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Ben Gore Interview

Shooting Aimlessly

Ben’s got his opinions and style mapped out in concrete. He hates on trees and forests on the regular – at least when we’re skating. “What you wanna get a clip in the forest?” he’d say. Probably just because he’s from Florida and they don’t have trees the same as we do. Amidst his concrete opinions is the serenity of life without excess. He knows what he likes: skating, shooting photos, and more than listening to music. He’s up earlier than most and also to bed probably before most. So when he stays out, it’s sure to be a blast and get goofy. Nick-at-nite style. He’ll turn into a cartoon character. His dirty south yosemite Sam is always apparent, ready to fire, but can be subdued by making him touch a dirty birdy doobie. Always stoked to ride this concrete wave towards nowhere in particular with you. Sprinkles my friend! * Zach Chamberlin

Let’s begin the interview with Florida. The place where you started to roll with the hurricanes.

Alright. I’m from a super small town in Florida called Pompano Beach. It’s about a 30-minute drive in the north of Miami. There was no local skatepark when I first started, so we just had the streets that we lived on. I’d only skate when it was windy out, so I didn’t learn much in the beginning. Then a skatepark opened up in my town and that definitely sparked me to start learning more.

What’s so special in that area is that all those creative skateboard filmmakers come from there.

Honestly, I think because it’s a very boring place. There’s not much else to do there than riding a skateboard and you can do it year-round. It’s a good place to start something. Not too many distractions if you start young.

Did you also already start with photography in Florida?

My original interest in photography did start in Florida, but moving to San Francisco definitely kicked it into gear. I learned a lot about photography in SF. Things I wouldn’t have been capable of learning back in Florida. Not only photography: art in general, skating, photography, music, graffiti – all of it. They are all under the same umbrella in my eyes.

You can definitely see that in your way of using your environment and your collaborations with Zach Chamberlin [in the Bright Moments video, editor’s note]. In his latest video, you focused on Vespa scooters and there is definitely a feeling for sound, surfaces, forms…

Yeah, it’s nice to change the way you look at things every once in a while. The Vespa thing started naturally because of my surroundings, then I dove in a little harder once I realized what was going on. Also having an open-minded filmer like Zach obviously helped and made the whole thing possible. Anybody else probably thought I was crazy. Most people probably still do for that part. It was fun though. It kept me super interested in skating. Pushing around, looking for good motorcycles to skate. [laughs] It sounds so ridiculous, but it’s true. It was interesting and fun for me.

I still hear your voice from the video, full of excitement: “It is a good backside flip one!”

[laughs] Yeah, towards the end of filming, I had ideas of things I wanted to do, but I had to find the right one. I’d get super hyped when I found a good one. Matt Field actually found that specific one. He killed it that day, watch the video.

Recently walking around SF and seeing motorcycles from a skater’s point of view and talking with you guys about trick options, it feels similar to Bobby Puleo and cellar doors.

Yeah, I guess in the sense of looking for something specific, but the motorcycle thing was more about chances for me. About being in the right place at the right time. They are constantly moving around. That was the whole point, to make things a little more free and fun. More like now or never. Knowing that a scooter or motorcycle will not be there tomorrow or even in an hour.

"It’s as easy as that. You’re free to do whatever you want with a camera as you are with a skateboard."

How was it with the motorcycle owners? You must have some intense stories from those missions.

It got weird at times. Some people got mad, some people got glad. Most of the time, I would just explain to the owners what I was doing. Then it was up to them if they were into it. Surprisingly, for most of the clips nobody said anything. Sometimes people would just walk up, not say a word, hop on, and ride away.

That’s lovely.

There goes that spot.

We briefly talked about photography so far, but it’s hard to see you on the street without a camera.

I always have a camera with me. It’s as easy as that. You’re free to do whatever you want with a camera as you are with a skateboard. They both give me a rush and satisfaction.

