Review: Format Perspective
Now and again something comes along and reminds you of why you started, why you tied your shoelaces, why you picked up your first board.
Format Perspective is a documentary film by Phil Evans that explores the work, lives and opinions of six European skate photographers. The film showcases the photography of Nils Svensson (Malmo), Stu Robinson (Belfast), Alex Irvine (London), Rich Gilligan (Dublin), Sergej Vutuc (Heilbronn) and Bertrand Trichet (Barcelona/Tokyo). It also gives us an insight into the different approaches used by this diverse line-up of photographers.
The contrast between the grainy, gritty super 8 film footage and the finer, smoother photographs help to highlight the spark of every individual photographer. This project gives a behind-the-scenes look at the skating that these guys like to shoot, as well as the resulting photos that emerge from these sessions.
Artist Sergej Vutuc only shoots on an old 35mm point and shoot camera. He goes over and over his photos, continuously changing them in the dark room. By playing with light and shadows he is trying to find a new connection with the skateboarder he shoots. “I am searching for something, I am trying to connect myself more with that motive and moment”. Dream-like lo fi images emerge, the rips, the burns, the shadows on the negative create stories that are tangible; we can feel them. Format Perspective reveals to us how these different skate photographers connect to their subject whether it’s riding with them in skate sessions or helping to push skaters into new environments.
North Belfast photographer Stuart Robinson’s softly spoken demeanour hides his determination to overcome the problems he and his crew face just to keep skating in his local area. “I was very edgy and very aware of my surroundings, a number of times I got chased out of the estates or I had people asking me what religion I was”. Stu has broken down social and religious barriers in its rawest form, connecting with different community groups by shooting both the skater and their environment. It’s the burnt out derelict houses, the jumping of fences to find new spots, the push for adventure that allows us to see North Belfast through Stuart’s eyes.
Patience comes in many forms when you’re a skate photographer; Alex Irvine goes through the motions with the skateboarder, their trials and tribulations become his. “I think you need to embrace all types of skateboarding, all manner of nutjobs. Either way they’ve got something special and I think you try and get that out of each photo you shoot”. Alex pushes himself during his sessions with the skaters he shoots whether it’s waiting at the bottom of a set of stairs in grimy conditions to get the shot or dropping everything to travel to the next skate session. His methodical approach combined with his grit and determination underlines Alex’s commitment to skateboarding, one that he will always keeps in check. “I think the love of skateboarding photography comes before a lot of things often at the risk of getting nothing back”.
Bertrand Trichet reveals a fine balance between the place and the skateboarder; they are as important as each other. In Tokyo, Japan a silhouetted skater is towered by his surroundings, large strange triangular concrete objects surround him in an underpass shrouded in fog. “It’s important for me to include a lot of surrounding elements in my skateboard pictures, to see what’s up with the skateboarder, why he did the trick and to show the character of the place”. He is constantly searching for new ways to push his work. “You can shoot the trick the way you want, it could be like a fashion shoot with 20 flashes or like war photography with just one black and white film with a dark light”.
In the film Dublin photographer Rich Gilligan slowly peels back the polaroid of skater Gav Coughlan from his large format camera much to the amazement of those around him. “You could be in the most boring place but by adding all these extra elements, it brings another level and makes something everyday look really amazing”. Photographic influences outside of skateboarding coupled with Rich’s attention to detail transforms the typical skate photo into something bold and original.
Malmo photographer Nils Svensson simply shows us the skate scene with his friends; he’s all about building from the ground up. “It’s always been the same group of friends that I have been skating with and have always been shooting with since I started out taking my first skateboard shots. Hopefully you can see the connection you have in the pictures I shoot, it’s often about friendship”. Nils captures the D.I.Y side of skating and the desire of his crew to make the parks they visit skateable. After a long day patching up the bowl, we see Nils enjoying a beer with close friends.
Format perspective offers us a visual scrapbook of the skate photographers that encompass their own unique style and philosophy that builds up the relationship with the location around them and the skateboarders themselves. It’s not about being competitive or getting published in the best skateboard magazine. As a photographer it’s about being creative, enjoying the environment around you and most importantly reminding yourself of why you started in the first place.
Words: Patrick Bethell
Skate Photos in order: Sergej Vutuc, Stuart Robinson, Alex Irvine, Bertrand Trichet, Richard Gilligan, Nils Svensson
You can buy the DVD and book of Format Perspective at www.formatperspective.com
Check out what Phil Evans is up to here www.aulpups.com
Phil Evans is part of the Human Pyramids Collective www.humanpyramids.net/