One of world’s leading skateboarding filmmakers Fred Mortagne is coming to İstanbul with 212 Photography Istanbul on October 6th until October 16. Better known for his unique eye in his photography and video work, Fred merges his love for skateboarding with urban architecture to create breath taking visual work. Here’s an insider look into his mind, his work and the passion behind all of it.
When did you start skateboarding? How did this passion of yours affect your work?
Ah I started when I was 8! 39 years ago. Sounds crazy, I know! Skateboarding completely changed my life and completely channeled my professional life. It was like a school for me. The school of my dreams where I was a good student. In regular school, I was a bad student, I didn’t care. I knew that I would never be good enough to become a pro skater, but I knew that I had to find a way to somehow work in skateboarding. It was that much of a powerful passion. My motivation was very high to make it happen. Otherwise I would have been lost in life.
You are one of the leading skateboard filmmakers. How is capturing the movement different in the video than in photography?
It’s very different, yet very complementary. I love both of them, that’s why I could never pick one or another. Instead, I’ve been trying to mix them together many times, in different ways. That’s why I made “Hybridation”, a video shot in a photographic way, with strong compositions, minimum to no motion. Individually, both mediums can be frustrating. There are things you can show with videography, and not with pictures, and vice versa.
My images show the subtle interaction between skateboarders and the urban biotope, while some people only see the disturbances they can create.
Are you spontaneous or do you work calculated when it comes to photography?
It can be both. Skateboarding can be beautifully spontaneous. But unfortunately I don’t have as much time as in the past to be out in the streets, shooting skateboarders. Therefore I often plan shootings. Usually I find or think of a certain spot, I determine a dramatic composition, I imagine what trick would look best, then I think of which skateboarder, with skills, style and grace, would be ideal for it. Of course, sometimes it doesn’t go as planned at all, and instead good surprises arise. It usually works one way or another, because if I get out there, it’s because there are all the good ingredients.
How do you define your style?
It is very graphical, based on strong geometric compositions, artistic and poetic flavors, timeless and universal feels. You don’t have to be a skateboarder at all to enjoy my skateboarding images. This is one the achievements that I am the most proud of. I love skateboarding, and of course, part of what I do is to promote it in a good and positive way to people who don’t know it, or think negative things about it. My images show the subtle interaction between skateboarders and the urban biotope, while some people only see the disturbances they can create.
Why did you choose to work only in black and white?
I started shooting video, for brands and marketing purposes, so it was all in color. Raw video footage. With photography, I wanted to do the opposite of my video works, something much more personal. I wanted it to be artistic, and timeless, not attached to any specific era in skateboarding. I was scared of projects or images that will lose their interest after a certain time. B&W is very strong, and is carrying specific values that make it magic and special.
In which aspects does your work feed off of street culture?
Skateboarding pulls its energy from the streets. That’s where it feels the most natural, contradictorily. Because by essence, streets are hostile, they were not design for the practice of skateboarding. And that’s the beauty of it. And all street cultures have similar roots. But I don’t think that my work is so connected to street cultures in general. Because I try to propose something different, and unique. I don’t follow trends for that reason. I’m scared of them, and their ephemeral aspect. I’m looking for something timeless, that can live through trends and eras. I’m rather going against the stream indeed. I started photography in that way, thinking everybody would forget my videos after a few years. Indeed, some of iconic videos are over 20 years now, and people still love them so much!
How can you explain your interest in architecture?
This is because of the school of skateboarding. I had no interest until I started to be regularly exposed to epic architecture, following skateboarders looking for the “perfect (concrete) waves”… Then I became sensitive to it. I realized that it was an incredible form of art that I could use to create something else. At the beginning, I believed that shooting plain architecture was of no interest, as no matter the picture, all the credit would go to the architect who created this piece of art. That’s why I was only shooting if I would add external elements, like skateboarders. Now I think differently. A photographer can sublime a building, in a way that the architect didn’t anticipated or imagined themselves.
212 Photography Istanbul is a festival that brings different disciplines like media, videography, and photography together. 500 works of over 50 artists are going to be exhibited in 15 different locations. What do you think about this type of festival and being a part of it?
I’m so excited because I have never took part to such a big festival before. Having so many different artists, it is great for the audience, who can discover many styles and ways to approach photography. For us photographers, it’s also great, to be able to meet and discover the work of so many people at once. It’s very inspirational. Photography events are always cool, gathering people sharing the same passion and interest, while often, we are alone doing what we do. And I like such festivals who exhibit works in different locations, and I mean, great locations! Oh yes, I can’t wait! Especially as I have never ever come to Istanbul or Turkey before. Like during all my skate trips, I will also take it as a great opportunity to shoot new pictures!