Intro : Andrew Reynolds
Interview: Sébastien Zanella
I love hanging out on Patrick’s website. He’s got so many photos of our trips and parties on there, it’s like a trip down memory lane. I’ll always remember the first time I met him, it was on a Baker trip in 2002, or something like that. He was taking pictures for Thrasher, and he’d written this article about it. He just kept taking all these pictures, he never stopped, even when we weren’t skating. He seemed to be more interested about what was going on behind the scenes than in front. After that, he started doing portraits and fashion shoots, which led to Epicly later’d (his TV documentary series shown on VBS). He’s really really good at what he does, and it’s just so cool to be with him, to have photos taken by him, of a trip. He doesn’t just show just the « hammer » side of skateboarding, or a guy in a bar, he sees way past all that. Stuff we don’t see, like a weird looking dog, random moments, he tells stories, and makes the story of skateboarding even more interesting than it already is.
Yeah, I gotta admit, I really enjoy chilling out on Patrick’s website.
You’ve known Andrew for quite some time now, what did you think when you first met him?
I remember that he was my all-time favourite skater to photograph at that time. The best anyhow. We’d see a spot, he’d place his trick in the blink of an eye and the job was done. He’s a real pro, and back then, that was so important to us photographers. We used basically only film-based cameras, so the guy who allowed you to save on film was obviously your favourite. I remember how at ease he was, he was so good that when he did a trick, even a hammer on a flight of stairs or a rail, I always got the impression that he was just warming up. Sometimes I didn’t even take photos, thinking that he was just practicing. It only happened a couple of times, but when I realized the incredible stunt he’d just pulled off, I was like, « Fuck, stupid me, » hitting myself for not having taken that shot. For any other skater, it would’ve been like their best trick ever. For him, it was just the first of the session, a warm-up to something even more incredible.
I met him somewhere between 2000 and 2004, I think. That was my « skate photography » period, professionally speaking, I mean. I actually started to photograph skateboarders when I was about 12; right around the same time I started to skate.
Photography has always been a part of my life actually, even before skateboarding.
Have you always been a big fan of action shots?
I never have actually.
I was always more attached to the dark side, the shades of grey. You could almost say photojournalism. The important thing to me is that it tells a story.
Before when I didn’t have a car, stuck in school, I’d spend my time reading magazines and looking at all the different pictures in them. I was a total daydreamer, living my life through the stories the pictures told, the glossy prints. I used to think to myself « Fuck, it’d be so cool to hang out with those people. » And when I started getting into photography, and writing articles, I naturally showed what was going on backstage as well as the action. The two go hand in hand. Yeah, I think that I always wanted to do something to make the kid I used to be proud. Some writers prefer to be part of the group when they go on tour with a brand. But not me, almost straight away, I wanted them to see me more like a kid, who’d just tagged along for the ride. That’s one of the reasons that I decided to do « Epicly later’d ». It’s a sort of window, where people can see the real life of the pros.
So action comes second, does it?
Yes, in my vision, it does. It’s hard to identify a trick that you’ll probably never be able to place in your life. You need the action, because that’s the essence of skateboarding, but you also need to show the good times, the exclusive lifestyle that these incredible people have, these skaters, it all goes together. That’s why it’s cool to have guys like Andrew Reynolds in the skateboarding industry. He allows the wild crazy skaters to live from their art, without having to do contests or to be the best in just one particular thing.
So you consider yourself to be more a journalist than just a plain photographer.
Back then, I just wanted to give the kids something to dream about, to give them what they wanted. I didn’t think that my work was gonna end up in art galleries, or was going to be appreciated by the establishment
Don’t you reckon that it’s also because the art world and the public need to dream, they need adventure, mad stuff to set them free from their reality. When I look at your last pictures, it’s all parties, mad drunken nights out, that’s what I see anyway.
I don’t really know. It’s true that a lot of my photos reflect the lifestyle I used to have. Before, I was always outdoors, on tour, with skaters, etc. Totally immersed, which is what I think makes it all so real. Today, I’m not really the same person, even though I do post photos on my website of parties or of people I like/admire. But the Internet kinda distorts reality. I don’t show too many pics anymore, not even half the photos I take. The trouble with the Internet is that people judge you by what they see. Nowadays, I’m not that guy anymore, I couldn’t go on tour and muck around like I used to before. I like the comfort of being at home, or sleeping in a hotel bed some place (laughs), yeah, sleeping on the floor of some hotel room aged 35, and I just can’t do it anymore. It does my back in.
And yet you continue to explore the lifestyles of skaters with Epicly later’d (most of whom are hardly devout Catholics…)
Yes, but in a more mature fashion I think. That’s why
I don’t want to do an episode about young freaky skaterboys, I prefer the older skateboarders, veterans who’ve been around a bit and who have a real story to tell. I don’t just film random moments in life, it has to tell a story. It’s got to make sense.
Have you ever done an episode on someone who you found interesting at first, or who you used to idolize when you was a kid, and who completely disappointed you?
It happens sometimes. I’m not thinking about any person or thing in particular, but yeah, sure, I’ve been disappointed before. But then again, I’m not the fan I used to be when I was a kid, I think in a more journalistic way nowadays, so you can’t really say that I get disappointed. But maybe the kid inside me does, just a little bit.
Are there some skaters who try to play you, because of the popularity of Epicly later’d, who try to make themselves out to be someone or something they’re not?
Yeah, a few of them. Quite a lot of them, actually. When I interview them, I get the impression that they know exactly what they want to sell us. Most of them have been in the game for a long time now, and have done hundreds of interviews. So it’s normal that they try. Having said that, on the other hand, there’s
Jason Dill. Every time I interview the dude, I know full well he’s gonna say some crazy shit just to be controversial.
And me, I’m like, « OH fuck it, I can’t use that, it’ll shock the kids, or « we’re gonna have problems with so and so, » or « Do they really want me to diffuse this? » But I’m sure that he knows exactly what he’s doing, he knows how to play the game, it amuses him.
After having interviewed, written, filmed and seen as much as you have, so many different legends and tours, do you think it’s changed the idyllic vision you had of skateboarding when you were a kid?
I think we all have our own vision of skateboarding and no one can ever change it. And that’s from your first time on a board. I think contests are a total waste of time, something that shouldn’t even exist, but there are other skaters who love them. Some pros do only that. So my vision isn’t the strict truth, and yet some guys I just won’t interview, because they don’t fit my vision of skateboarding, even though they’re the ones who sell the most boards. The kids love them. So my vision doesn’t change, because I don’t look at what I don’t like or what I don’t want to see. I just keep going the way I always have, with my own convictions.
That’s the vision of most people once they turn thirty, isn’t it?
Yeah, well in that case, I’m gonna stay stuck in the past then. It’s a bit like with music. You know, it’s like if there were different categories of skaters, me, I’d be more a « classic rock » type of skater person myself. That’s what I’d listen to. I would live and breathe that and only that. I wouldn’t go listen to pop music all of a sudden, if you see what I mean.
And if you had to come back to/live in a classic period of skateboarding, which would it be?
Without hesitation the Blind Video Days period. That was the best skateboarding period for me, the guys seemed to be having so much fun on their boards… they invented tricks, with style… they were total pioneers.
If you watch the videos from back then and then compare them to those made 5/6 years ago, it feels like the Blind Day Video is more current, it goes better with our times. It’ll never go out of fashion and shall always make me wanna get up and go skate.