The photographer capturing the fragile structures of do-it-yourself skate ramps, and the skaters that use them
Whenever skateboarding and photography collide, the result is usually close up, blurred and raw, seeking to show the speed and the youth of its urban crusaders. Rich Gilligan's book DIY is completely the opposite. Compiled mainly of landscapes shot from a distance, completely still and often deserted. Yet in a way these shots tells much more about the world of skateboarding than even the most celebrated portraits of teenage skaters. In an era when skateboarding is a massive commercial venture stripped of its anarchic freedom, Gilligan travelled to the strangest and most discreet corners of the world to photograph skate’s DIY spots.
“Defining a DIY spot in my eyes is quite simply a location where the skater has built or adapted the environment around them by working with brick, steel or concrete,” he explains. “I made a decision not to include back garden wooden ramps because of the temporary nature of wood. I also only photographed locations that were built by skaters often illegally in hidden parts of the city. I love the idea that concrete is a permanent structure and also that it takes a lot of determination, work and commitment by the builders to create these structures often not knowing if they will stand the test of time from either vandalism or local authorities.”
"I love the idea that concrete is a permanent structure and also that it takes a lot of determination, work and commitment by the builders to create these structures often not knowing if they will stand the test of time from either vandalism or local authorities" - Richard Gilligan
A skater himself before becoming a photographer, capturing these frail structures allowed Gilligan to merge the two. He’s skated at every skatepark that he’s photographed (unless it was lashing rain). Hanging out with skaters all around Europe, Poland, Scandinavia and the USA, he has documented the secret world usually unknown to the outsiders.
“One of the interesting locations was a really well hidden skatepark called ‘The Peach Orchard’ that I had heard about on the outskirts of New Orleans in quite a dangerous neighbourhood,” the photographer remembers. “I ended up there on the tail-end of my honeymoon and went in search of it at dawn one morning and eventually found it after hours of walking around totally lost. I had a few moments where I was sure I wasn't getting out of there with my camera but somehow it all worked out and I was back in our hotel room in by 9am having shot just one roll of film. I love how photography gives me a reason to explore people and places that under normal circumstances I just would never encounter”.
Rich Gilligan’s book DIY is available to purchase here