Naughty by Dominic Marley – His Thoughts on the New Book : Slam City Skates Blog

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by jacobsawyer

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05.28.2024


Naughty is a new book of photos by Dominic Marley. Find out more about what makes up this book backed up by some musings from Dominic Marley himself about the process of making it, and his relationship with the body of work it contains…

 

Words and interview by Jacob Sawyer. “Naughty” shot on Cornish sands by Dominic Marley

 

Dominic Marley’s new book Naughty represents the decade he spent shooting skateboarding on the streets of London. This 128-page book is filled with photos spanning that ten-year period, including some that were shot before he had turned his evolving craft into a way of life. It has been carefully assembled to be an evocative keepsake, a time capsule that breathes new life into these old images, many of which are lesser spotted shots. Knowing that this book becoming a physical reality has been on the cards for some years, it was a pleasure to acknowledge it being out there by speaking to Dom about his thoughts now that this labour of love is in or hands.

The launch event for Naughty took place at the Photo Book Cafe on Wednesday May 15th and lots of heads turned up to see the book for the first time. Dom’s first takeaway regarding the response to it was one of relief, explaining that, “A few people have responded with the exact intention of it which was to bring back the nostalgia of that time. So from that perspective, it has served its purpose, and I hope people continue to see that”. Everyone who showed up would have been able to see that the finished work ties a bow around Dom’s time out in the field but one piece of feedback meant the most, ”It got Toddy’s approval, that was always a thing for me, from the very first project we worked on together. I shot a lot with Toddy, he knows what he likes on a skateboard. If it wasn’t good enough I think he would be the first to tell me he wasn’t feeling it”.

 

“It got Toddy’s approval, that was always a thing for me, from the very first project we worked on together”

 

It’s only natural that Olly Todd’s opinion remains a barometer for Dom. After all, it was their first Ben Powell commissioned collaboration on an interview for Sidewalk magazine that saw Dom’s photos published for the first time, and opened up his hands-on approach to printing. This physical element is something he fondly recalls, “As the years went on there wasn’t enough time to make a print every time you shot a photo but at the beginning when I shot something the post-process would be more of a consideration. I would send the magazines 12×16 prints that they would scan. That’s still a process I like to use sometimes, it’s a lovely way of working. There’s a certain quality to it, if you really look into the details of some of those photos you can see it. Toddy’s 180 nosegrind from his interview opens the book, that was scanned from a print. They look different to a regular film scan, there’s a softness to those images I like, and if you can spot it, you can spot it”. Alongside the skate photos themselves which are obviously a focus, are other images that recall this way of working.

 

The original selection process, a contact sheet of an Olly Todd ollie from his Sidewalk interview

 

From the very first photos that came back, the Slam shop in Covent Garden played a big part in Dom’s schedule. The proximity of the Neal’s Yard shop to the Endell Street lab where he got his developing done meant no more than a week would go by without a visit from Mr Marley. He remembers the regime clearly, “The lab where I used to get all of my film processed was just around the corner from the shop. Every week or two, or on the way back from a trip I would go and drop my film in there. I used to get test rolls developed there. If there was a particular thing I had shot multiple rolls of I’d run one through, then see which way to go with the exposure based on that. Once I’d dropped the film off I’d be left with a couple of hours so my lab days involved at least two hours in Slam to begin with. I’d check the film, and then spend another couple of hours at the shop waiting for the next rolls. I’d frequently spend some solid time there, watch the latest videos, read magazines, and catch up with everyone. It was always fun. Slam played an integral role in me seeing all these images for the first time, it was part of the whole process, it’s where most people who are in the book gravitated towards as well”.

 

“Slam played an integral role in me seeing all these images for the first time, it was part of the whole process”

 

We are pleased to have been a part of it, and even got to see some of the iconic images in the book on the lightbox when lab waiting time was over. Many of the photos in Naughty made it to print but seeing them all together, in uniform black and white, adds weight to them, and has changed how Dom looks at the work he has accrued, “It’s about repurposing the photos, and it’s made me look at the archive in a different way. Film is 25 frames a second, a moving image, but with a still, unless it’s digitised and in a scrolling format, the frames per second are decided by how long the person viewing it wants to spend looking at it. That viewing time is affected by other things. One photo viewed alone has its own significance, but a set of photos presented together takes on another significance. How you edit them definitely changes the narrative of an image or a collection of images”. Needless to say, a lot of time and thought has gone into ordering the photos. Two kickflips destined for Nick Jensen’s feet well represent the passage of time presented…

 

Two Nick Jensen Kickflips from two different eras. Playstation skatepark and Gas Banks in Holborn

 

“The photo of Nick [Jensen] doing a kickflip at Playstation was one of the first times I ever used lighting in a skate photo…Those two photos together represent an evolution for both of us”

 

