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Skateboarding as Art - An Interview With Fred Mortagne

Fred Mortagne, or French Fred, is a skateboarder, photographer, and filmmaker living in France. His images have taken skateboard photography to a place where the line between fine art, portraiture and action sports have beautifully dissolved into amazing works of art. As someone who shares a lot of the same passion for actions sports and black and white photography, I decided to get in touch with Fred to ask him a few questions about his work. 

Who are you and where are you from? 
I'm a French photographer and videographer, leaving in Lyon.
 
Growing up what were some of your dreams and aspirations? 
Growing up I wanted to be a sponsored skateboarder, but it was pure fantasy. I also knew I was light years away from reaching that goal so I found a way to stay in skateboarding and be able to give back.
 
When did you discover image making? 
As a young skate rat in the early nineties, I was super into watching skate videos, and very early I was sensitive to how the videos were made. When the filming was good, I was super thrilled. This pushed me to begin filming my own clips with my friends, for fun.
Steve Ramy Varial Flip at the Lyon auditorium
Did you go to school for it? 
No, I learned it all myself, which I think is the best way. You are able to develop your own style and techniques.
 
What do you shoot on? 
The equipment doesn't matter much to me. I'm not the type of guy who's changing equipment often, or to run after the latest stuff… I'm not investing in that, but in the content, in my vision. Equipment comes last.
 
Why black and white? 
To emphasize reality, to give a more artistic, poetic and timeless feel, as opposed to what we see with our eyes in everyday life.
 
Kickflip
What draws you to shooting on film? 
I don't only shoot film, but I try to shoot it as much as possible for sure. Digital will never come close to some of the things possible with film, simply because it's organic, and made of chemicals, than you can physically play with, like when I've been literally burning some negatives.
 
Why Skateboarding? 
For over 30 years, it has been the love of my life. Skateboarding has taken me to so many places - not just physically, but culturally and artistically. While others look at skating as a stupid game, it has made my life much more rich and interesting.
 
If you had to pick one focal length? 
35mm
Gap in Lyon
Favorite spot? 
To me, any spot can be epic. It's just a matter of figuring out how to make the best out of it.
 
Favorite shot? 
There are way too many great pictures out there to be able to pick one! I enjoy and respect so many photographers.
Backside Smith Grind
With so many people claiming to be a "photographer" these days, what do you think it takes to stand out from the crowd? 
Knowing what makes a great photograph is not easy. You need to have experience, cultural background, sensitivity, among many other things. Without all of this, you won't get very far, no matter how good the quality of the camera. It's about what people want to express. The focus should always be on the content. The more you get away from the technical aspect, the stronger the content will become. 
 
Advice for any other photographers starting out? 
Shoot as much as possible. The key to sucess is to create your own rules and your own style. Most importantly, do it because you love it! 
 
Charles Collet Ollie to Fakie

For those who are interested, here is an experimental black and white skateboard film he made. 

 

All of the above photos were shot with the Leica M Monochrom and used with permission from Fred Mortagne
 

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6 Comments

Dave Camara's picture

Sick work!

Anonymous's picture

as a father of 3 skateboarding sons and now my 2 year old grandson is getting into it, I fully appreciate this interview and shots.Great work and article and videos. Congratulations Fred. Geoff Thompson, Adelaide South Australia.

Scott Mosley's picture

These are incredible! One of my favorite artists i've seen on stoppers so far :)

François Guillemin's picture

Thank you Adam for this article. You made me discover a very talented compatriot. And yes this is art! Art of composition, framing, lighting and black and white. Beautiful photos.

Ralph Hightower's picture

I'd be interested to know if Fred uses B&W contrast filters when shooting with his Lieca Monochrome.

Adam McKay's picture

I got in touch with him to ask him. "No i haven't been using filters. I did use some years ago, but got lazy and kept forgetting about using some, so I fully lost the habit… But was curious about it with the Monochrom, but didn't bother trying… but yeah I should. not sure what it would do. But i'm pretties satisfied with the contrast already of the camera…"