Photographer Allen Ying Talks NYC’s Indie Skate Scene
Allen Ying’s photography literally shows the big picture of NYC skateboarding: The Manhattan Bridge looms high overhead as Bobby Puleo lands a switch backside nosegrind on a park bench. In another photo, a small herd of pedestrians walks across a busy street while Jahmal Williams completes a wallie boardslide fakie on a red-and-white-striped traffic barrier. There is an unmistakable sense of the city in every image in the latest issue of 43, Ying’s independent skate mag, which is dedicated to the place where the photographer has lived for most of the last decade. Life+Times caught up with Ying after the recent launch party of 43 issue 003 to take the pulse on New York’s indie skateboard scene.
Life+Times: What is the skateboard scene in NYC like right now?
Allen Ying: It seems like the scene is growing and going pretty strong. I know there are a couple of good skate shops, and a lot of people are going to skate parks which is weird to me because I was never a skate park kind of skater. But there are a lot of skaters. And in terms of pros, I like the kinds of people who are doing progressive things with their skateboarding, which is kind of what skateboarding is all about.[In terms of media], the Quartersnacks have a following. It’s a website but they’ve got some pretty good skateboard journalism. They don’t cover everything about skateboarding in New York but they have their own thing that they’re into, which is cool. NYSkateboarding.com is another website. And then there’s the Bronze crew, who just put out a video and people are pretty psyched about it.
L+T: Is it hard to find new places to skate?
AY: Kind of, but there’s always new stuff being built. The city changes a lot. I mean, Manhattan’s not a small place if you go all the way up as far as you can go, and then to the Bronx and to Brooklyn, and there are people who skate in Queens. Sometimes it can be hard to find a place that somebody hasn’t already skated in, but it just depends, sometimes it is, sometimes it isn’t.
L+T: What’s going on that’s exciting?
AY: There’s a few independent companies that people are pretty psyched for because they’re putting out pretty sick, creative projects. I think Hopps Skateboards just put out a new promo today and I’ve seen people reposting it but I’ve stayed away from the computer so I haven’t seen it yet. But Jahmal Williams has been living in New York for a bit now and he’s at Hopps. And there’s people filming for Static IV, which is Josh Stewart’s… I don’t know if I’d call it a video series, but there’s like years and years between each video. But he’s been shooting independent skate videos and along with that he started a kind of store where he distributes some very cool independent skateboard brands and he has, it’s not really a clothing line but they have shirts and sweaters and stuff. There’s that kind of portion of the indie skate scene and there’s other stuff too. I can’t even keep up with all of it to be honest [laughs].
L+T: What’s surprising you lately?
AY: Being a photographer, one of the most surprising things is that it seems like there’s less skate photography. There are lots of different crews that go skating and filming for their independent videos, but I feel like there’s a huge lack of still photography. I remember years ago there was less skating going on but there were four or five of us photographers who were always going out with different dudes and now those same guys and I, we have different jobs where we’re not shooting. There might be someone emerging that I don’t know about, but it seems like there are less people taking still photographs of skateboarding in New York, and it’s a real shame because there are so many opportunities to take amazing photographs.
L+T: But at least you’re out there taking photos.
AY: I’m not even out there that much though! [laughing] I shot that whole issue, well some of the photos are old, but most of them are from the last year or so. But when I wasn’t making the magazine, I wasn’t shooting at all. I’ve been hit up to shoot a couple of things for a couple other magazines that I like and I don’t have the time, man [laughs].
The New York City issue of 43 magazine is available in local skateboard shops and online here.