Grant Brittain

9 October 2016 Texto: Stephane Merand. Fotografía: J Grant Brittain. Foto portada: Damon Way.


De Del Mar Skate Ranch a The Berrics.
Casi 40 años de patín a través de su lente

{english also} Incluso si has pasado del skate durante los últimos tres años, es muy posible que te hayas cruzado con alguna de sus fotos. Como fotógrafo, ha captado algunas de las tomas más icónicas del patín de los últimos 30 años. Ha sido editor fotográfico de Transworld Skateboarding Magazine durante 20 años, una de las publicaciones más importantes de su tiempo junto con Thrasher, pero con un aspecto más suave. Y, a finales de 2003 y principios de 2004, emprendió junto con su compañero de profesión Atiba Jefferson la aventura de Skateboard Mag, la cual es uno de los referentes en términos de calidad.
Hemos tenido la oportunidad de quedar en Berrics con el hombre detrás de la lente que ha capturado todas esas grandes fotos. Disfruta de este pedazo de historia del patín a partir de ¡ya!.

Para nuestros lectores que no estén familiarizados con el skate, ¿podrías presentarte?
Soy Grant Brittain y crecí en California. A los diez años, mis padres nos regalaron a mi hermano y a mí unos monopatines por Navidad…bueno, y unas pistolas y unos walkie talkies también. Así que, desde entonces, básicamente dedicábamos nuestro tiempo a tirarnos por las cuestas del barrio con los vecinos. Eso fue allá por 1965. A surfear empecé durante el verano de entre 8º y 9º curso y después, volví a patinar…ya sabes, cuando no estás en el agua, te subes al patín. Unos años más tarde, trabajé en la surf shop Del Mar y en el Ocean Festival, una competición en la que hasta los Z-Boys hicieron aparición. Era brutal ver que patinaban como nosotros, con un estilo totalmente surfero. Después, en el 78, viví en Cardiff, donde mis vecinos construyeron el Del Mar Skate Ranch. Me dieron un trabajo y empecé a conocer a todos los pros y eso, lo único que hizo fue que saliera del cascarón y que mi interés fuese en aumento.

 

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¿Cuál era tu misión en Del Mar Skate Ranch?
En Del Mar Skate Ranch empecé a trabajar según abrieron: sirviendo Coca-Colas, limpiando baños…y teníamos que llevar esas camisetas y esos gorros de vaquero… Afortunadamente, a los seis meses los hicieron desaparecer. Constantemente aparecían fotógrafos profesionales como Warren Bolster, Ted Terrebonne o Jim Goodrich y era genial ver después su trabajo en las revistas que teníamos en la tienda un par de meses después.
Entonces, mi compañero de piso me prestó su cámara y gasté mi primer carrete (que por cierto, tuvo que colocarme él porque yo ni siquiera sabía cómo hacerlo). Seguí su consejo de tener siempre el sol a la espalda y conseguí una buena foto de todo ese carrete. A partir de ahí, empecé a disparar más en blanco y negro porque era más barato.
Pero no tenía manera de revelar, no tenía dinero así que tenía que esperar a tenerlo para poder revelar cada carrete…un lío. Por aquel momento, estudiaba arte en Paloma College y fue mi compañero Sonny Miller, que era fotógrafo me invitó a revelar sus fotos en su cuarto oscuro.
Nunca había impreso mis fotos y cuando la primera foto llegó a mis manos, fue cuando me enamoré de la fotografía de skate; bueno, de la fotografía en general, pero en ese momento supe qué camino quería tomar. Pero no como manera de ganarme la vida ya que no existían trabajos de ese tipo por aquel entonces, así que lo hacía por diversión, haciendo fotos a mis amigos y a la gente que pasaba por el parque. Al final, acabé como manager del skatepark durante cuatro de los seis años que estuve allí. Cuando el skate murió en 1980, y todo el mundo de la foto se movió al BMX o al surf, cambié todas mis clases de arte por clases de foto, tanto de estudio como de retrato. Y ahí fue cuando mi foto de patín comenzó a mejorar desmesuradamente.

