Who's Rad? Sarah Huston.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Photo of Sarah Huston by Claudio Kirac

The first time we heard about Sarah Huston was when we kept seeing posts on social media for a photo exhibit called Yeah Girl, that was going to feature female skateboarders, shot by female photographers. The list of female skate photographers were women that were based all over the world - Sarah Meurle (SWE), Maria Lima (DNK), Nam-Chi Van (USA), Sarah Huston (AUS), Louisa Menke (NLD), Lisa Kindberg (SWE), Marie Dabbadie (FRA), Mimi Knoop (USA). It was such a unique concept, and so timely, that we seriously wished we were in Australia to attend in person. As luck would have it Sarah later took one of our favorite photos of all time, of our team rider Poppy Starr Olsen, and we shared it on Instagram telling her just how much we loved it. One thing led to another and we started communicating via email. After speaking to Sarah, we knew we had to share her unique vision for this exhibit she put on. Sarah is a person who is helping shine a light on women in skateboarding and we think that is pretty rad.  xx

Name?   Sarah Huston

Age?        28

Where do you live/work?       Gold Coast, Australia

How did you get started in photography?

It was through skateboarding that I really started to take an interest in photography. I’ve always loved going along on street missions but often we would end up at spots too big for me to skate so I would pick up the camera instead. Once I learnt the basics I didn't want to put it down. A combination of camera savvy friends that helped me to learn about the technical side of photography, and amazing skater friends who were keen to throw themselves over gaps and down banks for a photo meant that I got plenty of practice and learnt quickly.

Portraits of Chris Cole, Julz Lynn, and Chima Ferguson  / Photos Sarah Huston

What type of photography do you do when you are not shooting skateboarding?

It can be anything really. Landscapes, portraits, textures, interesting scenarios, my day-to-day life.

I enjoy shooting portraits of interesting people. Just quick, unplanned ones whenever and wherever the opportunity arises. I’ve been building up a bit of a collection of portraits of skate-world legends – either skaters or industry people. It’s always just a case of “hey can I shoot your portrait?” —click— “cool thanks!”. I like the spontaneity of it.

I shoot a lot of landscapes and architecture, particularly when I’m traveling. I also like shooting interesting scenarios… just strange things I come across in the streets. Other than that I just document my life and my friends. They're an inspiring bunch.

Skater Nova Fletcher   /  Photo Sarah Huston 

What got you interested in female skaters and made you want to take photos of them? 

For the most part it just happened naturally as I often skate with girls, but there's also motivation in that fact that I'd like to see more exposure for female skaters. Why wait for someone else to give us girls exposure when we can do it ourselves?

Skater Sarah Huston  / Photo Luiz Flavio

Do you skate yourself?

I do. I’m not a great skater but it’s such a big part of my life. I just do it for the fun of it and all the great stuff that comes with it – the friends, the adventures, the challenges.

Skater Sarah Huston  / Photo Luiz Flavio

If so what type of skating is your favorite?

I love street skating because of the adventure and exploration. It’s all about the search and coming up with creative ways to skate things that were never intended to be skated. I skate parks a lot though… it’s always good for a chill session with friends.

What gave you the idea of doing a female photography / female skater exhibit?

I started noticing more and more girls around the world were shooting skate photos and it just seemed like this really niche little group that was flying under the radar. Originally, I was going to do it as an exhibition of female photographers shooting anyone skating—guys or girls—but I’m also a bit of an advocate for increasing the exposure of female skaters, so it seemed like the perfect opportunity to put all the ladies in the spotlight; the ones behind the camera and in front of it.

There’s so much talent in women’s skateboarding these days, from both the skaters and photographers, but it’s still very rare for females to get coverage in the magazines and industry media.

Can you tell us the thought behind calling your exhibit “Yeah Girl”?

