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Buddy Bleckley Spent A Day Photographing Every Single Skater At West L.A. Courthouse

Los Angeles-based photographer and friend of CCS, Buddy Bleckley, is no stranger to hard work and bringing his own ideas to life. Being an independent contractor, Buddy hasn’t had the support of major media outlets or skate companies to turn his visions into realities, but that hasn’t stopped him from busting his ass to make rad projects. Buddy recently opened his own photography studio in Los Angeles called Studio 410 and in between renovating an old building in the Toy District of L.A. and shooting as much skating as he can, he managed to find a day to set up a full outdoor studio style shoot at the West L.A. Courthouse. The idea was to set up early in the a.m. and sit at the spot all day and shoot a portrait of every single skater that came through. The portraits he made show you real, everyday skateboarders in a way that you don’t often get to see them. We caught up with Buddy to ask him some questions about the project.

So what inspired you to go to a skate spot for one day and shoot portraits of every person there? The idea has been on my mind for years, whether it was teachers recommending something like it college six years ago, or just the desire to shoot skateboarding photos but a little differently. I've been thinking about doing it for years. Blabac's portraits on white was a huge influence, but I don't know as many pros and I didn't have a studio at the time. I was also inspired by Kristina Patterson's (@badpuppa) portraits of various pro skaters on black. I wanted to do a similar idea, but with real kids.

Did you actually get a portrait of every single kid that came through in the day? Almost! I missed one or two kids when I was setting up around 8am, which is crazy that there were kids skating at 8am. Then I had one or two people throughout the day just say no. I shot a little over 50 kids the whole day. I also brought cases of water and chips to help bribe kids into letting me shoot them. If the kids were young I'd ask the parents first then ask the skaters.

It looks like you shot the photos in a studio. For all the photo geeks out there, what was your camera, flash, and backdrop set up like? I was going for a studio look because my portfolio is missing studio work. I also wanted to be able to keep the lighting the same throughout the whole day so every person matched for the most part. As for nerd stuff, it's actually all natural light. I set up a 8x8 1 stop diffusion silk directly overhead to make an open shade type light, then I left the back wall in the sun so it got over exposed and actually added a little rim light to the people. I added two black moving blankets on the site to help add a little contrast to the sides of the people. There was some post production work making the floor white and making it all look clean. I shot using a d800 with a 70-200 tethered to a laptop on location. The actual wall I built specifically to be able to break down and fit in my car, and I actually built it like 8 months before shooting project but I kept putting off the shoot till one day I got tired or procrastinating and just did it.

Were all the kids pretty stoked to have their portrait taken or did they not care? It seemed like most of the kids were stoked, some of the younger kids were definitely nervous but their friends pressured them to do it. The water and chips definitely helped, I think I went through four cases. For the most part, skaters are typically down for whatever, so it wasn't too hard.

It seems like you got a pretty genuine portrait of most the dudes, did you talk much with them while you were shooting? I let the kids do their own thing for the most part, but I gave them basic direction but nothing crazy. I only shot 10-15 frames of each kid between full body and 3/4 shots, so they posed for less than a minute. I'd talk to them before or after just about skating, or watch skate videos on my phone with them while I was waiting for more kids to show up.

Will you be continuing this project at different spots? I'd love to do it at different spots outside of LA, like going to Burnside, or Eggs in Boston, or Pulaski in DC, or maybe Beibel's Park and shoot some pros. Somewhere where I can get a lot of people in one day. I also really like the idea of doing a set up like this at something non-skate related like a County Fair, or on Skid Row, or even a Trump or Hillary Rally. Anywhere I can get a wide variety of characters for interesting pictures sounds like so much fun.

The Faces Of L.A. Skateboarding

To see more from Buddy and this project check him out at www.buddybleckley.com and follow him on Instagram at @buddybleckley.

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