Harrow local David Steel has such a fascination with the art of photography that he can be found on a daily basis in a pro camera shop in the East End of London when he is not freelancing for Sidewalk Magazine. He loves the japanese language, will flog anything on ebay and has a passion for country music as he shoots skateboarding which is of course his favourite pastime. Welcome to David Steel’s Triple Shot..
David Steel but known to some as Styley.
How long have you been a photographer?
Looking back on it, I was always the one with the little red boots camera documenting what my friends and I got up to but it was only in 1994 that my friend Andy Hutchison (hutchphotos.com) really inspired me to get a proper camera, make a zine and learn photography. I was on and off living in Indiana in the USA for a few years.
On the first day out there I met Andy who used to make a zine called “Don’t Ask Me”. I used to ride around indy on my bike with my camera and board in a backpack and just shoot stuff to help out with Andy’s zine. He now shoots for Thrasher. I haven’t seen him for years but i want to go back to Indy and meet up again and take pictures of all the hillbillys out there that I became oblivious to!
How did you get into skate photography?
I guess I’ve been into skate photography since the 1st time I looked at T.L.B’s pictures in R.A.D. mag… It just seemed to go hand in hand. Pick up the little red camera and go skate somewhere with your friends and have a laugh. I’m still doing that now. My friends started getting good and I was taking photos of them. It was only a matter of time that their companies needed pictures of them.
What image first inspired you to take up photography?
Not one picture really inspired me to take photos that I remember but more a collective of a bunch of killer shots that got the ball rolling. Out of them all, Slap magazine in the mid nineties used to get me standing in the bookshop missing my buses. They were the photographers skate mag….their layouts were so sick too, to the point that it inspired me to make my own zine – Blue Tile Fever.
If there was one shot from Slap Magazine back then that really made me aware of how good photography would be i would pick this photo of Brad Staba doing an ollie from boat to boat by Lance Dawes. (below).
What were the best and worst bits of advice anyone gave you in regards to photography?
When I really wanted to get into it I would bug the hell out of any photographer who would stray into my path….(thanks and sorry Wig, Horsely and Vuckovich!) The best advice was to read a book about how a camera works. I constantly read this one book over and over until it all made sense. I’ve never really had any bad advice.
Have you ever felt bad about taking a photo? If so, which one?
I took this photo of a friend of mine doing a tre flip on a bank in the middle of this estate. I suddenly heard this weezing behind me and this poor old guy had hobbled out of his flat to tell us we were making a racket….the guy looked like he was on his last minutes…seriously weezing and coughing so we chilled with him till he got his breath back and left.
What were the best and worst days shooting skateboarding of your life ever and why?
Right now I’m as stoked as the first days of picking up the camera…I’m lucky enough to work in a hire company that allows me to experiment with different cameras and lighting, freelancing for Sidewalk who basically let me shoot what ever I want. Sure there’s been low points but without them I wouldn’t of got to the point where I am now which is pretty chuffed. My best and worst days are usually in the lab when I get my film back!
What is your personal favourite skate shot ever that you have shot?
I wanted to do this shot for a while but the Harrow pool was always grim looking, plus not a lot of people can do a bunch of stuff in there.
One day I popped down to the park to find it had just been painted, I ran to the car, grabbed my fisheye and had a peek…it looked sooo sick (I even got a friend to carve over me for a test shot!)
Stevie Thompson had been sessioning the park nearly every day throughout that summer so he became my guinea pig. I set my flashes up and proceeded to lay down in the flatbottom.
The thing was stevie would nearly hit me as he went in and every time he bailed, his board would fly to the flat and whack me.
Luckily someone had a helmet which I wore during the shoot and my friends covered me with their boards to act as armour from stevie’s bails till he made one: Krooked grind to dodge the armored paparrazi in Harrows pool.
I think a shot of me in my wooden armour would of been good too but by the time Stevie landed it, I’d been hit in the head anough times and wanted out. This was a velvia roll I think.
