really see it as a long term decline at all. Right now coming out of the UK we have Grey, North and obviously we just started Free. Obviously there could always be more magazines printing more often, but would it really be any better? There were definitely times when Document and Sidewalk were printing 12 copies a year, it’d get to the winter months and both mags are both covering the same comps at indoor skateparks, and I’d just look at it and think “What’s the point?”. I think there’s a great opportunity for the remaining mags to really raise the bar with regards to featuring the very best UK skateboarding in print, all killer no filler!

 

I think print mags are actually more important than ever, as skate photography on the internet is basically a sea of shit. How are you easily going to find the good stuff? Even when you do, it’s usually a square measuring 640 pixels wide; there’s a whole world of photos that look great printed as a double page spread but absolutely do not work as a tiny photo on Instagram.

 

The smartest photographers, and brands, realise that magazines still provide the easiest and best way to elevate what they’re producing above the aforementioned ‘sea of shit’ on the internet, as long as that’s the case I think magazines will be fine, as long as the quality of the editing is high.

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Nick Jensen by Sam Ashley (2004)

 

it took me a long time to figure out what I really needed

 

Over the last few years, there’s been more and more youngers and new heads shooting photos. Do you think there could ever be an over-saturation of skate photographers and people simply adding to the ‘sea of shit’?

 

It depends, I think if they were all really good, and they were all going after the same work, it could be a problem, I don’t think that’s really the case though. I’m generalising here, but I think most skate photographers don’t really get very good until they’ve been shooting for 4 or 5 years, Henri Cartier-Bresson famously said “Your first 10,000 photographs are your worst” and that was in the film days, so there’s a good chance you’re not going to get much published for a while, maybe a lucky shot here or there. The upshot of this is that most kids just get frustrated and give it up after a couple of years, so their potential is never fully realised.

 

So do you have preferred camera and lenses to work with for your skate photography?

 

This is a bit a weird question for me, because I know that when people begin to shoot skateboarding it’s very easy to fixate on the gear instead of the photography… I honestly think you can make amazing, magazine worthy skate photos with any DSLR you can buy right now, even the £300 ones.

 

Having said that, I’m not trying to keep any secrets about this stuff either, so if people want to know: I use Nikon digital cameras, mostly just because I’ve always used Nikon stuff, and I’ll usually carry these lenses: 16mm, 35mm, 50mm and a 80-200. Lenses are a really personal choice though, it took me a long time to figure out what I really needed.

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Southbank Seven by Sam Ashley

 

we should get the little banks at SB back! 

 

Ahh yes, good call… the creativity is in the eye and the mind and the instrument and accessories are the enhancers of the vision and ambition. Looking at the new chapter and toward the future, you’re part of the crew who have set up Free Skate Magazine, how has it been getting that up and running?

 

It’s been great. Obviously it’s been a lot of work, and there’s certain aspects of it that have been a very steep learning curve, but I’m just really looking forward to getting the first issue out.

 

Even though skateboarding is enjoying real popularity, it still seems it’s hard for skate media to stay afloat, as we have seen with Sidewalk and Kingpin. So what can we expect and look forward to from Free Skate Magazine.. how much will the new magazine differ from Kingpin and other skate mags?

 

Well I think the main issue with regards to Sidewalk and Kingpin remaining in print wasn’t really about them ‘staying afloat’, but that the print aspect of their whole business wasn’t an area that was likely to grow very much. The publisher of those magazines had investors, and generally speaking most investors only really care about how much their investment is growing.

 

With Free, we’re coming to it with a different set of goals. Whilst it’s important that it works as a business, and that the photographers and staff get paid for their work, we have have no aspirations for any financial investment to ‘grow’. Artistic growth is much more important to us.

 

That’s rad. The last 2 years was about us talking about creativity over commerce. There is an alternate way! Are there any spots you’d be hyped to shoot a photo at?

 

Yeah, we should get the little banks at SB back!

 

Ha, now we’re talking… that would be a banging shot in skateboarding history! We showed that the seemingly impossible can be possible so never say never eh.

 

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Joey ‘Southbank Crack’ Pressey wallride by Sam Ashley (2004)

 

 

Cheers for chatting with us Sam… We’re hyped about the first edition of Free Skate Mag.

 

 

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Nick Jensen Backside Flip by Sam Ashley (2013)

 

For all things Sam Ashley and to purchase prints head here

And to keep up to speed with Free Skate Mag head here

 

Celebrate the first issue of Free Skate Mag – Saturday 4th July 2015 from 8pm at Bardens Boudior

36 Stoke Newington Road, London, N16 7XJ, London, UK


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Grab a copy of the zine, have a drink, watch the premier of the Sour skateboard solutions video, and swerve to PWBC DJs.

