Alex Olson is the son of skateboard legend Steve Olson, and young Olson grew up curb surfing himself but soon became curious about photography when he started hanging out with artist and professional skater Ed Templeton. Olson currently skateboards for Vans shoes is sponsored by Girl Skateboards, which is co-owned by Spike Jonze. Growing up in Santa Monica, California, the 24 year-old American's environment seems to have shaped his eye for creativity, both in terms of skateboarding and photography. Dazed caught up with him to talk about photography, skateboarding, modeling and his quarter-life crisis.
Dazed Digital: You’re from L.A. but you’re currently in NYC. Did you move here for good?
Alex Olson: I am not living here permanently. I am just cruising, couch surfing.
DD: How long ago did you start taking photos?
Alex Olson: I started hanging out with Ed Templeton and getting boards from him when I was 16. I was hanging out with him and he is always taking photos, which makes you just naturally want to do the same. I didn’t really start taking photos though until about three years ago.
DD: What was the first nice camera you bought?
Alex Olson: The first nice camera I bought was a Contax T3. Before that I had just got little point and shoots as stocking stuffers from my mum and dad.
DD: Do you still use the Contax T3?
Alex Olson: I don’t take it out as much. I am really rugged on my stuff. I usually use an Olympus which I can take out and cruise around with.
DD: What have you been shooting?
Alex Olson: Just friends, just cruising. I have no set guide of what I am going to shoot. I guess mostly skateboarding. Not skateboarding tricks but more documenting the skateboard scene.
DD: Tell me about Olson Stuff?
Alex Olson: I set up a website called Olson Stuff which includes my photos and a blog.
DD: It seems I keep seeing you in fashion magazines as a model, most recently in Purple with Chloe Sevigny. Are you modelling too?
Alex Olson: Ah… I guess you could call it modelling? It was never like, I went for a casting. It always just happens, or it’s an accident. For the most part I see someone in New York and they are like “Hey, I am doing this thing, come with us for a bit.” I would like to shoot fashion one day, so I kind of have been hanging out with people who are into that.
DD: Has staying in New York helped you with photography?
Alex Olson: L.A. is the worst for doing anything creative, with the exception being movies. If you wanted to get into acting then I would tell you to move to L.A. but if you want to do anything else don’t move there. And the surfing isn’t even good there. In L.A. people are always trying to hustle but it’s in a weird way. New York’s version of hustling is kind of to culturalize and hang out which I think is a more positive way.
DD: You mentioned going through a quarter-life crisis, do mind sharing that?
Alex Olson: I had a whole quarter-life crisis. I was tripping out thinking, 'Man, I am screwed after professional skateboarding'. The voice in my head kept saying, “How are you going to make money after skateboarding?”. My friends are all going through that now, too. It was something I was never warned about. It really hit home when one of my skateboard sponsors sat me down and said, “If you blow this you’re screwed!” I had nothing to fall back on. So I picked up a million hobbies to figure out which one I liked best.
DD: You grew up with a professional skateboarder for a father, have you ever not been into skateboarding?
Alex Olson: Last year I was really turned off by skateboarding. I didn’t really know what I enjoyed about it. Skateboarding today is not about the act of skateboarding, it’s just about doing a difficult trick. I started to figure out what I liked about it which made me stop looking at new skate magazines; now I watch old skate videos and look at old magazines from back in the day. My blog really got me inspired.