The Brixton & Independent “Friendly Union” capsule draws inspiration from Indy’s history in skateboarding, alongside Brixton’s timeless aesthetic. Photographer and filmmaker Tobin Yelland created the “Friendly Union” look book with shared Brixton & Independent ambassadors, so to celebrate the launch of the capsule, the guys at Brixton set up an exhibition with photos Tobin created for this capsule as well as photos he shot over the years with Independent riders.
Tobin has deep roots in skateboarding’s visual history, and has been capturing iconic images for the past three decades. We had a quick chat with Tobin to pick his brain on the current state of photography and skateboard media.
Portrait of Tobin by Dan Mathieu All other photos by Ryan Lebel
Can you give us a quick break down of how you got started with skate photography?
I got started with photography because my mother had a camera in the house. And with skate photography, all my friends were skaters and I just put the 2 together and started shooting my friends skateboarding. Also, when I was 14, I took a photography class with Luck Ogden, who also became a great skate photographer, soon after I had a little photograph of Jack Phelps published in Thrasher, which was the beginning of figuring out I could be a photographer.
With the demise of TWS, where do you think print media fits in today? is there space within the new media for print?
Well, I got my start with prints, that what the end result of your photographs. If you were lucky enough to get published, it would be in a magazine or sometimes a book. Now that there is less print, I feel like…you know, I love looking at my photos and new pictures on Instagram, I love the immediacy of it. I also love to view an image in print. I feel like for me, the end result for a photograph is both of those things. It’s seeing it printed and it’s also seeing it online. It’s a combination of both those things.
What do you think is the future of photography, will video take over?
I don’t know, I like both, but I think there will always be a need for 1 image that tells a story. I really think there will always be a place for still photography.
How do you approach a situation to capture the “decisive moment”? That one frame that tells the whole story?
I feel like it’s a collaboration between the subject and the photographer and really, if the subject doesn’t wanna show that much, they won’t show that much. I feel like photographing the same person over and over again helps, it creates that comfortable environment where you are just there and you are ready and when it happens, it happens. I really like the type of photographers that photograph the same people over and over again or maybe they are just really good at meeting strangers and talking their way into another person’s environment and being able to get a great, intimate photograph of that person. But I think anything, it’s just repetition. It’s repetition and research and just being ready and with photography, there is some technical information you need to be thinking at all the time, and be ready to take a picture. And then it’s just taken a lot of photographs. It’s really a collaboration. I feel like great photographs should be attributed to the photographer, but also the subject for allowing the photographer to take their picture you know, it’s just like 2 wings of a bird to make a good photograph.
Any advice for young photographers?
Just do a lot. Make sure you love it, do personal work and make that’s your driving force. If you always keep something that you like to do for yourself, that you’d do even if you are not paid for it, then you are always gonna like it.
What is next for you?
I am working on a couple books, taking my time and when all the stars align, it will be something that comes out. I feel like books are the best end point for a photograph or a series of photographs.
Find out more about Tobin Yelland’s photography here and check out the Friendly Union capsule here.