MPS Digital Photography class of 2015 alumnus Kathleen Hayes (BFA 1997 Photography and Video) offers a candid, colorful and gritty exploration of the culture of diehard, middle-aged skateboarders in her photo series, Shred Til You’re Dead, currently on view as part of a group show with her fellow classmates entitled “Fuse” at the SVA Gramercy Gallery through November 14. SVA Close Up recently caught up with Hayes to learn more about the inspiration behind her series.
Tell us a about Shred Til You’re Dead.
STYD is an exploration of the community of skateboarders who are middle aged and beyond, the diehards whose adult lives revolve around their love and devotion for this plank of wood on wheels. From April through June of 2015, I traveled on weekends to skate sessions, held everywhere from private backyard bowls and vert ramps to city parks, from Virginia and Maryland to Massachusetts and west into Pennsylvania.
The people in my photographs are of the first real generation of skateboarders of this age demographic. They didn’t quit skateboarding because they broke some bones, needed surgery, got a “real” job, married and had children, or gave in to the usual admonishments about engaging in an activity that is considered reckless or immature. They didn’t quit because they got old. Through a series of environmental portraits, candid moments and gritty details, I aimed to capture and share the lifestyle the joy, the pain, the attitude, the commitment and the gnar.
For the exhibition, I wanted to create a real skate vibe so I displayed my photographs unframed and in an installation incorporating my X-rays on a light box, skateboard parts and other objects that are significant to this older generation of skate culture. To accompany the project I made a limited edition skate zine with the help of MFA Visual Narrative’s new RISO Lab and zine class.
What inspired you to start photographing these skateboarders?
My own life as a skateboarder began over two decades ago. Last March, at the age of 40, I was badly injured by a collision while skating a bowl. In extreme pain, with a new metal plate and screws in my wrist, and unable to skate, I was inspired to document the tight community of people who inhabit adult skate culture.
How do you think the different bodies of work in “Fuse” relate to one another?
A lot of the projects tell stories of personal experience, whether told directly, or by an abstract or surreal approach. Curator Michael Foley did a great job juxtaposing the projects throughout the space, tying the different bodies of work together and connecting them visually or through similar undertones.
Why did you decide to enroll in the MPS Digital Photography program?
I graduated from BFA Photography and Video in 1997 when it was a film based program. I am so grateful to have been here at the end of that era, however, the technology changed in lightning speed. My Photoshop and digital printing skills were primarily self taught. I was creating a lot of new work, but I was doing everything wrong technically and had no workflow. I had never even touched Lightroom. MPS Digital Photography had everything I needed to move forward with the times and make my work stronger.
For more information about the “Fuse” exhibition at the SVA Gramercy Gallery, click here.