Mate, what are you up to?
I’ve been at home all day today, I just got my camera bags ready for tomorrow, I’m heading out to shoot a photo for the first time in about six or seven weeks.
We're at a very weird time in the world right now, what’s life like in the Chami household? I know we spoke the other day and you were doing a bit of homeschooling with your son Weston, tell me about the situation.
Yeah, so he’s seven, he’s at home from school so my wife Sam and I are trading off teaching him different lessons and getting him all sorted out. Sam's work has dried up because she’s a freelancer so she’s been at home. I had a little overnight surgery on my leg about 6 weeks ago and when I got home from hospital I was laid up for a few days, that’s when everything started popping off here in Australia. People got off the cruise ship and started spreading the Coronavirus around. We were both at home so we said let’s get Weston home from school, and then a couple of days later they said keep your kids at home if you could.
What else have I been doing... Learnt how to make sourdough bread. I’ve been baking every couple of days. I also processed some film which I hadn’t done in a long time. Shot some stuff in my garage and around the neighbourhood, just been trying to keep busy. Also been slowly going through my film archives for this piece right here.
Lucas Puig Backside Smithgrind - Milan Italy 2006 - 120 Colour Film - Hasselblad 2000FCW
Fair bit to get through I can imagine. Let's get into it, you’re from New Zealand, explain NZ to someone who hasn’t been there?
Well, it's a little group of islands in the South Pacific below Australia. It's beautiful, a great place to grow up and be from. There’s not a lot of people outside of Auckland, I think the population is 5 million now and probably half of that reside in Auckland, so you go anywhere else in the country and it's pretty uninhabited and super green because it rains a lot in the winter. There are mountain ranges, good beaches and surfing, there are active volcanoes too.
So what came first, the skateboard or the camera? I know you started shooting photos a lot later than most, that got me sparked when I was around 24. If I were putting out photos that I necessarily didn’t like then I knew I still had time to work on it. Like, if it worked for Dave maybe it can work for me too!
I started skating in 1990 and I don’t think I’d even picked up a camera and tried to shoot any skate photos until about 2001. I was 26 by then but I had done a course and got a degree in filmmaking. We were shooting 16mm film and editing. I had a video camera and I would film my friends skating, make little videos and stuff and I ended up working in the film industry. I started off at a rental place that rented out motion picture gear and they had a stills department too so I understood how cameras and film worked. I then worked freelance as a clapper and loader, so I was the dude on set who does the clapperboards and loads all the film in the dark. I worked on some feature films in NZ and tons of commercials, and while I was doing that I kind of got into photography. My really good friend who I grew up skating with, Rene Vaile is a great skate photographer. I watched him shooting my friends and getting photos published in magazines. I would see him using his flashes and stuff and see the results, I wasn’t really paying much attention but I kinda knew what was going on. I’d bought a stills camera, and found a fisheye that fit my Canon T90. I started shooting photos on set because I was working on these crazy movies with special effects and lighting.
I drove the van on a BOOM tour around the whole country with my friend Secombe, who got me to drive because I was 25 and you had to be 25 to drive a van. Also, I think he’d blown his knee out at the time. I took this camera with me and shot some skate photos, not to try and shoot an article, none of the photos turned out good enough anyway, but just because I was super into it. I soon became sick of working in the film industry as I didn’t have any time to skate, and I had a Japanese roommate at the time who suggested to go to Japan and teach English. I knew a couple of Kiwis that were over there teaching and skating, so I moved to Tokyo in 2001. I bought some flashes over there and bought a better camera, a Nikon F4S so I could shoot sequences. I lived there for a year and it was really cheap, like camera gear and film processing is cheap. I was just learning how to do it all myself, practising on my friends and by the end of that year, I got something published in a Japanese magazine. It was a fashion mag that had a skate spread in the middle of every issue. I shot a still and a sequence of my friend Simon that ended up in every convenience store in Japan. After that I was juiced and thought, yup, I might try this! I moved back to NZ for a month and then I went back to Australia for my friend Secombe's wedding and I just never left.
Aaron Jenkin Wallride - Sydney Australia 2004 - 35mm B&W Film - Nikon F5
So you come back to Oz, had you started contributing to any mags at this point?
