The images captured by the talented eyes of Skateboarding’s top photographers, has helped to illuminate the sport and the world of Skateboarding. These photographers are the record keepers, the time capsule wizards that make it possible for us to drool over those precious Skateboarding moments time after time. Only a select few talented Skateboarding Photographers are granted access to those energy filled sessions where Skateboarding is taken to unbelievable heights! They are the shapers of our skate memories etched into the aged pages of Skateboarding publications past, present, and future. In this issue of Coping Block Skateboarding Magazine we pay tribute to three of the greatest Skateboarding photographers of all time, Jim Goodrich, Grant Brittain, and Ted Terrebonne.
Cleo: What made you want to get into photography and what about Skateboarding grabbed your attention?
Jim: I've been aware ever since childhood that I saw the world differently than most. Or, more accurately, I noticed the lighting and details in everything around me, which most people tend to miss in their rush through life. Photography appealed to me be-cause I could capture both moments and places, and then share them with others so they could see the world that I see. Skateboarding photography was a natural progression for me once I got into skating myself. But my real passion for it came from a skate accident, and I started taking photos of my skate buddies while my arm was in a cast. Then, several skate accidents later, I came to the conclusion that it was healthier for me to shoot skating than to skate.
Ted: I think it was the fact that it was something that I could do easily and it made me feel good to be able to produce a piece of art. It was back in 1974 and I was about 25 and needed something positive in my life. I first skateboarded in 1964 and really enjoyed it so when Skateboarder Magazine came out in the middle 70’s I gave skating a try again and decided that I’d give skateboard photography a try.
Grant: I worked and skated at Del Mar Skate Ranch from 1978 till 1984. I borrowed my roommate’s Canon in February of 1979 and started shooting for fun and got hooked. It just seemed like a lot of fun and I had a lot of free time.
Cleo: What was your first camera?
Jim: Not counting the Brownie box type cameras in my earliest days, my first real camera for skateboarding was the Canon G-III QL, which was a 40 mm fixed-lens camera. My next camera was the Canon FM2, which was my favorite camera, and the one I used for the majority of my photography while at Skateboarder Magazine.
Ted: My first real camera was a Pentax and wasn’t really happy with is so I bought a Canon F1 and right away I fell in love with the quality of Canon lenses. I’ve always used Canon and always will.
Grant: I went with my friend Chris Ray and bought a used Minolta SRT201 and a 20mm lens. My daughter has it now. It’s weird; my wife has the same camera from before we met.
Danny Way bmb drops from a helicopter photo by Grant Brittain
Cleo: How did Skateboarding help you with your other photographic endeavors?
Jim: The action and constantly changing demands of skateboarding photography made it much easier for me to learn all other types of photography.
Ted: Well it gave me a better idea of what made a good picture, and it really helped me because I skated as much as I shot pictures. Plus skaters became my friends because I was actually one of them a skateboarder not just a photographer.
Grant: I hadn’t shot other photo subjects; I started with skateboarding and then started shooting other things. When I took photography classes later that helped immensely with my skate stuff.
Cleo: Have you’ve ever lost a camera due to Skateboarding?
Jim: I often put myself in the line of fire to get a better shot, and had many camera bodies and lenses broken from flying skateboards. Fortunately, I was sponsored by Canon, but they quickly regretted sponsoring me.
Grant: I have had one fisheye sheared off in 30 years, the TWS doubles cover of Cab and Mountain. Stevie kicked his board out and nailed my Canon 15mm. Just part of the job, better the lens than my noggin.
Ted: No, I’ve been extremely lucky! My equipment and I have almost never been hit or damaged while I shot.
Cleo: What by your definition makes a great skate shot?
Ted: A great trick by the skater you are shooting plus good lighting and composition. But most of the time I think it has some cosmic connection you have between the skater and the photographer.
Grant: Just capturing that moment where the skater, the action, exposure, angle and photographer all come together and make the viewer say, “Whoa, that’s cool, let’s go skate!” it has to make me happy too.
Jim: Any photo that makes the viewer feel the energy of the skate action. Even better, if it makes the viewer want to go out and skate.
Cleo: What skater scares you the most when you are near the lip shooting pics?
Jim: The skaters who were the most dangerous to me and my camera were the ones who would go crazy just to get a great shot, or who skated sketchy and out of control most of the time. There were three skaters who gave me permanent scars from being hit, but I don't blame them since I put myself in their line of fire.
Ted: To be truthful I never thought like that, I always felt protected and normal shooting at that edge. I loved it. It a special feeling I got when I did it and you have to be there to feel it for yourself.
Grant: Neil Blender or Brian Schroeder always scared me, not because they were sketchy, they are just so damned big.
