In Barcelona this year, Hannah Bailey photographed the latest Street League Skateboarding competition (founded in 2010) from a unique perspective.
As well as working as a photographer and producer, she is an avid snowboarder, surfer and skateboarder. Rooted within the action sports industry, she is doing so as a woman in a largely male-dominated field.
In the media pit, a lot of photographers catch the same shots; my camera is pointing the other way
Determined to quash the stigma around girl skaters, she also promotes events such as Girl Skate Jam UK through her action sports PR company Neon Stash.
Bailey’s photographic work is shot exclusively on film. Aside from photographing skaters’ tricks, Bailey has a keen eye for the architectural qualities of a skate park – something that is often overlooked.
We caught up with Hannah Bailey to speak about her work.
So you’re from Scotland, whereabouts?
I’m from Edinburgh.
How is the skate scene up in Scotland?
The Scottish skate scene is really strong and really amazing. But I didn’t find skating until I moved down south; my route into skating was very different.
Would you ever return to create work around that scene?
I would love to! There’s actually a magazine called North Skate Mag and the editor Graham Tait also runs a skate shop called Focus in Edinburgh. I used to go in there when I was younger, I was just curious because I didn’t know what the whole skateboarding scene was.
But I got in touch with him recently, because he also shoots on film – and only outside skate parks. So I need to get out there and get some DIY shots so I can submit them to his magazine because I’d love to submit work that would promote the Scottish scene. There’s some really great content coming out of Scotland right now, more parks getting built and some really great DIY spots that would never think could be skated. The Scots are pretty hardcore.
So, tell us about what you do.
I run Neon Stash, a small PR and creative agency; I’ve been working in the action sports industry for about seven years now. The action sports industry – skating, surfing, snowboarding – is a very inspirational industry to work in so I actually do a lot of different things within that – not just PR and creative.
I was thinking, the top skaters in the world are coming to my doorstep, why would I not go?
I also run a small action sports magazine for girls called The Free Life.
How did you end up photographing the Street League Skateboarding competition in Barcelona?
Being in the industry, I tend to go to all the events that I can, especially if it’s for brands I’m working for like DC Shoes or Monster.
But it was very rare for Street League to come to Europe – they’d only ever done a couple of stops a few years ago, but that was tied in with the X-Games. So as soon as I saw that it was coming to Barcelona, straightaway I was thinking, the top skaters in the world are coming to my doorstep, why would I not go? We headed out there with Monster Energy, who are one of the sponsors, and had a videographer and me as photographer to document it. Its just an amazing event to see in the flesh because its really big for skateboarding, its not a small core event – it’s a lot more mainstream than skating is used to.
So, this is the first time Street League has been hosted in an outdoor venue?
Yeah they tend to do it indoor arenas because it’s so big in America, they can take over places with a 10,000-person capacity and pack it out. With Barcelona it was outdoors because it was going to be a smaller audience.
Film just makes me more creatively inspired
But also because SkateAgora, who were the hosts of the event, had built a skate park with Street League that was going to stay there for permanent use – which is a really great thing to do.
You only shoot on film, is this important to your work and the way you capture images?
Yeah I think for me, because I’m not trying to be a full-time photographer, it’s an interest for me. It’s about the opportunities I come upon and the inspiration I come across that makes me want to photograph it. Film just makes me more creatively inspired.
The moments that you capture on film are just really special, as apposed to digital where you can put it on a continuous shutter and get every single shot. With film you just never know, you get 36 chances for every roll of film and I always get one that captures everything I wanted to get. You tend to take more care with it, there’s much more risk in film but that the flaws in film can make really beautiful pictures.
To return to the shots you took out in Barcelona, you included images of the skate park itself. Was capturing the architectural nature of the park an important part of the series?
The thing is, skate parks aren’t normally considered to be creative in the skate world and people are much more inspired by the DIY elements of skate. But I think skate parks can be seen in a really creative light with all the angles, the rails and ledges.
What ‘SkateAgora’ did with the park in Barcelona was really quite beautiful, especially with Street League. This park was made for a competition, you wouldn’t think they would do anything creative with it; just create the right features to get the skaters hitting them.
The kind of inspiration I take from skateboarding is very current
But they did a really good job of providing something really beautiful to shoot, I was taken away with all the shadows it was creating, it was right next to the beach so it looked great with the sun hitting it. I think they actively aimed for that, so I was hoping to honour that by shooting it.
When you’re in the media pit, a lot of photographers catch the same shots but my camera is pointing the other way. Not that the tricks aren’t worth shooting, they’re amazing, but it’s just another perspective.
Do have any old school influences on your work? Have Craig Fineman or the Z-Boys documentary had any impact on how you photograph skating?
They actually haven’t influenced me at all – but they have influenced me. Its funny, the kind of inspiration I take from skateboarding is very current, because of how I found skateboarding later in life. I really didn’t realise skateboarding existed when I was younger, I wasn’t the kind of person who was going to the skate park when I was 12. I didn’t find it until my late 20s and when I did, I thought it was such an amazing tool in my life and such a source of inspiration.
Don’t get me wrong, old school skating is really amazing and inspiring. But they did their thing, it was captured and influenced generations after that. For me, I’m looking at what’s happening right now.
Particularly with girl skateboarding. I mean there’s a lot of past footage and photography of people like Cara-Beth Burnside but I want to document girls skateboarding in the UK now. In the future, people can look back, see those shots and say that was the start for girls here. I’ve been photographing girls skating for about three years now, which doesn’t seem that long.
We skate on a Friday night then go to the pub, just like the boys do; we’re just skaters
But you’d be amazed how much has changed, the number of girls, the types of girls getting into it, the opinions of what girl skateboarding is – the stigmas have really changed.
You did a video ‘Skate like a Girl’ in response to Sports England #ThisGirlCan and Always #LikeAGirl campaigns that explored that side of girl skating.
Yeah it was in response to those campaigns because I think things like that really pave the way for other niche industries that involve girls to speak up. I mean for skateboarding what are the stereotypes for girl skaters? They’re so hard to get rid of.
It’s amazing when you skate and you realise that such a diverse range of girls skate. I’m nearly 30 and I skate; there are 14-year-old skaters, girls that skate in leggings and girls that skate in jeans. We skate on a Friday night then go to the pub, just like the boys do. We’re just skaters.