As soon as I got here I started contributing to ASM [Australian Skateboarding Magazine] which is now gone, and SLAM. I was in Sydney so I would go into the ASM office where Sean Holland was the editor and I would give him photos. Jake Frost had just become the editor of SLAM and there wasn’t really anyone shooting in Sydney at that time so it was very dry, and both those mags printed monthly so I worked a part-time job for at least a year or so and then I got to the stage where I could support myself on just shooting skate stuff.
How did it go in regards to purchasing film and processing, would the mags sort that for you?
They would give you a little bit but I can’t really remember. I do remember Jake sending me film and Sean giving me film, trying to help out as much as they could. I think sometimes you could send it in and get processed but I remember I was still spending tons of money on film. I remember one year doing my tax return and earning $30,000 and spending like $20,000 on film and processing. I don’t even know how I lived on ten thousand dollars you know. Haha! Sam and I were living together at that stage, rent was a lot cheaper and I remember we had a two-bedroom apartment right behind the beach at Bronte and the whole place was $330 a week. That place would be a $1200 a week easy now.
Carson Lee and Jon Nguyen - San Francisco USA 2014 - 35mm Colour Film - Nikon FM2
Who were your influences at this time?
I always was a magazine nerd, I collected as many mags as I could when I started skating. There were videos but mags were just as, if not more important, and that’s where you got everything from, so I remember studying mags since I was a kid. I knew who the photographers were but I think I really started paying attention when I wanted to start shooting stuff. It was Mike O’Meally, Brian Gaberman, Oliver Barton, Joe Brook, Morford, Atiba, Dave Swift and Grant Brittain. I just fanned out on everyone doing it really. Transworld used to print in their photo issues tips for photographers and those really helped because it was just so hard to get information then. When I first started shooting I used to have this little notebook and every single photo I shot I wrote down what shutter speed and what f stop I used, how far the flashes were from the skater and what power they were at and then I’d get the roll of film and cross-reference it and see what worked and what didn’t. It just took so long to figure it all out.
That's genius though, so many people out there that would be too lazy to do that, that's how you learn.
Yeah. I was shooting 35mm so there was no option of shooting polaroids either. You would shoot a photo and think you shot it really well and there's a flash flaring in every single frame. Haha!
Lee Ralph - Sydney Australia 2003 - 35mm Colour Film - Nikon F5
Let chat about Mike O'Meally a bit more, I know he did a lot for you.
Yeah for sure, obviously I knew who he was and he's always been very inspirational for me. I knew of him through friends in NZ who had gone on trips with him and I knew he had gone to America and basically made it, so in my head I was like “if that guy from Australia can do it maybe I can too". He was the first one from anywhere down here and he did it all himself. Then I met him out here, he used to come back to Sydney every summer because his family is here and I remember meeting him one time at Hyde Park and he said “You’re the Kiwi dude who shot all the stuff in the latest SLAM, I like your photos“, which blew my mind! At that time I would send photos to Manual Magazine, which is a great magazine from NZ, and I said to Mike "how about we do something with you for Manual, let's shoot a portrait and you can do a portfolio of your favourite stuff", and he was into it. And that’s how we first became friends, he was so awesome to me. He would come to Australia and he would have a year's worth of Slam mags, and all these back to back tours with guys coming from the states. He hadn’t been living here and he needed spots, so he'd rip out all the pages of photos that I'd shot and he’d be like "where are these?" and just hand me a massive bag of film. We used to trade like that. Spots for bags of film. And he had an account through Transworld at a lab here and he’d be like "if you need any film processed in the next 3 months I got you, take it in and say it’s on Mike O’Meallys account". So I would just get all this film processed for free. He was just so rad you know, and then he’s the one who got me shooting stuff of American guys that were coming out here that he couldn’t do. He'd say "my friend Dave can do it" and he’d pass it on my way and that’s what kind of got my foot in the door with the US Mags and with Skin at Transworld. None of this would have happened to me if it hadn’t been for Mike.
The idea of back to back trips these days is insane, they're so few and far between now, it sounded like such a glorious time.
Well yeah, the very first big one that he sent my way was a Lakai trip about 2005. I remember him calling me and he said he had two trips overlapping by 4 or 5 days and could I shoot the first few days for him. I was like "who’s coming?' And it was just a laundry list of your favourite skaters. Haha! It was Rick Howard, Mike Carroll, Koston, MJ, Biebel, Alex Olson, Mariano who’d just come back on the scene, it was nuts! You shoot a couple of photos of those guys and they're going straight into magazines, they're not just sitting around!
