Words by Adam Sullivan | Photos by Brian Delatorre | Portrait By Jason Lee
Few people ever get the chance to have a career in front of a lens. Fewer still take the time to jump behind the lens. Meet Brixton Skate Ambassador Brian Delatorre, who’s just as likely to shoot as be shot.
WHERE DO YOU LIVE IN SAN FRANCISCO?
I live in the Mission District; the city is changing, though. There’s tons of development, tons of tech industry now…It’s a bummer, but I try not to pay any attention to it. If you let it bother you, you might as well just get out. I got my own thing, anyway.
IS ALL THE CHANGE GOOD FOR SKATING?
Eh, like any major city, spots come and go. If anything,there’s new buildings, but even they come pre-knobbed.
But you know what? The hills ain’t changing, and that’s the whole point of SF—you go there to bomb hills.
DID YOU GROW UP IN A CITY? I OFTEN WONDER, THE MAJORITY OF YOUR SKATE FOOTAGE IS SHOT IN A METROPOLITAN AREA, AND YOUR PHOTOS TEND TO BE FROM MORE OPEN AREAS.
I grew up in Miami. But I usually travel with a camera all the time, like every trip I go on, and I try to justget as much as possible. I also will go out on early morning walks in SF, the neighborhoods and stuff. It varies. Sometimes I’m in the city more, and get random people and buildings. It fluctuates. But whenever I’m on trips, it’s pretty remote places.
WHAT GOT YOU STARTED WITH PHOTOGRAPHY? WAS THERE SOMEONE WHO USHERED YOU IN, WAS THERE SOMETHING YOU SAW THAT MADE YOU WANT TO CAPTURE IT?
I started shooting in New York, in my early twenties; wish I picked it up earlier, though. It’s just like music—I wish I would’ve picked up a guitar when I was ten years old. But you know, I’m glad I got into it when I got into it. To be honest, I really didn’t start sinking my teeth into photography until like, four or five years ago; in fact I still have all of these undeveloped rolls, from back in the day. I’m curious to see how they came out. I really didn’t know what I was doing back then.
IT’S FUNNY HOW SIMILAR TO SKATEBOARDING IT IS.
Exactly. That’s exactly how I’m applying it, too. There’s little tricks to look for, little things in the everyday world. I’m looking for skate spots, but I’m also looking for good lighting, or something I want to capture. I was just telling a friend: ‘Skating’s been great lately, but I’ve been really focusing on this,’ it’s the same feeling, the same high. Filming a trick that you’ve been trying for an hour, you get the feeling right away, and I feel like with photography it comes a little later. It’s all about subtleties.
South Africa. 2016
DO YOU KNOW THOUGH, WHEN YOU SEE SOMETHING? WHEN YOU SHOOT IT, DO YOU THINK: “OH, I NAILED IT?”
Well, with film, you aren’t done when you click the button. I don’t shoot digital, I’m a 35mm kid forever. It’s an expensive hobby. But you know, that’s what I’m into. I had a membership to the Harvey Milk Photo Center for a few months while I was hurt, so I just spent all my time there, developing film and scanning, and prints. It’s tedious, but I love the process. Not only is it therapeutic, it’s really rewarding when it comes out the way you want it to come out. That’s when you feel like you landed the trick.
DO YOU HAVE ANY FORMAL TRAINING IN PHOTOGRAPHY?
Nope. I just have friends who are photographers. One of my best friends, Jason Henry, he shoots for the Times, he’s been helping me out tremendously—I mean, I don’t even have a computer, man. I’m a dinosaur. So I’ll go to his place to scan stuff, upload stuff, and I’ll have him critique some things. So he’s kind of like my Yoda. And I have another friend, Jordan Hill, and he has this ‘Zine called Whenever You Want To, and I just contributed some photos to his last issue. He’s helping me out as well, learning how to make ‘Zines. I’m trying to mix it up.
ANOTHER THING THAT NEVER REALLY OCCURRED TO ME BEFORE, IS THAT WHEN YOU GO OUT TO SHOOT A PHOTO FOR SKATING, YOU’RE HANGING OUT WITH A PROFESSIONAL PHOTOGRAPHER ALL DAY.
