As far as modern-day skate photographers go, Mike Blabac is simply the Don. Born 1973 in Ohio, growing up in Lansing, Michigan, his journey is perhaps a fairly well-trodden route for a lot of skate photogs: young kid starts skating with his friends; gets stoked by images in the magazines; gets his first camera; starts shooting his friends, starts getting some good results; decides that this is the life for him; moves to where it’s all happening; gets noticed; gets published; etc.
Whilst this may be a ‘typical’ path into the world of skate photography, it is Mike’s eye for the killer shot, and shear talent behind the lens that marks him out as one of the all time greats.
Most people get brown socks, monogrammed handkerchiefs or a cruelly knitted sweater but, a couple of years ago, my wonderful Mother-In-Law bought me a copy of “Blabac Photo: The Art Of Skateboarding Photography” for Christmas. Pretty cool, eh? Anyway, I couldn’t put this book down. It reminded me of just how exciting skate photography can be, and it transported me back to my days as a kid in the 70′s, when I would drool over the pages of Skateboarder. As a result, I spent the rest of that Christmas Day pouring studying the images in a semi-drunken stupour, trying to avoid getting brussel sprouts or gravy stains on the pages….
In this exclusive interview with Skateboarding Photo, Mike (now Director Of Photography at DC Shoes) kindly shares his experiences and images from the last twenty or so years.
Mike, in your book you allude to the importance of ‘documenting’ what’s happening through photography. In the past few years, it appears that more emphasis is placed on recording technicality, cleanliness and precision, rather than story-telling. Any thoughts on that…?
I’m not too sure to be offended by that or not….. HaHa! I wouldn’t say I place more emphasis on the technical aspect of photography over the feeling or story of an image.
Shooting photographs that first and foremost make the skating look as amazing as possible is what I try to do. I remember how much looking at photos as a kid made me want to go skating, and I want to create photos that do exactly the same thing.
I’ve made an attempt to be a bit more technical in recent years, for sure. I made a conscious decision to light and frame things as well as possible, simply to challenge myself because I was bored with digital photography.
Don’t get me wrong – I love digital now, but being able to see what’s going on immediately without dealing with Polaroids, pushing / pulling film, etc seemed like cheating and I became bored with photography after film. Choosing the right type of film and processing it accordingly, and making an awesome print by hand certainly has a different feeling to it for sure.
Going through everything I had shot over the last 20 years was really good for me creatively. I realized after looking through thousands of photos that some of the most impactful images I’ve created over the years were done without hella flashes or 30 thousand dollar cameras.
[Opposite: Pontus Alv | Ollie]