Crash Course in Skate Photography Chapter 5

Crash Course in Brain Surgery Skate Photography.

By Sebastião Belfort Cerqueira

Chapter 5 – The Attraper-au-Vol

The Attraper-au-vol is a foundational law of skate photography. Though it may be unwritten, it is a principle to which the least experienced of skate photographers will adhere naturally, revealling, when he doesn’t, a complete lack of intuition that should discourage him immediately from any further investigation into the field. “Attraper au vol” is, of course, French for “trapping the vole”. Its usage in the context of skate photography is attributed to the influence of French Fred, the French photographer frenchly famous for inventing French things such as French fries, French kissing and French poodles. The fact that he invented all of these at once is less widely-known in skate photography cycles and so deserves special mention here.

Moooooving on (no cows for me, thank you), you may be wondering what trapping voles has to do with skate photography, maybe even what the hell any of this means, and I should not blame you. To help us shed some much needed light on the subject, a brief phraseological excursion is in order. According to The Universal Etymological Dictionary of French Expressions Relating to Voles (1878 Edition, p.8459), “[...] ‘trapping the vole’ has become synonymous with ‘catching while airborne’ because of an ancient French peasant technique for catching voles. Three or more peasants would hold the ends of a large tablecloth or bed sheet close to the ground, patiently wait for the vole to step on it and then fling the rodent up through the air towards the area where other peasants stood with vole-catching nets and gloves [...]” The entry proceeds to furnish us with further details but this passage serves our purpose well enough. It should suffice to retain the central idea that “trapping the vole” has come to mean catching something in the air.

There is, indeed, a remarkable parallelism between the early French trappers that immortalized the “attraper au vol” expression and skateboarding photographers. This similarity could perhaps be best expressed in terms of a common fascination for the sight, certainly unnatural and hard to come by in the wild, of flying mammals. This unexpected connection has led a few learned colleagues of mine to formulate the theory that all skate photographers are French, a thought-provoking claim that I tend to agree with mostly on the basis of its silliness. Be that as it may, the fact remains that every skate photographer, no matter how inexperienced, reveals from an early age an acute sensitivity to the Attraper-au-vol principle. Skateboard makers since times immemorial have provided that useless wooden toy with wheels to roll on the ground with, yet skate photographers mostly disagree and insist on photographing the contraption exclusively while in the air.

If that is not a phenomenon worth loosing sleep over, dear students, then my name is not Jean-Claude Van Damme. Anyway, until our electronic trails happen to cross again, like two incompetent parallel lines, le campagnol de ma tante est sur le plateau de ma tante, whatever that might mean...

Flying mammal, Clay Kreiner. Photo by Octavio Scholz. Check out more of his stuff here.

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