Sunday, 3 October 2010

MEET: Marcel Veldman

Marcel Veldman is a skateboarder and photographer based in Rotterdam; he's been skating for 22 years but insists he only got into photography through a "detour": "basically, there were no good skate photographers in Holland taking photos of me and my friends". So he took matters into his own hands and started shooting his own photos. Travelling the world, capturing life on and off the board, Marcel has developed a vast portfolio, a living documentary of his and his friends' lives. Ten years on, he's earned his name as one of the most renowned photographers in the skate industry, and is the man behind Fluff, the Netherlands' leading skate magazine. I sat down with Marcel and, like the welcome guest entrusted with the family photo album, was given a guided tour of his life through the lens...

Do you consider yourself as a "skate photographer"?

Marcel: Yes and no; I don't confine myself to skateboarding. I basically shoot stuff I like and skateboarding happens to be my biggest passion. In the beginning I did shoot some stuff I wasn't into, just for the money or experience maybe. But I found I was never satisfied if I didn't have any kind of relationship or affinity with the subject. I think you always take a much better photo if you know and feel the subject. I'm happy to be in a position to be able to do what I want and pay the bills every month (although sometimes barely). It's a rollercoaster.

Besides skateboarding, what's your favourite subject to shoot?

Basically, I shoot whatever happens around me or crosses my path. I rarely go out with a plan. The best things just happen: stuff you could never come up with. I travel a lot through skateboarding and, since we hang out in the streets all the time, enough stuff happens. I've been home for two months now, which is really nice for a change, but for one and a half years before that, I was in a different country every week. The road is calling again though...

Sounds like a true jet set lifestyle! What are skaters like on tour?

Always looking for that next big thrill, probably the same as they are home though. New environments might spark that extra fire. But compared to the music scene, for instance, we're pretty spoiled. Not that we stay in fancy hotels (OK, maybe sometimes), but at least we have a bed. A few years ago I was asked to drive this band from Amsterdam, called NRA, around the USA: 5000 miles and I was the only driver. This band's been around for decades and still we were on couches, floors, in the van... The band would play gigs for such little money, which they had to use mainly for gas. Much respect. Not that skateboarders make a lot - on the contrary - but the company they ride for usually pays for it all. Of course I'm talking about the sponsored skaters; without a sponsor it's the same deal as those bands: back to basics. I've done more than my fair share of couch-touring over the years, sometimes months in a row. I have to admit, it's got its charm.

So do you use photography simply as a way of documenting your life on tour or do you go on skateboarding tours to develop your portfolio?

For me it's a tool to document life; I have a camera around my neck all the time. You never know what's going to happen. That's kind of how the 'Roll Models' series came about; it's a set of photos that's evolved over the years that captures the spontaneity of skaters off their boards and the stuff they get into. Since I'm not an outsider looking in, I can shoot whatever happens. Although sometimes I have to develop the film to see what I've done the other night!

Do you ask people if you can take their photo before you shoot?

I don't usually. There have been occasions where random people get upset and ask you to delete a photo you've just taken. But I use film cameras all the time, so when you tell people you can't delete it, they don't really know what to do. "Uh, film? Well don't take any more then" they say, which is fine: I got the shot anyway.

So you're a loyal analogue photographer?

I've got nothing against digital. I mean, it would make my luggage a lot lighter when I travel. When I go on tour I usually take around 6 different cameras, in 2 heavy bags, which weigh about 18 kilos each. And of course there are other drawbacks to using analogue. Five or six of my films got stuck in a machine at the photo lab once. Luckily the shot I needed was undamaged at the top. But it's gut-wrenching when that kind of thing happens. And then there's the airport security who know less and less about film and make you throw it all through the scanner. But it all adds to the whole process. With digital, I don't have the feeling of taking a photograph, just a snapshot. For me it doesn't feel right. To each his own, I suppose. Plus, I love looking at slides and negatives on my light table. It all comes down what works for you, and this works for me; I love film.

What do you think the perception of skateboarding is now?

The perception's changed over the last ten years. At school now, the soccer player's more of an outcast than the skateboarder. There are skateparks in every neighbourhood now; no skater has to build his own stuff, so they tend to get lazy. Skaterboarders used to think outside the box, whereas nowadays they seem to be satisfied in that box. With Fluff Magazine, we want to inspire the new generation of skaters to be creative. We change format and paper all the time with each issue. It's basically like skateboarding; you don't want to skate that same spot with that same trick every time. If you do something in the same way for too long you get over it. There aren't too many original magazines anymore, and it's getting harder and harder for print mags to make ends meet. But where is that online content going to be in 10 years? You could still pick up a 15-year-old mag and all the content and feel of that era will still be there.

If you had to choose: skateboarding or photography?

Haha, well luckily I don't have to; they mix perfectly together.

Check out more of Marcel's photography on his website and blog.


Interview originally done for and published on

No comments:

Post a Comment