Richard Gilligan is one of those blokes that is great to hang out with on a skate trip as i found out last summer, and especially if his Irish crew members are in tow as well! His photography skills are based in his home in the magic City of Dublin, Ireland where he works freelance both in and outside the skate world.
His captured work has been published in SLAP, Sidewalk, Kingpin, Slam (oz), Monkey
Say (oz) and he has also shot ad’s for the likes of Heroin Skateboards, Kill City, Etnies, Addict and Lord Clothing. Richard also shoots a lot of documentary style work and has even published a rocking book about the legendary “burnside” skatepark as well as working and completing several other published documentary projects.
With his work exhibitied worldwide, he continues to shoot and skate as much as he can and enjoys frontside grinds that make him go “UGH!” – which makes Rich one of the best there is….Welcome to Gilligans Triple Set.
How long have you been a photographer?
Since I was 15, so I guess that’s 10 years as I’m 25 now. I saved up the money from a shitty summer job cleaning dishes and bought an old Fujica SLR for one hundred Irish pounds and never looked back.
How did you get into skate photography?
I spent hours and hours of my early teenage years just staring at the photos in R.A.D mag, it just fascinated me. I always had an interest in photography from a really early age, I remember we had this photo of me and my mam that was a double exposure (like a ghost image of us in the same photo) and I used to spend hours staring at that too as a kid. It was a natural thing really as skateboarding was (still is) the thing I spent most of my time doing.
So I really just started wrapping my camera up in a hoody and throwing it into my bag when I would be going skating in town. I shot so much then, and fucked up so many photos but it was always a fun thing to be doing, I would get as excited about getting a good photo as I would about learning a new trick.
Why did this image you have submitted inspire you so much to take up photography? What effect did it have on you?
I have chosen an old stereo ad here and to be totally honest I’m not even sure who shot the photos in it! (that’s really bad- a fucking skate photographer who doesn’t even know who shot his fave skate photos?) Prob Gabe Morford or Lance Dawes? In fact I think I’m more into the photo of the old fella cutting up his chicken than any of the skate shots!
To be honest I don’t think it even really matters that much who took them as they are all such strong images, but what I found so inspiring about this is just the whole package. It was old ad’s like this and the original Anti-hero ad’s from around 1994-1997 that really inspired me to start taking photos and make zines etc.
I just love the layout of it and the style is just so good! Ethan Fowler and Greg Hunt are two of my fave skaters from this era so maybe thats got something to do with it too. I was a big stereo fan back in those days and still am today. Their stuff was just such a breath of fresh air during that time in skating and I think they really inspired a lot of people to go and pursure ideas/impulses and just the creative side of skateboarding in general.
What were the best and worst bits of advice anyone gave you in regards to photography?
Best advice is to buy a fully manual simple SLR camera and just go shoot, shoot, shoot in natural light and try learn from your mistakes. So many people give up on photography because they feel the technical side of it is too much to get there head around, but stick with it, put in the hours and you are bound to progress.
Worst advice would be to buy lots of really expensive gear and lenses. Keep it simple, especially at the start. Don’t buy a digital kit as your first camera. You will learn more from shooting film than any photoshop tutorial / auto option will ever teach you.
Have you ever felt bad about taking a photo? If so, which one?
For me I’ve never felt genuinely bad for taking a photo, both in and out of skating. I feel photography is very much a 2 way thing, and if you don’t have respect for your subject then I don’t feel you should be shooting them. From time to time when shooting something really gnarly in skating you do get the hee-bee-jee-bee’s though. but I just get on with it, I never force anyone into doing anything.
What were the best and worst days shooting skateboarding of your life ever and why?
The best was getting sent to Marseille bowlriders by Kingpin last summer, (click here to view feature and video) that was really like a dream come through for me, and having Jay Dords and Bruce along too just made it non stop laughing and shredding. Marseille is my fave place to skate bar none, just endless lines and grinds…
I can honestly say I’ve never had “a worst day” shooting skateboarding, even though sometimes you can get kinda burned out on the getting busted/kicked out factor and just sometimes the stress a skater can put on them self to land a certain trick and then end up just hurting themselves. That stuff can be bad, but there is always something fun about the whole experience so yeah, I’m happy to say I’ve never had a worst day… not yet anyway.
