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An Interview with BMX Photographer Fat Tony

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The nickname “Fat Tony” began as a tongue-in-cheek misnomer that has stuck for the man born Adam Christopher Taylor. Now a seasoned world traveler, Fat Tony sports an athletic build from years of riding that defies his moniker, and has respectfully created a name as one of the biggest BMX photographers in the world.

Since a very early age, Fat has admittedly had a fascination with art, photography and BMX riding, but it wasn’t until he photographed and wrote a piece for Ride UK Magazine about renowned rider Terry Adams that he began to transition from riding to framing shots, eventually landing him his dream job as an online editor for Transworld’s Ride BMX Magazine, allowing him to make a living doing what he loved while filling a void he felt existed in the BMX community. Ultimately, he started his own label, Fat Tony Enterprise, for which he shoots video, writes and photographs BMX riders and live events for networks such as ESPN and Alli Sports. Fat Tony also produces videos as the team manager for Freegun Underwear.

Fat puts his Built to Perform prized possession, a BMX bike, to the test and proves that sustainability is about setting goals and aiming high.

How did you first get into BMX riding and what were some of your best memories from that time? What inspired you to get behind the lens?

I first got into BMX after watching the 1980s cult classic movie Rad, staring Bill Allen. I was probably in first grade or so. I was instantly hooked from the opening scene where guys were hopping around doing early flatland tricks.

Right after I saw the movie Rad, I had my Dad set up these red metal ramps that he used to change the oil in his car with and I used them as part of my makeshift BMX track. It was so innocent and pure.

In fifth grade, I took a family vacation to New York City, and that’s where I fell in love with photography for the first time. I distinctly remember standing at the base of the Statue of Liberty with my Mom’s point and shoot camera and being mesmerized by being able to capture images of the statue and the surrounding NYC skyline across the bay.

How did you achieve your dream goal of working for Ride BMX and what did you enjoy most about working for Ride?

That’s a long story, but in short…I set a goal and worked towards it. Along the way, I traveled a lot and “networked” in the BMX industry.

The best part about working for Ride was that I got a feeling that I was doing something important for what I loved. I maintained and updated a Web site that saw more than 250,000 people each month that all loved BMX too—at the time it was the biggest and most popular BMX site in the world, and I was the single person keeping it running. I really feel like I did a service to the BMX community and industry with the work I did for the Ride site. Whether it was covering an event with my photos, videos and writing, doing interviews with pro riders, or just posting other people’s videos to help them get their stuff out there—I felt like what I did mattered to people who cared about BMX. I felt like I was giving back to BMX, and that was awesome.

How did you first launch Fat Tony Enterprise and what are some standout shoots that you’ve worked on?

Fat Tony Enterprise is pretty much just a business name I had to give myself.

Basically, it’s just the umbrella where I do what I do. Most of my work these days is BMX video production for online outlets like Alli Sports and ESPN. The other big part of my income or work these days is BMX photography. I’m also the BMX team manager and act as a consultant for Freegun Underwear. Another small part of what I do under my “company” is announce live BMX events and do correspondence work on TV for BMX events.

When I first graduated high school, I was still trying to start to make a name for myself in the BMX industry. I shot photos for and conducted an interview with a guy who later became my best friend, Terry Adams. The piece was printed in Ride UK Magazine, and all the photos were unlike anything the BMX world had seen. I shot with Terry for 10 days all around Southern Louisiana, and over the course of those days, we shot photos in a cemetery, on rooftops, in the swamp. I feel like that interview and those photos were part of my break out, I guess you could say. It got me noticed for my work and it helped build a lasting friendship with someone I’m really close to now.

What advice would you give to someone who wanted to get into freelancing as a photographer/videographer?

Plain and simple—hustle hard! In BMX, there’s pretty much no way to make it as a photographer if you don’t ride yourself. Without being a part of that community and without living that lifestyle, you simply can’t fully grasp what you need to do in order to be authentic and successful. On the technical side of things, I’d say to deliver faster than your clients expect and give them more than they asked for.

What are your must-have tools for when you go on a shoot and what do you usually look for when you’re trying to frame a shot?

Since I have to travel so often and with so much stuff, I have to keep my gear to a minimum pretty much. I don’t have a bunch of crazy studio equipment or anything for my photo shoots. Everything I shoot with has to be able to go with me anywhere, whether that be on a plane, in a car, on foot, or on my bike. So my must-have tools for a photos shoot are my main camera body, three lenses, three flashes and the tripods or light stands to hold the flashes.

When I’m framing up a BMX action shot, it’s always important to give the viewer all the information they need to understand what’s going on. You need to see where the rider is coming from and going to. So if they are jumping from one obstacle or object to another, you need to see what they are taking off from and where they are landing. Sometimes, I look for the creative angles or unique approaches, but my style is typically pretty straightforward.

Your Built to Perform possession is a BMX bike. What kind is it? Where were you when you first bought it and how long have you had it for? Why is it your Built to Perform possession?

Most of the parts (including the frame, forks and bars) are from a company out of Spain called Fly Bikes. Fly puts a lot of thought into the aesthetics of their designs, which I love. All the angles, curves, and details are really smooth and cool looking. My bike doesn’t have brakes or pegs, so it looks and feels really simple, which I really like.

It’s my Built to Perform possession because it is the catalyst for my entire life. I don’t have a lot of hobbies outside of riding BMX, so this is my “work” and my “play” wrapped into one.

In one sentence, tell us why you couldn’t live without your Built to Perform possession.

It’s too hard to put into one sentence! Haha. I’ll try. I couldn’t live without my bike because BMX IS my life—without BMX, I don’t know what my life would consist of. I couldn’t live without my bike because BMX riding is my mental escape, my physical release, my exercise, my hobby, my passion and so much more.

 

An Interview with BMX Photographer Fat Tony

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