I've been a big fan of Harry Abel for a while. Finally, some people are starting to prick their ears up! ...and it's no secret Sam Cooper is the most active Photographer on the scene right now. They just came through with this great photoset/text:
I'm going to try and describe what goes on in the head of a rollerblader when they work with a photographer. My account is based on a day spent shooting with Sam Cooper.
Firstly, there is always apprehension. You might not know each other that well and get worried about how the day is going to look. There is also the worry that you're going to skate a bit shit. Social insecurities aside though, it's quite easy to turn apprehension into excitement.
There is a distinct difficulty in choosing a spot to take a photographer. On the one hand, you're reluctant to subtract elements of your skating in favor of aesthetics whilst, on the other hand, you want to encourage the photographer to shoot the way they want. It's easy to think, are we both being too nice to each other? You have to be straight and find a balance.
Once the spot is decided there is a long period of reflection. The photographer is setting up the equipment and in the classic fashion, you're getting scared about the trick you've just called. Are you sure you can do this? Are you wasting the photographer’s time? Is he going to hate you when you tell him that you've gone off the spot after he's set up his flashes? On a brighter note though, you feel like an athlete waiting for the gunshot at the start of the 100m sprint. Hero. Anyway, this feeling soon fades because you don't do the trick first try and it takes you ages to get it how you want.
Side note: Did companies ever pay for their riders to have sports psychologists back in the days of cash money? [Jake: I bet Salomon did and I bet Feinberg told them to piss right off.]
Given that we don't have any sports psychologists working for us now, honesty is always the best policy. There is a real value when someone you respect says's "no, that's not one". The temptation to accept something that you’re not happy with because you've let the fear take control is the work of great evil. To me, honesty is a sign of someone that wants to create something to its full potential, and that is pretty cool.
So in summary, you spend a great deal of time in your head when working with a photographer. It tests your character, ability, and openness. It's a rare opportunity and totally worthwhile though. The results have a lasting impact and contrast dramatically with the results of filming. Quite literally a photo captures one very small moment in space and time. It's an interesting concept to play with and you can end up with something completely unique.
Having any rollerblader trust me enough to capture them blade for me is nothing short of a blessing. Blading means so much to so many that by being there to capture the action it also provides a very unique window into their true identity.
I’ve seen people at their highest moment and then at they’re lowest. Access to such reactions that derive from a person’s passion in life surely produces the closest thing to a totally untainted moment. That individual at their most free and uninhibited, whether it being through ecstasy or anger it’s one of the biggest perks of being there to capture their rollerblading.
Shooting with Harry was a great example of this. Although slightly quiet at first, Harry still has strong ideas of what blading is to him and how he wants to portray it. Throughout the day his ideas could be seen coming through stronger as a bond of trust was built between us.
Although a lot of spots are pre-planned through the wonders of WhatsApp, there are always ‘new finds’ along the way. As a photographer, you are always wary of how you say no! Whether it is to a trick or a spot its key to do it in a constructive way. The bond that is being built is there due to honesty but also strengthened by respect for one another and the ideas you bring to the table.
Harry’s strong ideas about blading made for a great open forum about everything to do with the process. Communication is key in this process and we talked about it all; from how he did the trick to what angle I had chosen to shoot it from.
Once we had settled on a spot and trick I set up as quickly as possible. Always aware that the more time spent doing this the more time my subject will have to over think the trick.
Taking the photo itself is obviously important; it’s why you are there! But there is so much more to it than just snapping the button. You need to put your own worries of missing the trick aside and become apart of the process. Many of the shoots I’m on end up being one on one affair meaning I become a part-time cheerleader of kinds, giving my subject an extra boost of confidence in what they are doing to keep going in the pursuit of the perfectly executed trick.
Its here you can feel the bond grow and the layers of social awkwardness unravel as you both forget about the rest of the world in pursuit of one thing. It was at this point I saw Harry really shine, his face was consumed with focus until that final attempt at which we both knew that it was the one. Instantly there was a relief from the pinpoint focus and what follows was a moment of untainted elation and pure joy.