Ben Gore Ollie - San Francisco USA 2013 - 4x5 B&W Film - Graflex Crown Graphic
That's the dream line up, what video was that for.
It was insane. That was filming for Fully Flared, it was a few years before it came out because I ended up doing more trips with those guys towards the end of that video. We did one to China, then one to Barcelona and Milan.
So you're working in Oz and contributing to US mags?
Pretty much. The first photo I ever had in Transworld was a checkout of Chima Ferguson. Then I started sending stuff of Australians that I thought could get in there or a make a cool gallery shot. At the same time, I also had stuff in SLAP, Skateboarder and The Skateboard Mag. I feel like it really kicked off after I met those people. The first time I went to the states I really made a point of meeting the people at the mags. I took the train down to Southern California and was staying in LA and visited Skin at Transworld, Grant and Dave at The Skateboard Mag. Then I went up to SF to see Tony Vitello at Street Corner, then Whitely and Joe Brook at SLAP, and then the guys at Thrasher, just to show my face. I think it goes a long way when people can put a face to a name.
What about your first article in a US mag?
The first time I got sent on a US trip for a mag I got sent from Oz to China to shoot a Krux tour. I’d already done part of the Lakai tour for O'Meally and that stuff got used. Skin was like, I can send this guy on a full trip, so I flew to Shanghai in 2005 and did a trip within Ron Whaley, Justin Strubing, Cairo Foster, Caswell Berry and Nestor Judkins.
Jon Nguyen - Oakland USA 2014 - 35mm Colour Film - Widelux Panoramic
Geoff Cook Switch Lipslide - Sydney Australia 2006 - 35mm Colour Film - Hasselblad 500cm
Was that when China was just starting to open up?
Yeah. I know O’Meally had been there with the Vans guys but I hadn’t seen much stuff out of Shanghai and man it was grimey. I remember we were staying at a hotel and I went back to the same hotel a year later and it was completely different, it had changed so much. This was pre-Shenzhen. People were just going to Shanghai and Beijing at this stage and about a year later Ant Claraval started going from Hong Kong to Shenzhen and he told me about it. So I organised a random crew of people to go there. We took Dennis Durrant, Tommy Fynn and Josh Rio from Oz, Soichiro Nakajima from Japan, and Nestor Judkins from the US. It was just incredible. Afterwards, I emailed Rick Howard some of the photos telling him about that part of China. I basically said he should do a trip there before Fully Flared was finished because it's amazing, everything is marble and there is no bust. He emailed me back saying they had been thinking about doing a trip to China and were going to do something for SLAP, so why don’t you come with us? He basically told Slap we're taking this guy Dave to shoot the photos. I think he just appreciated that I'd sent him that stuff, but he really threw me a massive bone there. We went to Shenzhen and Shanghai; all the stuff that’s in China from Fully Flared was from that trip. Shooting that really helped me a lot because when the article came out in SLAP it was 27 pages or something, the longest article I’d ever had printed in anything. It might have been the last issue they had before the video came out.
I saw in another interview you got asked to work for another mag but ended up working for Transworld. What's the story with that?
I was going to work for SLAP. I’d been talking to Mark Whitely and told him that I wanted to try and move to the States and that I thought I could figure out a VISA. He mentioned they needed someone, so if I could make it happen I could be their guy in LA. I loved SLAP and I had visited SF and met Whitely and I already knew Joe Brook, so I decided to do it. I called Skin Phillips after that because I had been doing all this freelance stuff for Transworld at the time, and I just wanted to say thanks for everything, and he was like “Hold on, Hold on”. He’s like "give me a day, I'll call you back tomorrow". He called the next day and said what about if you come and work for us, we don’t have anyone in Northern California and you can be our guy, live in SF instead. It was a better deal and I was already friends with O'Meally and Oliver and I liked SF A lot. I'd only been to SF and LA once before, I think I’d only gone to America a year before then for the first time. I’d stayed in LA then gone on a road trip up to SF and I just loved it. I convinced Sam. She had never been there.
Dennis Durrant - Perth Australia 2017 - Fuji Instant Film Emulsion Transfer - Polaroid 180
That's a massive choice though, pack it all up and move over.
Yeah. So I had to call Whitely back and tell him that Skin had offered me a job and I'd rather do it because I'd rather be in SF than LA, LA was never appealing for me. Six months after I moved to the states, SLAP went out of business. Joe and I would always talk about it, he’d be like “Glad you never came and worked for us man".
