Frank Vena - Statement
Frank Vena | Statement
"Before I was a photographer I was a skater. Without skating I never would have discovered photography.
As a teen in the 1970s, SkateBoarder Magazine's powerful photos of the early pioneers of skating, guys like Stacy Peralta, Tony Alva and the Z-Boys riding drained pools and concrete culverts during the California drought, made me want to emulate them. Far from a drought, my Northern Ontario hometown was frozen half the year. Not a drained pool within a hundred miles, but I still found places to throw slides, spin 360s and work on my big trick: a hippie jump over a couple of skate buddies. One of those buddies brought a camera to one of our sessions to capture the jump and the resulting photo blew my mind! I felt like one of the Z Boys! I taped that photo to my bedroom wall amongst the pages torn from Skateboarder and bought a camera the next day. I’ve been shooting ever since.
When I started taking pictures, digital photography wasn't an option. Back then you had film and every shutter release cost you something, just like every trick does in skating. To get better you had to learn from every failure (there were plenty). These days everybody has a camera with them and photographs are ubiquitous. But skateboarding, unlike taking a snapshot with your phone, is not so easy. You can't just watch a skater do an Impossible, go buy a board and knock one off in your driveway. It takes hours, days or weeks of hard painful practice and even then you may not succeed.
The same focus and determination holds true for mastering the art of photography as it does for skating (albeit without the bloody price tag). I wanted to honour that unique set of creativity and perseverance - the art that is skating, by doing something that is equally difficult in the world of photography. So I decided to return to the beginnings of photography itself and use the early pioneering processes from the Victorian era to make these portraits unique in this digital age. Everything analogue; handmade camera - handmade prints - hand made book. Alternative photography to capture an alternative lifestyle.
Creating unique portraits that honour and celebrate the pioneering heroes of skateboarding is the best of both worlds for me. There’s a direct connection to my roots in skating and photography as well as to the history of both. It’s not an easy process but the feeling is the same as when pain and frustration led to a new skateboard maneuver back in 1970s Ontario, only now the pictures of my heroes pinned to my walls are ones that I’ve taken."