 

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¿Así que seguiste hacienda fotos de skate mientras ibas a la escuela?
Sí, como durante mi época de estudiante aún trabaja en el Park, seguí patinando. Iba a clase por la mañana y trabajaba toda la noche. De hecho, como no tenía un lugar donde vivir y era necesario alguien que vigilara por la noche el Park, dormí en la mesa de billar durante 8 meses. Tenía todas mis cosas en la parte de atrás y mi vida se movía entre la escuela y el parque.

¿Y cuándo viste una foto tuya publicada por primera vez?
En un principio, me publicaron cinco o seis fotos en Tracker, además, me conocían porque llevaba el skatepark y sabía que tiraba fotos. Así que me llamaban cuando necesitaban tomas de algún skater de San Diego tipo Billy Ruff, Gator oTony (Hawk). Y en 1983, fue cuando Larry Balma de Tacker Trucks me dijo: “Hey, vamos a hacer una newsletter, ¿te gustaría que sacáramos alguna foto tuya?”. Sin duda lo hice, le di un montón de fotos y unas semanas después me invitó a verla a sus oficinas de Oceanside. Cuando llegué, tenía como cuarenta páginas colgadas de la pared. Wooooo! Eso era una revista en toda regla. Tenía también una sección “Be good, skate”, ya que trataban salirse del rollo “Skate & Destroy” que tanto consideraban que destruía el camino del patín. De hecho, recuerdo las risas que se echaron en el skatepark cuando la lanzaron. “No les doy ni una foto más” me dije.
Pero claro, me volvieron a llamar para un Segundo número y repetí. Al fin y al cabo, era la única publicación en la ciudad y el único modo de que tus fotos se vieran por ahí. No te pagaban, pero tenías tu nombre en esas tomas. Así que seguí y, después de un año, le propuse a Larry el llevar yo la revista, ya que, por aquel entonces, ya me encargaba de las fotos de la mitad de la revista, revelarlas e imprimirlas en el instituto.

 

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¿Y quién era parte de la revista?
Por aquel entonces, estaban en la revista Neil Blender, Lance Mountain, Brian Ridgeway y Marty Gimenez. Trabajando hasta las dos de la mañana, fumando y bebiendo cerveza…incluso algunos, dormían allí. Todo se hacía a mano antes de que llegaran los ordenadores. Así que empezamos siendo una publicación bimensual, después mensual y acabamos publicando cada 20 días.

Por aquel entonces, ¿sólo estaba capitaneada por Tracker?
No, la revista no era de Tracker al 100%, ya que contrataban gente de fuera, como Garry Scott David, que era el asistente de la dirección de arte. El magazine tenía un aspecto muy amateur hasta que llegó Davo Carson, el diseñador de Beach Culture Surfmag, incluso fue cogiendo más color porque muchas de las fotos del antiguo diseño estaban en blanco y negro. A partir de entonces, sobre 1986, empecé a viajar mucho a competiciones en Europa, Japón o al Summer Camp de Suecia junto con los pros.

¿Fuiste al French Summer Camp en Bourges?
También fui al Summer Camp de Bourges (Francia) un par de años, al de 1985 y al de 1987. La primera vez durante un mes y medio, viajando por toda Europa haciendo fotos y yenfo a todos los museos que podia. En vez de quedarme en hoteles, dormía en casa de gente porque no tenía un duro.

 

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¿Estuviste en Transworld desde sus inicios en 1983 hasta 2003? ¿Qué ocurrió después?
Que la vendieron a Time Warner en el 2000 y ahí fue donde todo cambió, incluso varios compañeros fueron despedidos, así que decidimos comenzar nuestra propia revista. Además, algunos de los que trabajaban en Transworld estaban interesados en meter algo de dinero en la revista. Así que lo dejamos en 2003 y empezamos nuestro camino.