Worked out to be a good choice then.
I don’t think anyone else wanted to go to SF at that time and be the solo dude. It was such Thrasher country but I just didn’t care. I just wasn’t involved in any kind of politics that went on, I’m from NZ, I don’t give a shit! I love Transworld and I was going to do it. I only knew four skaters that lived there at the time.
At that time the mag would have been so thick, it was prime mag time.
Yeah but even that changed quickly, once you hit 2009 the whole financial crisis happened there and it just got thinner and thinner.
Tory Hereford Gap to Backside Tailslide - San Francisco USA 2016 - 120 B&W Film hand Coloured - Hasselblad 2000FCW
Weston Chami colouring Chris Haslam Heelflip - Oakland USA 2016 - 120 B&W Film hand Coloured - Hasselblad 2000FCW
At this point are you shooting any digital for Transworld or is it all still film?
Digital was out and I was using digital to shoot sequences. I had a D2H which was like 4 megapixels and would shoot sequences with that and still use the Hasselblad for shooting stills, and sometimes my Nikon FM2 and maybe my Xpan. I also had Lumedynes by then.
How long did it take for you became Senior Photographer at Transworld? I've always been a massive fan of that era of Transworld. I would buy them religiously over here in Oz, to me it was the perfect photographer line up. Yourself, Oliver Barton, O'Meally, Seu Trinh. That had to be a dream come true?
It was amazing. To be working with that group of guys, it was pretty daunting. They were all so good and all quite different. Mike would go on a trip and shoot the most insane photo you’ve ever seen, then all of Oliver's stuff was lit so well and so sharp and colourful and Seu had all these crazy ideas and did all this weird stuff that somehow worked. And I kind of felt like where do I fit in? I was a fan of the mag like you were at that time too, I’d get each issue and be like, what did these guys do this month and do I have anything in here? Haha!
Ben Gore Nosebluntslide - San Francisco USA 2014 - 120 Colour Film soaked in Laundry Detergent - Hasselblad 2000FCW
I think to me that was my favourite time, growing up reading the Transworld mags, wanting to shoot photos and looking at what you could do. We're both magazine nerds and I still have all those mags.
That's cool to hear because when you’re the person in it at that time you wonder if it feels the same for younger people like it did when you were a kid. I should’ve mentioned earlier about the photography of Daniel Harold Sturt; it always stood out because it was so different at the time - I had that Hensley cowboy hat photo on my wall for years. I don’t know how but everything that guy did, all those darkroom techniques, he was so far ahead of his time, particularly in skating. I went through this period when I lived in America where I tried to find all the old Photo Annuals and as much stuff as I could from that Sturt era. Every issue would have some kind of gem that he shot.
Explain a normal day for you at Transworld? Were you creating your own projects or being given articles to work on?
There were trips constantly happening, Skin would just call and say "Can you go on this trip on these dates?" And I always tried to say yes to everything. At the same time, we would all be working on interviews. There were definitely people you wanted to shoot Pro Spotlights with and we would work with those people for however long it took. Like Oliver would be shooting with P-rod for 6 months trying to get his spotlight done and I tried to do the same thing up north with Caswell Berry, then there were Roll Calls, Checkouts, the regular columns etc to fill.
It wouldn’t even really be a drama if you shot something and it missed an issue because a month later it would get run, the idea of monthly magazines kind of blew my mind. It just seemed so stressful to put together.
It was at times, but if you think that out of 4 of us, at least 2 of us are going on a company trip, and most times we were probably all going a trip each month. On top of that, we would come up with our own articles which we were free to do. I think that was something that I kind of realised I could do early on, and got more into. I had a couple of things run in Transworld before I worked there full time, one where I shot all these photos on 35mm that I sandwiched onto 120 spools and shot through my Hasselblad, and one where I hand coloured all these black and white prints that I had leftover and put them together. Some of them had guys in them that were unknown skaters from Oz but because you packaged them up and make them look cool and different, they tended to get run. This was something that I liked doing and I felt like it kind of kept that mid 90’s, artistic Ted Newsome art director of Transworld era vibe going.
