Mark Whiteley, skateboarder and Leica photographer, provides us with the next installment of his interview series “Rolling Through the Shadows.” This series takes a closer look at the seemingly unlikely collision of skateboarding and M photography from the perspective of the skaters and photographers themselves.
Name: Anthony Acosta
Hometown: Norwalk, CA
Publication and brand affiliation: Staff photographer at Vans shoes and shot for The Skateboard Mag
Q: How did you first get into skateboarding?
A: A couple neighbor kids. We had a cool little crew and would skate the local elementary school for hours. Most of them eventually quit and moved onto other things, but after 20 years I still haven’t found anything worth quitting for.
Q: How did you first get into photography?
A: My sister bought me a point and shoot camera for my birthday when I was about 14 years old. I shot a few rolls here and there of my friends skating around town but never got them processed. Years later I ended up processing about 10 rolls and was stoked on the memories inside.
Q: How have they influenced each other in your life and work? Meaning, what has skateboarding done to the way you see photography and vice versa?
A: Skateboarding has definitely helped shape my entire outlook on life. It has taught me to see things a little differently than normal. It has taught me to try and create something out of nothing. It has taught me to try new things and keep trying new things even when you fail. You have to get up and try again. Gotta keep trying.
Q: Where do you generally find your favorite images coming from? Portraits, on the road, skate action scenes, etc?
A: I love a good road trip with a good group of friends. Documenting the adventures that ensue can be super fun and exciting. Also, seeing new places has always been super motivating to me to want to use my camera. As far as skate photos, I really like the challenge of shooting an old spot differently or trying get an angle that no one has shot before. Sometimes you have lay in the gutter or climb a sketchy roof to get that unique perspective. But the hunt for that different angle keeps me stoked to shoot for sure.
Q: What first drew you to Leica cameras? Why do you like them? Do you use them for particular kinds of work or specific scenarios?
A: I really love the craftsmanship of my M6. It’s silky smooth while being as solid as a rock. That was one of the first things that I noticed when I first held a Leica.
I really love shooting the in-between moments of skateboarding. Whether it’s after a guy has been trying a trick for hours and is defeated, or just goofing around at a skate spot. It’s those moments that I will like to recall when I’m older and can’t remember what I have been doing all these years.
Q: What makes Leica cameras a good fit for documenting skate life?
A: Skate life is adventurous and spontaneous. We often roam from one location to another in search of something rad. Fences are hopped and ditches are scoured. Having a camera that is unobtrusive and will not get in the way is important, and also having a camera that will work in these conditions is a must. My Leica has not let me down.
Q: Are there similarities between skateboarding and Leica cameras in your mind? Get philosophical…
A: Both are tools to express creativity. Leica cameras are well crafted and precise, just like a good skate set up. I know what I’m going to get with my M6 and 50 mm set up, same as I know what I’m going to get with my board and how I have it set up. They both become natural and instinctive over time. And that’s when the magic happens, when over-thinking goes out the window and you just go by feeling.
Q: What bodies and lenses have you had or used most frequently?
A: I have a M6 with a 50 mm Summicron f/2. I have never really shot with any other lenses or bodies, but I love my set up. It’s simple and feels right.
Q: Who are some of your favorite Leica photographers, non-skate or skate-related?
A: I really admire Ed Templeton’s work. Greg Hunt is amazing. Fred Mortagne has an outstanding eye! Arto Saari has been shooting some really cool images. Henri-Cartier Bresson’s work is of course brilliant. I’m also a big fan of Mary Ellen Mark.
Q: Do you have a favorite image or memory from using a Leica?
A: I have a photo of a group of guys jumping off a rock on the North Shore of Oahu that I have always really liked. I also really like the photo of Ray Barbee, “Backside 360” with all of the sign language going on in the background.
Thank you for your time, Anthony!
– Mark Whiteley
Mark Whiteley is a photographer, writer and life-long skateboarder hailing from the San Francisco area and currently living in Portland, Oregon. He served as the editor-in-chief of SLAP skateboard magazine for 13 years and now works on all things digital for Nike Skateboarding. His work has been published and exhibited internationally, and his monograph of photography, This Is Not A Photo Opportunity, is available from Gingko Press. For more information on Mark Whiteley, please visit markwhiteleyphotography.com.