Manual Magazine

Barber’s Blog: You Gotta Start Somewhere

Posted by markbarber on Wednesday July 25 2012

I went back to New Zealand last weekend to help my Mum move house. My long suffering Mother, bless her heart, has kept pretty much every magazine I’ve ever been published in. She’s also kept every old hat, T-Shirt, school book, roll of film and unpaid speeding fine I’ve ever had. There was literally a mountain of things to sort through. While it was a pain in the ass, there were some gems amongst all the moth ridden Droors t-shirts and moldy old Duffs Strombolis, in particular, some pretty special pics that I’d completely forgotten about.

I’ve always maintained that I first started shooting skateboarding and had been interested in photography since the year 2000. Which is not that long ago in the scheme of things, so I’ve never thought of myself as OG. Considering Caleb Smith, Dave Read and Nick Thomas had been shooting since the mid 90s. I was pretty excited to find four ratty old photos that brought back some pretty cool memories.

I took these photos on a disposable camera in the school holidays of 1993. I’d just gotten into skating and this was probably one of the first times I’d ever been out with my mates for a roll. This is at Green Bay Highschool in West Auckland. They built these ramps for the students, and left them out for everyone to use, which is pretty cool.

This is Peter Checkley. Peter is the guy who really got me into skating. We grew up together in a little backward suburb in Auckland. He’s doing some sorta pivot fakie or 5-0 or some shit. Either way he’s looking pretty stylish. This is probably the best photo out of the lot. It appears to have ‘composition’, if you can call it that. Anyway, he’s in the frame and I’m pretty happy with this one.

This is Peter doing a shuvit. Not a pop shuvit. We didn’t pop anything in ’93. Notice how I didn’t get him in frame? I can just imagine 13 year old me pointing the camera and hoping for the best.

I’m either on the ramp with Peter, or he’s borrowed the camera. We are trying to do what GoPro have perfected nearly 20 years later.

This is my other mate Rickie Brown. Rickie always had the best clothes. From memory he’s wearing an old Foundation shirt and that’s an Underworld Element hat. Yeah that’s right, UNDERWORLD ELEMENT. How baggy are his maroon pants?! How small are his wheels?! Daniel Drupsteen, one of my oldest friends, is in the background. He parted ways from skateboarding a long long time ago. Infact most of my original crew did, but I’m sure they’ll be pretty amped to see these pics.

It’s awesome to be reminded of how far my skate photography, and skate photos in general have come, especially when you get a chance to see it’s humble beginnings. As bad as these photos are, I can’t help but feel they capture the fresh attitude and naive approach to something that was and is such a fundamental part of our lives.

Alex Dyer of Muckmouth posted this photo of Billy Valdez from the early 90s on Facebook a few days ago accompanied by the comment “A lesson in skateboarding photography”. It got me thinking. It’s funny because there are so many aspects of this photo that could be regarded as ‘wrong’ in today’s climate of photographic perfection, but it’s these imperfections that make this photo so good.

The over exposure of the nose, the BGPs, the fact you can’t see his face or the run up would all make this a bad photo by today’s standard, but that’s precisely why it’s top notch. It is what it is.

Billy Valdez, backside flip. Photographer unknown
Source – The Chrome Ball Incident

So even if you’re trying your hardest and still taking shit photos, there is something special about it. It’s all worth it in the long run, even if you never achieve this so called perfection, you’re documenting the good times, and that’s the most important part.

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