Spotlight: The Art of Skateboard Photography, and A New Generation of Artists

By David Schonauer   Thursday December 12, 2019

Skateboard photography as art?

Mike Blabac wrote the book on it — literally.

It’s called Mike Blabac: The Art of Skateboard Photography, and it documents the exploits and creativity of skateboarding legends — including Eric Koston, Stevie Williams, Colin McKay, Rob Dyrdek, and Danny Way — chronicling along the way not just a sport, but a way of life that reshaped youth culture.

The book came out in 2009, and Blabac is still photographing skateboarders — a group of people he calls his “family.” Today we spotlight a short film about him from director Jacob Rosenberg , appropriately titled Mike Blabac—Family Portraits, in which the photographer delves into the process behind his art as he photographs what Rosenberg calls “the meaning of a life in skateboarding.”

Among the “family members” featured in the film: skateboarders Tony Hawk, Wes Kramer, Jim Thiebaud, and Rodney Mullen, and fellow skateboard photographer J. Grant Brittain.

We also feature a new installment of the “Photographers In Focus” series from video platform Nowness. In it, British-Ghanaian writer, art historian and curator Osei Bonsu introduces a “new generation” of photographers whose work was on display last month at Paris Photo’s Curiosa Exhibition. The photographers’ work highlights what Nowness calls “photography’s increasingly unstable relationship with the physical world.”

Mike Blabac-Family Portraits

“I’ve shot so many skateboard photos over the course of the last 25 years, and portraits, for me, are things that have always stood out,” says skateboard photographer Mike Blabac in director Jacob Rosenberg’s short film, a recent Vimeo Staff Pick.

The film itself is a portrait, not just of a photographer, but of the deeper meaning of community and how art has helped bind it together. As a teenager, Blabac was interested in photography. “But once I saw skating, it was like nothing I’d ever seen. So it kind of really opened my eyes.”

Speaking of eyes: One of the more amusing stories in the film comes when Blabac tells of some important advice he got from Brittain when he was breaking in. “I sent Grant photos when I first moved to [San Francisco],” says Blabac. “And Grant was like, ‘Dude, your photos are fu#kin’ super out of focus.’ And he was just like, ‘Dude, you need glasses.’ And that’s why I have glasses.”

Photographers in Focus: New Generation

In the latest installment of the “Photographers In Focus” series from video platform Nowness, British-Ghanaian writer, art historian and curator Osei Bonsu opens our eyes to a new generation of photographers featured last month at Paris Photo’s Curiosa Exhibition.

“The show explores the tacit narratives that can lie behind an image and draws on the lived experiences of emerging artists hailing from different parts of the globe in innovative ways,” notes Nowness.

“What we’re trying to seek out is ways in which artists are reflecting their contexts, but also bringing new meaning to their immediate environment,” says Bonsu in the film. Among those whose work was on display, for instance, was Cuban artist Leandro Feal, whose images of  hedonistic party scenes in Havana comment on young people’s political experience in his home country.
At top: a screen capture from Mike Blabac—Family Portrait


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