London skater/photographer Ian Kenneth Bird has profiled the local faces of the capital’s skate community for over two years
Since joining his older brother and his friends ten years ago, photographer Ian Kenneth Bird has been immersed in the world of skateboarding. When he began photographing the skating scene in London his work was sporadic, shooting his portraits whenever and wherever, until a year down the line when he’d built up his work, and then began to capture his subjects with more purpose.
His work tracks skating during a period of change. In recent years, the community has garnered greater mainstream attention and faced challenges as a result – particularly in London – from urban gentrification. On this issue, Bird offered, “It's hard to define the effect of mainstream attention on skateboarding as it’s always been dictated by its own rules, regardless of fashions or trends. There’s a whole world of skateboard politics that's not worth getting into but the community is certainly growing and that's surely a positive thing.”
Inspiration for his latest series, Don’t know what I want but I want it now, came during its editing process, as Bird explains, “(I) found a photo of my friend Robert wearing a t-shirt with it written across the back. I’d taken the photo about a year ago because I liked the shirt, but it wasn’t until recently that I realised it was the perfect title for the work as it encompassed the attitude of all the people I’d been shooting.”
It follows, then, that his choice of subject for this series was dictated by who caught his eye. In his words, “essentially it is a study of people I find interesting, sometimes this comes down to the way they look or dress or even the attitude they have.” Although this most recent project is centred on skaters, the essence of Bird’s work more generally is that it’s simply about who he meets. “I shot this series over two and a half years and it has provided a really organic way to meet and cast models for other shoots.” With this in mind, we asked him to profile three of the faces of Don’t know what I want but I want it now.
“This photo was taken last June at a DIY skate spot in Hackney Wick. The previous winter, me and Asher had skated here a lot as it was pretty much the only undercover place we could find. After playing with the idea for a while, we went one night and built this; we let the concrete set and shot this photo a few days later. It's pretty much completely gone now, but for a month or two it was great to skate and see other people using something we had built.”
“I shot this photo of Sam last summer at a Converse demo at Mile End – it's still one of my favourites from the series. On the day I asked to take his photo and he insisted it didn't take long as he was busy skating. I managed to shoot one photo and never get his name, details or anything. It took six months to track him down and since then we've skated and shot together a lot more.”
“Elliot is another person that I've shot a number of times and is maybe the most recognisable. When we first met he wasn't signed, but in the past year he's walked for Comme des Garçons and been featured in Vogue alongside countless other magazines.”
Ian Kenneth Bird’s exhibition, Don't know what I want but I want it now, launches at Doomed Gallery on July 7th from 6pm – 9pm, with 100 numbered and signed copies of the photo series available for purchase on the night