Ryan Allan has been a friend of ours for almost as long as we’ve been around.
And in that time, he’s furnished the magazine with skate photography so exquisite, so perfect, it actually rises out of its league to become just really good photography. You don’t need to know who Javier Mendizabal is or what a backside ollie looks like to be blown away by Ryan’s work, you just need a pair of functioning eyes. What I’m saying is Ryan Allan is goddamn a magician, and that’s why he’s fit to judge the ‘Skate’ category in this year’s photo comp. We spoke with him.
Were you always going to be a photographer, like, did you start getting into it when you’re at school?
I wasn’t one hundred per cent sure, but I’ve been shooting photos since I was in my early teens. Senior year of high school shit kinda fell apart, and an option to graduate if I did something towards college was floated by my school. I chose to go to photo school since I was already shooting photos and enjoyed it. I got a year off high school and shot photos to graduate. Once I started college, I knew imagery was what I wanted to do.
Do people set out to be skate photographers, or does it happen by accident?
Maybe they did in the past but I think now it’s not even a viable dream. For me, it wasn’t really a choice. I kept ending up shooting skating. Skateboarding has a way of pulling you into its orbit no matter what you think you’re doing.
How did it happen to you?
I was in college studying photography but more in the commercial/fashion route. I’d be shooting my friends skateboarding all the time, though, and I got a job at a skate magazine. The path was pretty much laid out from there. (Side note: magazines were this analogue form of media that people would purchase from a ‘bookstore’. We’ll save bookstores for another story.)
What was your first cover?
I’m sure it was for a small zine in Canada. I can’t actually recall. After that, I just put my photos on the cover of my magazine, SBC Skateboarding, but that also didn’t really count to me. The first REAL cover I got was for SLAP. It was a photo of Mark Appleyard doing a back smith on a rail and it was also the very first photo I submitted to SLAP. How good was SLAP?
What’s the best thing about shooting skaters?
The best thing is that it’s such a diverse group. You get to have all walks of life in front of your lens. You can build a pretty sick portfolio of skaters. Outsiders may think ‘skater’ means one look, but we know different. It’s like practising to take the best band photos all the time. Can’t beat it.
What’s the worst?
The fact that for all the effort, some cunt will see the iPhone photo/video first and that’s all they’ll care about. Artistry in visual media isn’t really appreciated en masse.
And then what’s even worse than that?
On top of the work and lack of interest—you don’t make any money. People are out there doing it ‘cause they love it. I guess it’s the best and worst. It’s not corrupted by money at the moment but also some really great photographers are struggling to survive and the art is dying off.
What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned in your years as a photographer?
Be social. Be fun. Your word is your bond. It’s not always having the best images or knowing all the spots. Most times people just want to hang out with other fun people. You’ll go far if you’re hard-working, fun to be around and do what you say you’re going to do.
Why are Canadians?
Why indeed. I think I’ve now lived longer in the US than I have in Canada but I still think of Canada as home. Canadians love pointing out other Canadians and it drives people crazy. Why do we love denim tuxedos? Because we look fucking great in them.
What will you be looking out for when judging the comp this year?
Skateboarding on frozen lakes. It’s one hundred per cent the best way to win this year. Give me a glacial Tre´flip and you’ve fucking won.
What should entrants think about before submitting?
Does this photo include a frozen lake and a flip trick? Kidding. Originality. Show us skateboarding in a way that brings all the feels.
Will you be submitting your own work under a different name and then walking off with the prize money?
Meh, once I converted the AUD in USD after my win I was really underwhelmed. I’ll let someone else deal with all that.