Monday, 11 October 2010

Hugh Holland

For a few glorious years in the 1970s, before egos exploded and commercialism cashed in on the scene, skateboarding was an unaffected underground calling - a way of life for the gilded and lost youth of the West Coast, who lived to skate and rode till they dropped. The history of the scene has been well-documented now, from the Dogtown story to Stoked on down, and there are websites far more clued-in to the skate scene than FOV where every angle of skate lore is disseminated in detail.
With no previous connection to the scene, and no real precedent or parameters, photographer Hugh Holland documented this emerging movement in Los Angeles after chancing upon some young kids hurling themselves down the drainage ditches in West Hollywood one evening in 1975. Self-taught and eager to shoot more than just casual snapshots, Holland knew he had stumbled across something very special. His subsequent series of photos, suffused with that inimitable golden warmth of California sunshine, are guileless, intimate, poignant and poetic. And probably never bettered. The skaters seem to accept Holland entirely, and the resulting shots defined the aesthetic of skate photography for the next decade. Beyond the dynamic wide-angle shots where Holland is inside the pools or going down the banks with these fearless young tornadoes, the more intimate shots of them simply hanging out or taking a break have a real power and innocence to them. 'The South Bay Gang, 1975' is as timeless a photograph as you're ever likely to see capturing the blissful optimism of American youth.
The photographs are a fascinating document of a singular moment in skate culture which was over all too soon; as increased commercial involvement polarised those involved in the scene from 1978 onwards, and its popularity spread nationwide, Holland felt the magic and innocence fall away, and the series came to an end.

Canyon Sunset Ride, Hollywood Hills, 1975

Schoolyard Drop, 1976

Todd Foot, Ensenda, 1977

Stacey Peralta, 1977

Solo, Kenter Canyon Elementary, 1976

Sidewalk Surfer, Huntington Beach, 1976

Reach Out, 1976

Skater School, Orange County, 1977

Laid Out At Kenter, 1976

Jeff Jones, 1976

Skate Shooter, Kenter, 1976

Jeff Jones Hangs Ten, Kenter Elementary, 1976

Gilded Skater, San Diego, 1975

Todd's Guitar, 1975

Arthur Lake, Kenter Canyon Elemantary, 1976

Number 79, Long Beach, 1975

The South Bay Gang, 1975

Last Light At Kenter Canyon, 1975

All images © Hugh Holland


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