INTERVIEW: SKATE PHOTOGRAPHER CAMERON STRAND
Cameron Strand is a New York born, Los Angeles based photographer best known for shooting skateboarding. He's not your typical skate photographer though. Focusing on more than just the trick, Cameron always takes surroundings and available light into consideration when shooting which separates him from the rest. He views his camera as an extension of his creativity rather than a neat tool.
We got the chance to get to know him one afternoon and pick his brain over some good ol' fashioned internet chatting.
So, are you currently based in the west coast?
I am. Right now I live in Echo Park in Los Angeles.
It's fairly early there right now, how's your morning going?
My morning has been pretty uneventful so far. I basically got out of bed and sat down at my desk to figure out what my Skype name was so we could do this interview. haha
Alright, I'm gonna go ahead and ask the most obvious but important question. Do you remember how you first got into photography?
Yeah definitely. There was a point back in 2005 when I wanted to still be involved and hang out with my friends that skated but I didn’t want to film tricks and make video parts. I’ve always tried to do creative things growing up and had never tried photography. I knew my dad had an old camera (Canon Ft-b) so I asked him to show me how to use it and that was that.
Skateboarding came first then?
Yeah.. I’ve been around skating through my brother since I was maybe 4.
I think it's great that you started out with a film camera. Do you think it gave you a different kind of outlook on photography?
Completely. I attribute my emphasis to composition and use of available light nowadays to those beginning years where I only shot a 50mm lens, film, and no flashes. Shooting film makes you slow down and actually think opposed to just firing and deleting later on.
Do you remember when you got your first photo published and how it felt seeing your photo in a publication?
I’ve had stuff in friends zines or smaller publications before but the first international publication was Transworld Skateboarding July 2012. I only know this because I went and found it a second ago. hah. It felt unreal. I grew up in suburbia Michigan so to move across the country to chase a dream and then end up getting a photo printed in the one place you actually wanted it to end up.. it was so much more graspable. I had a new confidence. I inspired myself.
That's awesome! I think everyone who tries to make an impact in the skateboarding or photography industry does it differently. How'd it go for you? Did you have to sort of be go-getter and really push your way in or was it more natural and out of luck?
Well.. when I first moved to California, I was interning at TWS which for sure helped. I would get to meet all the pros and ams that would come to the office. Joey Shigeo, who I worked closely with at the time, would let me shoot all the photos in the park for web banners promoting video edits shot in the park which gave me a chance to connect with the guys on an actual work level. Aside from that though, I would say it was a mix of pushing my way to meet new people and ending up in new situations/missions and happening naturally. You can’t force skating. It’s a creative process. You kind of just go with it and hope it all works out.
I'm gonna ahead and pull up two photos that really caught my eye. I think this might be the most subtle skate photo in history:
You dug deep for that one! That's the last photo I ever expected you to pull up.
Can you tell me a little bit about it? If you remember haha.
It’s my friend Justin Cefai. We were shooting an interview for BLISSS Magazine. That was the first semi-important thing I worked on when I got to California. I’ve always loved showing the surroundings or environment of where a skater is and this was one of the first times I thought I could have it publicly showcased. I can’t remember if it even got printed but for some reason I thought shooting at 4000iso really far away from the skater was a good idea.
What about this one? This one blows my mind
This was from the first skate trip I ever went on. It was a WARCO trip to Phoenix. We had heard about an abandoned airstrip with whole planes a bit south of Phoenix so we went to check it out. Light was fleeting when we got there but we had just enough time to make this happen. It ended up being on one of their boards too which was pretty cool.
Does a specific moment come to mind where you really wished you had your camera on you?
Nothing specifically comes to mind. There’s always those random moments that you see for a split second but aside from those, I’ve been pretty good about having a camera on me.
What are your go-to bodies/lenses/film that you can't live without?
I always have a 5dmk3, Mamiya 7ii, Hasselblad Xpan, and Contax T3 in my skate bag. Some might say thats overkill but I like having different cameras for when I need them. If I’m going out for the night, T3. If I’m doing a road trip or going up to the mountains for the day, Mamiya.
Is there any notable moments from that trip or any from past trips? I know you were involved a bit with the Substance video and the Oscar & Friends one too.
I feel like every trip theres crazy shit that happens. Regarding Oscar and Friends though.. when Oscar pole jam front boarded into that huge bank.. that was insane. Oscar, Alan Hannon (Supra filmer at the time), and myself built that spot just for that trick and it ended up working really well. To this day it’s one of my favorite photos I’ve shot. And in regards to Substance, yeah, I was with them almost every day they were out skating in the greater LA area. A standout moment from that whole video for me was when we were in Barcelona and Dolan ollied that huge channel gap. It was the last day of the trip and the last spot. Dolan rolled his ankle so badly a week and half prior and we didn’t think he was going to skate on the trip at all. After a couple beers and a tightly laced Converse shoe, it was on. Ten minutes later, he landed it and the the trick we had discussed two weeks earlier was a reality.
It's pretty nuts how you get to travel and be on these trips and it's all thanks to photography. Does it ever feel surreal to you?
Getting paid to hang out with my friends, trespass and ruin other peoples property all for the sake of “art”? Life is crazy.
Well, Cameron that's all I got, thank you so much for taking out the time do this! Any last words or anything you wanna share?
Glad I could help! I’m working on a magazine/place to put images/things/thoughts that should be out by the end of 2016. It’s called BETA Magazine. @betamagazine. Aside from that, thank you for the interview!