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- Interview, film, edit and illustrations by Phil Evans
Originality does not come from thin air, and there are also some less obvious elements that can define a skater as original. These can come down to attitude, steez, spot selection or any number of choices.
Jerome does not do any tricks that have yet to be invented, but he seems to approach his skating with a subtle and stylish originality that gets me stoked. Whilst filming for this project there were a few instances in which we were on our way to spots and Jerome spotted something hidden from an obvious gaze and applied something fresh and steezy to it, in fact he seemed to skate better the less forced things were. His inspiration would peak when he could find a new approach to an old spot, or at places you wouldn't think of skating on the way to a "real" spot. Seeing things where others don't is a fundamental skill of a good photographer, so I would like to think that both of Mr. Campbell's chosen passions are mutually supportive. A good skater who shoots interesting photos and a good photographer who sees skating a little differently.
I had a wealth of ideas going into this project, many were tested and many failed but that's all part of trying something new. I wanted to try translate Jerome's style to film the way my own naked eyes were witnessing it, so I chose to shoot without a fisheye which proved challenging seeing as I couldn't push when trying to keep the camera steady, it was not something Jerome was used to either but we managed to work through it. I also wanted to mix up the video and film formats to show some additional context that I hoped would bring more abstract elements to the piece, so super 8 was added along with some spliced illustrations and a cross-section of Jerome's photography in the hope that someone might want to watch this more than once, and hopefully feel inspired to skate or shoot, or at least try something different!
For me some of the most interesting skaters seem to have a little more going on when you scratch below the surface, so I did just that and fired a few questions to Jerome to learn a little more about his photography:
How long have you been shooting photos?
I've been shooting photos for about 10 years now.
Did you study photography formally?
I studied photography at Chesterfield college and also a few years later at Leeds college of art.
Do you prefer shooting digital or analogue? Have you shot with both and if so what do you enjoy about each process?
In all honesty I enjoy both, however I truly have a massive appreciation for an analogue image. For me its all about the process, I love the everything about it. A lot of people tend to be put off by the lengthy process of film photography but in my eyes that's what makes it so brilliant, I don't see the time it takes to get from subject to printed image a hindrance what so ever in fact I see is as the complete opposite. The feeling of shooting on film is also massively different to shooting digitally, mainly because you have to aim to get as much right before you press the shutter as possible. I understand the lure of digital photography and have no issues with it what so ever, it all depends on your subject matter (and costs). There are things that just don't work if they were shot on film and vice versa.
What camera do you shoot on now?
Currently I shoot with a Fuji X100s and Contax T2 both are super small compact cameras, I really cant deal with the big bulky interchangeable lens cameras like the d700 and the 5d. The smaller the equipment the more free I feel to shoot photos. I like to blend in and feel relatively inconspicuous when I'm photographing, I really like images that appear to be spontaneous and natural so having a huge camera just doesn't work. I really like being in the mix, if the subject is far away it pushes me to get closer.
Why did you sell your Leica?
I sold it because I wasn't using it half as much as I wanted to, I didn't like the idea of it being sat in the shelf like an ornament, it just didn't seem right. Plus at the time I was living in London and didn't have much cash, I'm at a stage where I would truly love to buy one again, I'm constantly trying to find cheaper cameras that replicate the feeling of shooting with a Leica but in all honesty nothing comes close.
You shoot in black and white a lot instead of shooting colour then converting in post, why is that?
Its strange I tend to do it in waves, sometimes I will only shoot in black and white and sometimes only in colour. To be honest it has a lot to do with subject matter, it also depends on what it is I want to do with the images. If I'm doing something for someone else I tend to shoot in colour as it gives me a choice later on to convert it, but if I'm shooting for myself I tend to shoot black and white, I'm not 100% sure why, I seem to find colour a little distracting and feel it often takes over the actual subject matter. I do like both though they each have their perks.
You are also shooting a lot from the hip lately, why?
I do sometimes shoot from the hip, I just like the outcome - it also means you can get really close to your subject matter and not influence the situation in any way. I also find that on occasion when I do look thought the view finder I spend time trying to line things up, there's nothing wrong with that but again for something subjects and certain situations that just doesn't work.
Do you have a particularly favourite subject matter?
People and spaces, I love watching and photographing people interacting with their environment.
You are a professional skateboarder which affords you a lot of travel. Do your responsibilities to skate influence your photography when you travel - i.e. You only get the chance to shoot photos when you can't skate or the weather is bad?
Sometimes that does happen, it can be really difficult to shoot photographs on a trip just because your constantly moving around a city, when I shoot photos I like to have time to investigate and explore. I do try to sneak off every now and then to shoot photographs but again it can be tough as I'll know I don't have too long before we roll off to another spot. There's always time when the weathers bad and thing like that, it can just be a little frustrating at times.
Where have you been recently that you've been shooting?
I just got back from an amazing trip to NY, I spent a lot of mornings shooting over there, which was banging. I would leave the house around 8.30 for the first few days because of the jet lag and just roam around till mid day then go out and skate.
What are you trying to say with your photos? Are they strictly documentary? Do you try to create a travel log with your photos?
I just want to record the brilliant people and amazing places that I'm fortunate enough to come across, I want to create images that exist as prints too, I love having a tangible print, there's absolutely nothing wrong with shooting images and posting them on blogs and what not, but I really love having something to hold. A print becomes more than a photograph when its real, it develops a special feeling of something more valuable, I don't mean in a monetary way but in a memorable one.
What do you hope to achieve with your photography?
In all honesty I'm not too sure, I just want to keep doing what I'm doing perhaps put more prints and zines out there for others to have a look at and hopefully be stoked on.
- Words and interview by Phil Evans
For more photos, check out Jerome's website and blog!
(Phil Evans / Bastian Loewen)