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Tobin Yelland Interview

Looking for images of people that are interesting and worth watching

It's more likely the older generation that knows who Tobin Yelland is because he's in the business for a long time. Since the 80s he shoots photos, films, and works on different projects which are best summarized by the word "artistic". But as incomprehensible his job description is as comprehensible is his imagery. Tobin is interested in documentary photography. He tries to represent the things as real as possible. A perfect example for this is his most famous picture of Andy Roy with a revolver. Last weekend he was at the HVW8 Gallery in Berlin as part of the Brixton x Independent “Friendly Union” collaboration and showed a few of his pictures. We took the chance for a little walk with him.

What are you shooting nowadays? Is it still a lot in skateboarding or do you have more jobs outside the scene now?

I think I always shoot some skateboarding whether it’s video or photos. I shot 16mm on Jim Greco’s „Jobs Never“. And then along with Joey Sinko I shot all the digital and he shot all the skating. I shot most of the narrativ and a little bit of skateboarding and that was a fun project.

How was It to work on that one?

I feel Jim Greco is really talented in writing, directing, and editing. I’m very impressed with his work. Im happy to be a part of it.

I liked how weird it was in a good way and I liked the other video with the guy with the suit as well.

Yeah the other kid, I loved that. I think skaters that are attracted to be on the same team as Jim like to bring something different.

How do you like skateboarding to be covered nowadays? Or what do you want to cover when you portrait skateboarding?

I shot skating everyday from 1984 to 2000. I just wanna show the truth of it that I see which is what ever truth I see. There is no number one truth, right? I wanna show what I wanna see. I like to shoot things that stand out for me and make me laugh. I like humor and I like realism and I think that continues with everything. I think Im very simple. So im not trying to set up anything.

No flashes?

I do like flashes but ideally everything comes together with natural light and subjects and the location and you don’t have to do anything.

You re looking for the time in-between tricks as well?

Yeah, when I shoot skateboard photos I like to document and I like to pick out images where I feel they’re important. Documentary photography is one of my favorite types of photography and it’s not commercial, it lasts. You can look at a photograph in twenty years from now. You know, I’m just looking for images of people that are interesting and worth watching.

"You know, I’m just looking for images of people that are interesting and worth watching."

Back in the days you filmed and shot photos at the same time. How is it nowadays?

At the moment I like photography more. Video productions take a long time and sometimes it’s month of work instead of days of work so I wonder if it’s all worth it sometimes. Sometimes it’s much simpler to do a photoshoot. Take photos then come back, do your editing then you’re done. But I love to shoot motions and stills.

Since you started, what changed the most? Photography or making videos and how did that change your interrest?

I feel like for the change between shooting analog or shooting film and then shooting digital, it’s just learning something new. There is a little speed bump and it’s just figuring it out but otherwise photography is the same. It’s still taking a picture. For a long time now digital is the way you take pictures and film is an alternative. It’s another medium. And different cameras are different mediums like shooting medium format film is different then shooting 45mm and it’s just a different option. It’s nice to have a lot of options. It’s really all about the subject matter and not as much about the camera. I’ve taken pictures I love with my iPhone I don’t really care what camera it is. It’s just whatever camera is the best camera for you. The best camera is the camera you keep around you all the time.

What is coming up for you after this?

I’m going back home to Los Angeles and I am most excited about a couple of book projects I’m working on. It takes forever and I’ve many different versions and it’s a labor of love you know. It’s not like a job. And I will balance jobs like photography and directing jobs with my personal projects. My personal projects are books or just carrying my camera around and photographing and that’s it. Im just trying to research and find awesome people to work with. I think books are amazing and I haven’t done much at all. I have had my photographs in other books just like one photo in a big book with other people. I’m excited about the Hamburger Eyes book that’s just coming out and I have a couple of photographs in there and you should check it out. The photos are amazing and Ray Potes is a great editor. It’s a zine and the book is gonna be awesome.

When will your book come out?

It’s just work in progress.

Will it be a selection of all your work or is it just recent stuff you’re working on?

I do a couple different things. One is a book on Andy Roy.

Oh I’ll buy that one.

Yeah, it will be interesting. He is a character. It will be a lot of different things to look at and just a lot of visual stimulation. And the other one I’m doing with Greg Hunt and Jerry Hsu. It’s on first skate trips. That’s gonna be fun, too. It’s a little window into just very beginnings of taking pictures.

That sounds interesting. Jerry had an exhibition here, too.

Oh cool, I love his work.