Ryan Maddox: King of Photograffiti
FOR OVER 35 YEARS, the Photograffiti spread in the mag has been an effective solution of what to do with the huge variety of skate images we receive from readers. However, some professional photographers send us glossy portfolios and gallery websites, explicitly stating: “These images are NOT for use in Photografitti.” Fair enough, but it's their loss. The snobby lensmen are missing out on the stoke that those two pages can generate.
Ryan Maddox has shown a consistent talent over the years and has had 20+ images printed in Photo-G. He’s thrilled whenever his images leave the digital realm and become ink on paper in the mag. We know because he's told us. Here is a spotlight on a motivated amateur skate photographer who is in it for the love and is hereby crowned The King of Photograffiti. —Adam Creagan
Thanks for all the photo submissions, Ryan. So, what’s a brief rundown of your skate history?
I grew up in Alabama skateboarding in the '80s with my older brother, Gray. I took some time off starting in 1990, but I started playing in punk bands around '97 and kept running into skateboarding. It's almost the same shit, anyway.
How about your history with photography?
I can remember shooting on a Kodak disc when I was a kid, but I can't say I've been a photographer since then. I came across a real camera in 2012 and have been shooting constantly since.
How often do you shoot photos?
I gotta do something every day. Right now I'm finishing my new video Film 'Em All in which I painstakingly shoot two angles and a photo for almost every trick. That gets ridiculous when the skating gets gnarly. I can't expect people to do shit for me three times, but they have so far. I also have to skate every day, so I'll get the homies to shoot me with my set up too. There's just always something to do.
James Coleman, crooked grind
Jake Johnson, noseblunt slide
Diego Alvarado, fingerflip lien to tail
Is photography a deep passion for you, a fun pasttime or somewhere in between?
That's a hard question. I think I just love skateboarding. I don't just shoot photos. I'm very visual and I've got creative anxiety, so it works out to document skateboarding this way. I used to write punk zines, and started one called Chapped that became my current video series. I've starting doing rotoscope animation from my footage, and I always enjoy designing bullshit like shirts and stickers. There's something special about taking photos, though. It's that moment; it only happens once; you have to catch it. And when you nail it, that feeling is never chill.
With your photos, you seem to have a habit of getting really up close and amongst it. Describe that approach.
Action packed! I was super inspired a few years ago by Tadashi's photos and a few other VX filmers like Chris Thiessen and Colin Read. I just really like the in-your-face action when getting in there. I think about VX when I film HD fisheye too. I try and do the same thing with action while filming long lens, Bill Strobek-style: face/feet/face. It’s gold.
Do you ever get smacked by boards being that close to the action?
Caught a shinner and nearly broke my trigger finger an hour ago shooting lil' Navajo Joe in Palmer's Pool. It was only a backside grind over the cake, but shit happens when you least expect it. It's always been, "The camera is more important," but as I get older I'm, like, "Fuck that."
King Obi, frontside rock
Tyler Squints, wallride air
Jeff Pixley, frontside grind
Diego Alvarado, lien to tail
Any interesting stories that have happened while you’ve been out taking photos?
Just the regular shit I'm sure all skate photographers deal with: the promoter who asks you if you do music videos and hands you his glossy business card with something like "ghetto party pros" on it or something. The photographer who wants to know all about your gear and wants to tell you all about theirs, while your dude is throwing down on the spot. The motorcycle man who wrecks while running from the cops, gets back up on his bike and peels out while leaving a single shoe in the road. You know, just the regular shit, nothing special. But seriously the great thing about skateboarding is that it takes us all over the place. We are in the ditches, the alleys, the courtyards, the pools, the parking garages, the abandoned industrial buildings. We see things others don't. We are everywhere, and there's no avoiding the interactions we have with random people on the street. It's kind of a beautiful thing, really.
Do you have any favorite skate photos from other photographers?
My style is a product of inspiration. Definitely from a lot of folks, but mainly Friedman, Brittain, Hammeke, Tadashi, Rhino, Saari, Swift, Dowdy, and Zimmerman. I can't really name a favorite photo, there's too many, and too many awesome photographers that I didn't mention.
What are your future plans and do you have any goals with your photography?
More recent plans include driving to El Paso and picking up my buddy Diego for a filming trip across the country. I still play in punk bands and have plans to spend the month of May in Chattanooga, TN, to practice and play shows with my band Hidden Spots. Really, long term, I just wanna travel and do creative shit. But of course you know that Thrasher cover is number one on my ultimate dream list.
Any last words?
Be nice. Girls rip. Fuck Trump. Let's skate.
Dante Debose, frontside noseslide
Stefen Ambrogio, frontside air
Dillan Rodriquez, roach-wood stomp
Troy Gonzales Jr, stair carve
Diego Alvarado, frontside feeble
James Coleman, tube slappy
Little Joe, frontside rock
And here’s Ryan Maddox surfing the streets on the other side of the lens. Photo: Baucom
Check out more of Ryan’s work on Instagram: @ryanmaddox
Also scope the impressive trailer for the new CHAPPED video Film 'Em All. Premiering April 15th in Albuquerque, NM. Online premiere...somewhere? (Search for it. You’ll find it.)
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