February 11, 2016

Ian Kenneth Bird has been skating for ten years. After moving to London he began to combine his love for skating with his interest in photography, capturing friends and fellow skaters on his Contax G2. His black and white images for his new East London skate series capture snapshots of activity; a black eye blossoming from a fall, a lazy glance into the lens and a jump frozen in time. We caught up with Ian about Southbank Skate Park’s place in London skate culture and the relationship between skating and photography, fashion and art.

UO: When did you first get into skating and what do you love most about skate culture?

I started skateboarding about ten years ago through my older brother and his friends. I’ve always been interested in the way it has been documented and its relationship with photography.

UO: When did you first pick up a camera?

It’s hard to pin point exactly when I started taking photos, but it wasn’t until I moved to London that I started to take it seriously.

UO: What is it about skate photography that captures your imagination?

I find that actual skate photography can be mundane; I’m mostly interested in people and the culture that surrounds skateboarding, and I think that comes across in this body of work.

UO: Can you tell us about the East London project you’re working on? What was the inspiration behind the project?

For the past year and a half I’ve been documenting boys that I’ve met skating. It was never actively confined to East London but developed that way. It wasn’t until about six months ago that I realised I’d started to build a comprehensive body of work. Since then I’ve been actively shooting it a lot more.

UO: Film or digital?

All of the work for this project has been shot on film using a Contax G2 or T2

UO: Can you tell us about your creative process, from initial idea to final piece?

The series started organically but towards the end of last year I made a list of people I actively wanted to shoot and started thinking of the project on a larger scale, I’m now in the early stages of planning an exhibition and/or a publication

UO: Who is left on your list that you’d love to capture on camera for this project?

There are a lot of people that I still need to photograph for this project. There are also many that I’d like to shoot again and will continue shooting over time. Although I’m working towards a book and/or exhibition of this work, I don’t think I will ever really stop taking these photos.

UO: What’s been the most rewarding shot or series you’ve captured and why?

One of my favourite photos from the series is the one below. I was shooting at an event in East London last summer and asked to take his picture. At the time he insisted it didn’t take long as he wanted to carry on skating. I never got his details and only managed to take one photo before he left. It wasn’t until recently that I tracked him down and got the chance to skate with him properly and shoot more photos. However the whole series has been rewarding. I’m shooting for it on a regular basis so it keeps me on my toes and provides a refreshing break from commercial work.

UO: How do you scout locations to shoot?

Although the photos are not about skateboarding itself, it does dictate where and when I shoot so there’s a lot of skateparks and street spots throughout the photos.

UO: Can you tell us your thoughts on the saving of Southbank skatepark?

Overall it’s a good thing, it is one of the UK’s most famous spots and has a permanent place in skateboarding history. Despite this, I think it is an extremely over romanticised location and feel that some change may not be the worst thing.

UO: Is it a prominent landmark in your work?

It’s not somewhere I usually skate, but I shot a series there recently after some new obstacles were brought in – this was quite an important milestone and the first time things have been added, rather than taken away, in many years.

UO: What are your thoughts on the skate culture in London right now?

Skate culture is really popular at the moment but has always had a strong relationship with photography, art and fashion, to an extent. With any subculture there are always trends and waves of interest. Currently there are a lot of people trying to bring all of these thing together which is really interesting.

UO: Where do you hope to see things progress over the next few years?

It will be interesting to see how Southbank develops in the long term as it’s certainly not saved forever. For myself, I’m excited to continue developing this body of work and see how it informs my other projects and commercial work.