The antics of Jackass, CKY, and early Baker videos combined can't come close to the unflinching, bro-cam hood footage of beat downs, threesomes, shootings, drugs, hip-hop and, of course, the skateboarding that Reid captured.
At the time of Ian Reid's Video release in 2005, Ian was an amateur skater for Aesthetics Skateboards and best friends with Brian Wenning, who became a household name after his 2003 DC Shoes video part was released. Ian and Brian were both well-known figures on the East Coast skate scene at the time, and they skated and partied with every big name that passed through New York in the early aughts. As a result, Reid's videos are a who's who of skate legends like Jason Dill, Chima Ferguson, Josh Kalis, Stevie Williams, and on and on—with footage ranging from proper to shaky to poached to filmed off someone's laptop.
I was certain that Ian, like Bam before him, was destined for mega-stardom, more for his antics and hijinx than his skateboarding. But after dropping his second video, Sex, Hood, Skate, he disappeared. Some people assumed that Ian was taken down in Wenning's cataclysmic career demise, while others thought he might have "got caught up in some hood shit." Truth be told, somewhere around 2008 Ian "gave up the dream of skateboarding and realized photography was a better medium." And he's been photographing everything from skating, to Syrian refugees, to BDSM in abandoned mental asylums ever since with the same primal eye that he used for his videos.
VICE: Ian, tell people your story and where you're from.
Ian Reid: I'm from Fort Greene, New York. Not what it is now—I am from what Fort Greene was. I grew up wanting to write graffiti with all the older kids in my neighborhood and the only way to do that was by riding a skateboard with them and joining their skate crew, Twisted Skates. I got a skateboard and started writing graffiti in 1988. That was the introduction to everything.
You've created some of the rawest skate videos in history. How would you describe them to someone who has never seen them, and how'd you get into filming?
It was because the kids in my hood weren't getting out of the hood. Because I was skateboarding, I was traveling a lot and wanted to show them things outside of our area. So I started filming stuff to show them when I got back from my travels. The two videos I put out were just real life. It's what was going on for me at that time. But it was also a time before the internet. You couldn't just type in "crazy shit" and see crazy shit back then.
I think some of your crazy shit holds the test of time. Wasn't there a shooting in the last one?
Yeah, that was on my block. Code of the streets. Some dude got caught slipping. But the VHS version, which is the original version, that's the real crazy one. There's actual sex—there are a few random threesomes with me and this chick. There's Brain Wenning losing his virginity in the basement of Josh Kalis's house in Philly. I filmed the whole thing from start to finish. It was such an experience. That moment in a person's life, having it on video because it randomly happened and wasn't a planned activity, is pretty wild.
Celebrity sex tapes are fetching quite a bit of money. How much do you think a Brain Wenning losing his virginity tape would be worth?
Back in that dayit might have fetched me a pretty penny, but things have changed these days so I can't really speculate that.
I'll give you $20.
OK, I'll take it. What's funny about you saying that is that in the sequel I made in 2007, there is more Brain Wenning sex in the video. When you see it you're definitely going to smile and clap your hands.
Brian is godfather to your kid. How's he doing these days? What's the update?
He's good. He's skateboarding. He's got a job doing some construction work to get that extra money up. Skateboarding is still what he loves to do but we don't get to see him too much anymore.
How about you? You skating much these days?
Yeah, yeah. I still skate all the time. You have to. It's what allowed me to do everything I'm doing. You can't really step away from the essence of everything, which for me is skateboarding. It keeps me young.
Let's talk about your shift from filming and skateboarding to your new career in photography. You're from Fort Greene, why not be just another street photographer?
Ha! I don't really even know what street photography is. I take photos in the street all the time of my girls, so I guess I'm a street photographer. I think that's a different genre where you walk around the streets and take photos of strangers. It's kind of creepy, but I do a lot of creepy shit too so I cant judge.
You shoot a lot of BDSM stuff. How did you get into that scene?
One of my neighbors was heavy into it. I took a photo of my neighbor and she posted it on some website and a lot of people liked it. After that people started to want me to take their photos. They basically inducted me into the New York tribe of BDSM people. The induction was interesting. They invited me to this dude's house and all the girls were on their knees as servants. Basically I had sex with this dude's wife and this other dude's girlfriend and then they said, "You're an honorary member." I didn't really know what I was an honorary member of but I was a member of something. It was definitely a weird experience; it was like going to a skate spot and jumping out the van and having to perform.
