Video Review: Format Perspective

Review by Galen Dekemper. Galen recently went digital with Dollar Stories, his series of ‘zine-style short stories that are available at various stores throughout the city and out of his backpack. “Two Dollar Dances” is probably the most notorious of the bunch. Buy a digital dollar story today.


Most skateboard media displays mastery as representative of much larger voyages. Four visits to a spot results in one photograph. Four years of filming and one may have a video part. The mystique of the trick conquers all, again and again. Format Perspective is Philip Evans’s documentary of six European photographers. Format Perspective is less of a highlight reel and more of a touring anatomy of scenes and sessions. Carhartt-WIP produced the multimedia object, an hour long DVD bound with a 132 page photo volume.

The title Format Perspective refers to how every media device frames then exerts authority over the viewer’s gaze and vantage point. We must see through the capturer’s eye. Each photographer has a ten-minute segment filled with explanations, recommendations and recollections, then music over photo and video montage of shredding. Super-8 film means grainier footage and photographs that appear in sharp contrast with zooms and pans that further direct our gaze. We see how the photographers find their angles and the points at which a kickflip or nosegrind 180 is most visible as such.

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New Photos At Old Spots & Is There Such Thing as a Bad Photo of a Backside 180 Nosegrind?

This photo of Mike York at Pier 7 (circa 2003?) has been the wallpaper on the QS central command iMac for a long time. It is great for two reasons.

The era of The Great American Skate Spot is long gone, and we are entering a world where cities knob skateparks. Taking a photo like this will soon become close to impossible. A modern skate spot’s life span rarely affords it enough time to become so worn-in that a photo could showcase its every wrinkle.

To borrow a line from a great movie: “Politicians, ugly buildings and whores all get respectable if they last long enough.” The same could be said about skate spots. Johnny Layton might not have gotten a Skateboarder cover if he did an equal-sized ollie at a random spot in the Midwest, as opposed to one over a N.B.D. gap at the east coast’s sole remaining iconic plaza. Busenitz might’ve not had the same Transworld treatment if he backside noseblunted some curved ledge in Europe, instead of one that we have seen nearly every other trick go down on since the nineties, assuming that it was un-backside-nosebluntable. And it’d be tough to see a major magazine running a backside 180 nosegrind up a two-stair as a full-page photo if it was on a perfect marble ledge in China, and not on something that had over ten years of skateboard history eroded into its edges. Sure, older spots are convenient because they make it easier to qualify what has or has not been done, thus the larger frames of reference for the Layton and Busenitz photos, but a new photo at an old spot is treated with a certain reverence because it adds another page to the imaginary scrapbook skaters have for these places.

The other reason is based on a theory that there is no such thing as a bad photo of a backside 180 nosegrind. You can run a Google Image Search for the trick and almost all of the results, ranging from obscure European skaters to teenagers uploading raw DSL-R files of their friends to Flickr, will be good photos. Somewhere, there is probably even a great photo of Tyrone Olson doing one.

Until someone posts a bad photo of a backside 180 nosegrind in the comments and discredits this theory, a larger issue looms before us. The PWBC once famously resolved the question of whether white guys or black guys are better at fakie hardflips. We’re making a similar inquiry — Who is better at backside 180 nosegrinds, white guys or black guys? Consult the examples below.

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The Photographer Formerly Known As Jail

That gap is totally the opposite of chill.

Jail AKA Killer Kowalski AKA Zach Malfa-Kowalski has consistently been one of the best (and most active) New York-based skate photographers over the past several years. He also has a good hardflip.

Zach updated his website with a new layout and a bunch of recent work ( There are photos from the summer 2010 Quartersnacks and Nike SB project (including some shots that didn’t make it onto the site), Zach’s work on the catalog for Habitat’s strange foray into the footwear market, and a whole gallery of straightforward (mostly east coast) skate photos. Plus, there are portraits, landscapes, Corey Rubin teen heartthrob fashion shots, and all that other art school stuff. There’s also a blog on there now. Shout out to every photographer who doesn’t have a Tumblr.

Related: In case you missed it, back in November, Zach shared his archive of Jake Johnson photos from the Chapman and Mind Field years with us.