Imagery from New York skateboarding’s most romanticized decade is finite. The city spent half of the nineties without an industry, so all the existing artifacts have been reblogged, reposted and #TBT-ed a million times — Zoo, Kids, Ari Marcopoulos’ Metropolitan ads, a couple early 411 or Transworld montages, and then it runs scarce.
What does remain is people’s private collections (e.g. you may remember the homemade SkateNYC videos that made their way online back in 2011.) High and Mel Stones are two girls who grew up alongside many of the names you’d immediately associate with that era of skateboarding in New York, touting a camera from their respective school photography programs along with them. After posting outtakes on their Instagram over the past year, they are releasing a book of personal photographs from those years to celebrate the lifelong friendships they created in that time. We asked Mel to caption some of those images. The book can be purchased on ThatsACrazyOne.com, and all proceeds will be donated to the photo department at Lincoln High School in Brighton Beach, Brooklyn.
“It’s Hamilton, Ivan and Justin skating Tompkins in the rain when they had just re-done the court. It’s the cover of the book. I love this picture because it captures the essence of street style then. Their wheels were the size of quarters, and their boards were water-logged and fucked up anyway. It wraps up how wild and playful everything was then compared to now.
Tompkins had just reopened to people. You had the riots in the eighties and you couldn’t go inside the park. I remember everyone being psyched when they first made Tompkins smooth, after they cleaned up the park and you could get in there. Everyone hung out at Washington Square, then Astor, and then my friend High, who I did the book with, had an apartment on St. Mark’s and A. Her house was a meet-up spot and that’s where everyone ended up. Nobody had cell phones, so you’d find people doing that route.”
“I didn’t really take skate photos. I had a manual camera, would shoot with fast film at night, and had no lighting. Getting a still image of a skate trick going fast was blind luck for me. The two frames before this one are blurs. What’s funny about the picture is that he’s wearing two different sneakers. It shows how unsupported skateboarding was in New York at the time. Nobody was getting flowed shoes, and there were no east coast companies. The holy grail at the time was getting a Greyhound ticket to San Francisco. This photo was taken before Zoo; Nimbus was probably the only company trying to keep a team together.”
“I shot from ’91 to to ’94 and High shot from ’94 to ’97. The book is laid out chronologically. You see a bit of a transformation with everyone and it starts off very punk rock and gets more hip-hop. Having a camera in that crew was like having a toy. No one took it seriously, and no one was watching. It was also film, so you don’t have thousands of pictures of someone like Harold, whereas now when skateboarders are under such a microscope.”
“This was at a Banks contest on a really hot day in August. These were my boys. I grew up in Sunset Park, so Ryan lived two blocks away from me. He was one of the raddest skaters of that era. I’d know skate lingo and tricks, sit and watch videos, and they tried to teach me how to pop shove it for years, but I still couldn’t land it. I basically had a skateboard so I could get around with everyone.
A small group of guys skated then, but there were no girls in skating. There was never anything to being a girl in that crew. There was no separation even though it has always been such a male sport. Harold and Justin generally just brought all types of people together, and it was very inclusive. They were so hyper-sexualized in Kids and that’s what everyone always associates them with. They were just boys, and they had sisters and mothers. That movie changed a lot of lives: it brought the industry to skateboarding in New York. These guys were cool already, but it brought a different brand of cool. After the movie, it became a bit more exclusive and only some people could only get into the club and things like that. It changed a lot of people’s directions in life. There was a glimmer that they could be rockstars, but it was a bit of a false hope.
This book was really an attempt to memorialize the friends that we lost. We wanted to show the real side of their lives and the comfort that we found in each other as a group. People forget that Kids isn’t a documentary, and it often feels like it is perceived that way.
I was protective over the images because they’re so dear to me. I didn’t want to commodify them, there had been enough of that — which is why we are donating all the money. We made it for our friends and our crew. High and I re-lived all these nights as we went through the photos and it was cathartic for us. We wanted to give something back to their memory. People have a lot of open wounds from those days, and this was our attempt at healing them.”
Purchase the book via ThatsACrazyOne.com. All proceeds go to the photography program at Lincoln High School in Brighton Beach, Brooklyn.