Cleo: How does it feel to know you just shot an awesome image?
Jim: I always shot photos as if I were the skater in front of my camera. Most of the time, I had the images in my head ahead of time, so I knew when I had a great shot even before snapping the photo. Set up is critical, but timing can turn a good shot into a great shot.
Grant: I still get those feelings after 30 years. I can see the photo on the camera’s screen and I get happy and then drink a nice Ale, and life is beautiful.
Ted: Like a kid in a candy store for the first time.
Cleo: What frustrates you the most when trying to get a great candid skate pic?
Grant: It kind of becomes automatic shooting after so long, so there aren’t a lot of surprises. I guess when I see it in my mind but can’t translate it to a photo or the skater is having a hard time.
Ted: If you get frustrated trying to get a candid shot maybe you should not try to do that. I never had that problem.
Jim: So many skaters always wanted to ham it up for the photo, and I often staged candid’s (non-action) for a particular need. But I preferred to capture the real person in that moment as if I wasn't there.
Cleo: Do you have a favorite skateboarder to photograph?
Jim: Brad Bowman, Darren Ho, Dennis Martinez, Mike Smith, Jay Smith, Mark Rogowski, Christian Hosoi, Lance Mountain, Chris Miller, Darrell Miller, Eddie Reategui, Steve Schneer, Alan Gelfand, Ray Diez, Neil Blender, Mark Gonzales, Tony Alva, and Dave and Paul Hackett were among the most fun to shoot because they were totally unique. But I loved any skater who was fluid, unpredict-able, and creative in their lines. I hated trick skaters and robots.
Ted: Yes, all of them that are good at it and love what they do. Young or old I liked shooting them all.
Grant: A bunch, too many over the years. I just like being with people who don’t take themselves too seriously. Miller, Hawk, Gonz, Natas, Burnquist, Kien Lieu, Staab, and Lester etc. and all of my friends through the years that made my job easy. It’s hard to blow it with their kind of talent.
Cleo: During the years you have been behind the camera lens, and each of you have been behind the lens for different amounts of time, what was the gnarliest thing you’ve witnessed a skater pull off?
Jim: Probably hang up tricks where the skater pulled it off and there was no way he should have been able to. I've never been a fan of the complex tricks. I love the radical surf-style skating where the skater stays in constant motion.
Grant: There are those historical moments, Eddie Elguera’s “Elguerial”, Daryl Miller’s Miller flip, Chris Miller riding Baldy and Up-land, McGill doing McTwist for the first time, Chin Ramp, going out with Gonz and Natas, Tony Hawk doing anything and the loop, Gator destroying the kidney pool at Del Mar Skate Ranch, Danny Way jumping out of helicopters and mega ramping and jumping The Great Wall, Del Mar contests, Christian Hosoi making skating look so beautiful.
Ted: It’s hard for me to think of any one trick or maybe it was Steve Caballero pulling of the first Caballero and being there to photograph that trick back then. But really I think it has to be all the gnarly tricks I have seen every great skater pulling off their best trick one time during my life as a photographer.
Original Z-Flex skater Marty Grimes carving at Oxnard photo by Jim Goodrich
Original Z-Flex skater Marty Grimes carving at Oxnard photo by Jim Goodrich
Cleo: Many of the photographs that you three delivered to the magazines were instrumental in helping a skateboarder sell decks and promote skate related companies. That’s power! How does that make you feel?
Jim: I became aware of the power I wielded with my camera after starting at Skateboarder, but I never got caught up in the fame or power aspects. I hated the politics and outside influences on what I should photograph. I just focused on doing my job and having fun doing it.
Ted: Poor, because I never made that much from the companies that did, but I did enjoy seeing my pictures in important places in the Magazine.
Grant: I just document what they do. We help each other. They are responsible for my success, but I had the easy job, I never got broke off.
Cleo: You all have had the privilege to watch many skaters grow up from boys to men. who are you most proud of as an adult skateboarder?
Ted: Steve Caballero and Christian Hosoi.
Grant: Tony Hawk and Chris Miller for always having it together, they always had a plan.
Christian Hosoi for fighting his way back from hard times. I respect a lot of skaters as good men, I remember a lot of Bros that didn’t make it, and I miss them.
Jim: Stacy Peralta and Tony Hawk, but not particularly be-cause of their successes. Mark Rogowski, because of his great fall, and painful rise from his personal hell. There are many who I didn't have much respect for back in the day, but they grew up into amazing people who I respect greatly today.
Steve Caballero backside Ollie photo by Ted Terrebonne
Steve Caballero backside Ollie photo by Ted Terrebonne
Cleo: What can be done with Black and White photography that Color can’t seem to deliver?
