Tod Swank

“I am glad I was there”

Two of my personal favourite photographs of yours, Grant, are of skaters simply pushing their boards – I’m referring to the Tod Swank pic (Opposite), and the glorious fish-eyed shot of Steve Rocca ‘skateboarding is not a crime’ (Following Page). If these images landed on your desk today (assuming you’d never seen them before) do you think that they would still grab and hold the attention of a magazine photo editor?

Heck yes, I often like a photo that makes me wish I had shot it. Those are two of my personal favorites, I am glad I was there.

One of your sickest images has to be the Jamie Thomas ‘Leap Of Faith’ shot. Could you indulge us with the story behind that one?

I thought Jamie was out of his noodle when he showed it to me on a previous trip to Point Loma High.В When the day came to shoot it I really felt like we should have a paramedic present. I was kind of nervous he was going to kill himself.

He rolled up a bunch of times and then did it and went right through his deck and messed up his ankle. It’s probably one of the most famous non-makes in skateboarding, but then one of the most famous episodes in skateboarding. It was in an ad with no photo credit, so a lot of people didn’t know I shot it. I tell people now and then and they’re like, “You shot the Leap of Faith!?” I have been lucky to have been in the right place at the right time so many times over the last 30 years.

You’ve often been credited with nurturing the talents of developing photographers, how do you feel about sharing your skills and vast experience?

Hey, we all have to give back. You can’t take it with you and you can’t be selfish. If I helped someone in their career or passion, that’s rewarding. I had an art teacher and a photo teacher take me under their tutelage and I will always be thankful to them for that. It’s beyond value.

[Opposite: Tod Swank В | В Del Mar, CA]
[Below: (L-R) Natas Kaupas, Mike Vallely, Mark Gonzales]

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