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Documenting The Style And Culture Of A Small Town Skate Crew

Tags: grundy skate


James Grundy

My salad days, When I was green in judgment: cold in blood…

-Cleopatra in Antony and Cleopatra by William Shakespeare

There’s a camaraderie to being young and carefree. The knowledge that you can be a little stupid and irresponsible without consequences. Or at least without the consuming fear of consequences. If they come, you’ll deal with them. But you don’t necessarily fear them. The worry-free quest for joy and fun at all costs is what brings young people together. It’s a roman-candle spirit: burning hot and fizzling too soon.

This is what photographer James Grundy sought to capture when embedded with a Skate crew in rural Australia for months on end. He wanted to show the sense of freedom among the crew, an easy going chill reflected in 33mm photographs. You can see what fascinated Grundy in the way his subjects move their bodies, the way they sit, party, skate, and dress. Their style is unencumbered by strict form or convention. Their clothing feels like a natural extension of their lives. The tattoos, shoes, beers, and cigarettes are all one beast, one lifestyle that is inextricable from the wearer.

“It’s usually kind of a haphazard,” Grundy says of his long says with Aussie skateboarders. “All over the place. Waking up hungover, drinking late into the night. Loud music and partying going on.”

There’s a reason that skate style is emulated so often. It’s a culture that revolves around camaraderie and fun. It’s imbued with young energy and filled with effortless cool. No wonder streetwear brands around the world do their best to reproduce this spirit for the masses. But what they can’t recreate inorganically is the actual skaters themselves. What Grundy’s photographs reveal is a complete level of authenticity that no retailer can brand.

Grundy’s “Salad Days” series reminds us that youth really is fleeting. So you’d better capture those blissful, worry-free moments, those feelings of indestructibility now. Because you can’t freeze them in resin. You can’t snatch them back when they pass. The best you can hope for is some wild memories, some good pics, and a few cool scars.

James Grundy

Can you tell me a little bit about your background as a photographer?

I probably first picked up a camera around 15. I used to sneak out with my mom and dad’s point shoot camera so it was nothing special, but I really just enjoyed the documentary aspect of it. I’d go out and just shoot friends at the skate park or at the beach surfing or having beers around at home.

After that, the first camera I got was one of those Olympus waterproof cameras, so a really crappy camera. But I took it with me everywhere and just kept shooting on that thing until it eventually seized up. It wasn’t until probably around when I was 22 or 23 when I moved overseas for the first time that I started really sinking my teeth into photography. I was living in Norway at the time and there’s great scenery there, so I did a lot of landscape stuff.

After living in Norway for two years I moved to New York and that’s when I really hit the ground running, so to speak. A friend gifted me a roll of 35 mm film, which I never shot before, and after I shot that first roll on the streets of New York, I was hooked on street photography. I ended up shooting there for a year. And I’ve just been doing that since.

What about the 35 mm shooting style was special to you? What was different?

It’s an odd thing to put into words. I think it’s like … opening presents on Christmas day. You take these photos and you don’t know how they’re going to turn out. And you kind of forget what you’ve shot, or at least I do because I don’t shoot a roll of film too quickly. Once you get the negatives back, it might come back a month or six weeks later, you’re looking through them with a little bit of anticipation and excitement and you’re not really sure what you’re going to get. So film’s great in that sense but it also makes you more careful and thoughtful as a photographer. I think it really helped me to refine my style and slow down and think about what I was doing.

What brought you back home?

Well my Visa ended in New York, and I just moved back home to return to study. I was working as an engineer in Norway and I just took a year off to travel around New York. So I moved home to study and I worked with my dad for a couple of months. And that was when I started the skating project. Eight to ten months where I wasn’t studying and was just at my hometown, it’s about three hours east of Melbourne.

James Grundy

So this was all in your hometown, were you a skater there growing up? Was it a familiar culture?

Yeah. Yeah, it was odd because our hometown never really had so much skating. Never had a skate park or anything. It wasn’t until I moved away from home that we got these skate parks. But when I moved home, the first time after New York, I made a new group of friends through my younger brother, who’s about five years younger than me. They were just full into skating and it gave me a new lease on life in skating. We’d go down to the skate park every night after work and take a six pack down and skate until the sun set and I’d take the camera with me every time and just kind of document these guys.

