When did you start shooting photos at Southbank?
Early 2000s. I had a girlfriend at the time who was a photographer. Her parents were photographers too, and she had a darkroom. Some of the photos in here are from the first roll of film I ever shot. The picture of Malik, Toby and Winstan on the roof, that would have been one of the first photos. It was the days before digital, so at the time I was just testing out the camera and different films. They’re just snapshots really, just taking pictures of mates.
How did you know what gear to try? Did your girlfriend give you advice?
Yeah, I just bought an entry-level Pentax, and I didn’t really know what I was doing. I was mates with Styley, and he gave me some pointers. It was probably him that told me to shoot at one-quarter-power flash, and I think that’s probably the first piece of advice that anyone gets.
Whose photos were you looking at back then?
Obviously I was aware of the photos in Transworld, Slap and Big Brother—and Sidewalk of course, from about ’95 onwards, before I even started taking skate photos. You could pretty much open any Transworld from that time and see something that would really fucking grab your attention, but I was into any photographer shooting for those magazines at that time. Dave Swift when he was shooting with a fisheye, when he would step back a little bit. He didn’t just get right underneath the skater.
There’s a trend right now for standing five inches or five hundred feet from the skater, and those don’t always work. Getting really close isn’t something that everyone can do. Rick Kosick could do it of course, and Wig could do it—he still can—but it’s really difficult to do and I don’t think I could. I like to step back a little bit. I like to see some of the surroundings.
We all read Sidewalk. It was based in Oxford and they were trying to move away from everything just being based in London. Even though there was stuff from all over the country, there was still a lot of London spots and skaters, and obviously Wig Worland was one of the brains behind that magazine.
What’s your favourite Wig photo?
The cover of the second issue of Sidewalk, the Mike Manzoori photo. I think that’s better than the Tom Penny photo on the cover of the first issue. I think the whole issue is actually better than the first issue.
How much time were you spending at Southbank at that time?
I was skating there every weekend, so you just knew everybody there. It’s the same now, although I don’t really skate as much, it’s more of a mode of transport, but back then I would skate all day.
I didn’t take that many pictures to begin with because it wasn’t ‘for’ anything. I was just taking pictures like people take pictures on their mobile phone now, but because there were no mobile phones you just did it with a camera, so I was just taking snapshots. It was really only if something was happening. I was hanging out with Winstan and Ben Jobe a lot in the late-90s and early-2000s - it helps if your mates happen to be really good skateboarders.
Did you shoot much at Shell Centre?
I’ve got footage of Ben Jobe skating there but I didn’t take many pictures. There was a lot going on at Shell Centre but I only really shot at Southbank, although the two spots were kind of linked because they’re so close.
What are you studying at Uni?
I’m just about to finish an MA in Photojournalism. I’d already studied photography before, a few years ago. I did Photojournalism at LCC which finished in 2019 I think, but I tried to study photography in the early 2000s and I was told I had an ‘aversion to education’, which I think I actually agree with. I find myself battling photography a lot and studying it doesn’t help. I think the more I studied it the more I disliked it.
So I ended up just working in shit jobs. I’ve been sacked from every job I’ve had. I knew that I couldn’t keep on doing that, so I thought, well, photography’s the only thing I’ve ever been any good at, so if I can do something with that I might be able to survive in a job for more than six fucking months.
When the virus came, that was just after I’d finished so there were no jobs. Nobody’s looking for a photographer when they can’t even leave the fucking house, so I thought I’d get onto this MA. I was supposed to get on it a year earlier than I did but because of the virus they shut the applications down early and deferred me for a year, which was actually better for me because you couldn’t use any of the facilities at the university when all of the teaching was online, and I needed to use the darkroom because a lot of the stuff I do is film.
It’s crazy to think that you have to study something like art or photography to get a job doing it but that’s just the way it goes.
You’ve been using bromide paper lately, right?