Pero, a día de hoy, con el tema online es complicado sacar adelante una publicación impresa.
En esto es en lo que Berrics entra en juego. Es complicado ser independiente en algo y mucho más, cuando se trata de un magazine especializado en skate con internet de por medio.
Así que Steve Berra, que trabajaba con nosotros en Transworld ocupándose del editorial, se acercó a nosotros. Y hace como tres años, nos mostró su interés en fundar la revista ya que Berrics estaba interesada en tener una publicación impresa y convertirse en una compañía media. Bueno, ya lo eran pero querían expandirse. Les gustaba la revista por el hecho de que funcionaba en papel. Funcionábamos trabajando juntos en algunos artículos, en la parte online y también en la analógica, y también teníamos artículos propios. La calidad es la máxima y, como fotógrafo, simplemente quiero que las fotos sean perfectas.

 

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¿Continúas haciendo grabaciones? ¿Y disparando en analógico?
Me gusta la foto digital, pero aún disparo mucho en analógico. Para skate no uso carrete pero sí para retratos y paisaje. Uso sobre todo Hasselblad y Canon. Pero sí, la suerte de publicar tus fotos en una revista es el poder mostrar esa buena calidad que la gente no aprecia cuando entra en una página de internet.
Es por eso por lo que las nuevas publicaciones son más caras, porque están haciendo un mejor trabajo y quieren que el resultado sea tan bueno, que la gente no quiera tirarlo a la basura después de leerlo. Es como ocurre con Surfer´s Journal, que cuesta 13 o 15$. Y eso se procura en Berrics, se han elevado los estándares y se trata de que todas las cosas nuevas que se quieran lanzar, al menos, tengan buena pinta.

Habiendo sido editor de fotografía durante tantos años, ¿cómo ves el futuro para las próximas generaciones de fotografía de skate? Dennis Mc Grath me dijo que le ayudaste mucho enviándole carretes y que no hubiera llegado hasta donde ha llegado si no hubiese sido gracias a ti.
Qué buen detalle por su parte. Procuro compartir mis conocimientos con los fotógrafos más jóvenes porque sé que son el futuro. Jacob Messex es muy bueno, Mike Blabac creo que es uno de los mejores en el mundo ahora mismo, Matt Price, Jeff Landi, John Humphreis y Jake Darwin. Pero ser un buen fotógrafo no se trata solo de hacer fotos, se trata de ser baby sitter, sicólogo, coach…ya sabes. Eres el que intenta mantener al skater motivado la mayor parte del tiempo. Sacarles de la cama en los tours… El fotógrafo suele ser el primer en levantarse por la mañana y el que se queda por la noche arreglando y editando cosas en el ordenador.

 

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¿Y qué hay de Arto Saari?
Arto está en otra liga. Es como tíos como Brian Gabberman, que son más artísticos y trabajan en diferentes formatos, blanco y negro… No sigue las normas, pero definitivamente tienen algo especial sus tomas. Como Daniel Sturt hace unos años. Sabías que era una foto suya por su estilo tan diferente al del resto. Y encontrar fotógrafos que también puedan escribir es un punto a favor. Y Atiba puede escribir.

Esto me recuerda a los vídeos de Transworld fueron un punto de inflexión, que no solo mostraban un buen skate, si no también paisajes y entrevistas.
Claro, porque siempre puedes hacer la de ir hasta Europa sentarte en unas escaleras con tu ojo de pez y que todo tenga la misma pinta que si no te hubieras movido de US. Necesitamos más que eso. Ese es un problema de muchos compañeros, que son buenos haciendo fotos de patín pero sus retratos parecen meras instantáneas. Es una simple cuestión de tiempo. La escuela me ayudó mucho en ese aspecto.

Muchas gracias por compartir tu tiempo con nosotros. ¿Algún agradecimiento?
A todos aquellos que a lo largo han hecho posible Transworld y a todos aquellos que han hecho de Skateboard Mag lo que es hoy.

 

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English:

GRANT BRITTAIN. 
FROM THE DEL MAR SKATE RANCH TO THE BERRICS.
ALMOST 40 YEARS OF SKATEBOARDING THROUGH HIS LENS

Even if you haven’t been into skateboarding for the last 3 decades there is good chances that you’ve came accross some of Grant Brittain’s photos. He’s one of the photographers that has produced some of the most iconic skateboarding photos along the last 30 years. He’s been the photo editor of Transworld Skateboarding magazine, for 20 years. That once was the most important skate magazine of it’s time, with publications like Thrasher magazine, but on a cleaner edge. In late 2003 early 2004 with other photographer like Atiba Jefferson he started the Skateboard mag, that is to this day a reference in terms of quality in skateboarding publications.
We got the chance to meet up with the man behind lens of so many great photos, at the Berrics for a conversations about, Del Mar skate Ranch, starting a carrer in skateboarding photography and of coyrse Transworld, and the Skateboard mag…..
Enjoy reading! There’s skateboarding history here.

