“LET US ROAM” is an ongoing short film series that shows stories about photographers, artists, filmmakers and musicians inside of the skateboarding culture. Ray Barbee, Arto Saari, Greg Hunt and Atiba Jefferson are all featured with their own film. Here we speak with Ray about his beginnings in skateboarding, his musical career and how he documents his life with his Leica M6.
Q: Can you tell us where you’re from, where you currently reside, and some general background information about yourself?
A: I was born in San Francisco, CA, but spent most of my childhood in San Jose. In 1984, I got into skateboarding and turned pro in 1989. It’s still how I make a living to this day. I have a wife and two kids and live in Long Beach, CA.
Q: What do you do? Please share what other creative endeavors you do beyond just skateboarding and how they weave into your life, complement one another or what role they have for you.
A: Along with skateboarding professionally, I’m a musician who’s a part of a record label called Galaxia and have released five albums, two solo and three with a band. I get to tour around the world to perform and sometimes doing both skateboarding and playing music in the same tour.
Q: Why is skateboarding important to you from a creative standpoint?
A: Much like all my interests, it allows me to express myself. There’s a lot of freedom in skateboarding. The fact that there are no rules makes it perfect to be creative.
Q: How have you found that skateboarding helps foster creativity for your own work?
A: Skateboarding taught me to think outside the box, to experiment with ideas and to always try new things. I approach any other interest from that foundation.
Q: How is photography integrated in your life? What does it mean to you? What type of photography do you do/or that you’re attracted to, and for what purpose?
A: Photography has become a huge part of my life. It’s funny at this point my Leica M6 is an appendage. I feel very blessed to live the life I have. I’m constantly trying to document and capture it in a way that is emotional and special to me. That’s why I shoot primarily in black and white. There’s a lot of emotion in a black-and-white fiber print. I also really love the process, from shooting the image to printing it in the darkroom. It’s that sequence that brings me the most joy and fulfillment with photography. Maybe that’s why I can’t get excited about digital; I can’t get it in the enlarger and print it.
Q: What photo equipment do you use?
A: I learned early on to keep it simple. The process has so many variables. I pretty much keep it to one camera, one lens, one film one developer, and one paper. My camera is a Leica M6 with a 35 mm lens.
Q: What’s your favorite photo and why?
A: I don’t know if I have a favorite. There’s a bunch that I dig, each for different reasons.
Q: Who or what inspires you?
A: I could go on and on with this question, but I’ll just say in general my wife and kids are big inspirations. Along with people who work very hard at their craft and who are also extremely productive. They make me want to do the same.
Thank you for your time, Ray!
– Leica Internet Team