It’s like the scooter thing, “now or never” or like Henri Cartier-Bresson’s “The Decisive Moment”.

Exactly, right place, right time. That is why I always have my camera with me. You can’t predict that stuff. Best to just always be ready. No excuses.

You’re looking for the pure energy of the moment.

Spontaneous is the most satisfying for me.

You are using a camera that needs to be set manually. How does that get together with spontaneous shooting?

When I say spontaneous, I mean shooting aimlessly. Going out each day open-minded, not knowing what might happen in front of me, what I’ll skate or what I’ll shoot. I don’t really get too tech when it comes to photography or skateboarding. [laughs]

That’s a good starting point to talk about your skateboarding. You first were on World Industries, then Stereo, and finally found your place as one of the first American skaters on a European company, which is more about creating, showing fun, friendship, and the jazzy side of skateboarding.

Life and your path take trial and error as does everything. You got to try things to know if they work for you. It’s the only way to learn. At the moment, I’m happy where I’m at and I wouldn’t be here without the steps I took along the way. When I started riding for World, I did it because I had a really good friend, Mike Peterson, that rode for World. That was pretty much the only reason I skated for them. He was my boy and always had my back. Eventually, I quit cause it just didn’t work for me and my skating. I had to move on. I went sponsorless for a while and then Matt Field started sending me Rasa Libre boards, which lead to moving to San Francisco and eventually skating for Stereo. Then they kinda flipped their program and it didn’t suit me anymore, so I left for Magenta, which brought me back to where I started with skateboarding. Feeling a bit more free and being a part of something with friends.

[The conversation gets interrupted by everyday life challenges in the world of skateboarding and is continued two days later.]

"Expression is everything. Expression is my reason for making things."

You also started to self-publish your own series of publications with prints and they’re shifting in format and technique. What is the motivation behind that and how do you bring them to the people?

I’ve started making my own publications in the past few years. Same as skateboarding, it’s another way to express myself. Using a different format is the same as using different music for a video part. It’s all relative. I do things the way I do because they feel best to me that way. As soon as you care what other people think, the feeling is lost. Whatever it is you’re doing, it should make you happy in some way, shape, or form. Losing that happens to everyone at some point, but it’s just a stepping stone to figure out what’s right for you.

What is the value of expression in the things you make?

Expression is everything. Expression is my reason for making things.

Besides your own publications, you also collaborate with other artists. Could you tell a bit about working with Hiroki Muraoka, an amazing skater and illustrator from Japan?

After visiting Japan a couple of times, I approached Hiroki about collaborating on a book. I made some selections of photos and would slowly send them to him to illustrate. I usually sent about two or three at a time. I didn’t want to overwhelm him with a lot to do and I also wanted to keep him excited about the project. He had complete creative control over his drawings. He simply looked at the photo and drew what he felt. This was definitely one of my favorite projects. Receiving his drawings every few weeks kept me super excited about it.

When we talked about the artistic input, San Francisco played a big roll. You just left SF for some economical reasons to Oakland. What kind of energy and artistic input was in that time?

As I said before, I take things as they come. Good or bad things happen for a reason sometimes. Moving to Oakland was a weird one for me. I lost my apartment in San Francisco because of reasons that were out of my control, but I’m finding the good things about it. Seeing a little bit of a bigger picture. Breaking out of the little bubble I was in personally and artistically. Change is good for everybody sometimes.

You also got a new sponsor with State Footwear. The first video looked pretty promising. Can you tell a bit about State, who’s running it and what is planned in the future?

I’m pretty hyped on State. First off, it’s the only skater-owned shoe company out there. Kevin Furtado is the owner. He originally hit me up about it sometime last year. We started hitting up people that we thought would fit and that's where we are at. Our first video free dropped a couple months ago. Colin Read did the editing and everybody just filmed with whoever they normally film with. I thought that was important for the first project. Just everyone doing what they normally do. Nothing forced. As for the future… maybe a new video.