Visitor: Sam Ashley
A well-worn contradiction in skateboarding concerns taking things seriously. We want to approach skateboarding creatively and spontaneously, but when it comes to documenting a difficult trick or line, few would profess that ‘it’s all about fun.’
In a similar vein, being a professional skateboardphotographer is a dynamic role. You have to be able to function socially with a broad range of characters, you need to be patient and tenacious with weather, security, public objectors and skaters who take hours or even days to land their trick.
Mastering all these roles is not enough, however, if you cannot deliver the goods. If you compromise with your angle because the filmer wants to get in on the action or keep shooting after your light has gone because you don’t want to go through the whole process again another day, well, then you also compromise your reputation within the industry.
Essentially if you want to live off skateboarding photography, you need to approach it with a level of seriousness. If it’s your job, may as well be a professional.
Sam Ashley is about as professional as they come with a long history within UK and international skateboarding media and currently working as staff photographer for Kingpin Magazine. While laying down the law for angles and light conditions, Sam manages to maintain a sound appetite for fun and tries to make the most out of his traveling experiences.
His last visit was a testament to this, clocking long hours following Pontus around Malmö while not pulling out on festivities ’til the wee hours and rounding up a few stories on the way.
We have ben fortunate enough to have Sam over in Malmö on several occasions and caught up with him at TBS while watching Pontus film his 10 tricks for Kingpin.
Where are we and what’s going on?
We’re at TBS in Malmö, Sweden. Pontus just took a slam. I guess we’re down here because we’ve ben building for the last couple of days and now the stuff we built is dry. ‘Me’ is Sam Bailey who is filming for Kingpin and Pontus who I guess is the team leader of the TBS skatespot.
Where are you normally based – what brings you over here this time?
I’m based in London and we’re here to come and see Pontus. I’m here to shoot photos with him. I think it’s fair to say that what Pontus and the Malmö skaters do with their D.I.Y. projects is at the forefront of that scene in Europe, if not the world. Building your own spots and making the most of your environment is obviously very inspirational for other skaters
You have been to Malmö quite a few times now. What brings you back?
I always come here for broadly the same reason, really, which is to shoot photos of the skaters here for Kingpin or for Sidewalk. Specifically, though, the reasons differ every time. I may be on a tour that is going here or the like, but the last time I was here I was actually going to Copenhagen. I extended my trip for a day to come here to shoot with Pontus and we shot a couple of things. It’s always different every time. I’m sure it will be different next time.
When was the first time you were here?
I think it was a DVS trip. We were in Copenhagen and came over for a day and we came down here to TBS with Pontus and he was ripping. I ended up shooting a photo of him doing a frontside wallride over the block.
When did you meet Pontus the first time.
I think maybe we had met before then, but [Pontus skates past and drowns out the sound] or maybe that was the first time. I’m not sure. Yeah. That was probably the first time.
Malmö is not an automatic destination for skateboarding in terms of weather and streetscape. What do you think Malmö has to offer when it comes to organizing skatetrips?
I think Malmö does have streetspots. I don’t think it has more than any other place specifically, but it has three things: It has very good skateparks; traditional, efficient skateparks. All of which are really good. It also has the D.I.Y. Spots; There’s always at least three or four on the go. Even if one goes, another one pops up, so that’s always interesting. I think with regards to streetspots, there isn’t very much here, but I think the skaters here are very good at finding stuff. It’s very well scoured. When we come here and people show us around, there’s always different stuff, whereas you can go to some cities and people don’t really look for spots that much. There may be a lot of stuff there, but people haven’t found it or fixed it up to make it skateable. Here, skaters are good at making the most of what they have. It makes it even.
Do you think the Malmö scene has a particular character?
Very resourceful as I mentioned, but it doesn’t seem like there is a particular type of skater here. There is a lot of people who do D.I.Y. Spots, but there is a lot of people who don’t do that as well. There is also people that just skate skateparks here. I think there are a few very influential skaters here and Pontus is a great example of that. To build a scene, you need characters like that to get everyone organized and motivated, I think.
What, in your opinion, is the biggest difference between the London skate scene and the Malmö skate scene?
You obviously feel skating is bigger in London. It’s almost to the point now where you see crews of skaters who don’t know who each other are. It seems here everyone knows who everyone is. It seems a lot more tight-knit. There’s nothing wrong with London being like that. It’s so big it’s gonna happen. It’s impossible for everyone to know each other in a scene like that.
If everyone knows each other you can reap benefits from that when it comes to getting organized for approaching councils for skateparks for example. When it comes to skateparks getting built in London, a lot of people feel they get cut out of the consultation process. London is just so big that people don’t hear abut skatepark projects until it’s too late. Word of mouth isn’t as strong there.
Any Malmö habits?/Favourites?
There’s one Meatball place Daniel takes us to called Bullen or Två Krögare that is really good. I’ve ben hassling Pontus to take us there. Tempo bar is my current favourite for an evening drink. Other than that I like coming to TBS and the skatespots obviously. And I went to the Konsthallen show yesterday with the Chris Johanssen and Misake Kawai exhibition which was really good. That place seems really nice. I really like the building and we went to the restaurant which was really good too. We’ll definitely go there again I’m sure.
Malmö wants to be the skate-capital of Europe – how is/is not possible?
I would say it could happen and has sort of happened in a way. As a skate tourist there’s pretty much everything you want here. There’s cheap accommodation, you can camp easily, there’s skateparks everywhere – it’s great. You know that you can come here and as long as you get good weather, you’re gonna have an amazing time skating. You could bring a crew of twenty mates and they could all find something they like to skate here. It’s not just one kind of terrain. There’s everything here and you’re not really going to get kicked out of places. It’s very skater-friendly. It’s a guaranteed good time. AS a skate tourist, that’s what you want. That’s why people went to Barcelona for so many years. You know you can go there and it’s going to be good.
[Mathias, Sulan and Oski rock up]
Does Malmö need anything else, considering weather etc?
I think they need to invest in cases of free beer for every skater. And not the 3.5% stuff.
On the other hand it’s one of those things where you have to be careful what you wish for. It’s all very well saying it should become ‘the skate capital of Europe’, but if that would actually happen, it would become horrible. The fact that you have horrible winters keeps it on a level – it’s not crazy all year ’round. People are going to come here for two or three months and then it’s back to normal again. For people who [cultivate a scene] that is probably a good thing. If you speak to a lot of the original Barcelona locals, a lot of them are not stoked on what happened to their scene and their spots.
What’s the main editorial appeal of Malmö?
Variety. You don’t get kicked out. It’s easy. In London it’s really dificult. You get kicked out and you have a million problems getting things done. Here it’s easy. When you go on trips you want to go somewhere where you know you’re going to get photos.
Do you know any Swedish?