Smooth SurfacesJ. Grant Brittain

The master of skateboarding photography
and a pioneer of this field.

Text by Konstantin Butz.

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On left: Mike Smith, Upland, 1985.
On right: Tommy Guerrero, San Francisco, 1986.

 

 

When I began to study at university, I was still that cliché guy you already know from high school: wearing ragged Vans shoes and carrying a skateboard around the campus. I had never been a good skateboarder – as if that was a relevant category anyway – but I loved the whole attitude and mythological aura that surrounded skateboarding. The rebellious appeal and its links to the US West Coast and California surf culture were enough to keep a young student in rainy Germany hooked. California was far away though and my only option for the moment was to just dream of the Golden State in between classes. Well, let’s face it: I was dreaming of it during classes. It was California where skateboarding, already in the 1950s, blossomed as the favorite pastime of surfers who needed something to do while waiting for good waves. In contrast to that, I was merely waiting for the class to end so that I’d be able to skate again. My mind would wander off and imaginatively take me to the beach towns of Los Angeles, my projection screen for a life defined by beach parties and skate sessions. When my university schedule required me to read through a list of postmodern French thinkers, I did not expect to find my view on skateboarding forever changed.