Jim: Black and white strips away all the distractions and focuses entirely on the subject matter. It's a different form of art than color photography. But I think too many photographers use B/W to make a statement only because it's
Ted: With black and white photography you have to create art from what you see more than color photography. With color photography you are sort of taking a picture of what you see.
Grant: I love the grain, the mood that b&w evokes and the drama. It breaks it down to the purity of the image. The rawness.
A young Tony Hawk captured by the artful eye of Grant Brittain.
Duane Peters enjoying his salad days, photographed by Ted Terrebonne
Cleo: Is there a single skate photo shot by one of your photog peers that sticks out in your mind as a great representation of their work?
Ted: Glen Friedman’s centerfold shot of Jay Smith at the Marina Keyhole Pool back in the day stand out for me as one of his better shots.
Grant: I learned how to take photos by studying the photos of the guys that came before me, Goodrich, Terrebonne, Stecyk, Bolster and Glen Friedman. I owe those guys a lot for showing me the way through their photography. Mofo, for giving me some competition when I was starting out. He made me progress.
Jim: I can't single out any one photo for any photographer, but any shot that was iconic and captured the essence of that moment were my favorites. I had the most respect for the talents of Warren Bolster, Craig Stecyk, Jim Cassimus, Wynn Miller, and Craig Fineman. Then later on, the best were Grant Brittain, Glen Friedman, and Ted Terrebonne. I've seen some great work from the new generation of skate photographers but don't recall their names.
Cleo: What type of Camera are you shooting with today?
Jim: Nikon D90.
Ted: Canon 5D Mark II.
Grant: Canon 5D and Canon EOS1D Mark 2 for skating. My Hasselblad and Leica M6 for other stuff.
Cleo: Do you miss film, or has digital made your photo lives easier?
Ted: I don’t miss film and digital makes it way easier to see your work right away. Before you had to get your film developed by a lab before you could see them, plus when I worked for Skateboarder Magazine I gave my undeveloped film to Jim Cassimus and then he got them developed and picked out what went in the magazine before I’d see them. For a while I never saw what I shot until it came out in the magazine.
Grant: I still shoot film for non-commercial stuff; I always have a roll of Tri-X going. Digital is just another tool in the box. It would be hard to do a magazine these days without digital. It’s all digital in the end anyways.
Jim: I hated digital in the beginning because of the limited dynamic range. Plus, most of the first cameras were far too electronic, with many of the manual controls moved into menus. But I love and embrace digital now that I've learned how to make it work for me. And you can't beat the free cost of the shots, plus the ability to instantly show clients the photos. I still shoot in-camera, and believe in getting it right the first time. Just because photos are essentially free now doesn't mean you should shoot like a tourist.
Cleo: Is there a specific instance that sticks out in your minds from over the years from a skate session that you wish you had the op-opportunity to shoot again?
Jim: Zero regrets about anything except for not being able to photograph my favorite skaters more often, or at all.
Grant: Not really, but I have had similar feeling moments, I shot Miller in Portland grinding up the edge of the full pipe and it took me back to Upland of the 80s.
Ted: Yes! all of them, because most of it happened over 30 years ago and I have forgotten most of the particulars and I would love to relive all of them again.
Cleo: How often do you get to shoot skate pics with your current schedule these days?
Jim: I retired from skateboarding photography when I left the scene back in 1986, though I do miss it. But I did have a brief photo shoot at the Clairemont Skate Park many years ago with some of the locals. It was shortly after I'd switched to digital and I felt like an amateur. Under the right circumstances, I'd like to shoot skating again.
Ted: Well, being 61 and having a bad left foot that has made me retire; I only shoot maybe twice a year now. I really miss it, but I did have my time and I’m extremely grateful to have been an important part of skateboarding history. I want to thank everyone for being part of the photos I did take because without those skaters I wouldn’t have been part of any of it.
Grant: It varies; I don’t shoot as much skating, working a lot on The Skateboard Mag and with my vintage photo stuff. Shooting portraits and fine art, I shoot skating twice a month unless there’s a lot of stuff happening. Trying to get a book going and I do some shows and special projects. I shoot when I want and only fun stuff.
Cleo: I can personally tell you that each of you have had photos of yours displayed on the wall of my room as a teen. I studied them over and over again to try and figure out how a skater did a specific trick.
Grant: I like to hear that from people, I get a warm fuzzy feeling.
Cleo: I want to thank you guys for helping to motivate not only me to skate more and more, but also skateboarders from around the globe. You keep the soul of the sport alive in your images.
Ted: Thank you for asking me to be part of this!
Cleo: Thanks for taking the time to speak with Coping Block On-line Skateboarding Magazine.
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