Josh Stewart found himself broke the winter of 2007 at the finish of his third feature in his independent skateboard film series, “Static III.” He was unable to travel to highlight “the invisibles”—unrecognized, deserving skaters and skate scenes all over the world, which was a major component of his films. But he’d moved to New York City, a place that’d been forgotten and overlooked by skate media. So he decided to capitalize on it by continuing to film there forming the basis of his final installment in the “Static” series, “Static IV.”
Stewart launched a website the same year called Theories of Atlantis and started selling products from his friends’ niche, underground brands like Hopps, Palace, Magenta and Polar. The mostly European brands began to take off, so he founded a distribution company to circulate their products throughout the U.S. These brands have generated cult-like followings, much like the following Stewart’s films have drawn.
“Static IV” took a back seat as he worked full-time to develop his company. As his film languished, New York City became the hotspot for every skateboard company known to man. Media coverage surged from the city as the skate industry commercialized the rawness and manufactured a glossy representation of it. “The goal of ‘Static’ videos has always been to work with materials that are being ignored,” said Stewart. “But now everyone comes to New York and includes a cab, the skyline, someone grabbing onto a car, a roller door and some graffiti. I would never choose to focus around New York City now because it’s become almost played-out, but I love the city and it hasn’t been portrayed the right way.”
Stewart has a vision of the city that was cemented the first time he traveled there as a 12-year-old. It still excites him now after living there for seven years. “When you’re down in the tunnel on a New York subway, it feels like you’re back in the late ’80s or early ’90s—everything is stuck back in time,” he said. He’s adopted that visceral, nostalgic feel and applied it to “Static IV.” “But how do you get a feeling across,” he said, “of when you’re in a subway tunnel and the express train catches up next to you, and you’re looking through a window and there are people in their own little world inside this tube going past you?”
Although the skating is truly original and powerful, when Stewart looks back at old ‘”Static” videos he feels like he failed at his efforts to achieve an overall grittiness, or it came across “a little corny or too polished, it’s too clean,” he said. As Stewart works to finish “Static IV,” his aim is to drop us into an honest, unpolished world of his creation, one we can truly feel. It will feature footage of promising young New Yorkers like Kevin Tierny, out-of-towners such as Dustin Eggeling and Yonnie Cruz, and real legends Jahmal Williams and Quim Cardona—New York City skateboarding at its rawest—and finest.
Words by Aaron Austin. Photos by Pep Kim.
The above photo is Josh Stewart reading a light meter while shooting 16mm footage on the Staten Island Ferry. Below is Jahmal Williams doing a bluntslide on a barrier on Grand Street in NYC.
Who knows when Stewart will finish and release his “Static IV” cut, but here’s a teaser of what he’s been working on