Crash Course in Skate Photography Chapter 3

Crash Course in Brain Surgery Skate Photography.

By Sebastião Belfort Cerqueira

Chapter 3 – The Handplant

The pullulation of the handplant photo across all types of skateboarding publications, from the famous magazines to shabby websites, instagram accounts and little leaflet-like zines, represents the ultimate piece of scientific evidence that, although purportedly involved in documenting a deeply urban activity, all skate photographers are, deep inside, nature-loving, barefoot-walking, tree-hugging hippies. It is the present essay’s contention that even the crustiest, most hardened street skating photographer, who has divided his time equally, for the past 35 years, between sucking the smoke out of exhaust pipes and shooting the same switchflip backtail on the same beat-up granite ledge, will tell you, if you happen to be around, in his moment of weakness, maybe when he’s had a few, maybe when he’s one toke over the line, sweet Jesus!, that he’d love to shoot a good handplant.

Indeed, the fascination is easily understandable, these are wondrous types of plants. For the few seconds that make up their lifespan, they look like inverted humans, with little wheels on top. So when nature has run its course, usually up a vert ramp, and it is time for the handplant to blossom, every skate photographer immediately turns into David bleeding Attenborough. You see, as with most flora in nature, specialists have divided and catalogued the handplant into several sub-species, undistinguishable to the layman’s eye. However, in the world of skateboarding, the secret little signs that might help one to tell a sadplant from an eggplant are in the hand (lame pun intended) of three or maybe four elusive elders, who sit on top of the half-pipe, silently watching and disapproving of most handplant specimens the young and uninitiated present them with.

This veil of mystery that surrounds the handplant is not irrelevant towards understanding skate photographers’ oft-repeated attempts to capture its likeness in film. To quote the immortal words of Shania Twain: “There is a charm about the forbidden that makes it unspeakably desirable.” And so skate photographers will shoot handplant after handplant and timidly take their precious prints to the skate elders in search of enlightenment. Some may even be so bold as to formulate the question: “Tell me, oh wiseman, is this a frontside invert or a layback air?” Of these, the few that are not slapped in their mouths just for asking, may be faced with such oracular responses as “watch for the back hand” or “did he grab just behind the wheels?” or even “I wish they all could be California girls”, for some of these elders have been known to be off their rockers.

It is, indeed, a long, hard journey on the way to skate knowledge. Many wonder if it is attainable at all. If, dear pupils, at the end of this chapter, you find yourself wondering more than at its outset, then our strict pedagogical principles are bearing fruit. Until next time, plant that hand, shake that tree, and stay nutty, whatever that might mean...

Kevin Wenzke planting his hand at Lohse Rampe, Köln. Photo by Mr. Bookwood. Check out more of his stuff here.

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