There's the world of photography, and then there's the world itself. Lomography delves into deeper stories of humanity and culture through the lenses of those who belong to these experiences.
Skateboarding is more than just a sport or recreational activity found on the streets -- it is a means of transportation, an performative art form, an integral part of street culture. Lomographer and skateboarder Zairre Wright, a.k.a. zairre has known the world of skates and boards ever since he was teenager, and through film photography, he is able to fall in love with the sport every day. Now, he has a personal vocation to capture his own memories of being a skateboarder in America through his own surroundings.
This is Zairre Wright's skater story on film.
Hi Zairre, how things are for you as a photographer and skateboarder lately?
Hey! As a photographer, things have just started to pick up a lot more so than the previous year, as we all know. I have been getting into more 1-on-1 shoots and trips here and there, as a skateboarder it's been great, I mean honestly, I haven’t had this much free time since being in school and having summers off, so no complaints there. A lot of businesses run their work remotely so it is much easier to skate street spots without getting kicked out.
What attracts you to capture the skate culture? Can you share with us what's it like, especially where you're based?
I've been surrounded by skateboarding since the age of 14, it was so interesting to me, the styles were so fun, the people were always cool and being around the homies was the best part as a kid skating for 8-10 hours after school it was just so free. It took me a long time to get some tricks down... I want to say around 9 months just to Ollie and pop shuv, which is LONG but once I got those I was hanging out with kids that were always better than me and I would just study where they would put their feet for certain tricks and watch skate videos till I would fall asleep which then led me to learn a lot and the homies made me learn everything I could land regular, fakie, switch and nollie (different ways to stand on the board).
The style most skaters look for is different than the average person, it used to be the baggy clothing with huge shoes then the tight pants, but now it’s more fashionable and I think it's because fashion adopted most of the skate culture and being different and making it normal which is dope. I love it in San Diego -- this is where I am based at the moment -- I think it plays a huge role in the photography I do now, there is a lot of diversity in the looks here! A lot of unique hairstyles, clothing styles, personalities, and trick selections. I grew up on the East Coast (Pottstown, Pennsylvania) where we would only dream of coming to California just to skate.
In your video interview, you mentioned how for a while you were a bit bored so you gave film photography a try and it got you to fall head over heels with skateboarding again. I think it's awesome how the art made you rekindle that flame. Can you tell us more about how your film photography journey has helped or reignited you with skateboarding?
That’s an absolute fact, having mixed skateboarding with film photography gave me another way of looking at it and it's like having a new set of eyes to see things differently. I was always the type of person that wanted to be filmed or to be the one in front of the camera and never really thought of being behind it for skateboarding. A big part in the skateboarding magazines where you’d open the zine to a full spread of one of your favorite skaters doing the most gnarly trick and you see in the corner this name and see that it was taken at night on a Hasselblad with some slide film... now that’s the stuff I love because those photographers were hella dedicated to the craft, I’m nowhere near that level but I did study photography a lot that way. The friends that I’ve been around through skateboarding in San Diego are so good, and that helps me as a photographer so much by having good subjects to photograph.
You talked about photography's tangibility aspect and how it brings other people together -- we love this! May you share with us your shooting process more when photographing them on-site? May we know what your friends' and peers' reactions are when they see your photographs?
The tangibility is my favorite part of the process, I print a lot, I have a setup at home where I digitally print my analogue photos, I don’t have darkroom access at the moment but I’m working on an ongoing project of skateboarding in black-and-white, specifically to print in the darkroom while photographing the session. I don’t just photograph the trick but I kind of try making the day a whole story through the photographs -- by maybe taking photos of the spot with no one skating it then warming up stretching then the trick itself and when it landed everyone celebrating with having the ability to print as soon as processing is complete I can surprise my friends with printed photographs.
And if you think your friends and or clients like it when you show them digital files, you should see their eyes when you give them a print of their photos that they can have and hold. It’s a whole new world and gives me great joy. Because, realistically, how often do you get gifted a photo that has been printed rather than just tagged on Instagram!
We are loving the subtle yet expressive, candid style of your documentary street shots, some even captured with Lomography films -- to you, what element matters the most when taking a photograph in line with the work you do?
Thank you! Yeah as you can tell I love Lomography films, 90% of my work is with Lomography's Earl Grey B&W 100, haha! As far as the candid style, I adopted that from San Diego, there’s a big street photography crew here and I learned how to wait for things to come into the frame and look for things that may happen with movements, definitely run-and-gun type vibes, super candid.
I look for filling in frames mostly, and I’m a big fan of finding funny things in everyday life. My biggest thing is just documenting, I want a huge body of work that I can go back to as memories that I myself have LIVED. Photos that I can then show my grandkids and be like, "yeah sonny, things ain’t like they used to be!"
Black and white really do fit in the kind of work you do! May we know why you love our Earl Grey B&W film so much?
Earl Grey is my favorite film... it has great contrast and a beautiful variety of shades of grey! I love contrast and low-speed films, I shoot primarily in the daytime, so 100 never fails me, and even using this film with flash, the results are fire, I really love the shadows on this film. It shines in when long shadows are around in mid daytime. I've used it for everything -- from shooting street to skating to portraits to high-end vehicles. Being a 100-speed film, I do like opening my aperture up on my lenses and shooting with a nice depth of field even throwing ND’s on to shoot wide open in the blazing sun.
It's inevitable to take a lot of action photographs with your theme -- how do you get the perfect timing for a certain movement or skateboarding trick?
This one is easy -- being a skateboarder myself, I know when I’d pop for a trick, so it makes timing out photographs for other people way easier, so I just think of it as I was the one on the board. If I wasn’t a skateboarder I’d say it's similar to street photography as in you kind of look ahead and wait for a shot to line up the way you’d want to see it in a magazine or something. The sucky thing is it doesn’t always work out, I shoot a rangefinder so sometimes I have the subject stand next to where I’m going to be taking the photo and then I frame generally where I want it and then have them do the trick and hope for the best lol! I guess I just get lucky sometimes.
What's your favorite subject to take pictures of?
I like taking photos of my friends. All my friends do cool stuff and watching them grow and evolve is amazing to document through music, skateboarding, art, clothing, whatever it may be. You never know where paths will take a person down the road so capturing the now is definitely what I love. I have been huge on environmental portraits as of lately.
What inspires you with your photography?
I get inspiration from everything, I don’t have a specific one thing I take photos of so that helps keep my mind out of a rut -- so when I’m over skate photos for the day, I’ll go shoot some street and then when I’m over that I’m like, "hey does anyone want to do a creative shoot for a music cover", having an artistic friend helps keep the inspiration alive. Also YouTube. It may sound corny but I’m on YouTube every day either learning or just seeing what other film photographers are up to these days. Most of the time it's not relevant to what I’m shooting but it just keeps the mind working.
What's next for Zairre Wright?
Who knows what’s next for me. I’m just going to keep documenting and seeing what comes to life from my photography. I don’t do photography professionally, this is a hobby for me. I’ve been very fortunate with the things photography has brought to me this year and have a lot of things that are in the works so just check back in down the road and see what I’ve been up to.