Mike Blabac is a photographer who has documented some of the most iconic moments in skateboarding and we had the opportunity to ask him about a few of our favorite photos of his.
Can you tell us a little about Scott?
Scott was one of the first people I shot in SF, and he was instrumental in my career. Everything about Scott is very particular. Whether he was meticulously folding his clothes or he was filming a trick, he would make sure he was doing it as perfect as he could. Which is why his style is still looked at this many years later and admired. I love when parts of people’s personalities come out in their skating, and Scott is a perfect example of that. He's clean and meticulous is every aspect of his life.
This back smith, even though he is completely out of focus, you can immediately recognize who it is. I love that about skateboarding, you can see a silhouette and know exactly who it is. After shooting photos in the city for two years, I finally saved up enough money for a 80-200mm F/2.8 lens, and this is one of the first photos I shot with it. I just wanted to see how shallow I could go with the focus. That is literally why shot this photo, just excited to use it and nerding out. Scott wasn’t into it. “Dude, why are you taking a photo of a backside smith!?”, I was just like "Dude, don’t worry about it, I am fucking around, this is going to be cool". We both ended up being stoked (laughs). This ended up being in a TWS photo annual.
Can we talk about this photo of Guy? What was this for?
This was for a Warp Magazine cover. We shot this and found out Dill had a Workshop ad doing the same thing coming out around the same time. I remember Dill being like “If Guy is shooting the same thing as me, I don’t give a shit dude”. I don’t think there was every footage of Guy’s trick.
At this time, did you understand the impact these guys were making on the culture?
When I started working for Girl, it actually dawned on me how special what I was documenting was. I wasn’t totally unaware before, but when you’re a kid with your friends it doesn’t hit you quite the same way. I mean dude, I watched Video Days until that shit didn’t work anymore, you know? Guy’s part was my favorite by far, so I was fucking stoked to have the opportunity to shoot photos of him.
Around this time I was shooting with Guy or Eric (Koston) every day. I would literally go to Eric’s house and sit on his porch till he got up and ready to skate, because I knew Eric skated every single day and would always have something to shoot. We all lived in this one mile radius. It was insane how many people lived in that vicinity. Just in that area it was me, Kelly Bird, AVE, Dyrdek, Stevie, (Mike) Carroll, Tony Ferguson, Chico (Brenes), Dimity (Elyashkevich), Huf, Scott, Clyde Singleton, and I am probably forgetting someone. It was amazing.
Did you guys go up to SF to shoot this specifically?
We were on our way to Vancouver for the Slam City contest and stopped on the way. Eric was never one to call shit out, he isn’t cocky like that, but he bought the trick up and Meza kept teasing him about it, “Can’t wait 'till you film your trick at Hubba!”, shit like that.
I haven’t seen Hubba shot like this, it seems bold to shoot the spot in a new angle like that for such a gnarly trick.
The thing is, I was not thinking about it. I think Karl (Watson) and I were in the bushes smoking a blunt (laughs). I had a 135mm lens and there were tons of people there, so I just squeezed in and shot it from dead center to try to get them out. I had only hoped that his body would look so twisted up like this. His foot just barely touching the board, I was so hyped when I saw it for the first time.
This scan is the entire frame of the film. Back then you just kinda had to say "Fuck it" and trust yourself. Nowadays it is easier to be safer, people are like "I have a 400 megapixel camera and I am shooting in 8k, so I can frame it like and crop it in half". That just did not exist, you framed it how it needed to look. Looking back, I probably would have been safer and at least zoomed out a bit. Look how close his hand is to the frame!
It would get really dark at Hubba, this is over developed to counter how dark it was. Recently a guy got a massive print of it, and seeing a it like that, the grain looks nuts, it looks like a painting.
One of the dudes that wrote ‘Big Fat Hairy Cock’ on Hubba (see photo) hit me up on Facebook a few years ago and broke down the whole story. They were a bunch of dudes from Sacramento, all homies. Chris, Ryan, Trevor and Marc were the dudes in their crew who couldn’t come to SF and skate with them, so they wrote that they all suck big fat hairy cocks on the front of the ledge.
Do you have a favorite photo you have shot of Josh Kalis?
If I had to choose, maybe the 360 flip over the can. It has really stood the test of time. How he did it, who he is, in his fucking sweats dude! (laughs) Just everything about it. Someone had already shot a photo of it, but it was shot from the front and it just wasn’t…I don’t want to take anyone out, but it gave it zero justice. You have to show that gap. This was color negative black and white film, and the reason we shot it that way was so we could go to the one hour photo at Wallgreens across the street and get the film processed. I remember looking at it at Love and just being like "Okay we got it, we're good". The kid in the photo was in Philly this year for Go Skate Day. I unfortunately didn’t meet him, but am hyped to hear he was around.
Tell us about starting to shoot for DC.
They basically immediately sent me out East. They told me Kalis was getting a shoe, and I’d be spending a lot of time in Philly. I most certainly did. Those summers - 99, 2000, 2001 I spent almost all summer in Philly. At the time I think took it for granted. “The park will always be here, I'll always be shooting with Kalis and Stevie". I would sleep on their couch, then skate to Love, and kick it every single day. Eat cheesesteaks and literally just hang out at the park. If I didn’t shoot anything that day, I would go to either one of them and just be like "Okay guys, I'm here for a reason. Let’s shoot something, anything". That’s how the switch front nose happened (see above). It was the end of the day, it was kind of getting late, and I was like “Hey dude, can I shoot something?” Stevie was just like, “I’ve got switch front nose - is that cool?”. I was just like “Fuck yeah, absolutely.”. We cleared off everyone - because that’s where we would kick it, on that particular ledge. We set up a couple flashes and he did it a few times. I remember processing the film and just being like “Holy shit, he really did that!”. A lot of what they did (at Love) were lines, but I’d just kind of plead with them to shoot stills, and this was one instance of that.
You can pick up a print of your own from his online shop.