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Portfolio Check – Phil Jackson


Fence Hop, Brooklyn NY

Let’s start with the basics – did you get into photography or skateboarding first? Give us a little history how you were introduced to both.

Skating first – that led me to travel. From there my friend got me into shooting with disposables, then my aunt gave me her old nikon SLR. My best friend in high school had a darkroom – we didn’t have any real photo classes – so we taught ourselves anything technical we could figure out.

Salt Flats, Utah.

What’s it like growing up in Philly as an inspired photographer?

I was a suburban boy – taking day trips to the city was super raw for me. Running from undercover cops posing as homeless people at Love. Getting screamed at by FDR locals for getting in their way (yeah, we definitely were). Skating through the hood in bombed out north philly zones. It really got me excited to start documenting my life.

Andrew with sunburn. Indianapolis, IN.

You went to school for photography right? Would you suggest to any future skate photographers to do the same?
Yes, I went to art school and have a degree in photo. Like with anything, you get out what you put in. If you are motivated to do things on your own, more power to you. For me, school was a really essential experience though – I’d like to go back for a graduate degree at some point, and maybe even teach. If all you want to do is shoot skating for magazines, it probably doesn’t make much of a difference if you have a photo degree or not. But if you want to pursue photography as a fine art, I think it really does help to study art history, have critiques, read art theory, and experience all of that side.

Vinny, Luke and Cus bucketing. Newark, NJ.

What was your first experience with the DIY ethic of skateboarding like?
I got a handful of zines from skaters at different art shows and events and stuff – that’s when I realized that you could do your own thing with self publishing. And definitely seeing FDR take shape over the years, due solely to the blood, sweat and spare change of the people skating it had a big influence on me.

Josh breaking ice. Newark, NJ.

Have you always been sober, no drinking or smoking? Do you think this is an advantage for a photographer or disadvantage maybe?
Yeah, I’ve been clean livin for life. I was pretty strongly influenced by Ed Templeton and Ian Mackaye and those kind of dudes as a kid, and I think part of my motivation has always been a sort of rebellion, whether that is kind of juvenile or not. As a photographer, on one hand, it is definitely an advantage, because I’m always clear headed and in control of myself. Sometimes, socially it makes it a little harder, but I’m outgoing so I try to make it work.

Would you say you have a certain style of shooting, what’s your favorite way to capture skateboarding?
I just try to capture the honest truth.

Andrew at Homewoods. Bloomington, IN.

How did the book ‘FDR Skatepark: A Visual History‘ come about, what was it like laying that out how long of a production would you say it was?
My friends Nick Orso and Scott Kmiec approached me with the idea, and asked me to handle getting the photographs – this was before we had figured out that it was going to be a photography book, with almost no text in it at all. We spent roughly 3 years soliciting contributors, scanning, and hacking through layouts. It was pretty weird to hold it in my hands when it was finally done. The most rewarding part was hearing good things from the people I’ve looked up to since I was a kid.

Tent at night, Oregon Coast, OR.

How many publications have you now made? Books, zines, etc.
I made Borderline Retarded for 10 issues / 10 years (from 2005-2014) and a handful of side project zines during that time, as well as the FDR book. So maybe twenty or so?

You’re always working on new projects, what’s your current masterpiece?
I just finished the last and final issue – #10 – THE DEATH ISSUE – of my zine, Borderline Retarded.

I also just had a show with Rick & Buddy called Temporary Autonomous Aggro Zone, which is up through July 27th in Philly.

Currently I’m working on something that feels like a zine but looks like a book. Or maybe it’s the other way around.

Washington ave. Philadelphia, PA.

Lastly – how do we keep up to date with you and would you like to thank anyone?
I’d like to thank my girlfriend, the Zig, who shocks me with how much she believes in me and my work, despite my constant bouts of negativity and self doubt. I’d also like to thank anyone who I have ever been able to shoot a photo of. It really is a burden to be put on display – I recognize that and I feel very fortunate that my friends have let me document our lives together. It’s something that I take really seriously, and believe in the importance of doing. Also, any friends or strangers alike who have bought a zine over the years. Thanks guys – it means a lot to me.

Follow Phil Jackson on Instagram, check out his blog here and his personal website here.

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