Skate photography is an art form seldom recognized as anything more than a means to fill magazines pages. Little consideration is given to the technique involved or the countless hours it takes to perfect oneâ€™s craft. As is so often the case, more credit is given to the subject than to the medium. Yet without the skillful eye of guys like Spike Jonze, Luke Ogden, J. Grant Brittain and Mike Blabac skateboarding would not be the mega-industry it is today. After holding it down for the better part of 20 years, Mike has not only forged a successful career path working with the biggest names in the game, he’s also illustrated some of the seminal moments in skateboard history. Blabac Photo â€“ The Art of Skateboarding Photography is his story…
I have been fortunate to be surrounded by the best ever since I moved to San Francisco in â€˜94. I just love being with my friends who also just so happen to be some of the best skateboarders on the planet.
Format: Hey Mike howzit going?
Mike Blabac: Fucking awesome
Format: So tell us a bit about what you’ve been up to so far this year?
Mike Blabac: Well, mostly working on the book along with doing everything else I do for DC Shoes like shooting all of the ads, catalog stuff and Point Of Sale etc. The book took exactly two months to layout and there have been a lot of other things associated with it afterwards such as ads, web sites etc.
Format: Let’s talk about the book for a bit, what should we expect?
Mike Blabac: Expect a proper coffee table book filled with 20 years of my favorite skateboarding photos thanks to powerHouse Books and DC Shoes… we referenced a lot of classic coffee table photo books but kept it as â€˜skateâ€™ as possible.
Format: Considering the span of your career, why has it taken until now to publish a book?
Mike Blabac: I shoot skateboarding because I love it. I never cared about pushing myself out there by having a book or a web site. I simply love to create images like those that made me want to ride a skateboard when I was a kid. The book came about because Ken Block and Damon Way, the original owners of DC, asked me if I would want to do it. I of course did but it took a few years to work everything out.
Format: Tell us a bit more about the relationship with powerHouse Books, how’d you get onboard with them?
Mike Blabac: DC approached them a little over a year ago and worked out a deal that would allow us to actually lay the book out making it as skate as possible. I am super stoked they were down for that. Some of the other publishers I talked to were a little taken aback that I did not want to have any of their designers put a book together because they did not skate. It just wouldnâ€™t be possible to have someone who does not love skateboarding make this thing come out the way it did.
Format: When you first started out with DC in ’99, did they allow your photographic vision to take its own course or were you more-or-less briefed on what the company wanted?
Mike Blabac: Ken just let me loose really. I think only because I have always tried really hard to live up to or exceed his and DCâ€™s expectations. He is a very specific and creative guy but I always make sure DC gets everything it needs photographically. I want to be involved with the best company, the best team and DC has always been that to me – so I guess it was just a pretty good fit. I have been fortunate in the way that DC has always used what I have done well. I remember taking in the portraits that I shot of Stevie one night in my friendâ€™s living room. He [Ken Block] just looked at me and said hereâ€™s Stevieâ€™s first shoe ad.
Format: In terms of the skate industry making the jump from a free-spirit lifestyle (circa the ’70s and ’80s) to becoming a professional sport – would you say there was a defined moment of change and how has photography influenced that change?
Mike Blabac: Itâ€™s hard for me to say since I have only been interested in being there, in the streets, laying in the gutter shooting not caring whether skating made two trillion or two hundred dollars. If I had to guess, I would say when people started watching it on TV; the most random moments have brought skating to billions.
Tony Hawkâ€™s 900 at X-Games, or Dannyâ€™s Great Wall jump, or even Jakeâ€™s slam and Dannyâ€™s last year at X-Games. I think photography has always played a key part in bringing those moments to light. I say that because I stared at skate photos in magazines as a kid for hours. I love how creative and cool photographers made it seem.
Format: You’ve been noted as saying you don’t like digital photography much, so what’s your ideal set-up these days and has it changed over the years?
Mike Blabac: My gear has totally changed. No more film for me, I have learned to adapt. Nowadays the cameras are so gnarly. I have simply accepted it.
Format: Can you tell us who has been the greatest crew to work with as a photographer and are there any standout individuals you’d like to mention?
Mike Blabac: It is impossible to say. There are so many. Skateboarding is a small family where everyone pushes everybody else. I have been fortunate to be surrounded by the best ever since I moved to San Francisco in â€˜94. I just love being with my friends who also just so happen to be some of the best skateboarders on the planet. I have shot more photos of Danny than any other person. He has pushed skating like no other and I am lucky to be a small part of that.
Format: What kind of advise do you offer to the young skaters and skate photographers out there?
Mike Blabac: I say itâ€™s all up to them. Obviously going out with photographers who have a good relationship with the mags and can take a picture is important but it is up to them at the end of the day to go out and rip. And the guys out there taking the shots, they have to have patience, a love for and knowledge of what theyâ€™re shooting.
Format: So who should we be looking out for as rising young skate photographers?
Mike Blabac: Oliver Barton and Atiba â€“ theyâ€™re not super young but theyâ€™re the bestâ€¦
More Info: www.dcshoes.com