When asked about both of these Dom looks back on the mutual progression the two of them went through between shots, “The photo of Nick [Jensen] doing a kickflip at Playstation was one of the first times I ever used lighting in a skate photo. I shot that really early on, it’s deliberately next to a photo of him towards the end of that decade doing a kickflip over the bar at gas banks in Holborn. They are both great kickflips for their own reasons but the Gas Banks one is obviously quite gnarly. Those two photos together represent an evolution for both of us”. From skating with Nick at Playstation and further afield during that exact era we can attest that he has always had a very powerful kickfip in his arsenal but there’s no way his teenage frame could have propelled one over that Gas Banks rail. These photos together are great markers, a Waiting For The World era Nick at his regular TF beneath the Westway complimented by him operating on full power in the wild for Make Friends With The Colour Blue. The early photo of Nick prompted us to ask about other photos from a similar period that appear. One photo Dom shot of Charlie Young at Fairfield went down around the same time he was tasked with working on Olly Todd’s interview…

 
Charlie Young Backside Noseblunt Slides at Fairfield Halls in Croydon. Shot by Dominic Marley

Charlie Young Backside Noseblunt slides at fairfield halls in Croydon, an early Dom Marley photo

 

This photo is interesting because while Dom was tripping into town to shoot very specific things with Olly Todd, this photo at a childhood haunt is the product of a day out skating, some nice light, and the camera bag beginning to become a regular feature. Speaking of this transition he said “This photo of Charlie is a point where I started shooting skating more, alongside skating myself. We were sessioning the block together, and then I shot a photo. In a way, that’s everything skate photography should be. As the years went on things became a bit more of a production, you would be going somewhere specific with a shot already in mind. That early photo of Charlie is very organic while other photos are more constructed. There’s a lot of early stuff in the book, those photos represent a nice time of their own”. It’s a testament to Dom’s good eye that the photos shot when he was developing his technique retain just as much allure as ones where he had everything wired.

 

“At one time I would look at earlier photos and not be a fan of them because of the critical eye I had developed to improve. But looking back on them now they are probably some of my favourites”

 

He speaks about the reasons for this and how time elapsing means you can revisit images with fresh eyes, “My relationship with the work I was producing changed over time. All skate photographers know that you are limited by the amount of lighting you can bring around with you, and a lot of the time by where you can put it. With some of the later photos, I would be looking at those shots with a very critical eye, I’d be looking at the lighting, and what I could have done differently to improve the final product. I would always be looking to improve, and by looking at things in that way you almost disregard any images that came previously”.

By the time it came to selecting images for Naughty, and with more than a decade of commercial work under his belt his scrutinous eye had softened, ”At one time I would look at earlier photos and not be a fan of them because of the critical eye I had developed to improve. But looking back on them now they are probably some of my favourites. They were raw, they communicate that, and I think that’s what skate photos should be. There’s that element of spontaneity, even when the photos are planned. There was this unknown factor of how it was going to work, and that’s the magic of it. That’s why I think photos shot on film will always hold that nostalgia. All of the photos in the book were shot on film”. One set of photos shot on film that appear in the book may seem incongruous at first glance but they represent a narrative of their own…

 
Portraits of Stevie Williams shot by Dominic Marley in the Slam City Skates basement

Portraits of Stevie Williams shot by Dom in the Slam city Skates basement

 

There is a big leap from your entire friendship group watching The Reason and The Chocolate Tour religiously in 1999 to being on a European tour with your favourite skateboarder from these videos and the team he put together. This contact sheet exemplifies the wild trip Dom’s fascination with photography took him on, ”The Stevie portrait was taken at the end of a Reebok trip, we ended up back in London, and at Slam in Neal’s Yard. The trip began in Serbia, then to Germany, and back to London. I flew to Serbia with Lev [Tanju]. It was nice to take Stevie to some spots we would usually skate, and to see how his skating translated. We had planned to shoot some portraits on that trip, and Slam seemed like a fitting place to do it. There are some other portraits in the book of London locals, and some photos of skaters taken in London who are from elsewhere but having a photo of Stevie [Williams] in the book seemed appropriate. We all grew up loving his skating. Also, his portrait being taken in Slam shows how pivotal the shop was in the whole creative process”.

 

“having a photo of Stevie [Williams] in the book seemed appropriate. We all grew up loving his skating. Also, his portrait being taken in Slam shows how pivotal the shop was in the whole creative process”

 

We are stoked that this book is now in existence, and proud to have played some part in the process that led to its creation, it was a long road for it to come together. From speaking with Dom it’s obvious that another collection of photos could easily transpire from the archives as both the inspiration and the material are there at hand. While he jokes that he’s down to a skate photo a year it was also great to learn that skate photos of some of the younger members of the Palace camp could become a reality soon. We look forward to seeing the tradition, and craft laid down on the pages of Naughty continuing on the London streets with this legendary lensman. Years of yoga practice following the era that produced Naughty should give his ideal fisheye angle an added assist. Here’s a virtual glimpse of a book we can’t recommend enough…

 

 

Naughty just joined our selection of Books & Magazines. Visit us to make sure this epic collection of photographs is one of the spines on your bookshelf.

 


 

Related Reading: Dominic Marley: 5000 Words, The Skateboarder’s Companion – A Little Bit ‘Naughty’, Free Skate Mag – Naughty – an Interview with Dom Marley





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