Ryan Bradley

University: University of South Wales

Graduation: 2015

Genre: Documentary

Website: www.ryanthomasbradley.co.uk

Artist Statement: “A public space is a social space that is generally open and accessible to people. Roads (including the pavement), public squares, parks and beaches are typically considered public space.”

Skateboarding, an act of freedom, accomplishment and personal fulfilment, for years has been predominantly and persistently crowned as an act within the urban environment - whether plaza, city centre, urban decay, or altogether within the artificial landscape inhibited from humans. Largely seen as problematic from sources of higher power (councils, governments, capitalists), architecturally – the confinement of skateboarding within towns and cities has become frequently apparent towards the original act yet not resourceful for the original establishment of confining. Spaces within these urban surroundings go unscathed, unnoticed and become nonexistent to the logistics and the common eye of natural daily routine by the general public within these areas, as opposed to the indulgers within the original act of skateboarding.

‘Spots’ used within the public space for the act of the fulfilment are constantly being targeted by higher power to restrict the accessibility of skateboarders using the architecture, an antiestablishment, a repressor, leaving a noticeable trademark addition.

This project focuses on the attempted push from governments beyond the public control on specific locations used by skateboarders, and includes the additional ‘answers’ and alternatives made.

Images from the series Confinement of Skateboarding

Images from the series Confinement of Skateboarding

What are some standout moments from your time at university? There were definitely numerous lasting moments over the 3 years of university that impacted me forever. The first has to be the insight that I got at the beginning when I realised I was being permanently surrounded by amazing people who are just like me – yet so diverse, with the same passion and overall interest of the industry, the same drive, and act of in-depth photography within their expression and communication. 

A lot of those people from my course that ended up becoming best friends, whom I was constantly around, encouraged me to develop as a person and as a practitioner. It largely kept me on my toes within photography; things from brainstorming, advice, and information. It’s definitely something I miss a lot.

The second are the mentors I had; it was a great pleasure and honour for myself as a developing photographer. I couldn’t have asked for more effective mentors that allowed us so much freedom with ideas, with the likes of Clive Landen, Paul Reas, Lisa Barnard, and so forth.

Which photographic genre do you consider your work to fall into?  I’d say documentary, with perhaps a more recent conceptual motive in terms of visuals and techniques. I’ve been developing naturally with a lot of aesthetic based ideas and interests too, but nothing dominant. I’m fairly open minded with a documentary spine; I enjoy exploring horizons after finding new idea on how I can maybe compliment them better, or how something can be shot to make it more effective from my own drive with what I want to express.

What themes do you find yourself exploring? I find myself exploring themes and subjects that have a world of potential, yet those that aren’t really alternatively exposed in a certain way. I enjoy developing ideas that are giving a much needed voice, or that I personally feel need to be revealed for what they are from an independent view that are typically underwhelmed in certain ways. I customarily find myself veering into areas of work that are socially orientated. For example, I tend to look for subjects about or within the urban environment, urbanism, social problems, and perhaps environmental circumstances. 

From the series Confinement of Skateboarding

From the series Confinement of Skateboarding

Can you talk us through any visual and theoretical influences you had whilst making Confinement of Skateboarding? I'd never created a project before that had anything to do with skateboarding. I've made work around skateboarding, the lifestyle, and portraiture within it but nothing with a specific story or narrative. I’ve been skateboarding for around 8 years now, so my education and fulfilment within the act and industry is very personal to me. It wasn’t until someone brought up the book Skateboarding, Space and the City by Iain Borden, that I had the major breakthrough for this idea. Theoretically speaking, this was what had given me the idea to combine skateboarding and a serious documentary photography project, and to explore something I live out most days and combine the education and practice of both of these worlds. The book opened my eyes to the bigger picture, and the story that skateboarders (including myself) constantly live through in this slightly taboo subject - (in the eyes of the government). 

The book brought me to realise that the use of public space, architecture, and the personal vision of potential inside the city was very much an exceptional area of reality. These physical attributes that are artificially created is something subconsciously true to every skateboarder. Skateboarding is an urban phenomenon, something in which one sees an area of potential inside architecture that non skateboarders can’t possibly translate.

Aside from Iain Borden’s major influence, visually the photographers such as Rich Gilligan and Ed Templeton helped me discover legitimate ways in which persons from the same lifestyle as me can benefit certain subjects such as these and take advantage of their own knowledge, so they were my visual inspiration. 

From the series Confinement of Skateboarding

From the series Confinement of Skateboarding

What was your choice of camera equipment for this series? I shot the entirety of this project on a Nikon D700, specifically using the 50mm, with additions of the 35mm. I found that with a project like this, it was important not to make many mass changes in terms of shooting and visuals. I thought about using medium format for this work but I have another idea similar to this that I may use it for. I wanted to make a point of using digital for this work as I feel it coincides with times changing from the hold of authoritative figures.

What made you decide to emphasise the 'spots' skateboarders use within the community? This project orientates from an establishing point from within the city centre, which is where this ‘push’ begins itself against skateboarders. Within skateboarding, and as far as the endless array of street skating goes, spots are what emphasise the whole idea of this type of freedom within the culture. These spots are what equals the creativity, and vice versa. A skate spot can basically be anything and anywhere for that matter, with however the mind sees fit to utilise it accordingly. This is where the passion for the project reveals itself; I focused on parts of architecture that have physical evidence in an attempt to reveal it useless to skateboarders and to specifically fight the culture in a low key aura. By making this my focus, I can not only give a voice to what myself and my peers within this worldwide community face on a constant basis, but I can begin to draw in audiences in an attempt to create a bond of understanding with open minds, to visibly showcase what is happening against this exceptional talent. Street skating is what skateboarding is, and what it has become over the last 20+ years, what it survives and develops upon.