What’s the relationship like between a photographer and filmer?
I’ve been hooking up with Phraeza a lot recently. We just help each other with my contacts and spots for his contacts and spots. Usually having a filmer there encourages the skater to land his trick. They get super stoked after they see the footage and then I email them the picture the next day or show them the digi sequence. Go to www.jahladathelearningcurve.blogspot.com/ to see how many times I get in Phraezas way!
What key advice would you give to upcoming skate photographers?
Read a book…. Check out other photographers of all fields on the web for inspiration…. Use provia! Embrace digi….but learn to print black and white. Use your friends as guinea pigs ’till their legs wear away…..visit gallerys…experiment…..buy a lomo and learn about cross process for a laugh…make a zine/blog or whatever, as long as it gives you an aim to keep on shooting pictures.
Are there ways of getting better/free equipment as you continue to grow or do you have to fund everything yourself?
De-nutrition yourself by eating only beans on toast for a year and with all the money you save go buy your desired equipment. Getting a job usually helps….i once got a free roll of film off Paul Thompson once (Transworld photographer) – he just came up to me for no reason and said “try this” and passed me a roll of provia, i think he saw me put some shoddy film in my camera!…..I’d like to shake his hand.
As for big items I’m sure there is a way to get them free but i wouldn’t rely on that, where theres a will there’s a way….seriously I literally didn’t go anywhere for the time that I saved for my fisheye….I ate pasta and beans and skated in my home town.
Is the work of a skate photographer well paid? Do you get by in life with this income alone?
For me it’s a hobby with a pay cheque…I get paid but without sounding cheesy I know for sure that I would do it anyway… I’ve always done it and I couldn’t imagine not having it as part of my skateboarding days. Linda’s cheques from Sidewalk accounts do aid me extra treats per month so I’m not complaining.
What is your favourite photo that you snapped outside of skateboarding?
Parc de Expositions – tours – France.
I was on a trip in tours, France, spending most of my morning trying to take portraits of dodgy looking French people getting their baguettes in the morning…I wasn’t having much luck.
As I came back to where my friends were I saw this massive sign next to the stadium where the car was. I took a couple of snaps not really thinking too much about it. When I got them back from the lab I instantly was stoked on one of them.
The next week I printed one up by hand and voila, my favourite shot. I just love how you can take a photo in black and white that ends up totally different then the shot you thought you were going to end up with. Tri-x 400, over expose it 1 stop.
Does music ever inspire your photography? What artists can you not leave for a tour without?
I usually hum Dierks Bentley tunes when I’m sitting in a gutter taking pictures of slappy grinds.
If you were to buy a pocket snapper for capturing skating on a budget to get going, which camera would you suggest?
Skate photography is changing so fast and getting so good. Go hunt down a Nikon fm2 with a 100mm lens on ebay. That’s what I started on. Shoot black and white and just play about with it. I used to write down everything I did when taking the shot so when I got my film back full of mistakes I could work out what I had to do to improve things.
Would you recommend digital or film?
Both! I use both. From high end film cameras like a hasselblad down to a lomo….and i’m just starting to use Nikon d2x’s along with my trusty Nikon f4s.
What are the benefits of using film or digital?
Digi for sequences and film for stills…that’s where I stand at the moment…only a matter of time till that will change.
What kit do you use?
Ok…Nikon f4s with a 100, 50 and good old 16mm fisheye. My three flashes are metz 45cl4 with a couple of manfrotto lighting stands. Three quantum freewire radio slaves to fire them off remotely. From work I’ve been playing with the d2x digi by Nikon with an 80-200 lens. When I go travel I take an x-pan panoramic camera and I’m just starting to get into the hasselblad 500c/w sooo crispy sharp and 500th synch speed…blah blah blah
If people reading this wanted to check out more of your photos do you have a website address?
Yeah, go to www.parazz.com/albums/davidsteel