For ours readers not famillar to skateboarding can you present yourself?
Well I’m Grant Brittain I grew up in California, and when i was ten years old my parents gave my brother and I skateboards for Christmas. And we had bb guns and walkie talkies all on the same Chrismass day; And back in the day we were just basically riding down hills with all the neighbohood kid, this was about 1965. And then I started surfing when I was between 8th and 9 th grade that summer, and I got back into skateboarding because when you weren’t surfing you were skateboarding you know. That was like de clay wheels days and all of a sudden urethane wheels came out and we were even more into skateboarding, trying to find cool hills and getting tubed under bushes… And we started skating diches and empty pools. That was early 70’s and then I worked at a surf shop in Del Mar a little hole in the wall surf shop. This is when we saw skater riding wider whells and Tracker trucks came out we started selling these. When I worked there the Ocean festival came to town, that’s the contest that the Z-Boys showed up at, and it was whaou!!!! They skate like us like the total surfer style with the laybacks and berts and trying to emulate surfing. And then in 78 i lived in Cardiff CA, and my neighbour told me that they were opening the Del Mar skatepark, The Del Mar Skate Ranch, and I kindda got a job there, before that I was pretty much just skating with my friends I didn’t knew any pro skaters. So from there it just snowballed, my interest in it was growing.

What did you do at The Del Mar Skate Ranch?
I started working the second they were open, and i was doing like whatever swipping bowls, serving Cokes, checking out pads, cleaning bathrooms, we had to wear these cowboys shirts and these cowboys hats. That probably lasted 6 month and then they got us T-Shirst and the hats desapeared. And I was always looking at Skateboarder magazine and Action now, and I was I kindda want to do this it looks cool, these photos in here looked great. All those pro photographers would came in like Warren Bolster, Ted Terrebonne and Jim Goodrich. I saw them shooting photos and when we get the magazines a couple of month latter it was great you know. So my room mate lend me his camera one day and I shot a roll of film. He actualy loaded the film for me because I didn’t even now how to do it. So I ask him how do you get the right exposure and he told me just make sure the sun is behind you and you just match the exposure needle. So i did that and I got a good photo on my first roll, with Kodachrome slide film. After that I started shooting more black and white because it was cheaper. But I had no way to develop, I had no money, so I waited till I had money to develop, so I was making a roll last shooting 5 or 6 photos and then wait. At that time I was going to Paloma college and taking arts, and my friend Sonny Miller who was a photographer and a cinematographer was in the dark room and told me : “Bring some of your film tomorrow, we will print some photos.”
I never printed my photos, so I went in the dark room, he showed me how to enlarge photos, and I remember the first time the print came out in the developer, that’s when I fell in love with skateboarding photography, well photography in general but I knew what I wanted to do. But not as a living because there was no such job as skateboarding photographer, you didn’t make a living out of it, I just did it for fun documenting my friends, and the people who came through the park. And I end up as a manager of the park after a couple of years. I worked there for 6 years all together and I was a manager for maybe 4 years. So whoever came I got out and shoot photos. And then when skateboarding died in 1980 all the other photographer went to shoot BMX or surfing, or music like Glenn E Friedman, but he was the one that never give me tip on how to get good photo, unlike Jim Goodrich I would ask him questions sometimes. But I basicalu learned looking at photos. And then I change all my art classes to photography classes. And that helped me to get my camera under control.
Before that I was just kindda guessing, i didn’t know about light, didn’t know how to use strobes, so I took studio classes and portrait classes. And that helped my skate photography.

So were you still shooting skateboarding when attending art school?
Well I was still working at the Park so yes. I was going to school all day and then worked at the park all night. At one point I would be sleeping on the pool table. I slept on the pool table at Del Mar for 8 month, because we had night security, people would come in and steal everything so we always had someone staying there. And I didn’t had a place to live for a while so I just moved in there. I had my stuff in the back room and I was at school and at the skatepark and that’s it.

