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Street Memo: Illustrated Moments


30,000 years ago people painted the first depictions of events, such as their hunting conquests and tribal achievements. It was a way to express their stories, to tell their homies that shit went down. Fast forward to the present, ain’t a damn thing changed, Fred Simonson told the stories of photographic achievements and talented New Orleans artist Nathan Pitts illustrated these events, shit went down.


Street Memo: Illustrated Moments


Stories by: Fred Simonson

Interview by: Stephen Serrano

Art by: Nathan Pitts


FRED: All right, so yeah, yeah, the kickflip, the kickflip at Hanks'

I really like that photo. I was thinking, you go make photos. You have control over the exposure and the elements that you choose and you can kind of pick a little box that you put the thing in, but there's so many there's so many little surprises that happen when you look at them, you know, it's you have control over the box, but that's really just it. But everything else is sort of up to the universe. It's why I don't think about it too much.


But, yeah, that kickflip that day, I remember setting up across the street, long lens and there's a flash pointing at him directly off the frame and I'm triggering an optical trigger just for my camera from across the street.


So we had to make sure that there weren't cars, there's that light. So you can avoid when traffic was coming through.


Phllip is clutch, that spot is a quick throw down. The gap is not the biggest but it's not a small gap at all. It’s a little over knee high and probably three feet. And then it’s a chest high drop, into a place where people might be turning into. And then the throw down is on that painted porch. It's a one drop and go sort of situation.

I remember the guy was there, there's a guy who owned it, I think Philly gave him 20 bucks to let us skate there, if I'm not mistaken. I mean he really talked to him and convinced the guy. I think Philly gave him some Andrew Jackson for that and then proceeded to do it three times.


Jordan - Kickflip

FRED: This was the second time that we went, I think it was cold, cold like today. I think the first time there were some complications.


Photos, those different circumstances. So you have a little bit more creative control at night. You're still dealing with the street. I think the light in this is further away, so it's harder to test there. There was a lot of foot traffic that night, even though it was a Monday or Tuesday night, probably Tuesday night. A lot of foot traffic because there's a club right there on the corner and it was before COVID. So it was bumping on the Tuesday night. And I think he had to run from across the street and throw down.

I got an idea of kind of what I wanted to do before. Always when somebody is wearing white and black, it's a little bit of a challenge because you've got a very absorbent, a light absorbent material and a light reflective material. But I think it works for the photo.


I mean, he just kickflipped this high shit, it took a few tries. I think most of it was situational when there's flash popping and it's the middle of the night and there's lots of lots of stuff going on. I mean, you know, Jordan, that's the shit right there on his part. I probably sold a lot of these prints.


"Fuck It'"

FRED: With you there is a strong emphasis on making sure that we get the make, you wanna run makes and I'm bout it. I would prefer all other things being equal for the make to be the best photo.


And I think you've expressed that there's something about the moment and how there's no falsity in the moment.


Even though it's all a production and it's a demonstration, you're creating an event.


I think that sometimes with skate photography, you’re covering an event and sometimes with skate photography you're kind of making art and sometimes you're kind of doing both.


And it's neat when everything can kind of gel.


What was going on in your head when we were shooting?


STEPHEN: There was some little things that just kept getting in my way for me to roll away from it. The time I rolled away, every little thing came together to a moment where I was just like, fuck it, and then it worked. I was super, try, try, try, slam, try, try, try and then just did it as soon as I was like, “fuck it.”

FRED: So I remember that day for us, the conditions were changing, like it was getting from light to dark and I remember I was kind of stoked when the conditions were starting to change and I was going to be able to get to bleed through with that light and low, drag the shutter more and get some bleed through on your clothes.


These days I've been kind of encouraged to shoot fish. I had some good feedback with with the product. I mean, with what I've done, it means that you sacrifice a little bit. I take composition or at least you sacrifice compositional control. But that's not always, you end up getting the whole body in the frame in a way that you can't see the world like you can see the world in fisheye. You can kind of try, but... But, you know, it changes how you shoot it, but sometimes you shoot Fisheye and you want to get the environment.


Cody on the hill

FRED: This is August and it's yes, August, this is pandemic, man.


This is you know, I've been in a... I mean, the whole world's been in a slump, I've been in a rut, I hadn't really been stoked on work or stoked on skating and felt like, I need to just get out and make some things happen.


I brought my camera for some reason I don't know why I did it. I might have brought my camera to work to take pictures of fucking food. I brought my camera gear to work, to take some work photos. I wanted to take some proper high res stuff and brought it to work. I parked in a place where I never park. I parked up the street, I was like, OK, well, I'm going to go to the coffee shop.


Cody's a skate rat. He always skates, often by himself, just kind of like cruising around and getting in the cut, was at the corner.


There's this one hill in Baton Rouge is at the top of the street. There's this one hill right off campus and this little little dipsy do thing right by my work and the coffee shop, I shot him doing those manuals from four different angles and then finally landed at this one and then discovered that, you know, I could get out of the trees on the top and and sort of a little bit like a road weaving away from.

Cody killed and Cody's fucking good. He's good man.


I realized that it reminds me of the, the Dune banana board photo in San Francisco, Chris Pastras, and he's wearing khaki pants and escaped down this fucking impossibly steep hill on this super scrawny board.


Street Memo: Illustrated Moments


Stories by: Fred Simonson

Interview by: Stephen Serrano

Art by: Nathan Pitts