My feelings rendered me to create Confinement of Skateboarding. Vividly, I looked out for specific acts of higher authorities looking to push away the act from within the city. For example, as the images show, you can see the lengths and additions in architecture that governments lean towards to stop the act, one common visual being the knobs on the edges of handrails or benches which I have documented. Also, while making these spots my unique focal point it gave me the freedom to explore all types of areas in any location. It allowed me to continue the story with other hints or projections, not just including conventional confinement. I was able to venture outside the typical city acts, and showcase the lengths people go to, to enable the passion further.

Have you got any big creative plans for the future? In terms of creative plans, I have high expectations of myself and what I’m able to do. Big money and big freedom together is a burden, but my plans are to carry on creating a couple more projects in the near future and to begin to get my name out there as much as possible. I'd like to move away from my current location, and of course, begin to put real time and effort in to give myself the ability to travel for long periods of time to create projects and explore my horizons within the industry.

What are you hoping for this series to achieve in regards to the restriction of skateboarding within the community? Are you hoping to make a change and relieve some accessibility? The intended purpose for this series was to show that there’s a totally legitimate spine to what the act of skateboarding is, as well as documentation to the offence against it. Regardless of this project skateboarding will continue to grow at an absolutely massive rate and the urban environment will always be utilised as a constantly expanding world for skateboarding.

I feel that whether skateboarding is widely accepted or not (which truly won’t change on ‘our’ behalf), there’s a generalisation or lack of communication coming towards the act, rather than vice versa. It’s more to shed light on how everlastingly romanticised the act is between the skateboarder and the environment, and how there’s a constant cap on attempting to restrict this independent and beautiful subject. I feel that the overall subject has a voice, however there needs to be a visual route too, spanning from a different foundation on what’s happening from this point of view, something to make an impact and understanding towards the opposite party. 

Skateboarding is a talent and skill that cannot possibly be comprehended with words or understanding, so this body of work is an attempt to gain a perspective for the general public, whether they are against or supporting the act.

Is there a particular area of the country that you make your work in? Would you like to travel to photograph even more ‘spots’ and extend this body of work? In terms of location, I travelled around a lot to accumulate the body of work I already have. There was a mix of local and also specified areas. Local, because I felt it was important to represent some of the specific spots that I’ve seen for years and that have directly been affect with my viewpoint (in terms of restriction). A couple of the images were from my local city, Coventry, which is where I grew up skateboarding. 

In terms of travelling, it rendered a combination of Wales, London, and Birmingham. This was also whether I decided to miscellaneously scout the spots, or knew of them before hand, and a lot of the time this is where I made the photographs that look at areas away from direct spots. I feel these shots add relevance to the series. 

I would adore to extend this project; it’s something that means an enormous amount to me personally. Skateboarding is another passion of mine, there is a forever living spark, or drive, to develop the capabilities of what I can show whole heartedly. Of course, as I’ve managed to coincide my two passions, it gravitates myself and my knowledge in the industry to totally take advantage of. I look to do more travelling to London most definitely, and Bristol too. It’s been a constant idea for me whether I’d like to take this abroad also, specifically to Barcelona, New York City and Los Angeles, which could, and would, change the entire landscape of the project if I wanted to expand this past the U.K. narrative.

Where did your interest in photography stem from? When I was growing up and at the beginning of high school, I never really knew what I wanted to do in life professionally and there didn’t seem to be an industry that screamed out to me. I also didn’t feel that there was much opportunity of open mind discussions in school to help us. However, I was always into art as a child so I always knew I had a primarily creative mind. Eventually this lead to the thankful discovery of photography. After that, I picked up a camera on holiday at the age of around 14 and my mind was inevitably attached. That’s without a doubt the moment this stems from.

I always wondered how photographers found these moments to shoot, or how they exposed this certain atmosphere so that the visuals blossomed, and how they gave a powerful voice and frame into a photograph. At that point I realised that’s what I wanted to grow into, and be that person who has the power to do what they do, so I pursued nothing but photography within education fresh out of school, and that never changed, and it became my passion.

I soon realised the heart and soul, and expression that must go into photography, and I found that is who I am, and that I didn’t want to do anything else in life. It’s something that gives me purpose and something I can stem from with every day and every project, and develop into greater things.

And finally, who are some of your favourite photographers? I look up to a huge number of photographers and their history of work. I tend to view journals that create the type of voices and impacts that I look to for my own work of inspiration. Notably photographers such as Ed Burtynsky, Zoe Strauss, Peter Beste, Ed Templeton, Robert Yager, Ewen Spencer, Michael Wolf, William Eggleston, and so forth. I find the combination of total raw exposure of a subject, as well as the education of discovering certain ways to create the visuals and information hugely enticing. Especially while documenting as the imagery comes by chance for the photographer as they shoot to creative a beautiful and reality struck narrative, alike Zoe Strauss. Then, spanning all the way to carefully mapped out and visually innovative work such as Burtynsky. Those photographers mentioned, I feel inspire me and gravitate me towards who I want to independently be as a photographer, giving me the motivation to create my own name within my own original work and narratives.