 

 

Interview by Louis Woodhead and Paul Richards 

Beyond The Lens: Interview with George Toland, Filmmaker for Serious Adult

 

Dropping online yesterday, the Serious Adult Promo was filmed and edited by LLSB campaigner George Toland. With a healthy dose of Southbank locals mixed in amongst Jersey ripper Luka Pinto and young Oxford shredder Cam Barr’s sections, the video highlights the quality of underground skateboarding in the UK. We caught up with Toland to talk about Serious Adult, Southbank and his long nights spent scouting for sketchy brick banks on Google street view.

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Photo by Alex Lamb

 

 Cool George! Maybe you could start this off by telling us a little bit about Serious Adult. Who’s involved in the company and how did you get involved?

 

Serious Adult is a clothing company that I guess has developed into a crew. SB local and LLSB campaigner Greg Conroy started it around 4 months ago. He asked me if I was down to film and edit a short promo featuring a little team he’d got together. I was hyped on the team and the t-shirts and we started filming pretty much straight away. The guys involved are Jeremy Jones, Lukas Kacevicius, Jasper Woolf, Luka Pinto, Valentine Katz and Cam Barr.

 

Unless I’m wrong, this is your first time filming for a company. How does it differ to filming and editing for yourself? 

 

Yeah it is. I suppose the main thing is as I’m working for Greg there’s a lot of discussion necessary when it comes to editing etc, as it’s representing him too. We have fairly similar opinions on what we think is good though and what gets us hyped so it hasn’t really been that different really.

 

Yeh you can tell there is a really consistent style. In quite a short space of time you ran off on filming missions down to Bristol and Sheffield too. How were they? Did any good stories emerge?

 

Really sick man  . I’d never been to another big city in the U.K. outside of London before so it was sick to skate somewhere different with all the locals. In Bristol we were skating in massive groups of like 20/25 people which was rad, everyone was hyping each other up. Just before we got on the coach back to London, Greg got a banging line with a tre flip in the road, which was sick way to end the trip. Unfortunately my camera glitched so the line wasn’t usable haha, but yeah was still a rad moment. The Skateboard Cafe premiere was sick as well. Sheffield was fun too, I wish we could’ve stayed a day or two longer to explore the city centre a bit more but there’s always next time. Cheers to Beall and Bill for putting us up in Sheff and Briz!

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Lukas Kacevicius wallie. Photo by Gino Silva-Payne

photo by graham davies

Photo by Graham Davies

 

Who’s skating on the team gets you most hyped?

 

I’m hyped on everyone’s skating on the team, but I’m stoked that Lukas is getting some recognition as he’s been killing it for ages. Everyone at the premiere was hyped on his section in the promo. It’s sick to just chill and watch him and Jasper skate SB cos they just smash it. But yeah I’m stoked on the team in general, everyone kills it.

 

 

Yeh Lukas’ part was so good, there must have been non stop cheers at the Parlour premiere. When not filming Serious Adult, you’re often chasing skaters with your VX down at Southbank. Tell us a bit about Lords of the Undercroft and Boom Bam Boom. How did you end up filming Tom Penny sprinkle some magic on the banks?

 

Haha yeah that was mental. I was just chilling with my camera out and he just came up to me and asked if I was down to get a clip on the bank. There’s only really one answer when Tom Penny asks you that! But yeah I was so hyped to get some footage with him. Regarding the SB edits, I just like making videos where everyone’s got a trick or two. There’s so many people killing it at SB everyday and I just wanted to make something that documented that. I thought it was important that everyone from older heads like Greg King down to the kids like PJ and everyone in between was represented and had a clip so as to give a true feel of Southbank.

 

Yeh that’s what I like so much about your edits, when everyone who’s stuck in the Southbank vortex is represented. Are there any skaters down at Southbank in particular who the skateboarding world should be keeping their eyes on?

 

Yeah it’s really rad, so many kids are smashing it. As I mentioned earlier you’ve got older guys like Lukas and Jasper killing it on the regular, as well as Domas, Jeremy, Josh Jennings etc. And then youngers like Cameron, Hassan and PJ progressing at a crazy rate. All hail Jizzleman!!

 

All hail! It is actually thanks to people like you that Southbank is even open for skateboarding, after you spent all those hours on the LLSB table, selling t-shirts and getting the membership forms signed. How was the campaign for you? 

 

It was a really rad thing to be involved with definitely. It was heart-warming to see how most of the public were fully backing and supporting us, which gave us more confidence to keep going. The feeling of relief and pride when we got the news it was saved was just amazing. The day it was announced we all came down to celebrate and chill, everyone was in such high spirits. That was one of the sickest days I can remember. But yeah it was a long battle, but all worth it in the end!

