Paying homage to the legends on both sides of the camera, we’ve rounded up 10 of the most influential skateboard photographers of all time; from the now-iconic pioneers who documented the sport’s first steps all the way up to the “fly on the wall” who captured and spread the culture and lifestyle we associate with skateboarding today. Many of them still fill spreads in popular magazines but it’s not too early to say they’ve influenced generations of artists and sculpted careers from a sport which was once, and occasionally still is, deemed antisocial and counter-culture.
With so many talented skate photographers out there, rounding up a top 10 isn’t easy. However, we’ve taken it upon ourselves to do just that so peep our selection below (in no particular order) and catch up on the 10 independent skateboard brands you should know.
1. Craig Stecyk
California native Craig Stecyk is widely considered one of the great pioneers of skateboard photography through documenting Dogtown’s notorious Z-Boys with a raw and original perspective. His photographs and stories of the crew appeared in Skateboarder Magazine throughout the ’70s and inspired an entire generation, bringing skate culture to the public while changing the face of skateboarding forever.
2. Atiba Jefferson
Regarded as one of the world’s top modern skate photographers, Atiba Jefferson has photographed some of the most influential names in skateboarding and shot for huge brands such as Nike and adidas among others, making a name for himself as one of the pivotal photographers in the LA skate scene. Jefferson broke off from his position as staff photographer at Transworld Skateboarding (TWS) along with several other journalists and together they started The Skateboard Mag, where his signature vivid lighting styles and awe-inspiring images can be found.
3. J.Grant Brittain
Brittain began shooting photos in 1979 after he started working at the famous Del Mar Skate Ranch. Borrowing his roommate’s camera, he would document the park’s local skaters and visiting pros. Over the years, he gained notoriety, leading him to contribute photographs to the premier issue of TWS in 1983. Soon after, he became photo editor and senior photographer for the Carlsbad-based magazine, creating some of the world’s most iconic skate photographs and helping to shape the magazine into the internationally renowned monthly it is today.
4. Bryce Kanights
Having spent some 43 years living in San Francisco, photographer Bryce Kanights has become one of the most prominent figures in the documentation of the SF skate scene. While working at Thrasher in the ’80s, Kanights starred in the cult classic video Sick Boys, at which point he became increasingly more interested in photography and began making the transition from sponsored skater to photographer.
He has since captured several generations and eras of skateboarding, shot some of the most iconic Thrasher covers and there’s no doubt that he’s influenced many to pick up both a skateboard and camera.
5. Mike Blabac
Born in Ohio in 1973 and growing up in Lansing, Michigan, Mike Blabac is responsible for some of the most memorable photos in skateboarding – like this photo of Danny Way jumping the Great Wall of China.
Blabac first became interested in photography after buying an old Nikon at a swap meet and began shooting his friends skating. A metaphor for his ongoing success, an image from the first roll of film he shot ran as a full page advert in Transworld Magazine. Using this as a starting point, he’s since gone on to travel the world as staff photographer for Girl, Chocolate and Director of Photography for DC Shoes.
6. Tobin Yelland
Tobin Yelland’s career as a photographer began after having one of his photographs published in Thrasher Magazine at the ripe age of 15. By the age of 16 he had shot his first advert for Venture Trucks. Tobin has since become a well respected artist, not so much for his action shots, but due to his candid behind-the-scenes images of influential skaters and his documentation of youth and subcultures. Yelland has since held numerous exhibitions worldwide and was co-producer and cinematographer for Aaron Rose’s 2008 documentary Beautiful Losers.
7. Mike O’Meally
Having been heavily involved in the photography industry for over 20 years, Australian photographer Mike O’Meally has gained huge recognition in both the skate and art worlds. Like many others, Mike began by shooting skate photos of his friends and soon started capturing Australia’s top skaters and editing for magazines. Now based in LA, Mike is senior photographer of Transworld and has been published in countless magazines. If you’ve ever picked up a skate mag, chances are you’ve seen at least one of Mike’s iconic images.
8. Ed Templeton
Ed Templeton’s extensive career within skateboarding is no secret. Since he officially turned pro in 1990 with New Deal Skateboards, he has influenced many through his skating, photography and art, and played a big role in the Californian skate scene.
Templeton’s earlier photography is possibly the most influential of his work. He would shoot fellow team members and pros on tour and at home, giving the viewer an inside look into the lifestyle of him and his friends that was otherwise unseen, and often pushing beyond skateboarding to document other similar groups of people and alternative lifestyles.
9. Skin Phillips
After spending decades documenting skateboarding, the South Wales-born photographer has built up an extensive body of work and shot some of the biggest talents in skateboarding. Shooting mostly in classic black and white, Skin has inspired and influenced both skaters and photographers through his candid style and often whimsical photographs. Being well know for his photos of friend and pro skater Mark Gonzales, Phillips’s work was recently featured in the highly anticipated “15 Years of Gonz and adidas” photo exhibition.
10. Giovanni Reda
Hailing from New York City, Giovanni’s career as a photographer took off in 1995 when he would take the subway from Brooklyn everyday to shoot photos of his friends skating around the city, quickly becoming one of the predominant photographers of the ’90s skate scene. In 1996, he became senior photographer at TWS, in addition to shooting for major skate publications. He is now one of the most sought-after skate photographers still working, producing his brilliant signature studio portraits of skateboarders and celebrities.
Ed Phillips for Highsnobiety.com