James Grundy

What brought about the title Salad Days?

A good tip from my brother. It’s a Shakespearean expression. It’s along the lines of the period in one’s youth where the liberty of indiscretion is celebrated. Where you throw caution to the wind and you don’t care what anyone else thinks. You relish in the fact that you don’t care. You just go out and make a fool of yourself and have fun.

James Grundy


You started just taking pictures of your brother’s friends while you hung out. At what point did you decide this is a real project that was special?

It probably wasn’t until I got a roll or two of film back and I started to see the stoic expressions that these guys would always have on their face. I always thought it looked quite engaging, the photographs. I just thought there’s something here and these guys are really calm and indifferent to the camera being shot in front of their face. So the more I shot, the more I felt like I was actually producing a cohesive body of work.

James Grundy

What is different about skateboarding culture in a small town versus a bigger city?

It’s just a smaller community of skaters. They’re a much more tight-knit, closer group of friends that hang out probably four or five nights a week. I would imagine in the city, it’s probably a little bit more fragmented than that.

James Grundy

What were the ages of the guys you were shooting? Did they have jobs?

Yeah, so they were probably around 21 or 22 at the time. And yeah they had jobs, like they were builders or electricians, concreters, brick layers, trades. Some were truck drivers. It’s funny, the guys who seemed to have the most labor intensive jobs were the smallest and the thinnest with all these tattoos.

They would just labor and they would come down after that and everyone would skate during the summer.

James Grundy


What did you love about their style and their attitude towards life?

They’re all just a bunch of no-frills attitude kind of guys. There was very, very little that set them off or made them angry. I can’t think of a single time I saw one of them pissed off or angry.

They would always get up to some kind of mischief, in a sense, but it would never be causing trouble that would directly harm or interfere with other people’s lives. It was always, you know, doing it at their own peril. It was an interesting, mischievous atmosphere with the group. And unpredictable at times as well. You never really knew what adventure they were going to take you on or where they were going to go. But it was always exciting.

James Grundy

What are some of the adventures or mischief that you remember getting into?

I don’t if they’re appropriate to share! Just going on road trips at night and being under the influence of some drugs and alcohol. Camping out and having camp fires and … Yeah, I don’t know, pulling of pranks and stuff. I don’t know, some of the stuff is pretty grody and disgusting…

James Grundy

Do you still hang out with them? Have you kept in touch?

I have a very close friendship with one of the guys. We’ve formed a very close bond and he’s come up to visit me in Queensland. I moved about 20 hours away from that town now. And he’s been up a couple of times to visit. And actually did a road trip up here with me on one occasion. So I stay in close contact with him, but most of the other guys I don’t so much. But whenever I go home they’re the first guys I really see.

James Grundy


What do you think about skateboarding brings people together?

It’s a comradery aspect. It’s when you’re trying to land that trick or stick that trick and you’ve got the whole crew behind you supporting you, watching you. Even though it feels like they’re not watching you, you sense it, or they let you know through hoots and hollers or shouting out, “This one,” or, “The next one.” And they don’t let you rest until you land that trick.
For example, there was one night at the park where I was just trying a front-sided flip on a bank and it was a new trick for me. I was getting close but frustrated. Everyone had sat down on their boards, drinking beers. I was kind of the last one going. And they’re like, “No. You can’t rest until you stick it. Keep going. Keep going.”

And then you finally land it and it’s a crisp patch and you stump it and everyone’s up and shouting for you. It’s like kicking the winning goal in a football match or something. It’s a great feeling to see that everyone’s supporting you, behind you. I guess it would be a support element from everyone and just the celebration aspect, as well.

James Grundy


James Grundy

James Grundy

James Grundy


James Grundy

James Grundy

James Grundy


James Grundy

James Grundy





This post first appeared on Meet The Cast Of The ‘Game Of Thrones’ Porn Pa, please read the originial post: here

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