This month we have decided to go Down Under to find another of the world’s best skate photographers. Steve Gourlay has been on our radar for a little while, he popped up on an email once and said he was an admirer of Crossfire and it doesn’t get more natural than that. Born in Adelaide, South Australia, Steve has worked his lifestyle into the busy Melbourne scene where he now resides and shoots for many publications.
Steve shoots as the senior photographer for The Skateboarders Journal and also contributes to Monster Children and Slam Magazine and also dabbles in a few US mags when needed. With 18 years of photography experience on his CV and adverts for the likes of Nike, Cliché, Almost, Ezekiel, Hurley, Element, Baker, DVS, Vans, Globe it’s a pleasure to welcome Steve to this month’s Triple Shot.
So Steve, how did you get into skate photography?
I was influenced by my Dad’s photography as a young kid as he often shot great family travel pics, but skate photography I got into it through a friend who was a skate and band photographer back in the late 80’s-90’s. I was taught a lot about b/w stuff back then and used to read early skate mags over and over so I was influenced a lot by those early skate photographers.
What were the best and worst bits of advice anyone gave you in regards to photography?
Don’t know about worst but pretty much the best advice was around 1996 I was staying in LA so I drove down to TWS in San Diego to see Grant Brittain and show him some recent shots I’d taken. He told me my shots were fine but I had to stop taking so many fucking vert photos! He said vert was dead and to get with it. Vert was pretty much dead but as a vert skater myself I was ‘clinging’ onto the absurd dream of being able to be on a platform all day, skate and shoot what was I thinking? Oh and he asked me to type my name and details into his computer but I was computer iliterate at the time and I couldn’t type at all. It was really embarrassing. At least I can type with 2 fingers now. I have advanced!
These shots of Apples are rad, inspiration shots or pure fun?
I don’t really have an image I can show you that inspired me because I can’t find it, anyway it was an old cover of Skateboarder around 1978. So I put these shots of Appleyard in to fill the hole I hope that’s OK. This was a really fun day!
Yep, i’m sure our readers will accept that! So, have you ever felt bad about taking a photo? If so, which one?
Yeah a few years back when Morgan Campbell wanted to skate a rail on the outside of a two story building that had a 20ft drop on one side of the rail I had a vision of him falling to his death. I had a bad gut feeling that day so I told him I wouldn’t shoot it. He got a bit bummed at me but he understood. I think we went and had a beer or two after that. I often wonder if everything would have been OK that day I think I probably over reacted.
What were the best and worst days shooting skateboarding of your life ever and why?
I think the worst days are the ones when I make a mistake and fuck something up, oh and also equipment failure that is really shithouse. The best days are shooting a photo and seeing the skater really stoked they pushed themselves to make a hard gnarly trick. That makes me happy.
What’s the relationship like between a photographer and filmer?
Well, it depends who it is, generally if both sides are professional they understand that we’re both there to do a job but in saying that if a filmer is inconsiderate and shoves his fatass lens in my frame I’ll ask him to move back until I get the shot. I think communication is the key. Filmers are trying to do a job too but with tongue in cheek photographers have right of way…
Best, true photo story ever?
It’s nowhere near a great story but this comes to mind. I was shooting a photo at a renown spot in Melbourne years ago which is Parliament Station’s 10 stair, it’s known for uptight security. My friend who is a burly lad with a short fuse was trying to switch flip it, he was getting really flustered when a security guard asked him to stop, for the sake of the story we’ll call the skater “Barry“. So Barry told him to fuck off and get out the way or he’ll smash him out the way. Security guy confronted Barry and told him to stop – you know the deal.
Anyway, Barry then yelled at me to get ready for one more shot. He then shirt fronted the security guy and threw him down the 10 stair. It was gnarly as fuck! Somehow I managed to shoot a still of the guy flying backwards down the stairs and landing on the last few steps. Barry ended up making the sw flip and we got the hell outta there! I don’t know what happened to security guy but I bet he was sore as hell if not broken.
Second shot. Spill the beans on this beast…
This is a shot of Andrew Currie at The Pothole. Andrew Currie is one of legendary status, a true master on board. Here is assembled a crew of skaters from all over Australia to session the “Pot Hole” for the first time. Its located high up in the Snowy Mountains about 6hrs from any civilisation. One of those monumental days where the crew couldn’t be better and emotions showed in everyone’s skateboarding. I was bloody lucky to be there. We camped out for a few days and had the best time fishing skating and hanging out.
Are there ways of getting better/free equipment as you continue to grow or do you have to fund everything yourself?
Gone are the good ol days of working for a company and they buy your gear for you, did that even happen? I buy my own gear, if it breaks I try and repair it or take it to someone. In reality I’m happy with what I have. You don’t need all the latest gear to make nice photos.
Do you get by in life with this income alone?
Australia has only 2 paying skate mags with small circulations so Its not really possible for the industry to support skate photogs on full time “grownup’s” salaries, most skatephotogs here do it for the love. Along with my girlfriend we have a small commercial photography business amongst other creative things so combined with skateboarding we pay the bills mostly.
OK, you and Dustin are obviously down. Please tell us about the non skate shot you have submitted and the story behind it.
Ah yes, a wasted Dustin Dollin and his lovely girlfriend Shelly. We had all been at a Bondi Beach Bowl-Arama comp then where invited to Shelly’s house or mansion I should say for a party. When Dustin parties it’s wild fun, I shot this on day 3. I can’t remember whether we had slept or not, in fact I can’t remember much. It was summer time and amazing weather I think I should stop there.
What music artists can you not leave for a tour/shoot without?
Well it’s the old ‘it depends on the mood i’m in’, I travel with an ipod jammed with different genre’s of music from punk to pop, jazz, rock and alternative stuff.
If you were to buy a pocket snapper for capturing skating on a budget to get going, which camera would you suggest?
An old Canon Eos1n or a Nikon F4 both these cameras are awesome, it really does help to start shooting film that way you can actually learn what your doing, why you’re under or over exposing your film or why you’re shooting on a certain shutter speed or aperture. Today with digital anyone can shoot a few shots and fumble around til you get it looking ok but most people have no bloody idea what they’re actually doing. So to learn the actual mechanics behind photography it not only makes shooting interesting it makes shooting an image really rewarding.
Would you recommend digital over film?
I recommend both depending on the situation, digi is great for our fast throwaway world we live in, instant turnaround and easy manipulation for commercial work.If you like to see beautiful tangible results that you can hold or frame I will always recommend film to anyone. Digital is fast and economical which is important in the commercial world, but in reality the digital file doesn’t exist, its in your computer as some coded data that you can’t see until you have it opened by a specific program. The downfall of digital is if your hardrive fails you loose the lot whereas if you loose a print you can grab the neg and make another one. Who cares anyway their both amazing!
What kit do you use?
A trusty old Hassleblad CM, EOS1nRS, EOS1dmk3, Xpan, Contax T3 and G10 for digi snaps. I collect Polaroid cameras also.
What main advice would you give to upcoming skate photographers?
Shit, how many times have people heard someone say “you should shoot film”, you know what? Do whatever you feel is right for yourself. If you want to just shoot digital then do it. There’s lots to explore so develop your own style and do what you want to do.
Where can people find your work? You got a site up?