Artist Series - Chuck Katz
Saying that we’re excited about announcing our exclusive collaboration with Chuck Katz, staff photographer for Thrasher Magazine during the 80's, is an understatement to say the least. He’s been called everything from talented, to a virtuoso to the visionary of a generation. However, we can say with certainty that the Venice skaters would not be where they are today without his contribution. The shots Chuck took during this era are a testament to the history of skateboarding. The photo that is a part of our first collab, a young Christian Hosoi thrashin’ a front yard ramp, is one of those historic pillars of skateboarding’s visual culture.
Chuck, you single-handedly kept Venice skateboarding on the map in the 80's with your photography in Thrasher Magazine. Looking back at it now, did you ever have the feeling you were captivating skateboarding history at that point?
Thank you, that's a great compliment. I did know I was recording history. It was very important to me to not only shoot all the local skaters but as a staff photographer for Thrasher Magazine I also had a direct pipeline to get them all magazine coverage.
You shot a lot of legendary skateboarders at that time. Could you name a few?
Working for Thrasher I followed the contest circuit in the mid 80's so I have shot every skater that ever competed. Here are some of my favorites I shot and not necessarily at a contest; Jay Adams, Jim Muir, David Hackett, Steve Olson, The Alba Brothers, Christian Hosoi, Eric Dressen, Jesse Martinez, Scott Oster, Aaron Murray, Chris King, Pat Bareis, Jimbo, Cesario "Block" Montano, Pat Nogho and many more.
Talking about Venice. You actually grew up in Malibu but lived in Venice since you were 18. Being a local, what makes this place still so magical to you?
I did grow up in Malibu and in the early 70's it was an amazing place to live; miles of rolling hills, we could ride horses on the beach and hunt birds in the mountains. You could paddle out in the Pacific Ocean in front of my families home, catch a 10 pound halibut and cook it on the beach.
My family broke apart in the early 80's though so I actually moved to Santa Monica on my own when I was only 15. I moved further south to Venice shortly thereafter. Venice is losing its luster due to gentrification but it's still magical to me because even after 35 years our whole crew still lives here, we all still hang out and have a great time together.
Chuck, our collab shows a young Christian Hosoi thrashin' a ramp. Could you tell us some more about it?
This photo of Christian Hosoi I shot at Joff's ramp on Palms Ave in Venice. Joff is a multigenerational Venice local whose parents had a perfect front yard to build a ramp. His parents were hoping a ramp at the house would keep him out of trouble so they agreed to let him build one. Jimbo, Jimmy Davies, Block, Joff, Scott Hicks, Clint and many others built this ramp with wood, donated unknowingly from a few construction sites.
The day I shot this photo was just a typical day at Joff's ramp really. The best skaters and the best surfers in the world skated this ramp on a daily basis. It also gave birth to the Venice Skateboard Association - the V.S.A. - as it's still known today as an active entity within the Venice skate scene.
What's actually the greatest memory you have of that time period, the 80's?
My greatest memory from the 80's is every day from January 1982, all the way to December 1989.
You recently were a part of a photography tribute to Jay Adams. It must have felt really weird saying goodbye to a game changing legend as Jay?
Jay actually lived 20 years longer then we all thought he would so no, it was not really painful saying goodbye. I met Jay in 1981 in front of The Roxy on Sunset Blvd. He jumped on a mailbox, did a backflip and we have been friends ever since. Jay lived a rich life and I'm not talking monetarily. He did what he wanted to, that was true freedom to him. When he passed away, Jay was sound asleep next to his wife on a surf trip in Mexico, surfing the best waves of his life with his closest friends. I truly think he found inner peace, he was so content and relaxed he didn't wake up. Remember, legends don't die, Jay lives!
What was actually your first experience in photography and how did it evolve to working for the one and only Thrasher Magazine?
My interest in photography was inspired by my father who was a combat photographer during the Vietnam war. I shot a portrait of my dad - my first photo - with a Twin Lens Rolliflex camera when I was 9. My dad still has the photo framed at his house.
Well, my connection to Thrasher Magazine was Jim Muir. He was at that time creating Team Dogtown for which I shot all his ads. Thrasher at that point needed someone who had an in with the Venice scene and skaters so Fausto who owned the magazine asked Jim if he knew anybody and he gave up my name. The rest, as they say, is history.
Let's say you could be transported back in time and get the chance to do one of those Thrasher Magazine shots all over again, for the thrill of it, which one would it be and why?
I can honestly say I would never want to redo a shoot from the 80's. Every shoot, good or bad, was a learning experience.
Thank you so much for this opportunity, we're really honored to feature your work and I bet it won't be the last.
Any last words you'd like to share with our customers?
Life is short, live it like it's your last day on earth. And drive it like you stole it!
Check out our exclusive collab with Chuck right HERE.