So when did you got published for the first time?
I had a few photos, maybe five or six in Thrasher, they knew me because I ran the skatepark, and they knew I shot photos, they would call me when they needed a San Diego skater, like Billy Ruff or Gator, or maybe Tony (Hawk) or and Indy rider. And then in 1983, that’s when Larry Balma of Tacker trucks came and talked to me : “Hey! We’re going to do a newsletter, would you wanna have some photos in it?” And I go : “Yeah sure!” So I gave him a bunch of my photos and then a few weeks later he called me : “ Hey do you wanna come up to the office?” wich was in Oceanside to look at the Newsletter. So I went up there and on his wall he has like 40 something pages. You could tell this was a magazine i was “Wooo!!!”.
When it came out it had all this Be good, Skate and create sections, they didn’t get the whole “skate and destroy” thing, they thought it was actualy destroying things. They wanted to make more like a parent friendly magazine. And i remember when they brought it to the skatepark we were all laughing at it. I was like “I’m not giving them any more photos to them.”
And then they asked me more for the second issue and I ended giving them some. Because they were they only game in town and you know you wanna see your photos out there. There was no maney but it was good to get published and have your name on those photos. So I just got more and more into it.
And after about a year I told Larry : because I started doing the whole magazine for them, I was developing film and printing photos at Paloma college. I was shooting at least half of the magazine, so I told larry that I wanted to run the magazine so we got a dark room at the Tracker building. And I started running it. And at the time I really wanted out of the skatepark, they were getting an arcade it was becoming lame. We wanted to be competing with Thasher or at least trying to. So that was the beginning of Transworld skateboarding magazine.

So who was doing the magazine?
Back in those days it was Neil Blender, Lance Mountain, Brian Ridgeway, and Marty Gimenez people like that working on the magazine, working until 2 in the morning smocking and drinking beers… Some of the guys were sleeping there. It was just all hands on, and before computers, and before digital. So there would be a typo and you had to cut it out and order a new type and cut and paste it in where the old type was…. It started out as a bimonthly magazine and then we went monthly. And then I was there for 20 years.

So along the way was it only owned by Tracker?
Well they hired other people not everybody rode for Tracker, GSD Garry Scott Davis was the other one, he was the assistant art director. The magazine was very amateurish looking and then they brought in Dave Carson the designer who did the surf magazine Beach Culture. When he can in it started to look more like a real magazine, well designed, and I think we got more color in the magazine, because at the biggining certain pages were black and white. That was like 1983 and it picked up steaming around 1986. And the I started travelling a lot, going to contest and going to Europe, touring Japan, touring with pros. So it was a little different than touring now , we’d go to Europe and go to the Swedish summer camp and we were meeting all the pros, so it was not just touring with one team, and the teams weren’t that big back then. G&S had “ guys….

Did you went to the French summer camp in Bourges?
Yeah I went there twice, i was there 1985 and the 1987. The first time I went for a month and a half and travelled all over Europe shooting skating and then just hit up as much museums i can possibly can. Not staying in hotels but at people houses, because we didn’t had money either.

So you were at Transworld from the beginning in 1983 until 2003 right? What happened next?
Well they sold to Time Warner in the early 2000, so this is where it all changed, a few people above us, that were friends got laid off, so we decided to start our own magazine. And there was some people that used to work at Transworld that had some money and were interested in putting it a new magazine. So we left in September 2003, and started on the first issue of the Skateboard mag and ended up getting in out in the early part of 2004. So we’re in business ever since. So it was Dave Swift, Attiba Jefferson, Kevin Wilkins, Ako Jefferson, and a couple of other guys and then we took some photographers with us when we left like John Humphreys. So within a week we took a lot of power out of Transworld. And then Skin Phillips stayind there because we couldn’t really afford him. We were kindda short on money so he stayed there and took over Transworld.