Yeah. I’m making a lot of lith prints lately and they’re fucking sick. It’s a printing technique; the papers have to have a high silver content, I think. When you’re printing black and white photos it’s pretty much a set time that you go by. You develop the paper for two minutes, then you put it in the fix for two minutes, but with lith printing it’s all done by eye. There’s no set time so it can take over an hour to develop a print, but the images look insane. They’re all fucked up and grainy, and they have marks and blotching in them, and it really suits skateboarding because skateboarding is raw. I think some of the photographers who were around in the Hasselblad era look back and think it was a bit crazy using those cameras, and with digital—because the standard of the cameras is so fucking good—people expect photographs to be perfect, and we’re not shooting car adverts, do you know what I mean? You lose some of that rawness if you have something that’s so perfectly shot.
Whose portrait work do you like?
I’m really into what Ari Marcopolous was doing in New York in the ‘90s, and he’s interesting because he came from outside of skateboarding, and skating is a really difficult scene to break into if you’re not from that environment. But he managed to take better pictures than most people.
I like Corinne Day’s stuff. She did a lot for The Face when it was still a really good magazine. Fashion photography now—and even skate photography up to a point—can be a little bit self-aware. People are too wrapped up what they think they have to do, but back then when Corinne Day was photographing her mates—which is exactly what Ari Marcopolous and Nan Goldin did too, and most skate photographers—it just looked a bit more authentic. It’s not about getting people dressed up in cool clothes and taking them somewhere for a photo.
There’s a lot of people already wearing cool clothes at Southbank anyway.
I don’t really give a fuck how good you are on a skateboard because I’m just as interested in what you’re wearing. If you’ve got a cool t-shirt or cool shoes. A good band t-shirt or something. That’s the cool thing about Southbank, no-one gives a fuck; you can wear what you want and do what you want. It’s a really diverse environment now, compared to what it used to be.
It can be difficult to dress head-to-toe in one company, but I’ll tell you who can pull that off: Nelly Mayele. Maybe you can pull it off too, but Nelly can turn up head-to-toe in the loudest Supreme tracksuit and most people would look like a victim dressed like that but he just looks cool.
I don’t tell people what to wear or anything but a couple of times a guy’s turned up in tight jeans and I’ve had to ask him not to do that again.
I’m conscious of what these pictures are going to look like in ten years. If you’re wearing good shoes and a good t-shirt then maybe in fifteen or twenty years somebody will be making a @scienceversuslife type of Instagram page—or whatever the fuck we’ll be using then—and they’ll post one of my pictures and somebody will say, “Look at that motherfucker wearing adidas shelltoes, that’s a cool look”. I’ll be thinking about stuff like that when I’m shooting photos.
That thing’s still there but there’s all this other shit around there now, benches, signs, and it’s all people. In this photo, there’s nobody there - no tourists. At this time it was empty and the only people that really hung out at Southbank were skateboarders and crackheads. This is probably from 2000; this is one of the first photos I shot but the print is newer than that. The print might be ten years old. At the time I didn’t take the film to a pro lab, I’d just take it to fucking Boots.
I’d been thinking about taking that picture before I even owned a camera. I’m standing on the roof.
This is us climbing onto the roof, up to where I took that picture. That’s Winstan, Toby and Malik. You can see where the old bank-to-wall is, and the old entrance to the Festival Hall, where Wagamama and stuff is now. There was no tourists or CCTV back then, but even then you’d get security coming over and sometimes they’d fuck with you if you were skating there, but this is before that.
This bit’s open now and they have a bar and it’s all Astroturf and shit, but at this point it was all locked up so we used to climb up in this blind spot where nobody could see you, so you could drink, you could smoke weed, and nobody knew you were there.
We’re just chilling up there. I think they’re talking to Dan Barnet, he’s just out of the frame, he doesn’t give a fuck. I like it because the board is there as well. And the Axion t-shirt.
This got turned into a trendy spot for the summer now, and there’s a fucking shack there that sells lager for £6.50 a pint.
That’s the Shell Centre in the background, and you can see the signs on it: ‘New Apartments For Sale’. This was them just moving the flats in. You never see these things for sale now, you never see people coming or going there.
I’ve never seen the footage from this. It might have been in a 411 or a Zoo York tour video, but I’ve never seen it. Everybody was on that tour, it seemed. Todd Jordan was there, and that’s Danny Supa and Quim Cardona sitting down there. I could never figure out who the other guy is. I always thought he might have been part of the UK distribution.
