What is it about skateboarding that attracts so many to photography? Are there some similarities between a skateboarder and a photographer?
For me it was the situations that skateboarding put me in. The things we see while out in the streets is just insane and its often missed by your average person walking by. Most skaters are completely aware of their surroundings while out skating. We're constantly looking around for things.
What or who got you started shooting photos? Who introduced you to developing in a darkroom?
My parents bought me my first camera. I had no clue what I was doing so I just started reading about it, same with the darkroom. I knew what was up with the darkroom before even using one. I finally got to test it out because I had a friend that went to San Francisco state and they had a nice darkroom that barely got used. I'd just sneak into the school and use it whenever I could. Eventually I got caught by a teacher and they found out that I didn't go to school there so… I was escorted off the campus.
The darkroom process has pretty much been fazed out by digital photography. Do you consider that a tragedy or an opportunity?
I just think its kind of crazy that everybody is a photographer now. There's people out there making money off photography that don't know what aperture or shutter speed is. Fuck it though I can hate on it but I'd rather just live my life and do shit the way I wanna do it. I try not to think of it as a tragedy or an opportunity. I just enjoy taking the old school route.
Now that you've been shooting for a while, how would you describe the style that you've settled into?
I try not to limit myself to one specific style but I usually fail at that. I like people and there ridiculous ways. Whether it be my friends or random people in the streets.
Would you say that printing in a darkroom improved your photography? If so how/why?
Of course. It helped a lot with understanding the lighting and backgrounds. How to expose a photo properly and making the subject stand out from the background. How I'm going to print a photo is constantly running through my head while shooting.
You've gotten to travel the world through skateboarding....what city has proven to be the most interesting shoot in?
I like shooting everywhere i go equally. i just tend to shoot a lot more in the major cities. Take me to the desert I might shoot 2 frames in a day, take me to Tokyo its about 2 rolls a day.
Are there any skate photographers or skaters who shoot photos who's photography inspires you?
Brian Gaberman's old stuff is amazing. Also into Jean Feil, Mark Whiteley, Joe Brook, Richard Hart, Dave Chami, Allen Ying, Jonathan Mehring, Raymond Molinar and Dan Zveriff to name a few.
I think I remember hearing that you're part of a small club of photographers around the world who trade and share prints? Can you explain that?
Yea. Its called FilmPorVida or PEP (print exchange program). It was started by Jai Tanju. Everything is exchanged by mail so a lot of the time you don't know the person you're getting mail from. I've met cool people and received cool mail for the past 3 or 4 years because of it.
You primarily only shoot black & white. Is that so that you can print the photos yourself in the darkroom or do you just simply prefer to not shoot color?
I do mostly shoot black and white but I have two cameras most of the time. One for black and white, the other for color. I like them both depending on the situation. Black and white just makes me think of the past and that's exactly what a photo is. I used to love looking through old photos of my grandparents, parents and all there friends. I'd like to get that same feeling 10 or 20 years from now when I look at my photos and I think black and white just does that for me. Being able to print them in the darkroom is just a plus.
What are your preferred tools for shooting? Camera? Film stock?
Leica M6 - Tri-X
You've been doing some pretty interesting projects with your photos. The newspaper project and the recent limited edition book. What's next that we can keep an eye out for?
Next thing up is collaboration book with Hiroki Muraoka from Japan. I don't want to spoil it and give too much information out yet.
Check out Ben's photo board for Magenta here.