But in these days of everything online it’s hard to be a printed publication.
Well it’s where the Berrics comes in. It’s hard to be an independent anything you know, but it’s even harder when it comes to independent magazine especialy with the internet. Where more advertising money is going to the internet and we were putting all the money in making the magazine.
So Steve Berra approached us. Well he has been working at Transworld back in the days doing transcripts and editorial. So about 3 years ago he told us he was interested in funding the magazine. Because the Berrics wanted to have a printed magazine, they wanted to be a media company. Well they already were but they wanted to expand. They liked the magazine especialy the fact that when we started out it was on good paper, and with the time we’re able to put as much money into the quality of the magazine because of the advertisement revenue we had to scale down on paper quality, and smaller format just to save money. To be able to print the magazine. So Steve wanted to have that quality we had at the beginning. So with the issue 130 we went to a bigger format, higher quality paper. And now we even gone one size beyond that now. We just kindda work on article together, the internet side and the analog side. And then we have our own articles too. I’m really into quality, being a photographer that’s always been my thing. Back in the days I wanted skate photos to be as good as any kind of photography. Before (1980’s) that I think it was kindda bad it was raw but it wasn’t that good. Being in the Paloma college helped me with the quality issues, and studying fine art photography, and looking at masters. So I just want the photos to look great.

So do you still shoot film?
I like digital but I like film a lot too. So I’m not using film for skate stuff but for portrait and landscapes I use film. I shoot Hasselblad and canons…. But yeah… the quality thing and I think it’s what’s good about magazines it’s that you can show that quality, I don’t think people go to the internet just to stare at photos, they wanna see it on paper and it has to be something collectible. I think that the new magazines are making better quality job now, you don’t want to throw them away. They might cost a little bit more but you want to save them. It’s like the Surfer’s Journal I don’t wanna throw away an issue the I bought 13 or 15 dollars. That’s the thing with the Berrics they want everything to be high quality, they wouldn’t put out a magazine if it wasn’t that good. So now they set up a standard so people making new things want it to at least look that good.

Being a photo editor for that many years who do you see as the next generations of skate photographer? Dennis Mc Grath told me that you helped him a lot sending him rolls of film and that he wouldn’t be where he is without your help.
Ho really, nice of him. Well I mentored Atiba when he moved to California, he was sending photo’s before but then he worked for Transworld and I just showed him how I’d like to shoot. Lets see well.. Tod Swank was my assistant when I did the pushing cover.
Then there’s Steve Sherman that went on Surfing magazine. And Brendan Klein a little later. I just try to share with the younger guys because I know that they are the future and then now I would say Jacob Messex is a great photographer, Mike Blabac I think is one of the best photographer in the world right now. Matt Price, Jeff Landi, John Humphreis all those guys were kind of in the middle and now they’re on top. And Jake Darwin is really good as well. But being a good photographer is not just about shooting photos , it’s about being a baby sitter, a psychologist, coach you know… You’re the one trying to get the skater motivated most of the time. Getting them out of bed on tours. The photographer is usualy the first on to get up in the morning and then at night they’re on the computer fixing things…

What about Arto Saari?
Ho he’s in an other league though. Like guys like Brian Gabberman more like arty they either work with a different format, Bigger formats, selective focus, black and white. He doesn’t really follow the rules, but you can deffenatly tell that he’s got something. Like Daniel Sturt in the past. You can tell by looking at his photo that it’s his because he has a different style. And having a magazine finding photographers that can write is good too. Atiba can writefor example.
And not talking about him at all but you need photographer the not everybody hates, or the guy that party all the time on tour and that’s not coming back with any photos. Or just skate photos without any other assets, you know. Now with the web you have to come back with a lot of content it’s not just the print anymore.

Yeah it reminds me of the Transworld videos that were a turning point at the time, not only showing great skateboarding, but landscapes and interviews.
Yeah because you can go to Europe and sit at the bottom of a handrail with your fish eye and it would look just like here in US. So you need more than that. I always pushed out with photographers, some are good skateboarding photographers but when it come to portrait it look like a snapshot… It just takes time. School helped me a lot in that sense.

Thank you so much for your time and sharing your experience any thanks?
Too many people along the way but all the people that made Transworld what it was and those who made the Skateboard mag what it is now.

 

www.jgrantbrittain.com

 

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