They were really humble, they all introduced themselves and stuff. I don’t think I’ve ever met any US pros that were idiots, they all seem to appreciate how lucky they got for being good at skateboarding.
Somebody told me Billy Rohan painted all that bit green because he wanted it to look more like a forest, but I don’t know who painted it yellow. It sounds like the kind of thing he would have done, and he lived in London for a while.
This is probably 2004 or 2005. That’s Femi, Shaun Witherup, Jacob something, Tom who was one of the Palace contingent, Lev, a guy called Andre I think, Dave Barnet—Dan Barnet’s brother—and Lewis Ashenden. Lewis Ashenden was fucking amazing.
It wasn’t unusual to see these people hanging out at Southbank. I shot this photograph and I don’t think I processed it for three years, and I didn’t even look at it or print it for another fucking five years. It’s pretty cool because that’s Lev and Femi in the same photo. It’s nice that it’s a fisheye shot as well. It wasn’t unusual to see something like that, but it was just an obvious photo.
That was probably 2004 or 2005 as well. That’s Ty Evans and Kelly Bird filming, and Leo Sharp is right there. I think his shot was in the Southbank book and I’m pretty sure it was miscaptioned as being Chris Roberts. This is cool because you can see all the way back, through the Undercroft to daylight. It’s open again there now, but there’s a barrier. It’s all fucking grey here as well, no graffiti.
I don’t know who these kids are. There’s always a lot of people—especially now—there that you don’t know. It’s really cool again to skate at Southbank. This is probably before the wall came down, because when the wall was up it was pretty tight. It wasn’t often that you saw people that you don’t know, but I dunno who these two kids were. I was just hanging out, and when you see stuff like this it’s when you go, ‘Yeah, I’m just gonna press the button on my camera’. There’s probably another two rolls of stuff that happened that night but this is the shot I really like. It gives you the feeling of being at Southbank on those nights.
This is Sean and Domus hotboxing their hoodies. Domas, a lot of us know, he’s had coverage in Grey and that, and he’s from Lithuania. Sean is one of these fucking hesh skate rats, just the rawest skate head. Turns up and skates at all sorts of hours. I like taking pictures of him, he’s really cool. He’s into skate history, old videos and old magazines. He gets a lot of t-shirts from charity shops and he’s pretty photogenic.
This is Nelly. Everybody likes Nelly. He doesn’t mind having his picture taken and he’s always wearing cool stuff so I’ve got a lot of pictures of Nelly. He’s there a lot.
Wig gave me a TLA 200 flash for my Contax G2, and it’s not cool to talk about equipment, but that flash has probably seen some really fucking influential stuff in its time, so this guy’s in good fucking company having that thing pointed at him. I like this one. This is what you can do when you shoot with the right fucking camera. People always say that it’s not the camera that takes the picture, it’s the photographer, but that’s not fucking true at all. It’s the fucking camera that does all the work. I could shoot that on an iPhone and it’s not gonna fucking look like that, do you know what I mean? That picture looks like it does because it’s shot on a Contax, and that camera really comes alive at night.
Tom seemed to become somewhat of a local again a few years ago; he was at Southbank quite a lot. I think this is just before the wall came down but I don’t think there’s any work going on there to remove it, that was just how it looked. It’s a shame about the graffiti; if you could imagine this was all grey he would be perfectly silhouetted there.
This is going to sound really arsey but about two minutes after this was taken he did a kickflip fakie, and you’re not going to see the kickflip because when he did that I was talking to Miki Vuckovich.
Channon King did this years ago, and the footage was in Playing Fields and Wig’s photo was in Sidewalk. Holdtight Henry filmed this, and I’d have to check but I think Neil Chester said to Henry that NBDs are cancelled after ten years. I don’t think Wig agrees but I still really like this photograph.
I don’t really like shooting with filmers because they get in the way and I get in their way, and sometimes it can get a bit tense or whatever because you both want to get the shot but Henry was fucking cool. He’s still filming here but he’s not in the shot, and I’m standing on the raised bit on the other side. I really like this. I think if someone else had taken it, I’d wish I’d taken it myself.
