Art Interview Interview

Essex-based Brandon Wilkins began taking photographs at the age of fourteen, and he’s been living life through the lens since. Four years on, Wilkins’ got the perfect balance. He merges skateboarding with photography, mixing muses with mates – and he’s currently travelling around Europe, doing what he loves.

On the pursuit to shoot some scoops and have a good time, Wilkins has worked up an archive of gritty, candid shots. Young, free and creatively unconfined, Brandon’s photos are totally compelling. There’s an authenticity about his air. Smoking, skating and dirty dishes show what it’s like to leave home for the first time without your parents and with your mates. Here, Brandon shares a previously unseen series of photos from a recent trip to Copenhagen and tells us the stories behind them. 

Cecilia Dinwoodie: So how did you get into skate photography?
Brandon Wilkins: I’ve only been skateboarding for a couple years, but I started making Jackass and CKY style videos when I was fourteen [laughs], so that’s how it all began.

CD: What was your favourite spot in Copenhagen?
BW: Probably Superkilen Park. It was quite cool, actually, it’s a public space with a bike lane all the way through, and it’s got five skate parks all within a minute of each other.

CD: I saw the photos of Superkilen. That place is aesthetic bliss!
BW: Yeah, the architecture there is just crazy.

CD: Copenhagen’s such a clean city too. When I last went, even street art was kept to a minimum. Is it still the same now?
BW: Yeah, I agree. There’s no rubbish either, really. I think they’ve got most things right there.

CD: Do you think the lack of graffiti inhibits creativity there, or does it make people all the more expressive through different forms of media – for instance, skateboarding?
BW: Yeah, I do, yeah – a lot of people there do other things. They’ve definitely got a more artistic look about them. The locals at the skate parks were really focused, and you could tell that they really enjoyed what they were doing. [They] were 100% focused on what they were doing. I think they’ve just got more of a passion for doing things creatively.

Photography by Brandon Wilkins

“If there’s no story behind it, it’s just a couple of pixels.”

Photography by Brandon Wilkins
Photography by Brandon Wilkins

CD: Nice choice of Barrington Levy and Mayhem in the Copenhagen footage. How important is it for skateboarding videos to have a good soundtrack?
BW: I like putting any old things in that I like. I don’t really care about what people want or how it adds to the film – I just add the music that I like and hope it goes well.

CD: I spotted Ratboy’s videographer, Tommy Davis, in your Copenhagen footage. Are you well acquainted with [Ratboy’s] Jordan Cardy?
BW: Yeah I’ve met him a few times at the skate park. He was fun to be around, he’s cool.

CD: How often do you go on skate trips?
BW: We’ve been on quite a lot this year, really. We went to Paris in July and Copenhagen two months later. It’s good to [travel], otherwise we’ll just stay at the same spots at home and it’ll get boring.

“I don’t ever take a day off. We go out early to skate and come back really late.”

CD: As strangers to a city, how do you seek out the best skate spots?
BW: We have a little look online usually, but it was more fun in Copenhagen, just riding the bikes through the city. It wasn’t [hard] to get around, so we’d just stop off and skate for an hour or two each time.

CD: How much of your trips do you spend skateboarding?
BW: Probably everyday, throughout the whole day. I don’t ever take a day off. We go out quite early to skate and then come back really late, but [in Copenhagen] we enjoyed just going around the city too.

CD: Would you say you experience the cities more fully than the average tourist, or less so?
BW: You do see it a bit more as a local. Tourists usually do these set things, like Tivoli-land, but we’ve got a different view of the city, really.

“Paris is just mad, I nearly got hit by a car every day!”

CD: Where’s the best city to skate?
BW: I don’t know! Copenhagen and Paris were totally different, ‘cos Copenhagen had skate spots that were perfect, but Paris was just mad! I’d nearly get hit by a car every day. I definitely had more fun in Paris though – it was more my kind of thing.

CD: Yeah, you were doing a lot of street skating in Paris. A lot of that footage reminded me of old Mark Gonzalez tapes. Are you inspired by him?
BW: I think everyone’s inspired by him, really! I don’t really follow all the skating that there is today – I don’t really [pay attention to] Thrasher or anything, but I think everyone’s a bit inspired by him.

CD: What do you use to film?
BW: Hi-8. I did have a VHS, but it smashed [laughs].

CD: And for your photographs?
BW: Just a Canon DSLR and a 35mm.

CD: What do you think sparked this new wave of skate photographers cropping up about the place?
BW: I think it’s just the cool thing to do nowadays. People bite off of it what they can, much like fashion. They just take it all from skateboarding, pretty much.

CD: Do camera phones and editing apps challenge the art of photography, in your view?
BW: Hmm, no. Anyone can take a good photo, but it’s not just the photo [that makes it] – it’s the experience and story behind it. If there’s no story behind it, it’s just a couple of pixels.

See more of Brandon Wilkins’ photography at his website and his films at his Vimeo