Dog Days of ’76
The Birth of Skateboarding in Bristol
It’s strange how things sometimes happen for a reason but without a seeming reason at the same time.
Encouraged by a good mate of mine who’d been given a Hasselblad camera, I started taking photographs around the age of 14. I was also given a camera to get me started, but this was a post war Box Brownie was about 1/50th of the cost of the Hass. None the less it kick-started what has become my lifelong passion for creating imagery. In those early days I would take shots of pretty much anything around me at any time; stuff around the house, mates, family, local landmarks and various other subjects with the sort of blind obsession only a young teenager who was discovering his artistic side can have.
A few years later the bug had really taken hold and I had progressed to a Russian make 35mm (Kiev) camera and was processing and printing my work from my bedroom darkroom, all bought with money from my part time job in a local supermarket. I’d also been asked by my school to cover the very first year of the St Paul’s Carnival, Bristol for the school newsletter. And, although it was still early days, this planted the seeds of possibilities of being a pro photographer and the wild notion of making a living from something I really loved to do, something I have carried with me throughout my career.
These photos were taken just a year or so after skate boarding hit my local scene and only a few years after the movement took America by storm. Up to this point my mates and I would strap a hardback Beano Annual to dismantled Jacko Quad skates and hurtle uncontrollably (and painfully) down our local streets. Although the boards and trucks were being imported from the States, they were too expensive for me to buy, so instead I would go with my camera and richer mates to our local home made ramps and the newly opened Dean Lane skate park in Bedminster, Bristol to take shots instead.
The year I took these shots was one of the hottest on record, this really added a real sense of being part of what was going on across the water in the abandoned swimming pools of LA. USA. If you look closely you’ll see that one of the decks is ‘home made’ but with imported Tonic wheels and trucks. Something that stood out for me is how timeless the images look, with the fashions of 76 looking contemporary to today’s styles. What you don’t see is that at the time I was wearing drainpipe jeans, zipped t-shirts and spiky hair as Punk had just thrown itself onto the scene, something my family, and even some of my mates, hated. Perfect! This was a time of realisation for me, having decided that photography was definitely something I could see myself doing for a living, helped in part by these shots, and others I had taken at a local Motorbike Scrambler meeting, were printed and sold (see pic here>) for a few quid to a mate of my brothers.
I found these photos, along with many other early photos I had taken and printed, which had been stored in the back of the cupboard for years. I would come across them from time to time before when moving house or studio but never took much notice of them. It’s only now, having moved into another stage of my relationship with photography that I see their merit, value and connection to the work I am now producing. It is strange how things sometimes happen for a reason but without a seeming reason at the same time.
I realise it’s important to look forward and not back but, it’s always useful to learn from the past and use that knowledge to help make sense of our current place in this world, something these few photos and the person I was at the time, have really consummated for me.