Street photography isn’t just about the jagged walls and littered floored of the modern metropolis. It’s about the people interacting with that environment, making skate photography the apex of the form. While London’s millions drag themselves along the main roads, a minority of deck, truck and wheel-weilding kids spend their time searching for, and obsessing over, every last chink in the city’s concrete armour. They’re under fire again, with proposals to shut down some of their best loved spots. But who’s crying? Certainly not them.
As shown through this series of photos by Alec Mcleish, London skaters are some smiling-happy realness. They live for the sun, the occasional bun and hail death to all cupcake vendors. They’re an assault on all the Mumford-blaring, farmers markets. A reminder of what this city used to be: cool. It’s about doing the thing they love with the people they love most in the world; a throw-yourself-off-a-concrete-precipice-and-worry-after, sort of thing.
Alec shot on the RX1 – Sony’s full-frame premium compact, great for capturing street photography – in the second of a two-part series documenting his favourite spots around London. We caught up with him to find out more about his work as a skate photographer over the last few years.
DD: What first drew you into skate photography?
Alex McLeisch: I was more into street photography and guys like Elliot Erwitt at first, but we'd be out skating and I'd have my camera, so it was easy just to take snaps. I also liked magazines like Document and more recently Grey, photographers like Henry Kingsford and Fred Mortagne, who I think show skating as an interaction with the space, rather than an x-games manoeuvre. The style of these publications is way more creative and the tour articles would feature photos of the city and people hanging out, not necessarily skating.
DD: If you could have photographed any skater, from any time, who would it be and why?
Alex McLeisch: I've always liked this guy Nate Broussard, he's got this real free-flowing smoothness to his skating.
DD: What is it about the landscape and architecture of London that lends itself to skating?
Alex McLeisch: I think London is completely different to other cities, its not like New York or Barcelona, which have smooth roads and nearly everything is skate-able. The spots are rougher, there are cracks on the floor and the angles are more awkward, there isn't a perfect ledge by the beach like in LA, it’s usually made of bricks and in a gnarly area.
DD: Why do skaters remain so tight with each other?
Alex McLeisch: When I was younger, skaters used to have the piss taken out of them and I guess they stick together because of that. It’s also a lot more sociable than other sports or scenes and the community is a lot smaller. It’s also not about winning or loosing, and it can last way less or way longer than a ninety minute football match.
DD: Who's your favourite skateboarder in London?
Alex McLeisch: Older guys like Chewy, Snowy (aka Daniel Kinloch), Nick Jensen. They were all skating Southbank when I was younger so they're always sick. More recently: Jin Shimizu, Casper Brooker and Blondey, because they stick to simple stuff done really fast and make anything hard, look like nothing.
Sony's RX1 is a professional level, DSLR quality camera with full frame 24.3MP sensor packed into a compact body – ideal to take with you anywhere. Check out more here.
Follow Nathalie Olah on Twitter here @NROlah