I met up with Gerd Rieger sometime back in the early 90’s during a skate trip to Marseille and if I remember correctly it was during the first years of the Marseille park so it was probably around 1992/93. He had been around in the skateboard scene in Europe for quite some time and was already recognized for his smooth style and fast runs. Since then we’ve met up once and a while for a skate session and just lately we have been hooking up on a more regular basis due to his online photography/skateboard magazine Bailgun which if I may say is quite a cool read and certainly some eye candy.
Gerd has influenced skateboard magazines for many years so it was due time to have a word with him, sit back and get to know the man:
You’ve been involved in skateboarding for quite a long time. Tell us a bit about how you got involved in the world of skateboarding (which boards you ride/rode, which ramps/spots you skated, who did you skate with, sponsors, contests won/lost).
I got into it around 1980 because a neighbour had some plastic board so I also had to get one as it looked like fun. Luckily I was able get one cheap from a friend’s brother who had one in the garage that he wasnt using anymore.
So that’s how I started rolling around on the streets and down small hills on a narrow plastic board.
A bit after that I met Florian BÃ¶hm in school. We were in the same class and he showed me some Skateboarder mags and told me about the “Monster Skatepark” in MÃ¼nster with a halfpipe and some more stuff. I was living like an hour away from MÃ¼nster at that time so I got my dad into checking out the park one day and one of the first times I went to the park the first “MÃ¼nster Monster Mastership” was held and I was pretty stoked to check it out and see skaters from all over Germany and even Holland, Belgium and England.
After that I was totally hooked and I went to the park whenever possible. In 1982 they had two halfpipes that didn’t even have flat – they added some flat to one of the ramps in 1983 and than added the 2nd pipe next to the other one so by 1984 it was a pretty wide ramp with a channel and two extentions.
I was skating with Florian and Anders Tellen a lot and whoever else was at the park. Claus Grabke, Martin van Doren, Uli Niewohner, Thomas Kalak, Martin Broich, Marc Lorenz…..
I enterd the first contest in 1983 at the Titus Cup series in Marl and than MÃ¼nster, Germany.
And I tried to enter as many contests in the series as possible. One of the main motivations to enter those contests was to meet and skate with different peoole at new/ different spots. It was nice if you placed well but that was defenitely not what was most important.
In 1984 I wanted to go to the famous Swedish Summer Camp but tweaked my ankle a week earlier and I couldnt go which was a big bummer because back then this was pretty much the only opportunity to actually see, skate and hang out with a real pro skateboarder from the US. But luckily I made it the next year which was the last summer camp they did in Sweden. Tony Hawk and Lance Mountain were there.
You’ve been taking photos ever since I met you back in 1992 (or was it 1993) during a trip to Marseille. When did photography become a part of your life and what makes skateboard photography so attractive for you?
I think I started to get into photography seriously around 1999 when I took a photography class at design school. We had to work with a medium format camera, develop the film and make our own prints – that’s when I got hooked on photography.
Do you really need to go to a design/ photography school? NO, but what’s really cool about it is that you get to try out and use equipment that you wouldn’t even think of owning when you start out. Like a studio with all the fancy flashes, darkrooms for b/w and color developing, medium and large format cameras…..But who needs all that shit in todays digital craze? I don’t know.
But I know that my negatives and slides are gonna be useable in decades and I’m kinda scared to think of 10 or 20 years ahead and wonder what will be with all the jpgs, tiffs and raws on my DVDs, and hard disk drives.
Will they still be readable in the future? Only if you keep the files updated with the current systems.
But I guess it’s probably not even that bad that the trillions of digital pics taken with your cell phone or digital camera are gonna be lost because that way all the crap is gonna be sorted out “naturally”.
I know that I am interested so could you tell us about your camera set-up? What do you use for a typical indoor / outdoor session?
I usually use one or two flashes, sometimes three. If possible I like to keep it simple.
I use digital cameras a lot nowadays because its more convieniet if you use the photos for websites or magazines.
Do you have any special tricks or tips which you use often that make a big difference in your pictures’ style?
I like it simple I guess. I like the light of an overcast day for a portrait more than ten flashes in the studio or just as I like an ollie to smith by Chris Miller more than some super crazy flip switch revert by whoever. Not saying that the one is better than the other, I just like it more.
You are also the man behind the online magazine “Bailgun” and it’s blog Bailgun.com which has raised a few eyebrows around the world. What got you to start putting this magazine together and where is it headed in the future?
I started Bailgun because I needed a platform to present my photos basically.When a magazine prints one of your pics there’s problably 5-10 more pics that will be worth publishing but with all the photographers they just don’t have enough room for all of the shots.
So some day I found http://www.bueroammeer.com/pdfmag.php, a PDF Mag from SVEN HOFFMANN and I thought that this was a nice way to present my work.
Future? Well we just relaunched our website to make it more interesting and be able to post some stuff inbetween the PDF issues. Then we have the Black Blog which is like a photo gallery.
Skateboarding is in a sense the same movement around the world but attitudes, styles and the lifestyle surrounding it is different everywhere you go. What do you think (if anything) makes it different/special in Germany or even Europe to elsewhere?
It seems like a lot of skaters in Germany are still thinking and skating in categories, like there’s the “street” skater who’s just skating street – he’s avoiding everything that has a transition.
If you see the up-and-coming skaters from the States or Spain, France, etc. they seem more well rounded and can rip a pool/bowl or a ramp or a curb, ledge, stairs, whatever.
But luckily there are some exceptions like Kevin Wenzke wh’s a young ripper and he’s skating everything, hopefully there are more kids like him coming up.
We are all getting older, our bones start to ache more after a session and stretching is a must for most of us? Would you like to young again and live through skateboarding in this new era?
Would ve been cool to have all the rad spots that we have now like Hagen Pool, etc. and grow up skating that stuff but on the other side I think it was pretty rad starting to skate in the 80’s because it was more of an adventure like there were hardly any magazines the skate video was still to be invented so you mabe had to be more creative and make up stuff find stuff. Today there’s already everything. But no I wouldnt wanna miss the 80s era of skating exept for spots maybe.
There is no way possible to say “this guy is my all time favorite skater”. Who are some of your favorite skaters and why?
Chris Miller: speed and style, just watch his run at last years Vans contest http://link.brightcove.com/services/link/bcpid1316333565/bctid1395205634
Neil Blender: style and innovative in skating and art
the Gonz: style and innovative and just as Neil doing his own thing
Steve Claar:style and the best fs ollie
Peter Hewitt: speed, style, and skating on edge all the time
Any last words of wisdom?
Mal den Kategorische Imperativ von Kant ansehen und kurz nachdenken. (That’s German and I’ll leave that one for you to find out!)
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