Joel skates for SB Skateshop which is right around the corner from where we are now, and it’s cool that people support that and that it’s linked with Southbank. It sounds like a cliche but there is a bit of a community at Southbank. Same as Stockwell.
I think there might have been some kind of event on, and I was in Pret with Wig and Amadeus, and Karim walked in and we said hello, and I asked if I could take this photo. That’s the Massey Films logo, that’s a fucking cool tattoo. Karim’s fucking cool, he’s always down for it if you want to take his picture or whatever.
I’m standing at the top here, looking down on him. This picture cost me fifteen fucking quid as well because there were two people on a date on the bench I wanted to stand next to and I gate-crashed it, so I offered to get them a round of drinks and they wanted two cocktails.
This wasn’t a Primitive demo or anything, and I don’t know who he [Tiago] was with but there wasn’t a photographer or anything. I saw him trying this, and someone was filming it, so I asked if I could shoot it and he said yeah. Switch ollie over the bar on a day with not many tourists.
This guy’s from Indonesia, I think, but he skated for DC for sure. I just hooked up with him at Southbank; he was on his own and you could just tell he was good. I’d been trying to shoot this trick for so fucking long, and that bit isn’t there anymore so I’m happy that I managed to get that. Sometimes it’s difficult to get people to do stuff if it’s something that’s quite simple. A lot of the time people are worried it isn’t going to look good.
It’s just luck, it’s just a complete fluke. I’ve noticed that before; that space there is completely free of people or anything that will distract you. That kid standing there, it’s just luck. You can’t plan that. This kid is fucking mesmerised. He can’t fucking believe it.
This wasn’t that long ago, when Tom was kind of showing up again. In the last two or three years, I reckon. He was here a lot, so that might have been the summer when he was here. Jagger would pass on his bike sometimes, and I don’t think this was at an event, I think this is just one of those moments when everybody happened to be there.
This is the Strand underpass, on the other side of Waterloo Bridge. This is when Extinction Rebellion shut Waterloo Bridge down and there was a miniramp on it. I took a photo of Slim doing a boneless on that, but Slim’s really fucking cool and he’s down for anything. If you see something you wanna shoot, and if he’s fit and everything, he’ll come and do it. No-one wanted to shoot on the miniramp because it’s a miniramp, and no-one wanted to shoot the underpass because it’s not steep enough, but Slim just said, ‘Whatever’.
I was there the day before sussing out how I could shoot it and you could stand in the middle, looking over, so you’re more central, but when I went on the day the police were there and they were real pricks. They’d shut the whole bridge down and there’s people walking around doing whatever, yet the police stopped me standing there. They didn’t even want me standing where I was because they said that when there’s no cars going through there the carbon monoxide builds up and it comes out and it’s dangerous… Maybe if you stand there for a thousand fucking years breathing that shit in, then maybe, but I’m there for five minutes to take a picture.
This is before the wall came down. You can still see the wall, but these are the last days of it. Sully’s my mate and he’s wearing Adidas and a bucket hat, and you can’t ask for much more than that. It’s nice to have both of them guys in the same photo. It’s shot on a fisheye and I think it’s hard to shoot portraits on a fisheye outside of skating, but because of the history that that lens has with skating it works. You can shoot portraits with it, and this kind of documentary stuff, and it makes sense.
This is Merryn and her mates Mia and Vinnie. They’re around here a lot, they're cool. Vinnie would drop boards off and stuff at SB if you needed them, before he had the shop.
I don’t actually know what he was doing there. He said something about doing some art show or something, but I’d been out that day at Victoria Benches with Jake Sawyer and a few others, and I was on a train back when Jake Sawyer phoned up and said Mark Gonzales was at Southbank so I got off the train and went back to Southbank just to see him.
So we chilled with Mark Gonzales and he was so fucking cool. I didn’t even think to ask him who his favourite section in Video Days was. I’m interested in that sort of thing. He asked me to take a picture of the scab on his knee, so I’ve got that too.
He’d turned up really late, like midnight or something, and then Blondey and Sam Sitayeb came down, but he was just hanging out. I didn’t fan out on someone who is pretty much universally acknowledged as the most important skateboarder of all time, it was just like hanging out with some skateboarder.
Published in North 35