“Yeah Girl” is a phrase that tends to come out when I’m skating with other girls. I had been trying to come up with a good name for the exhibition for a while and I was skating with a friend one day and she landed a trick and I yelled out “yeaaah girl!”. I had this immediate ‘light bulb’ moment and realized it was the perfect name. It’s short, sweet, positive and most importantly, it has feeling. Now almost every time I skate with other girls I hear the phrase and it makes me smile. I love how positive and encouraging it is.

Yeah Girl exhibit

I know you wanted to create a look/feel for this exhibit that wasn’t the typical skate look – tell us about why you felt this was important?

The photos in the exhibition weren’t your typical skate photos. They were so diverse and overall had a much more poetic and romantic tone about them. In curating the exhibition I tried to not only highlight the talents of the skaters on a board, but also to show the lifestyle… those in between moments of laughter, pain, freedom and friendship. I wanted the exhibition to tell the full story.

As a designer it was really important to me that this feel of the content was reflected in the branding. I wanted to find the balance between masculine and feminine. Just because it’s very female focused, I didn’t want to make everything pink and pretty, but I didn’t want to go totally in the other direction either. I aimed to communicate a balance between bright and grungy, fun and focused, feminine and masculine.

In designing the logo I wanted it to read in the way that I would say it in the skate park. The loose script in all caps worked well for this. It flows, but has a punch.

Skater Allysha Le   /  Photo by Nam Chi-Van
Skater Lisa Jacob   /  Photo Marie Dabbadie

You included 7 other female photographers who also shoot skateboarding in your exhibit – what gave you this idea?

There are so many females out there doing amazing work and I wanted to highlight this, to show the depth and breadth of the female skate community (photographers and skaters included). I figured, why only showcase my work when I can also help to expose and share the talents of other photographers?

Adding in photographers from around the world definitely complicated the logistics of organizing the exhibition but it also added so much value to it. It wouldn't have been the successful event that it was without all the other people that were involved.

Skater Sarah Meurle  /  Photo Lisa Kindberg

Did you all know one another previously or did you see their work online, via social media etc. and then reach out?

The only photographer I knew personally was Lisa Kindberg. Everyone else I contacted through email or Facebook after discovering them online or through recommendations from Lisa. Being from Sweden, Lisa played a big part in getting the other European girls on board.

What was the response like from these women when you shared your idea?

I really wasn't sure what to expect when I contacted the photographers. I was just some girl from the other side of the world asking photographers to send me their images and trust me to print and exhibit them in Australia. I knew it was a big ask, but to my surprise my emails were met with an amazing amount of enthusiasm and support.

Skater Izy Mutu & Friend at the Yeah Girl Exhibit

You had your first exhibit and it was a week long event – which is amazing – you had a skate clinic, a film premiere, an opening night and the exhibit itself – did that make it feel more like a gathering in some ways, rather than people just coming into a gallery space to look at photos and leave?

Yeah, for sure! It wouldn’t be a skate event if it wasn't celebrated with friends, beers and, of course, actual skateboarding. All the events complimented each other and helped to engage a wider audience (skaters and non-skaters alike), and put the exhibition itself into context. Overall it was all about bringing people together and celebrating women's skateboarding.

Yeah Girl Exhibit

Was the work on the walls for sale?

All the photographs were for sale with profits going directly to the photographers, with the exception of a few selected pieces that were donated by the photographers, and auctioned to raise money for Skateistan. I love what Skateistan do for underprivileged kids, so it was an honour to be able support them through the exhibition.

You also did a really cool Zine with photos and interviews – can you tell us about it?

I wanted the exhibition to live beyond the opening and closing dates so I decided to make a zine. It featured some of the photos that were exhibited as well as interviews with some of the photographers and an article by Lisa Kindberg, about the women's skate community across the globe. The zine was produced in a limited edition of 150 copies and all the proceeds went to Skateistan.

And are they available online for those people who my want to order one?

There are still some copies left, which I am slowly distributing to people and places in the girls skate community as I travel to different cities. They’re not currently available online but if anyone wants a copy they can email me (sarah@yeahgirl.com.au) and I’ll do my best to get one to them.

