Aaron McMullen has been shooting skateboard photographs for as far back as I can remember. He started long before the digital explosion, when each shot counted. Combining the fickle nature of photography and the time and cost of developing each roll, getting the timing, exposure and framing right was a considerably more difficult process of experimentation than it is for somebody starting out today.
Making the process even more difficult is the fact that taking a good skateboarding photograph depends as much upon the photographer as the skateboarder. It requires a hefty amount of motivation on the part of both the skater and the photographer — and a bit of luck — that the shutter captures a successful move attempt at the right moment.
Take, for example, performing a flip trick down a set of stairs: If the photograph is snapped just a few milliseconds too early, it might not communicate what trick is being performed, let alone the skater’s individual style. If a photo is snapped too late, it shows an awkward moment of free fall.
A collection of Aaron McMullen’s best skate photographs through the past decade is on display at In4mation’s China-town shop on Nuuanu and Pauahi. The collection, Eye of the Beholder, showcases a broad cast of local skateboarding stars at some of the most exciting points of their careers.
As far as skate photography goes, some artists take a more matter-of-fact approach, clearly articulating the trick, as well as details of the runway and landing, to document the difficulty of the feat performed. Another approach is a more edgy, close-up portraiture style that shows less of the peripheral details and focuses on the emotion and exertion of the skater in the crux of their movement.
Aaron’s approach is softer and more artistic, using lines in the architecture and flow in the framing to compose images that sometimes take on a psychedelic undertone, where the skateboarders’ actions become abstract movement through urban landscapes made fantastical by clever framing that leave even seasoned skateboarders sometimes mystified with how the actions were possible.
Delving deeper into the psychedelic world of art was Moon Collective’s Unseen Unknown gallery show in collaboration with Hound & Quail. The event featured local and mainland artists with a theme of folklore, mythological creatures and monsters. The show featured sculpture, like a pair of dodo birds encased in glass, digital prints, and abstract works, like a minimalist series of chairs, skate ramps and household furniture with unpredictable stray lines that seemed to almost be artifacts from remembering a room within a dream.