Tom is a skateboarder, photographer and editor of Varial Magazine.
"I don’t know why visual arts have such a great tie with skateboarding – I mean, many have commented on the natural creativity that comes with skateboarding; creativity in terms of movement, style and adaptability. Skateboarding is at times as intricate and elegant as any form of dance, yet also incredibly raw, in your face and…exciting. So maybe that’s what attracts creative minds to want to start skateboarding, or maybe skateboarding brings out the creativity in people who might not have thought themselves a “creative type.” Probably a bit of both. Recently I've seen kids drawing on their griptape with paint pens, and even such a small thing, that could just be considered doodling, is opening the doors to a whole culture based around creativity.
I can’t say why I was drawn to skateboarding, as I never saw any skateboarding in the area I grew up – until a friend got a board and we pretty much discovered skateboarding ourselves out on our local curbs. I know why I was drawn to photography though, and the answer is simply skateboarding. Would I have wanted to document something as typical as football or any other activity I could have just as easily ended up doing as a kid? I doubt it. And of course I did what any other kid with a camera did – I bought a copy of Sidewalk or Document (RIP) and had my mind blown and opened up to the possibilities of skateboarding and photography. This was in the early days of the internet when magazines were still the more powerful medium – a position they proudly held since the 70s, when publications such as Skateboarder single-handedly showed us all the world skateboarding.
Before the internet, video tapes and before skateboarding was on TV, magazines were the only way to see the documentation of skateboarding. That’s how skaters in New York could see what new tricks had just been invented in California, or how British kids would see what new product innovations were changing skateboarding over in America. In today’s world, magazines have to compete with the instant mediums of the web and mobile apps, but they are still holding their game and proving that photography wants to be seen on paper, rather than instantly forgotten a digital click away. Despite the loss of Sidewalk in print this year, we've gained Free and Solo skate mags that are keeping skateboarding’s visual culture the way it’s always been.
The No Comply Network is a great initiative – I think the common link skateboarders have is still quite a special thing, so knowing some artwork or photography comes from a skateboarder’s creative mind makes me want to check it out more, even if it’s not expressly about skateboarding. Collaboration is a great thing to achieve as well, and I don’t just mean the “collaboration” of two brands sticking their logos on each other’s products.
When putting together Varial Magazine, I’m always on the lookout for new photographers documenting this region’s skateboarding - so I can share their work and see it alongside those who are shooting the same people and places.
From making Varial I recently met filmmaker, Charlie Delaney, who produced a short film about the magazine last year. I know nothing about video, so it was really interesting to see how Charlie looks at a situation differently from a photographer, and to see the way he can document our scene and also present an insight into the magazine that wouldn’t be as effective in a different medium. It’ll also be great to have a platform for artists to connect with companies, distributors, galleries and get their work out there."