Crash Course in Skate Photography Chapter 6

Crash Course in Brain Surgery Skate Photography.

By Sebastião Belfort Cerqueira

Chapter 6 – The Artsy Shot

As a theoretical category, the artsy shot will encompass skate photographs that appear very different from each other on the surface. Since any photograph has relatively little to offer beyond the surface, I might’ve said that, as a theoretical category, the artsy shot will encompass skate photographs that appear very different from each other. Period. But I didn’t. Sue me. I mean, I didn’t then, I have now. Sue me, you Jane.

The essential trait of the artsy shot is, then, a common attitude that lies behind certain photos. On the shelf. Shit... I’ll try to start with a basic, rock-bottom statement that will allow me to get this train of thought underway: the usual hero of the skate photo is the skater. Yes, got it. Skate photographers have been known to wake up at dawn, pack everything in the car, drive 666 miles, get to a skater’s house at 10.30 AM, serve him breakfast in bed, brush his teeth, sit him snuggly in the back seat and put on his favourite Miley Cyrus album for him to go to sleep again, wake him up after the spot is cleaned up, lit up and waxed up, push him towards the bleeding gap or rail or whatever and still manage to be down there in time to make his switch tre body varial overcrook (apparently it was a rail after all) look good for that Speed Demons ad. Two thousand months later, when the ad is published in Thrasher, the skater, to use the industry’s lingo, gets all the props.

The artsy shot is the shot whereby the skate photographer says “no more.” It is a statement of defiance towards the industry’s status quo. In that respect, it resembles Marcel Duchamp’s gesture with the urinal. I don’t mean his everyday gesture, of which I’ve heard no reports, but his famous one. Like Duchamp, the skate photographer is declaring “I decide what counts as art”, like the urinal, he is asserting “I don’t have to take your shit.” Thus, in the artsy shot the skater becomes secondary: his figure may be lost in the surrounding cityscape, he may be presented as a shadow or even just plain dead, as in the photo above, where he has come back as a ghost to haunt the photographer and ask him why the hell his açaí bowl isn’t ready yet.

The type of artistic affirmation that the artsy shot represents is generally well-received by skate magazines. And by “well-received” I mean they don’t publish them, but they don’t cut off the photographer’s genitals either. Unless he submits more than one in a year. If you happen accross a soprano skate photographer, you know his story. Be that as it may, even the term “artsy shot” betrays its origins in the hard and cold core of the skate industry. It’s set apart from other shots because it doesn’t serve its purpose of showcasing a skater and a product. They call it “artsy” because it is not quite “artistic”, the difference being that “artistic” is something that they’d pay money for, which, in the skate world, either means a Mark Gonzales foot painting or a Robert Indiana “Love” print.

I’m afraid this present chapter, in thus shedding light on the harsh realities of skate photography, may be taken as a hard blow by more artistically-inclined students. Fear not. Keep in mind that art for art’s sake is just like fart for fart’s sake, only without the “f”. I hope we meet again soon on the rocky road to Dublin. Meanwhile, whatever you do, make it mighty meaningful, whatever that might mean...

Photo by Jan Kantor. Check out more of his stuff here.

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