I always liked that because I did find the formula of Pro Spotlight, Tour, Checkout, getting a bit repetitive. Travel articles can get real boring, I mean skate mags, in general, can get boring so I always felt like it was nice to do something that people weren’t expecting. I felt like I could get away shooting with people that were unknown and tricks that weren’t necessarily that crazy. Skating has gone in a direction where everything is very trick based and quantified these days so it’s nice to take a step back and see what else we can do to make this different. I want to pick up a magazine and see something I’ve never seen before in a skate photo.
Alex Olson Lipslide - Shanghai China 2007 - 35mm Colour Infrared Film Cross Processed - Nikon FM2
Josh Pall Nosegrind - Sydney Australia 2010 - 120 Colour Infrared Film - Hasselblad 2000FCW
It's like, "here's a skate photo on 4 x 5", something interesting like that.
I think that’s something for me that goes back to shooting on film, you just have so many more options and a lot of it has to do with camera formats. We all shoot digital with DSLR on a 35mm frame and that’s kind of it you know? Same lenses, same lights, same same. With film cameras you can go to 4 x 5 and swing your lens around or you can shoot panoramic 35mm or panoramic 120 or 6x6 or 6x9 or 6x4.5 and that’s just the formats. Then there are different techniques of developing and printing film; it’s never-ending and I find it hard to find that with digital stuff. So anything experimental always ends up going back to shooting with a film camera for me, it’s not that exciting to put a photoshop filter over something or crop a digital image a certain way.
I completely agree with you on that one. What about some of your favourite projects you got to work on at Transworld? Skate & Create looked so fun.
Those weren’t fun at all. We would be in a warehouse around the corner from TWS for 20 hours of the day or something. Haha! Setting everything up would take so long.
John Rattray Ollie - Oceanside USA 2008 - 120 Colour Film - Hasselblad 2000FCW
Like the Rattray photo, that photo is so gnarly.
It's funny because we had the warehouse set up with hay all over the floor, the girls are twirling fire, and I’m thinking, Skin is going to kill me if we burn this place to the ground. And for some reason I got really hung up on the Cardiel Thrasher cover where he’s doing a shifty Ollie through a fire ring. I mean the one Rattray is going through is so much smaller, it’s like a hula hoop basically.
It's tiny, his arms are getting third-degree burns.
I know, and he did it so many times. John Rattray is amazing. I set the whole thing up and I thought to myself I can’t shoot it like the Cardiel cover, it'll be disrespectful. I shot it from behind thinking this is a way to make it look different. I remember Lee Dupont was filming and he came over and said ‘man what are you doing, why aren’t you shooting it from the front?’ and I was like ‘I don’t want it to look the same’ and he basically made me doubt myself so I shifted side, shot it from the front and when I got the film back the ones from behind looked so stupid.
Ryan Lay Wallride - Oakland USA 2013 - 35mm Colour Film - Hasselblad Xpan Panoramic
What about working on any of the Transworld Videos?
I started just after Chris Ray had started working at Transworld. He was over in Sacramento which is about an hour and a half away from where I was in the East Bay. I think the first trip I went on was for “And Now’ where we went to Australia and China. That's when Gravette grinded that rail at the Sydney Post office, and that was my first Transworld Cover. Basically we would always try and choose a couple of dudes who were in Northern California that Chris would film with, and John Holland would film with dudes in Southern California and then we would all do trips together. I went on trips for most of the videos from 'And Now' up until going to Bordeaux with Ben Gore, Leo Valls and Yaje Popson for 'Riddles in Mathematics'. Those were fun times, It's pretty hard to pull together a group of people like that in a year and put together something really good. All those guys worked super hard on those things.
Did you ever have any input into any of those videos?
I would put forward names of people I thought deserved a part in Northern California, but usually I was just documenting. A lot of the time while they're doing the videos the five people are devoting all of their time to the project so you try and hook them up with as much coverage in the magazine as you can. When those videos came out, usually two or three of the skaters would have a cover and all of them would have an interview of some kind. All of those trips you’re stacking for all that stuff which takes time. That’s part of the reason why the skaters would do it, because the coverage was a guaranteed package, it was something separate from their sponsors and a lot of time they would go pro after that if they weren’t already. It was a big deal to get a part and they would only offer it to five people every year.
Chima Ferguson Switch 360 Flip - Sydney Australia 2008 - 120 Colour Film, Multiple Flashes - Hasselblad 2000FCW
What about art direction? How much creative control did you have over the layouts of your articles?
