Carroll Nollie Flip

“I was more of a skate rat”

As with a lot of skate photographers, you started of by just shooting your friends around your hometown. How did that progress in those early days?

Well I mostly skated…. I shot photos of dumb shit like old buildings to try and learn photography. I read photo magazines and books to learn how to process film, print, etc. After I had a grasp on everything I shot a handful of photos of my friends skating in Michigan, which lead to shooting some early skate photos of Kalis and Sheffy. I didn’t seriously start shooting skating until 6 months after moving to SF. I just skated there too which is how I met everyone in the city. I didn’t want to work at the Gap folding shirts anymore – so I started skating around the city with a back pack full of camera gear, and I’ve been doing the same thing for over 17 years now…

If you go to a skate demo, jam, or competition these days, there are lots of young dudes with their cameras and phones snapping away – which is awesome, and a great way to learn! Is that something that you did in your teens?

I shot photos at the few demos that came through Michigan, but I was more of a skate rat. I would have rather skated the course if possible. The first contest I shot was a vert contest in Lansing Michigan. It was coincidentally Danny’s first pro vert contest which he won. It’s so weird – my friend and I gave Danny and Sergi Ventura a ride to their hotel, and I didn’t see him again until almost exactly 10 years later when he jumped out of a helicopter in Vegas right after I first started working at DC.

I always think that taking your first shot of a pro / sponsored skater at an event is just the best stoke – like passing your driving test or losing your virginity (well, ok, not that good!). Do you remember your first? (ha-ha)

The first real photo I shot of a pro was Sean Sheffey in Michigan when I was 16. They were for an SMA catalog I think. I sure wish I had those photos, man!

At what point did you realise that skate photography was what you wanted to pursue as a career?

I came to the realization when Scott Johnston came into the Gap on Powell st in SF while I was working and asked me if I wanted to shoot a photo for an ad. So I shot a Pure wheels ad after work. It only took a few minutes, it was an amazing day skating with my friends and I made more than I did in a week of folding shirts at 6 in the morning. That’s when the light bulb went on….

San Francisco was a real hothouse for skate talent and creativity in the early 90’s – is this what made you decide to move there?

Absolutely. I just did not know I would be in the middle of it for the next two decades…. That is where skateboarding was for sure. I remember bombing hills from my apt past the projects, skating down Market, through black rock, brown marble benches, and eventually to emb for the rest of the night until right before the 21 Hayes bus stopped running.

[Opposite: SF OG Mike Carroll | В Nollie Flip]

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