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Timeless Shots of Skateboarders and Daredevils

Scott Pommier’s interest in photography began when he started using his mother’s semi-automatic SLR to take pictures of his friends skateboarding. Since then, he has shot covers for every major skateboarding publication and now divides his time between his position as a senior photographer for SBC Skateboard magazine, a variety of editorial and commercial jobs, a book project to be completed next year, and spending more hours either behind the wheel or in front of the computer than he ever imagined possible.

Your photographs have a timeless quality about them. Which photographers or eras do you look to for inspiration?
‘I feel like I’ve picked up little lessons, or perhaps truisms is closer to the mark, from a lot of photographers. I’ve never studied the history of photography. I only really know what I’ve tripped across. A few years ago, I was at a friend’s place and he had a beautiful book of photographs by Deirdre O’Callaghan called Hide That Can, about a hostel in London. Looking through it, I realized that although I had a pretty good understanding of the mechanics of photography, I wasn’t really attuned to the subtleties. Looking back, that was a turning point in a couple of different ways. For a start, I decided I wanted to get a lot more comfortable shooting available light photographs. And also, I don’t think I’d really thought about journalism as art until that point. I was already a senior photographer for an international skateboarding magazine before I started to figure out how I wanted to shoot pictures and even before my pictures began to mean anything to me. It wasn’t until then that I actually felt like a photographer. This is all actually pretty recent. I wanted so badly to be a child prodigy, but I think I’m a late-bloomer.

‘The way that I do things is a struggle. So I relate to other photographers whose work entails struggle. I love Sally Mann’s photographs, for instance. And when think about what it took to take them, I love them all the more. Joel Sternfeld’s book, American Prospects, made me realize how effective it can be to take a step back. Distance can change the meaning.

‘I bought a copy of LIFE magazine from 1968 and it looked like it could have all been shot by the same photographer. Even the ads. I like that era. There was craft to it, but not an overproduction. Depending on what I’m shooting, I’m conscious of cropping out a lot of the clues as to when a photo was taken’.

You were a skateboarder before you were a skateboard photographer. Do you think it’s necessary to really understand the sport and lifestyle in order to shoot it properly?
‘If your audience is a group of skateboarders, then yes, absolutely. If there’s an exception to the rule, I’ve yet to hear about it. A skateboard photographer has to balance a very particular set of requirements. You have to show the difficulty of what you’re photographing, so you have to be mindful that the angle you choose shows that the railing is very steep, the stairs are tall, the ledge is long, and so on’.

‘You also have to capture what a sports photographer would call the peak action. But the way that a skateboarder perceives that might be a bit different to how the rest of the world sees it. If you were shooting a baseball player hitting a ball, you might get a good shot of the batter with the bat cocked or the follow through after the ball has been struck. But if you shoot a skateboard trick even a hair too early or too late, the photo would never run in a skateboard magazine and the core audience would reject it.

‘Skateboarders are a suspicious bunch. It’s not a role they tend to trust non-skateboarders with. So, there’s a question of access. In principle, it’s possible. But clearing that many hurdles and adhering to that many caveats is really only appealing to someone who’s involved in the sport’.

It looks as though most of your photos are shot on the fly. Do you ever set up shots or do you rely more on instinct to quickly catch the moment?
‘My whole approach has changed in the last few years. I used to set up pretty much every shot. Now I usually only it set up when I can’t find a shot. A few years ago something really obvious would have had to reveal itself for me to abandon whatever plan I had in my head. These days I try and tread a little more softly. I don’t sprint to the finish line, I doddle a little, waiting to see if something suggests itself. And I try to be ready for the fleeting moments. You miss them all the time. But that’s part of it. There are always more to come’.

  • http://www.tanyaplonka.com Tanya Plonka

    This reminds me a lot of Bruce Davidson… love it!

  • http://www.colormagazine.ca Sandro

    If i had an app that told people what I liked. I might have to click that app right now and let all those followers of my likes know. I like this!

  • http://www.ladzinski.com Keith Ladzinski

    Great interview, very inspiring! Scott’s the man.

  • magnus

    I like it!

  • http://4qconditioning.blogspot.com/ maxi

    scott’s heart pumps old kodachrome straight through his ticker then
    through his testicles and out the eyeball and then boomerangs it back to
    the index finger.

  • mikendo

    Quite a fan, first for the person, then photographs seem to speak more.

  • http://bellmoffatt.wordpress.com alex

    thats quite a big compliment Maxi hehe I agree completely

  • Shirley Pommier, the Mom of Scott

    It is always a treat for me to read Scott’s thoughts on his photographic life. I am very proud of my two very talented sons and happy that their passions and talents have given them such direction and focus in life and so much pleasure along the way as well as a way to make a living.

  • http://www.gravyproductions.net Noonan

    Timeless images…made me proud.

  • http://sideburnmagazine.com Ben Part

    photos by SP in the next issue of Sideburn magazine, see teaser here:

    http://sideburnmag.blogspot.com/2009/04/scorpions.html

  • http://www.reppdx.com jc hernandez

    Hey man,
    I think that you’re super talented and would like permission to use one of your photos for some PROmotional material. Visit my website and hit me back if it’s cool. Thanks!

  • a

    Danny Lyons did it better

  • http://monsterbearhorse.tumblr.com JD

    @a: Before I say anything else, I just want to say that Danny Lyons is the fucking man. Bikeriders was a powerful photo essay on the Outlaw culture back in the day.

    That being said, before I knew of Danny Lyon’s work, I knew of Scott because I used to skate, and his photos in Transworld were always my favorites. In my mind, Scott is my generation’s Danny Lyon.

  • Les Elmer

    Hi Scott. Love your photographs mate, and your ethos….. I’ve always also been a ‘wait for the moment’ photographer, much to the pained resignation of my wife (since way back when we 1st met in 1980 and she had to endure outings where I’d spend ages waiting for the fleeting moment when the light and/or the composition of something I’d just spotted while we out in the country (we then lived in England), might just reveal itself as I saw it. My youngest daughter (of 3) seems to have the same ‘eye’ for an image which most others walk past and never see, so I’ve encouraged her to take it further as maybe a life choice/career whatever… I particularly like your #11 as I’m into the ’50s and also old motorcycles, and somehow that image is timeless, exactly as I know now you try to make even your very recent images timeless….and do so superbly. Cheers, Les Elmer, Auckland, New Zealand.

  • http://www.barisonzi.com Laura Barisonzi

    Good Stuff! Beautiful shot of the woman on the motorcycle in the road.