A DIY exploration without explanation by Tristan Still
By PH Lettre
originally printed on Desillusion #29
In the middle of the 70s, a group of crazy young English lads hit the world like a bomb. We call them punks. Punks want to live outside of society, and to tell the truth they kind of want to blow it up. A mixture of hard rock and anarchy, yes, it’s a bit violent, you either love it or you hate it, but nevertheless since the Sex Pistols, glue sniffing, black leather, the Ramones and luke warm beers, punks have had a real influence on modern society in general, and on sub-cultures in particular. From skateboarding videos full of guys wearing skinny jeans to snowboarding brands such as Capita… the entire world of sports involving gliding or sliding is mainly inspired by the punk universe. That’s a certainty. At last, there are sports that can be taken up by teenagers who want to piss off their parents, it’s basically the best way young people have found to say ‘FUCK YOU’ to the whole of society.
So punks, who have pushed social contestation to the max, were at the origin of the creation and the valuation of the henceforth famous concept of Do It Yourself, the whole time having to face a consumer society which values people in function only of what they can afford.
Tristan Still is an Australian photographer who likes to work on original subjects. After a series on « Queers», he worked on the anti-authority aspect of skateboarding, a bit rebellious with a series of photos of skateboarding sessions taken on mini ramps installed in rather original places: bedrooms, sheds, lounges …
It’s surprising, and extremely aesthetic. Still manages to master light, special effects…all in all the guy knows what he’s doing and the final result is spectacular.
On the other hand, once again, it was extremely hard to get him to do this article.
After proposing that he did his own interview, without us telling him what to do, as long as he talked about himself, his work, his obsessions and his passions, he sent us back a quick shy answer:
«It doesn’t bother me if I write my own interview, but I think that it would be better if I answer questions that you ask me. »
OK, so I prepared a list of easy, laid back questions » Do you think that Dr No. is the best ever James Bond? »
But once again, for this edition, no answer.
Tristan is nowhere to be found. And, even if let’s say, that the guy is really busy, with heaps of work to do, and real projects to work on… to spend an hour in front of his computer to answer a series of idiotic questions, well, it’s probably not one of his priorities, we can understand that…
But even so, the least he could do would be to reply, a sign of life, anything. France is maybe a distant country for an Australian, but you have to remember that without magazines photographers wouldn’t exist.
So anyways, given that we are at Desillusion, and that the chief editor is pretty cool, and that anyways you guys don’t even read the text, I decided to reward the few of you who do make the effort to read us with a little personal commitment.
The D.I.Y (Do It Yourself) movement is an anti-consumerist ideal which aims at completely mastering its own production and its distribution. More than a movement, or a simple production, DIY is a political act.
In a society where the slightest of organic phenomena is straight away subjected to legalization, the proliferation of personal projects, which run parallel to this has become more and more rare. The last big movements of DIY: free parties, Pirate Bay, Wikileaks… All hated by the big institutions, who have fallen under the pressure of modern censors.
Skateboarding (which, don’t forget, is a semi legal practice, still not authorized in the place it started; the street), has been seduced, partly, by the sirens of the big institutions, the mainstream and by popular superstars.
That’s why DIY is always a little complicated to define. Whereas pure street skate has remained wild and uncontrollable, curve skateboarding has really quietened down these last few years, with an increase in skateparks, private or public, far from the wild sessions in vandalized swimming pools like in the start.
This is kind of what Still is trying to portray in this series of photos. The good old days. The return of boards on wheels in improbable places. Houses undergoing construction, far from perfect curves calculated on software, the installations seem sketchy and dangerous. Sessions where the skaters adapt themselves to the ground, rather than the opposite. And that, it seems to me, is what skateboarding is all about.
Skateboarding’s something that remains untamable, dangerous and violent. It’s not really surprising then, that from time to time, we have a bit of trouble communicating with this wild bunch, or with skaterboys, it doesn’t matter what you call them as long as they continue to stay as they are: free, not locked up in parks or skateparks…