Basically we were free to do what we wanted as far as ideas go. Even with the art direction you could come back and talk to the Art Director and be like "This trick was really gnarly this should get a lot of space", or "I shot all these incidentals for it, it’d be cool for these go along with it". Or "I had this idea of how it should look and I collected these things on the trip". You can give input on that side of it too because it plays a massive part. People very rarely talk about the art direction of a skate mag but it’s so important, because a good layout can make your photos look so much better, and a bad one can do the opposite. It’s really important and I don’t know if people think about that as much these days, and I don’t know if it’s because magazines aren’t as prevalent now, but definitely in the time when I was coming up, you thought about how this was going to look, especially when you’re talking about a magazine every month. You’re pretty entrenched in it so you try to know what’s coming and what’s been before and how you can have it different from other articles in the magazine. I know with the trips I went on I tried to make them look different as the interviews were always going to be pretty standard as far as layout.
I remember you telling me a while ago that the layout and the way it looks is just as important as shooting good photos. That's always stuck with me.
Yeah, and usually the Art Directors are pretty happy to get input from you too; they've just been given this package, they didn’t go on the trip, they don’t know too much about it. That communication is so important. That's one thing I love about working with The Skateboarders Journal here in Oz with Sean Holland and Jack Tarlinton. I was around when they first started the magazine and I remember them laying the first issue out and were designing the cover of Andrew Currie and they put in effect over it - they were like “should we do this?” Haha! That was really pretty hands-on and Jack is so open to ideas and it’s the same with him now 41 issues later. It’s good to have that person who will take your ideas and run with them or send you a preview before it comes out. I try not to be too much of a pain in the arse but maybe I'll ask for a couple small changes if it looks like it would help. It’s something that’s definitely important to me having done this for so long.
Ben Raemers Varial Heelflip - San Francisco 2012 - 4x5 Colour Film - Graflex Crown Graphic
I agree. Over the years you’ve had a lot of articles involving a lot of creative techniques through your work. Tell me the story behind getting the infrared film for the Transworld Article?
Kodak used to make 35mm colour Infrared film and I remember getting some of it and playing around with it in the early 2000s. When I did that Lakai trip to the south of China it was going to be for SLAP who were infamous for doing really creative articles and I wanted to shoot the whole trip with it and make it look nuts. I took all this infrared film and was going to shoot 120 and cross-process it all. On the trip, my Hasselblad broke and I ended up having to shoot all 35mm on my Xpan and my FM2, so I had all this 35mm infrared film. I cross-processed some of it and normally processed some of it and used different filters and stuff and it all came out really cool. After a few years, Kodak stopped making it and I found out about his guy Dean Bennici who lives in Germany and he was getting massive sheets of infrared film from aerial photographers who’d been using it to shoot the topography of the land. He’d found all this film and was hand cutting it himself and rolling it into used 120 paper backing and selling it. I don’t remember how I found out about him, it might have been through a photography magazine. I’ve always tried to look at other photo mags outside of skating because that’s where you can pick up certain ideas and maybe apply them to a skate photo. So I bought some 120 infrared off him and took it around in my camera bag for a few months and put together all those photos and the results are really wild and unpredictable. The infrared stuff works best when you get the sky in there because that’s when you get the most colour shift, like the blues go black and the blacks go red and vegetation goes all nuts.
Wonder if he has any left.
He has a little bit left, the very last of his supply. I had one roll left from when I shot that article that I’ve kept for years, it’s been close to 10 years and I shot it the other week, the whole roll, I was worried it wouldn’t come out. In the dark bag I cut the piece of film in half and then I put half of it through E6 normal processing then the other half through C41 because the chemicals aren’t as strong. The half I put through E6 was ruined but the half that I put through C41 was fine.
What about the beer soaking photos?
I had already done experiments in the states soaking film in different substances. I did an interview with Ben Gore in Transworld where I just destroyed all his film photos with different methods and some of them were soaking the film in chemicals and weird things. I’d done some in lemon juice and Tabasco sauce and weird other stuff. I had the idea of soaking the film in beer because our friends Matt, Glenn and Trent have their own craft brewery called 'The Grifter' here in Sydney and Glenn and Trent both skate, so I thought why don’t I see what happens if I soak the film in all their different beers. I loaded the film into a developing tank and then filled it up with beer and left it to soak for a few days, let it dry out afterwards and put it through my camera, sometimes nothing came out and some of it got pretty warped and different beers did different things. Every time I’d go skate I had a camera with some beer-soaked film in it. I did it with 120 film too, I took the film off the paper backing and then soaked it, dried it and then taped it back onto the paper backing and loaded it into my camera.