What about your fave skate shot you have submitted? – It’s a gnarler!
The photo I’ve submitted here has to be the bridge drop-in of Bruce “the Ox” Kelliher in Kenmare, Co. Kerry back in 2001. This photo opened so many doors for me and Bruce as it ended up being my first ever published photo that appeared in the gallery section as a double page in SLAP mag. Anyone who has met Bruce knows how off the wall he is, (a truly inspired character with an over-active imagination on his skateboard.)
This imagination however, has a knack of turning disturbing thoughts and ideas into reality, a lot like this drop-in he did. To this day that is the gnarliest thing I’ve ever shot. I remember me and Ciaran who was filming just looking at each other and laughing nervously as Bruce started to climb up the bridge on that freezing cold morning at about 7.30am.
What’s the relationship like between a photographer and filmer?
Back the fuck up!
What main advice would you give to upcoming skate photographers?
Just shoot as much as you can and enjoy it. Be patient and learn how to print and develop your own black and white work! You will learn more technically from doing this than any book you can read. Send stuff into mags and just try to be cool to people and if your work is strong enough, it’s only a matter of time before you see it published. Most skate mags are run by really enthusiastic and friendly people, but they are also very busy people and it can be hard for them to get back to you. Stick with it and its gonna happen sooner or later.
Are there ways of getting better/free equipment as you continue to grow or do you have to fund everything yourself?
I fund everything myself, except if I’m doing a job/article specifically for a mag then they will generally look after all film costs etc. I once got a really good hook up from Kodak by getting in touch with them about any old b and w stock and they sent me a full box of tri-x (great b and w film)!!! I couldn’t believe it! If you dont ask you’ll never know…
Is the work of a skate photographer well paid? Do you get by in life with this income alone?
No and no (but I would be doing this if I got paid or not so I really just try to treat it as pocket money or put it straight back into my photography) It would be great if my skating work alone could pay the bills, maybe someday? But unless you are staff with a mag, its not really an option. I shoot a lot of other documentary stuff outside of skating and I want time to be able to pursue this plus I also like to shoot skate photos of stuff that inspires me and I would hate for it to become a chore where you start feeling like a robot, just constantly shooting for deadlines.
OK, please tell us all about this very intrigueing non skate shot you have submitted and the story behind it!
This is a photo I shot in the lost property section of the London Underground beneath Baker Street Station. It is taken from a photographic project I made there called “Cinderella Moments“, a series of still lives of all the stuff that people lose on the tube. One of the staff down there explained to me that the only way people can tell if the teeth are theirs or not is by trying them on and that’s what inspired me to shoot this photo. Nasty stuff…
Does music ever inspire your photography? What artists can you not leave for a tour without?
I can’t imagine my life without music. I bang the drums a bit and have been messing around on guitar for as long as I can remember. As for going on tour, I need these:
AC/DC – “Highway To Hell”
A Tribe Called Quest – “Midnight Maurauders”
Bonnie Prince Billy – “Ease On Down The Road”
Neil Young – “Harvest”
The Redneck Manifesto – “Thirty Six Strings” [The best band to come out of Dublin in years]
Biggie Smalls – “Ready To Die”
And some Smiths, Ramones and Pougues thrown in there too for good measure!
Great choices Rich..ok if you were to buy a pocket snapper for capturing skating on a budget to get going, which camera would you suggest?
Probably a little Nikon digital compact like a coolpix one, but I’m not really sure? Fuck it, just buy an old manual camera for fuck all and you will better off in the long run…
Would you recommend digital or film?
What are the benefits of using film or digital?
Digital makes sense for sequences but I don’t shoot ’em so I’m backing film 100%
What kit do you use?
A battered Nikon FM2; 50mm Nikon lens; 16mm Zenitar lens; Hasselhoff with 80mm; 2 Sunpak manual flashes natural daylight (an often forgotten tool in modern skate photography); Pocket wizard radio slaves; 2 sketchy old tripods. I keep it really simple and I like it that way….
Do you wanna tell people about your photography website?
Oh go on then…it’s www.richgilligan.com