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James Edson, Rabbit Hole (2023) 10
Photography James Edson

James Edson’s debut book goes down the rabbit hole of London’s skate scene

From broken bones to tattooed biceps and smoking blunts, the photographer and Palace Wayward Boys Choir member's first publication puts 25 years-worth of unseen images out into the world

Someone balancing a spliff above his mouth, ten skaters lined up next to their boards, and a friend flipping off the camera while hooked up to hospital wires – just a few intimate moments captured throughout London-based photographer, gallerist, and skater James Edson’s 25-year photo-archive. After narrowing down thousands of images shot across multiple film cameras for over a year, Edson – who’s also a member of London’s Palace Wayward Boys Choir (PWBC) skate crew and the founder of Wayward Gallery – whittled down his selects to create his first-ever photo-book Rabbit Hole

“At first I thought it would be a quick process, [but] it ended up taking almost a year,” Edson explains. “There was an endless amount of [material], and I kept coming across more and more [that] I didn't want to leave out.” While the book does not follow the photographer’s experiences chronologically, it tells the story of Edson’s own skate community from his persective and showcases a series of intimate black-and-white photos, mostly of the photographer’s friends and family. 

The book – created in partnership with independent press MPK Studio and accompanied by a selection of t-shirts and blankets by Palace – spans 146 pages, rotating singular images by 45 degrees with each page-turn. Flipping through the book, the twisting photos are meant to display the effect of spiralling down a rabbit hole – an ode to searching through Edson’s personal database of nostalgic skate-park memories.

Among the candid skater snaps, Edson also documents decades of culture-defining skate style – from graphic Palace tees to oversized Scarface hoodies, bucket hats, long silver chains, and baggy trousers.

Meanwhile, the imagery invites viewers inside the skate community’s adventures and unseen moments; in the images, one subject poses ‘praying’ next to upside-down crosses, another flexes his tattoo-covered biceps for the camera. Other moments include a skater rolling his eyes among a room of marble statues, and one biting on pill bottles. “I look for a moment – the subject can be anyone or anything really,” Edson notes.

Sharing with Dazed, the photographer admits that compiling the images was an emotional process, reminding him of old memories, friends who had passed away, and old places he’d lived in or travelled to. “I didn't realise how looking through years of images would be such a rollercoaster,” he says. “I went through every emotion making the selections, and it brought back a lot of memories.”

He adds: “I had to keep stopping when it all got overwhelming… It’s really exciting for me.”

Rabbit Hole is available on August 3, sold exclusively at The Institute of Contemporary Arts, The Mall, St. James's, London SW1 Y5AH.