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Fabien Ponsero – Skatefotografie in Quarantäne Zeiten

The Corona Pandemic has been described by the UN as the worst crisis since the Second World War and of course it also has an impact on skateboarding. We interviewed a few scene representatives to see how they deal with the situation and how they assess the situation. Fabien Ponsero has to let his camera rest right now because there is a strict curfew in his adopted country Spain and we used the time to ask him how he sees the situation.

How’s the situation?

I’m in Badalona. It’s more than four weeks that we’re locked down now. There’s no way to get out. You can go to the grocery store, tobacco shop or bakery but that’s basically it. Ther rest is all closed anyway. If you’re still working you’re allowed to go to work but if you’re in the street without reason you pay 600 Euros straight away.

So I guess nobody is skating in Spain right now.

No, nobody is in the streets. I live 400 meters from the beach and a befriended couple of mine got caught two weeks ago under the pier at one in the morning. People saw them from the balcony and called the cops. They got a 600 Euro fine each.

"If you’re in the street without reason you pay 600 Euros straight away"

Wow, Spain is not joking. Can you do some work at the moment?

I don’t really touch the screen that much. When I’m outside working and then get back on the screen, I’m happy. Right now I don’t have this satisfaction of going out every day so I try to stay far from the computer as well. I just try to work on personal projects. And I read for the first time in ten years. [laughs] I do some push ups but you can’t really do shit here. Just trying to not get too crazy. I’m a lot on the phone with friends, cleaning the flat, hanging stuff on the wall… So far it’s not so bad. I have a terrace.

How does this whole things affect your job as a skate photographer?

So far I don’t really no. Basically I’m stuck here. Two or three tours got canceled and I couldn’t shoot photos for four weeks now. I got lucky that I had some tours right before the lockdown so I got some stuff running in magazines for May, which means some cash for June. My new roomates are stuck in Morocco for one month, so I pay most of the rent alone at the moment. If it stays like this and they can’t come back I could lose my flat in two months. But as I said, I still have some photos to sell, but I’m really scared for magazines. It looks like you guys are still running, which is cool for everybody, so I’m not too scared from that side but to be honest, maybe that’s the end for me. Moneywise it was already super hard to be a skate photographer. Maybe the dream is over.

You really think so?

I’m worried about the older people and risk groups but personally I’m not scared about the virus. I’m scared about the economical crisis that had to happen anyway and will be the biggest crisis our generation has ever seen. Let’s see if the skateshops are surviving, if the magazines are surviving, the industry.

How does it normally work to make a living out of skate photography?

Basically I’m freelance. You just try to get as much tours as you can and shoot at home as much as you can. Then you just submitt the photos to different magazines and wait for answers, if the photos get in the mag – which is not that easy and takes time. I think people don’t realize that a photo that you shoot in September is probably in the magazine in June and you get payed in September. So from shooting the photo to having it in the mag to getting payed can be a year. And magazines nowadays have less budget so it’s less budget for everybody.

Solo cover 35

Fabien’s cover shot of Alexey Krasniy for Solo #35

So it’s all freelance? You don’t work for a brand or sit on a retainer?

Nah, I’m part of Antiz in a way, I’m always been the photographer for them the last years but it’s a board company, they can’t give me a salary. It’s hard these days in general to get paid to go on a tour. I’ve been with Vans Europe a little bit lately, that’s a bit different and that brings you a bigger recognition which I need. Cause I can’t eat the magazines that I get sent, I need to buy pasta at some point. But I think in Europe there are not that many that are lucky to work for a magazine or a company, have a contract and get paid monthly.

Do you do stuff on the side or do you get by with just skate photography?

I could’ve worked a bit on the side this year but last year was good and I’m a lazy ass as well. [laughs] So I’m not gonna go wash dishes – I did that already till two years ago. You do it during summer season then you get unemployment money for four months and then the year is almost done and together with skate photography it worked.

But now it’s only photography?

Yeah, I mean last summer I had the chance to work on the beach. 14 hours a day, I don’t care, I make my money and that’s it. I also was in Canada for one summer to pick cherries and mushrooms. It’s a way to travel and make money at the same time.

"Skatemags can’t pay a lot for photos anyway but if it even gets lower I’m gonna go to Canada and pick cherries"

Traveling will be complicated for a while now.

I’m legally registered as a freelancer here but I’m not a resident cause I didn’t do the papers. So as soon as it’s possible again to get the papers, which might be in around one month, I’ll do it and then with my French passport I might be able to go back to France and with the papers for the residency come back to Spain where I live. Maybe. [laughs] Forget about concerts or contests or whatever big meeting for a long time. Human rights are going really low my friend and it’s not gonna get back after this thing. It’ll take some time.

How you think skateboarding or skate photography will change after this? Do you sell your fisheye and just shoot longlense from now on?

[laughs] I have no idea. But if shops or magazines are not surviving, my job is done. I checked how many photographers participate in the campaigan and I was thinking, how many of those get reguarly published in magazines to make a living? And I was wondering how much of us will last another one or two years? Skatemags can’t pay a lot for photos anyway but if it even gets lower I’m gonna go to Canada and pick cherries. By the way, I read nowadays about growing fruits or veggies. We need solidarity now. If you have a mag and I have photos, we’ll find a way to make it together. I have friends who produce veggies as a hobby and now they’re supplying 40 houses in their neighbourhood. They know that it will be not enough for everybody but it connects people. People start being social again and we got a lot of that already in skateboarding. If people understand that they need each other and can help out each other maybe they start talking to again and do something together. In the countryside this never stopped and now they’re helping each other. Now they maybe realize that there is a guy from Morocco just living 50 meters away, who they were always scared of because what they heard on TV, and now they find out that he’s the nicest guy in the neighborhood.

Any negative aspects for skateboarding that you can see?

As soon as everything is open again and we try to shoot skatephotos again – with all the people that are really scared here and with the police that basically can do whatever they want – I’m scared that we get big fines and problems with streetskating in Barcelona. It was already kinda hard here but right now people get gnarly, not even talking about the cops…

Fabien Ponsero GABRIEL ENGELKE

Fabien’s shot of Gabriel Engelke for the enlarge x Solo print sale

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