David Luther is a busy guy when it come to the European skateboarding agenda. After making him wait for several weeks I finally got him a set of questions sent over and here’s what he has to say:
Who are you? Tell us a little bit about yourself (age, what you do in life, where you live)
David Luther, I’m turning 35 this summer, I live in Hamburg, Germany, and I try to do whatever I feel like doing the most at that very moment. I think it’s called ADD. If I focus enough, I sometimes manage to be responsible for the German version of the Kingpin Skateboarding Europa Magazine, meaning I translate most of the text in there from English to German (sometimes I have a little help from my man Ralf, thanks buddy!), and I write articles, or chase down writers to have articles written for the mag. I’m also the contact for the contributing photographers from the German speaking areas.
When I’m not doing stuff for Kingpin, I run a website called Skateboardgeruechte.de (with the help of a fabulous network of jolly good folks inside the industry), shoot photos of skaters and musicians, mcee at skateboarding competitions, or rap along some German rap music. Basically, if something interests me, I inhale it, and try to make it somehow contribute to paying my rent. Can’t be bothered with anything else than hobbies, really. Didn’t study, no apprenticeship, all learning by doing and gut feeling. There’s a few other translations and random media stuff like Titus TV for MTV in my history as well, but that has come and gone. What do I do in life? I’m living it, I guess.
How did you get into photography, especially skateboard photography?
My father had – or, actually, still has, and he just won’t fuckin’ give it up – an old Minolta SLR, which had my full attention as soon as I could grab stuff. A solid, completely manual camera, he had three lenses for it, and the very first appeal was the technical side of it. The metal body and the sound when you press the shutter or wind the film, the changing of the lenses, it just seemed like a really cool thing to handle, it felt good. You know how most dads are, they don’t want their sons near their stereos, cameras, cars, or anything like that, and mine was no exception. So he got me some cheap camera for my sixth birthday. For a short while, I was a really expensive kid, going through film like Lagerfeld through Woolworth – really fast. I went back to that habit when I started working for Monster in MÃ¼nster years later, but that’s another story. Skateboard photography was just the logical consequence once skateboarding, and skatemags entered my life. It’s strange though: I hate writing, and I love photography, yet I’ve always been a better writer, and as soon as photography had to work as a job – that was in between Monster Magazine and Kingpin – I quickly learned to hate that as well. So, when Niall called to offer me Dirk Vogel’s position in 2006, I was more than happy to let photography go back to being a mere semi-professional (at best) hobby, that brings in a bit of pocket money here and there and lets me work with my favourite artists, or upcoming, interesting acts. That’s one of the dangers here: if you make your hobby your profession, and it turns out to be a pain in the ass on a professional level, you’re fucked. Can’t let that happen, so there always have to be a few other fields for me to dabble in. I couldn’t work as skateboarding photographer only, not anymore. It’d kill both skateboarding, and photography for me.
Photo: Alex SchÃ¤rfe, backside smith, Wilhelmsburg
You are the man representing Kingpin Skateboard magazine in Germany and you are known for owning the mic for many skate contests and events. How did you get to be in this position?
If only I knewâ€¦ It’s a really long story, I’ve been working for skatemags for 15 years by now. I was at the right place at the right time (that goes for magazine work), I didn’t mind doing it (that goes for the mceeing), and I had a giant shitload of luck, and a supportive environment, too. Aw, whatever, I’ll just tell it, the second part at least: I never was a good skateboarder, but I love it, so whatever else I could do with skateboarding, I wanted to do it. When the COS series started over ten years ago, it was always like: “Okay, who’s hosting?” Same picture at every local contest – no one really wanted to do it. It always ended with some poor idiot who couldn’t talk straight, or some giant idiot screaming non-stopâ€¦neither of which was able to properly identify the tricks being done, let alone pronounce the names, or read a watch. Back then, I was already working for Monster Magazine, covering contests left and right, writing about the COS Cup series, and that meant I had to be there. Hang out at the park for the weekend, watch what’s going on, take notes, maybe film a bitâ€¦ To put it in one word: boring. I wasn’t gonna battle those lunatics on the course for a go at the obstacles, because I love my ankles and I’m the only one who’s allowed to wreck them. But I felt like I could find this really thin path between being boring, and being a nuisance on the microphone, while providing mostly accurate trickery knowledge, so I volunteered. Worked out allright I guess, I’ve seen at least three generations grow up in “the game”. During the last five years or so I’ve felt like Uncle David on the microphone. Sometimes I’m barking at twens I’ve known since they were 8 or 9 years old. Amazing.
