How UK skateboarding tradition flourished

As skateboarding reaches new levels of attention around the world, we look at the evolution of the symbiotic relationship between skate culture and visual media

If a tree falls over in a forest, and no-one is there to hear it, does it make a sound? It’s a philosophical question with endless applications, among them in skateboarding: if a trick wasn’t recorded, did it even happen?

Several decades ago, the rising popularity of skateboarding overlapped with the burgeoning access to technologies that could capture it, from 35mm cameras to Super 8 film cameras. They gave way to the visual documentation of an exciting sport still in its nascency (later captured with camcorders, fisheye lenses and of course, the iPhone), while the proliferation of self-publishing birthed a wave of DIY zines made by, and for, the community.

“It’s been documented from day one to show what we’re doing and it’s different – it’s not what you’re expected to do on a set of stairs or a handrail,” says British skateboarder Helena Long, who worked alongside lead curator Tory Turk as consultant curator for an exhibition at London’s Somerset House titled No Comply: Skate Culture and Community. “You almost get obsessed with it if you’re into it and you want to keep a record of it, so I think that’s where the connection with the visual arts and culture side of skateboarding really overlaps.”

Top: Hackney Bumps, London 2020 © Jørn Tomter. Above: Rom skatepark, 1980 © Iain Borden

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