Trent Evans Gap to Backside Tailslide - Sydney Australia 2018 - 35mm Colour Film soaked in Beer - Olympus PenFT
At this point in your career you’ve formed relationships with certain companies, I know you’ve done a lot of stuff with Habitat for example.
I did a lot of stuff with Habitat through Silas and Brennan Conroy. When I first moved to the US, Silas was in Santa Rosa and I started skating with him and Brennan a little bit. Then Silas moved to Chicago and I still skated with him a bit and I’d skate with Dela and Daryl down in San Jose. Stefan was still in Sacramento when I first moved there before he moved to NY and I just started going to trips with those guys. Joe Castrucci was really awesome to work with, I shot with Austyn a lot too. Suciu was down in San Jose and I shot his Transworld checkout and then continued shooting stuff with him. We did a Habitat skate & create, then I did some Habitat footwear trips and shot their catalogues. It was really easy hanging out with them and I love all their stuff, anything Joe does. I’m also really good friends with Marius, when I first started skating with him he was on Osiris and he came to Barcelona on a trip and I didn’t even know who he was at that stage. You shoot stuff with those guys when they’re young and you kind of become friends for life. Same as guys like Chima and Dane, I’ve read interviews with Dane before and he’s said none of this would have happened without Dave, and I’m like man you were ripping so hard and I saw how good you were and wanted to shoot photos with you. I was on a trip with Josh Harmony once and he said to me, “You photographers can really make or break us you know.” I’d never really thought about it like that but he said: “When you decide you want to shoot with us we’re kind of in”. There’s some truth in that, especially when mags were more prevalent. If you spend time with someone you’re going to get photos and if you’re involved with a particular magazine then that’s where they are going to get run. You kind of do have a say in it.
What was the reason you moved back to Australia?
I left Transworld at the end of 2016, I knew that things were going to end for me there. We had made the decision to move back to Australia and then a couple of weeks later I was made redundant. Sam and I had always talked about getting back to Australia before Weston started school, we liked it in the states but I knew we weren’t 'lifers'. We hadn’t got our green cards and we'd been there for nearly nine years. There wasn’t anything there for me that was going to be better than Transworld. It was a really hard decision to make though, all our friends were there and we had such a good community in Oakland with other parent friends and skaters and I still miss everyone there. We just made the decision to come back to paradise.
You work for Adidas in Oz now, what's your current role?
I’m the Australian Team Manager. I’m looking after all the team guys here, doing their contracts and organising some of the marketing that goes along with Adidas skateboarding in Australia. Organising trips, video productions, the works. Luckily I got the job partly because I’m a photographer as well, I can go on a trip and look after everyone, shoot photos, drive the van, the one-man-band.
Mike Carroll Ollie - Los Angeles CA 2007 - 120 Colour Film - Hasselblad 2000FCW
Top skater over the years you’ve shot photos with and why?
This is hard but I’m just going to pick Silas. We’ve spent so much time travelling together, even just skating with him was always fun. We get along well and our kids and wives all get along. He seems like a New Zealander to me. He’s from Oregon and just very mellow and sensible but he’s not stiff. He’s smoking and drinking and gambling along with doing the craziest tricks but he doesn't have an ego, he’s a really amazing person, a great fucking friend.
My last question is one that’s close to both of our hearts, especially with what’s going on in the world right now and magazines struggling more than ever. How important is a skateboard magazine in today's climate?
I still think they’re really important but I think they’ve got to be a little bit more special than what they used to be. Not spat out for a quick turn around, that doesn’t need to happen anymore, but they need to be super creative and different from the video stuff that you see and treated more like an annual. I think skaters are into that and that can survive. I also think it’s important to show people who are getting into skating that this is a lifestyle, not an Olympic sport. I'm a photographer you know, so I just love the way things can look in a frozen moment, it just has a way of capturing that rawness of skating that you don’t feel or you can’t study as much in a video. I also feel so bombarded by video content at the moment that it’s been such a switch around for me. When I started skating you saw more mags than videos and now it’s clearly the opposite, so I think it makes a magazine even more special now when I see them - I get really fucking excited when I see them! They’ve just got to not be shit you know.
Quality over quantity for sure, thanks for your time Dave, that was rad.
Published in North 26