Grant Brittain on Skateboarding Photo

He Talks, We Listen…

Interview (and hero-worship) by Harvey Mills. Pics by Brittain

J. Grant Brittains contribution to the world of skateboarding is inestimable. From his classic early images and groundbreaking work as Photo Editor at Transworld Skate, through to being a founding father of The Skateboard Mag, his influence on skate photography (and the sub-culture in general) is, arguably, unequalled.

In this exclusive interview with Skateboarding Photo, Grant takes time out of his busy schedule to share his unique experiences from the last 3 decades, and give a small glimpse into his stunning body of work. The first couple of self-indulgent (on my part)В questions I pose are to satisfy my own geeky curiosity, but bare with it. This is history, and we could all learn something today…

Hey Grant! Firstly, can I just get this off my chest? “We’re not worthy, we’re not worthy, etc”. Okay, I’m done. Secondly, can we get this out of the way now – your classic Chris Miller ‘Pole-Cam’ shot at Upland!? You must get pretty bored of talking about it, but it’s such an iconic image! So, I guess this is as good a place as any to start. What gave you the idea to stick your camera on the end of a pole?

Chris says it was his idea and I thought it was my idea, but we both got the idea from a surf photographer in the 80s that did water shots with a pole. I used a monopod with a swivel head and an air bulb shutter release to trigger.

I guess that getting Miller in frame was always going to be pretty hit-and-miss, being in the good old days of film. So how many times did you get him to repeat the trick? I bet you were stoked when you saw the slides? (I’m assuming you shot it on Kodachrome 64 slide film?)

I did shoot it with Kodachrome 64 color slide film, that was the staple film back then. I shot a roll of color and a roll of black and white. So, 72 times or less I guess? Some were way off. 1 bw and 1 color looked good. Practice makes perfect as they say. I was way stoked, mainly with our shadow in the background, it tells the story, height of Chris’ air and the pole and all. In photography, it’s always about the shadows.

The colour and saturation on those ‘80s pool shots is just beautiful – very evocative of that time and really accentuated the neon tones of the boards and threads. When was the last time you shot using 35mm film?

With the Kodachrome, colors were pretty true to nature, there was more truth to real life as far as color goes. When Fuji came out with Provia and Velvia I jumped right in because it was so vibrant and exaggerated colorwise and was “made” for magazine publication. I haven’t shot skate shots with 35mm color slide film since Danny Way jumped the Great Wall in 2005, I shot digi and Velvia(as backup). I do shoot portraits and art stuff still with my Leica M6 and my Hasselblad for fine art photography too. I love film, I will always shoot it.

[Opposite: GB captured on a Massive 20x24 Polaroid]

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