Skater Amanda France   / Photo Sarah Huston

Are there any particular female skaters you really enjoy working with & why? 

I love going on photo missions with my good friend Amanda France because she always brings the hype. If I find a cool spot that I think would make a good photo she's always keen to throw down a trick. Sometimes we'll go on full day missions to the strangest places (we often find ourselves in abandoned buildings) just to find new spots to shoot. We've climbed many fences together and been kicked out of countless places. And even if we don't find anything new, we always have the best time.

Skater Luiz Flavio   / Photo Sarah Huston

What are some of your favorite places  to shoot at?

I love shooting street photos the most because you’re always working with something different... different obstacles, different backgrounds, different situations. For me, when I shoot street photos, it's not just about the trick, it's also about capturing the surrounding architecture and landscape to create an interesting composition.

I also like shooting events because there's just so much going on and the energy is incredible… It's a pretty special thing to capture and be a part of.

Skater Amanda France  pushing through an abandoned nursery  / Photo Sarah Huston

Do you have an all time favorite skate image that you have shot?

I don’t know if I can class this as an all time favourite, as I only took it last week, but I was pretty stoked with the photo I shot of Stas Provotorov in front of a building in Moscow. I love that the huge, elaborate and somewhat intimidating building (if only because of its size) is still, to a skateboarder, a playground. The contrasting proportions of the skater and the building emphasize the excessively huge architecture so common in Russia. To me, it’s as much a travel photo as a skate photo… killed two birds with one stone!

I also shot one a while ago of Amanda France pushing through an abandoned nursery. The combination of dust and the setting sun shining through the cracks in the boarded up windows made for some awesome lighting. Of course this photo wasn’t about capturing a trick, for me it was about capturing the sense of exploration.

Any female photographers in the world that you look up to?

There are so many! Some of the first that come to mind (aside from all the Yeah Girl photographers, of course!) are Laura Kaczmarek, Magdalena Wosinska and Dafy Hagai.

Favorite camera body & lenses?

Canon 5D MkIII with 50mm 1.4 lens

Do you like to light or do you prefer shooting with natural light?

I think the less gear you have to worry about the better so I definitely prefer shooting with natural lighting. I like being able to try out angles quickly and getting straight into it without having to sync and test flashes. If I do need to light a shot I prefer it when I shoot with a fisheye with off-camera flash in one hand and camera in the other so I’m still able to move around quickly to get the shot.

Skaters Shari Lawson & Amanda France   /    Photo Sarah Huston

Any girls, situations, or places out there you haven’t shot yet but would like to?

So many! I think it's a never ending list because I'm sure as I tick some off I will think of more. I'd love to photograph the skate scenes in third world countries. It’s amazing seeing the positive impact skateboarding has in places of poverty and despair.

I'd also like to shoot some more of the big international competitions. Mostly because it's always a fun time when skaters from around the world come together for these big events.

Any advice for someone who wants to get into photography?

A little bit of technical knowledge goes a long way and YouTube is a good place to learn the basics. Then all you need is some inspiration and you can find that anywhere... you just have to look for it.

What about advice for girls who want to skate?

If you want to skate, then do it. You don't have to be good and it doesn't matter if you fall over (that just means you're trying!). If you're shy then build up your confidence at home but don't be afraid to go to the skatepark... in my experience, people are really supportive if they see you're really giving it a go. Plus, it's the best place to make more friends to skate with.

Where can we see your work? 

Sarahhuston.tumblr.com or on Instagram - @thesarahhuston

Anything else coming up in the near future that you’d like to share?

Yeah Girl is teaming up with Gold Coast Skateboard Coaching to hold more girls only skate lessons on the Gold Coast later this year. Keep an eye on the Yeah Girl Facebook page for more info. I’m also currently working on plans for Yeah Girl events in 2017… stay tuned!

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