I’ve been hanging out with Jon Coulthard a lot lately, and (Jonathan) Mehring’s another one I really hang out with. I’m really just surrounded by amazing photographers constantly, and I feed off of them. There’s still a lot of stuff to learn, so a lot of this is still very new to me— but I’m not afraid to ask questions. I told my friend Lee about this project, and he started laughing and said “So are you gonna tell Jon you’re no longer a hobbyist?” But this will forever be a hobby for me. I mean, who knows?
YEAH, BUT SKATING IS WORK. DOESN’T THAT STILL FEEL LIKE A HOBBY?
Exactly. Nailed it.
SINCE YOU’RE SHOOTING ALL FILM, YOU HAVE TO BE VERY DELIBERATE WITH WHAT YOU’RE SHOOTING.
Usually it’s more about being quick, capturing a moment before it’s gone. So it’s more about ‘how fast can I get the camera out?’ Knowing your F-stops, and all that.
SO WHEN YOU’RE OUT SKATING?
I usually have two cameras on me—one color, one black and white. A point and shoot for at night.
YOU MENTIONED EARLIER THAT YOU HADN’T SHOT MUCH SKATING. IS THAT INTENTIONAL?
No, not really. You know what? It’s funny you ask, I just had a photo come out in Thrasher a few months ago, of Stevie Perez doing a 50-50 on a handrail. I mean I’ve shot skating before, but that’s the only one that‘s ever been used. They had to crop it, because I shot it wide. I was just shooting it to shoot it. It was gnarly, but I was trying to capture more of a city vibe.
WAS THERE A SPECIFIC MOMENT, OR A TRIP, WHERE YOU THOUGHT “SHIT. I REALLY SHOULD HAVE BROUGHT A CAMERA.”?
Yeah. It was after my first Japan trip, with Creation and Satori. I was twenty, I think. I had a sense of “What the Hell did I just do, by not bringing a camera?”
Belgrade, Serbia, 2016.
Makarska, Croatia, 2016.
Market St. San Francisco, California, 2015.
Yonnie Cruz, Cliff Jump. St. Helena, California, 2016.
Tyler “Manchild” Pacheco. Baltimore, Maryland, 2014.
Little Girls On Sand Dunes. San Francisco, California, 2016.
Woman On 16Th St. San Francisco, California, 2015.
Al Davis & Daryl Angel. San Francisco, California, 2015.
Mostar, Bosnia, 2016.
THAT WAS BEFORE PHONES HAD GOOD CAMERAS?
I didn’t even have an iPhone 3. I had a flip-phone.
ARE THERE SPECIFIC MEMORIES THAT STAND OUT IN YOUR MIND THAT YOU WISH YOU’D SHOT?
Oh, that happens daily! The way I see it is: some moments aren’t meant to be captured—just forever in your head. You see it, but hey—strikes and gutters, man.
WHAT ABOUT PLACES YOU HAVEN’T TRAVELED YET?
I’d love to go to India. Southeast Asia, I’d like to spend some time there, haven’t been there yet. Russia, too.
YOU HAVEN’T BEEN TO RUSSIA?
No, not yet. Closest I’ve been is Kyrgyzstan, on a Red Bull trip. That was a good one. Nine days, hanging out in Yurts, drinking yak milk… you know what? I haven’t even developed those rolls yet. They are in a big bag with all my undeveloped rolls. Lately I’ve been doing this: When I go on trips, I buy two boxes of Portra 400, usually color, but sometimes black and white. That’s about 13, 15 rolls of film for a two-week trip. And even with that, sometimes I wish I brought more. But when I come home, and develop them, I’ll grab three or four rolls out of the mystery bag.
I BET DEVELOPING THOSE, AND SEEING THEM FOR THE FIRST TIME, WOULD BE AN INTERESTING WAY TO LOOK AT HOW YOU’VE PROGRESSED.
Absolutely. I’m gonna do that, someday soon, revisit that. That’s why photography is amazing, man. We’re stopping time.
Makarska, Croatia, 2016.
Car Skitch. New York, New York, 2016.
Stockton Tunnel Bomb. San Francisco, California, 2015.
Two Women, Israeli Market. Jerusalem, Israel, 2016.
Gypsy Woman. Sarajevo, Bosnia, 2016.
Broken Mirror. Joshua Tree, California, 2016.