Photo: Thomas Gentsch, Pole Jam No Comply and Michael von Fintel, Kickflip
What type of equipment do you use for your photos? (outside shots, night shots, indoor shots)
My equipment consists of Nikon bodies (D2x, F5) and different Nikkor lenses (10.5mm 2.8, 17-55mm 2.8, 80-200mm 2.8, 55mm Micro 2.8), two Sunpak 544 flashes, a Nikon SB 28, a Nikon SB 800, a couple PocketWizard Plus II Transceiversâ€¦and that’s it, pretty much. A small Canon point-and-shoot digi, and a Rollei 35 that’s older than my ass (and healthier, too). My neighbour, David BÃ¶ttger, who’s currently very actively involved in the building of the Flora Bowl, has built me a nice ring light for portraits, and I’m pretty stoked on that. But there’s too many factors that matter, to tell exactly what I’d use in a certain situation. It’d be a gun, probably, most of the time. Something automatic.
Do you have any special “tricks” which you like to use for certain types of pictures?
If you could get any new equipment for free, what would you love to have?
A 32 megapixel, full frame, 12 frames per second shooting 100 terabyte mp3 player with built-in Harman Kardon speakers and interchangeable lenses from fish to spot-the-pimple-over-a-mile built into my left eye. I’ll swap the cellphone camera for it. I don’t want a celly with a cam, I want a celly with a built-in lighter. Thanks. You’re laughing nowâ€¦ But I’m telling you, one day someone is going to finally built a cellphone with a built-in lighter.
Photo: Dennis KlÃ¼ssendorf, switch heelflip
What is your opinion on post-processing, especially enhancing pictures?
It’s a blessing. I’ve apruptly ended conversations with purists, or “artists” before, because I can’t really stand the discussion, it’s just pointless. I can see where they’re coming from of course, I’d prefer seeing kids going through 10.000 rolls of film on their way to photography stardom as well, but it’s not gonna happen anymore. You can be jealous all you like – they won’t have to spend the money on film that the older generations had to cough up. So, here’s a choice to be made: stay “true” (and behind in the dust in the process), or get familiar with the possibilities the new technologies have to offer, and use those to your advantage. And “enhancing” really is a relative thing anyway, because a shitty photo is a shitty photo. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
What are you currently working on and do you have any projects planned?
Right this very second I should be translating pull-quotes and captions for Kingpin, also I’m getting ready for the adidas Clash in Berlin this upcoming weekend, and the COS Cup in Dresden the weekend after that. One project that I’d like to see done this summer is a relaunch of my photo website. I’ve already talked to my boys at Menschlabor.info about it, and they’ll take good care of that. Also, I’d really like to see/work on a proper skateboarding format on TV, but that needs the right folks (no problem there), and a good amount of time (which is the one problem I really have, beside doing my taxes). Julian Furones has been in Hamburg for quite some time now, but he leaves on Saturday and I hope he returns soon, because shooting with him is always a pleasure, and we already have a few things that should look good on Kingpin’s pages. Up to this point in my life, nothing has been planned. Everything just fell into place, somehow. So, I don’t plan. Life’s what happens while you’re planning something else, and I’m just too busy enjoying life, and trying to share all the luck I’ve had. Wait, that sounds a bit too perfectâ€¦there has to be a catchâ€¦I got it: do like I do, and you’ll worry about money more than what’s healthy. It’s good fun, but there’s not much money to be made in what I do. Just be careful what you wish for. This could have been the way shorter answer: More money, and more money – but an answer like that might be misconcieved if left alone.
A big thanks to David for this great Q&A. Make sure you check out his sites/sites he contributes to.