Before the opening his new exhibition Love Don’t Live Here, we spoke to Sydney based photographer Thomas Robinson about the show, a sweaty two weeks in NY, and his dark boogie boarding past.
Tom, this definitely isn’t your first exhibition, but it does feel like a bit of a change in the wind when it comes to the imagery you’ve produced. So, we’re going to go through a couple of firsts to get to know more about your work. First camera set up?
I had a pretty nice Super 8 camera to begin with, but my first still camera was just a Canon AE-1, kinda like the poor man’s Nikon FM2 I guess. It served me well, I could treat it like shit and it always took a decent photo. I gave it to a friend years ago and I think he still uses it.
First photo to be published?
Skate wise my first photo was my friend Beau Reid doing a fakie heel flip down a famous Sydney double set and it was run in The Skateboarder’s Journal. I still really like the picture and if you know anything about skateboarding, you know that trick’s fucking gnarly to be doing down shit.
First camera smashed by a skateboard?
I’ve been pretty lucky with that kinda thing so far. In New York I was shooting a photo of Nick Stipanovic and his board zinged out, split my forehead open and smashed the transmitter for my flashes off the top of my camera. That was pretty much the best case scenario though I think, and Pass~Port was nice enough to buy me a new one the next day cause I was skint as. Other than that, I dropped a fish-eye that wasn’t mine picking up my bag that I thought was zipped up, which was dumb.
First real influence in skateboarding?
I guess just Baker and Alien Workshop videos. Then when I moved to the city it was all the people I met and saw skating, and the shit I was exposed to through them.
What kept you busy before skateboarding?
Boogen, I booged my youth.
Thanks bud. Now we’ve confirmed you were, in fact, a bodyboarder in your past life we can move on. Tell me about this series Love Don’t Live Here, it was all shot in NY?
Yeah we did a trip there for Pass~Port and just skated every day and most nights, like you do on a trip with those guys. It was pretty hard work trying to shoot as much non-skate shit as I would have liked while keeping up with 10 dudes without camera shit going mack 10, but I guess you get what you get and try to forget about the stuff you didn’t. The show is basically just photos documenting those two weeks, it’s about skateboarding and keeping your eyes on the streets.
Why the title?
I arrived the night before everyone else but I didn’t realise that until I actually got there, so I stayed in some fucked up, dodgy, cheap place for the night and didn’t get there until like midnight. It was pretty sketch. I tried to go outside for some air and there were these gnarly guys arguing about how someone else touched his gun and it was disrespectful and all this shit, so that was my first experience in New York. I had the next day to kill and was trying to waste some time in this car park next to Myrtle Ave train station where we were staying. This big guy comes up to me and he’s like, “Love don’t live here,” and I didn’t know what he was trying to tell me. He yelled at me again, “Love don’t live here you understand me? Get the fuck out of here!” We found some love over the two weeks but I dunno, that just seemed to stick with me.
Summer in New York City can be fucking hot as hell, you guys deal with it OK?
It was hot as hell alright, I had to cut my pants into shorts and got some fucking chat heat rash all up my legs. It made it pretty hard for the people trying to skate spots and be motivated but we ended up getting some shit. It’s hard in New York, everywhere has been blitzed. The best skaters from all over the world go there and fuck it up, then you go to a spot and it’s like, “Well, what’s actually left to try do here?”
With the whole Pass-Port team on a trip, who won best on ground?
Yeah, we had a pretty big squad which was funny. The new guy from England Matlok Bennett-Jones got a lot of shit, he’s really awesome. Josh Pall was selective, but as per usual everything he did was amazing, and Callum Paul tore his ACL again the day before the trip but still managed to get up to his usual fuckery.