VANS - Crockett Hi


Grant Brittain, a legendary skate photographer with career of over 30 years. We asked the legend questions about collaboration tee with NIXON, skate photography and skate scene today.

Interview by VHSMAG Photos courtesy of Grant Brittain and NIXON

VHSMAG(V): Which photos did you provide for NIXON tees.

Grant Brittain(G): Nixon is using three photos on tees. Pierre Andre photo I shot in Japan in ’88. A shot of Tod Swank's skateboard with Del Mar Skate Ranch sticker on tail I shot in the ’80s. A photo of the Salton Sea pool I shot in the ’80s.

V: Who are/were your influences as photographer?

G: I began shooting photos in ’79 of skateboarding, so my first influences were skate photographers. I learned by looking at the photographers who came before me in magazines, Warren Bolster, Craig Stecyk, James Cassimus, Jim Goodrich, Ted Terrebonne, Glen Friedman and a few others. During that time I pretty much taught myself since there was really nobody to ask. About a year and a half, I started taking photo classes in college and I started getting influences outside the skate world. Ralph Gibson, Walker Evans, Richard Avedon, Irving Penn, Henri-Cartier Bresson, a lot of the classic photographers of the 20th century; they helped me find my style.

V: What motivates you to shoot photos?

G: I think just being around skateboarding, skaters and other photographers makes me itchy to take photos. I am always imagining how the action will look in a still photograph and figuring out the best angle to shoot from and what is the best way to light it. I try to out do myself every time I shoot. My peers also make me try harder.

V: What are the most memorable photos from your work?

G: There are a few photos that I really like. The Chin Handplants, Miller Pole Cam, Hosoi Powerslide to name a few. Photos that take me back to that day I shot them and they have a special place in my memory. Those good times, you know?

V: Who do you think is most photogenic? Why?

G: I love shooting skaters that have style, where their style is as important as the actual action. Where a skater's style can carry the photo over the top. Chris Miller and Christian Hosoi are probably the most stylish skaters who ever stepped on a skateboard and they rule in my mind. You can't take a bad photo of them.

V: Who do you want to shoot the most now? Who is fun to shoot with?

G: I like shooting my friends and working on shots with them. Most of them are skaters I’ve known for 20 years or more. A lot of them are guys I have shot since the Del Mar Skate Ranch days. Miller, Cab, Hawk, Andy Mac, Bucky Lasek, Nieder and many others.

V: What do you keep in mind when you shoot photos?

G: I try to keep it all very basic, pretty graphic, simple backgrounds, basic lighting. I learned photography and making magazines pretty much at the same time, so I have a pretty graphic eye compositionally when shooting skating. I am always thinking of the printed page.

V: What do you shoot with? Why did you choose to use them?

G: Using a Canon 5D, because of the full frame sensor and it's lightweight. Canon lenses, 16mm, 50mm, 16-35mm and 200/2.8. Quantum Qflashes, inexpensive and mobile. Hasselblad and Leica for film. And a host of other misc cameras and toys. I think the camera is the least important part of photography; there are a lot of crappy photogs out there with great cameras.

V: Please describe your style and taste in photography.

G: Like I said, I like bare-bones photo, simple and basic, less is more definitely.

V: When do you feel happy about being a photographer?

G: What makes me happy about being a photographer is the same now as it was 30 years ago. I would get my film back from the lab after a couple of days and spread the photos out on the light table and there would be that one magical image that I was happy with. The feeling is the same now, except the darkroom and light table are called Photoshop and the wait time is way shorter.

V: What do you think it takes to be a good skate photographer?

G: Being a skater and understanding skateboarding helps, not just so you know where to be and when to shoot, but also to know the attitude and the feeling of being a skater. Someone who just shoots the action can't show the soul of what we do. It comes off looking like an outsider shot it. It's okay for a newspaper, not a skate mag.

V: What's the most important thing in running skate media.

G: It takes a team of creatives to do a magazine, website and social media. No one can do it alone; it wouldn't last long. I think listening and communication are good skills to have and you need to give up your ego now and then and do it for the good of the whole.

V: You've been shooting skating for over 30 years through TWS and The Skateboard Mag. What do you think has changed the most in Skateboarding?

G: I think quantity has taken over the quality. Everyone is in a big hurry to feed a lot of different mediums. I think a lot of mediocre photos, videos and writing is being disseminated to the masses of lackluster magazines, blogs and Insta whatevers. I have noticed that skate photographers have gotten lazy in their shooting; there are still certain rules that are being ignored. I love digital, don't get me wrong, but I see very few images that will stand the test of time.

V: Any place or anyone in particular that you want to shoot in Japan?

G: Aki Akiyama, where is he? Masanori "Devilman" Nishioka when he learns how to skate on his new leg. I wish I could shoot the Osaka Daggers, those dudes are sick! The Heshdawgz, CB and EC. EC is 69 years old and rips. The only person I shot this trip was my son, Sage, he's a diehard skater at 19 and lives for it every day.

V: Anything lined up in the future? Any projects you are currently working on?

G: Still doing the mag and shows. Working on a coffee table book of my photos, going to work whole hog on it in August.


Grant Brittain

Started shooting photos in 1979. He has helped start Transworld SKATEboarding as photo editor in ’83 and launched The Skateboard Mag in ’03. He’s a true legendary skate photographer with career of over 30 years.


  • NB Numeric: New Balance