 

Photo by Sophia Bennett

Photo by Sophia Bennett

That was a really beautiful day. I just remember sitting by the river with everyone in the sun, and just smiling. Do you think SB has a different feel now the stresses of the campaign are over?

 

For sure. It’s definitely a lot more relaxed. During the campaign I think everyone was a bit on edge all the time, as at times it wasn’t looking all that good, however hard everyone was working. But yeah, now it’s saved it’s easier to just chill and skate and not have to worry about the looming threat of the loss of our home.

 

It is definitely more relaxed down there now the campaign finished and the table packed up. Ever since we were about 15, you were on google maps spending hours scouting out new spots. What is it that attracts you to the less obvious spots?

 

Haha yeah it’s definitely an obsession of mine. I guess I like the idea of finding and skating something that no one’s seen before. I’m always hyped on interesting looking spots in footage and street view is a pretty good way to find stuff.

 

Do you have any spot finding tips for the skateboarding youth?

 

I suppose the easiest way is to just skate from place to place rather than get the bus or tube or whatever. That way you can check every little back-alley or go a different route to your normal one. Or you can spend your evenings trawling through Google Maps haha.

 

Yeh, the edit certainly shows your commitment to the spot finding search. Respect! So to round this interview off, what’s next for you George? Are there any more edits in the pipeline?

 

Now the S.A. promo is done the plan is to make a few shorter edits next. Also I’m sitting on quite a bit of SB footage so I need to figure out what to do with that.

 

Shout outs to GCS and the vortex crew!

 

Thanks for speaking to us George!

Click here to watch the Serious Adult promo, and here for some Southbank radness courtesy of Toland.

Interview by Louis Woodhead

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RADBMX  London Rideout 2014 at Southbank. Image by John ‘Griff’ Griffin       
As RADBMX get set to push off on their ‘RADBMX 2015 London Summer Rideout’ this Saturday 6th June, we catch up with Griff, one of the organisers, to get a heads up.. 

                  
How’s it all looking for Saturday’s ride?   
           
The date was set last October, so people have been planning and looking forward to this for some time now! So far the weather forecast for Saturday is looking great too, so I expect we’ll get a decent turnout        
There have been a few London rides, how long has radbmx.co.uk been running?        
The radbmx.co.uk forum has been going since 2004, there are members’ rides and late-night skatepark lock-ins most weekends somewhere in the UK nowadays, but as far as London goes the first big one was in 2007 for Children in Need        
You get some pretty rad old school classic bikes taking part, must be sick to see them all in one place?              
It certainly is – some of them have taken years of patience and dedication to complete so it’s amazing to see them all getting ridden instead of just hanging on a wall!

   

1535701_440421139420208_23533262_n (1)RADBMX  London Rideout 2014 at Southbank. Image by John ‘Griff’ Griffin

 

Yeah, and people come from all over to join the ride, whereabouts are people from and whats the furthest place people have come from?

 

They’re spread out all over the place – apart from London and surrounding counties, we have a large crowd coming from the North this time (Manchester, Yorkshire and beyond) also the South coast. Awaiting confirmation of a visitor from Germany too!

   

The global family! The route always includes a little pilgrimage to Southbank which is banging, how important is that stop to you and the other riders?  

 

Southbank is one of my favourite stops on the route – to see a place like that preserved among all the surrounding gentrification is pretty special nowadays and people always stop and comment about the bikes. It has a lot of history and is a great spot to grab a few photos!

   

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Image by John ‘Griff’ Griffin                                                                            Image by John Lewis   
You guys were super supportive of LLSB and the campaign to preserve Southbank, thanks! What is your special moment or memory of SB?               
Still remember the first time I laid eyes on the place and how surprised I was that it even existed, it’s such a cool spot! Really glad that you succeeded in keeping it protected for years to come and if we helped in any way at all that’s fantastic   
It was all about the community coming together for good. You’re also raising money and awareness for St Mark’s hospital in London,  tell us about that…               
Pickle (one of the guys that helps run the forum) works for St Mark’s, who are working to eradicate Bowel Cancer, and so this time around we thought it would be nice to give them a bit of support for the great work they do   
Yeah that’s so rad. So what’s the details for the ride?               
Meeting up at Waterloo station at 11:30am and leaving at 12pm if anyone wants to join us!
If anyone wants to know more info they can get in touch with me or Stuart Timms who is the other guy organising this particular ride. There’s an event page on Facebook;
Or if people want to put a few quid in the charity pot there’s more info here;
Nice one, see you guys Saturday!   
Here’s the route…
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