A History (Part 1?)

At what point did photography really strike a chord with me? The most reasonable and likely accurate point in time would have been in high school—so mid to late nineties. I had stopped playing team sports by this time. Eighth grade middle school was my last year playing soccer, the last of the common trifecta of sports played in my school district at that time (the other two being basketball and baseball). I didn’t have much self-esteem going into high school and was anxious over meeting all the new kids. After hearing through the grapevine that in order to qualify for the soccer team one had to run a six minute mile, I knew I wouldn’t make the cut. Or thought I knew I wouldn’t. At any rate, I didn’t even bother trying out for the team, and so a vacuum came to be in my life. Obviously I needed to fill that vacuum with something. Something other than more Nintendo and climbing the same tree in my backyard (also, getting older and kind of tire of climbing the same tree for years at this point).

Growing up in my old neighborhood, a very unique neighborhood I think for such a suburban place—one which is heavily wooded, where so many of the trees tower high, high, and higher over each and every house, and also one in which so many of the homes are architecturally unique, each distinct to its own set of blueprints. In this neighborhood, in the backyard of a corner-house fenced in by pine trees was a mini-ramp, and one day, and for some reason one day only to my recollection, I saw two kids older than I (probably high-schoolers, as I was probably only eleven or twelve) on BMX bikes riding it—dropping in one end, airing out the other. I watched for a short while a little bit in awe before moseying along to wherever it was I was moseying to (probably my best friend’s house just down the road). There was also one other house elsewhere in the neighborhood with a much larger vert ramp on its property, and I have a faint memory of having seen some kids on bikes and skateboards riding that as well. My memories of both these ramps are rather vague and nebulous, unclear, like trying to recall a dream, but they both without doubt laid a seed within me, which at the appropriate time with the appropriate inputs was to grow. It was at this time, leaving middle school, the summer before entering high school, knowing that I wouldn’t be playing any sports, nor taking part in the school marching band (I was vehemently opposed to wearing that silly uniform), that BMX presented itself to me as a way of filling that void of activity while at the same time, and this didn’t register then and I don’t think it registered until years later when I was to stop riding, providing a creative outlet that I never knew that I wanted, at least conciously, so in effect killing two birds with one stone.

So I started riding BMX. Alone to start—how so much of what I do is done—but later on making friends and meeting up and going out together. It began in ninth grade with a GT Performer: chrome plated, mag wheels, and pegs that threaded onto your axles bending them after a few sessions of grinding ledges and curbs. I moved on from there to racing (for two whole weeks) and had a bike (chrome plated) purpose built for this, later to be stolen from my backyard and replaced (yay insurance!) with an S&M Dirt Bike (a classic of the 90’s, and again chrome plated (chrome plated everything was pretty much the tits in the mid 90’s)). It was around this time that I really began to feel like I found a solid group of friends, people who respected me and with whom I could be myself around, a community of outcasts and misfits like myself (even if all of them were not).

Of course with any small, marginalized, and unpopular community of black sheep, mavericks, and misfits such as ourselves, there are people documenting it, whether that be in writing or in photography, but all these people (speaking of the greater community of riders, not our own tiny, local crew) need a platform on which their creative jams and juices may be spread, and of course the less creative of those in said community also need something, some sort of publication, to galvanize them, for them to rally around. Enter magazines—BMX Plus, then later Ride BMX, and Dig—all filled with news, contest recaps, interviews, scene reports, and lastly and perhaps most importantly, photographs.

I don’t ever remember thinking that some day I could be a professional bike rider, though I’m sure it was every kids dream to be one, but I could see myself being on the other side of that camera taking pictures of these dudes getting rad at the trails or on the street. Yet I never picked up a camera when I rode BMX, and when I stopped riding and did purchase a camera for the first time I never thought to go back to document something that was nothing less than a way of life for me at the time. There were, to be sure, practical reasons for this: many of my friends who I once rode with went away to college, still others put down their bikes as I did mine (the group seemingly dissolving in one singular event rather than breaking apart in some sort of chain reaction of various linked events). So who exactly was I to photograph with at this point? I guess in actuality it all really makes sense. The dissolution of the group.

Well, I think this is a fair start to explaining my humble beginnings (as I humbly still bumble along). Perhaps I’ll continue in another post. A follow up to this, digging deeper into the origins of my fascination with the camera and photography. The seed was planted but it still had yet to germinate, to sprout, and to grow.

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