Was that type of fetish something you were into previously, or was that all new to you?
I was always into women, but the way that it occurs in that scene is totally different. I was very naïve and didn't understand it. It was very eye-opening to learn the power of words and how they can take sex to a whole other level. In that scene you can make anyone do anything with the correct words. And they don't have to be harsh or cruel or mean words; it could be very nice, kind, and polite words. It's been wild. There have been some aspects of it that "normal people" couldn't understand. I used to have a house slave. He would come clean my house in women's underwear. It was fine to me, I didn't give a fuck. I'd be sitting around editing photos while dude was cleaning my house and he would do an immaculate job! One day one of my neighbors came over and saw what was happening and they were tripped out, like "What the hell is going on here? This is crazy!" And the slave doesn't say a word. He's not allowed to talk, so he just kept cleaning. That was about seven years ago, after I gave up the dream of skateboarding and realized photography was a better medium.
Your Tumblr has a bunch of photos from Eastern Europe. What were you working on over there?
I spent a good amount of time in the Ukraine trying to find girls to shoot, but it didn't happen. As any person who has been to Eastern Europe knows, being black over there is not the best thing. I got called a nigger a lot, and not in the Justin Bieber way of saying nigga, more like the KKK nigger. It was wild. But it wasn't threatening. After the third day I got a little tipsy and I was coming home and this dude was like, "Ah, you fucking nigger." And I was like, "Yo, what's up, man? You want to fight?" He didn't want to fight and we actually started talking and he said he'd never even seen a black person. He explained he grew up that way, that his culture didn't have black people around and that was just a word they used. He said, basically, "I don't know any better."
Do cops ever give you shit about the topless photos?
I shoot one of my favorite girls out in New York City who loves being topless. In New York it's legal to be topless, so I'll have someone parade her around on a little leash and lead her through the city. Every once in while a cop will show up and be like, "Yo, man! This ain't cool. You got to cover up." And I'm like, "Nah, bro. She don't got to cover up. It's legal. If you want to try and exert some power and say we're being indecent in public or causing a disturbance then you better call your C.O. first and tell him what you're going to do and I'll call my lawyer and have him sue the city for harassment and false arrest." Then they realize they can't do shit and I carry on. I always try to snap a photo of the girl with the cop when I can.
You like to shoot in abandoned asylums and hospitals. Ever encounter any sketchy situations?
Not really. Once I had a girl tied to a chair in a room and we heard this group of people come in. Turns out it was just some kids, but she was trembling because she was already nervous. Then there was one day in this asylum where we got chased by the homeless guy who lived there. We just ran because we figured if you're living in an abandoned asylum then you must be pretty crazy. We didn't really want to take any chances.
I wrote a porno called Pussy on Rotisserie. So I gotta ask, what's with the guy getting barbequed?
That photo was shot on the 4th of July. Me and my friends wanted to have a barbeque and we did. We barbequed a human. When I got the call about it I was like, "Hell yeah, I want to barbeque someone." Black people love barbeque and hot sauce and bbq sauce! I got to the house and they had the spit all ready. The guy, Jim, gets off the plane from Texas in a white denim mini skirt and he's all excited. The girls wash him down, shave all the hair off his body and strap him down to the spit and the barbequing begins. The basting took 40 minutes, then they lit the coals and he roasted on the spit for about three and half hours and got pretty cooked. When it was time to take him off he was yelling that he didn't want to get off. He wanted to stay on there until his skin was legitimately burned. That definitely goes down as one of the wildest things I have photographed.
[The below video is NSFW. Only watch if you want to see a naked old man get barbequed.]
If that wasn't the craziest thing you've photographed, what was?
I photographed this guy in Syria who killed a lot of people. His wife made me lunch and I ate with him. He had defected from the regime, and at the time I was shooting refugees in this camp in Northern Syria and he told me his story. It's a different type of gnarly than a guy getting roasted, because this guy killed people. It was insane, but at the same time he was very normal. He said he was in the army and his job was to follow the orders of his commander. He said they would raid villages and they'd line up all the men and they would shoot them dead.
Man, you have taken quite a different path from making hood skate videos in Brooklyn.
Yeah, it's surreal in the sense that I did it. Anyone can do it. I never went to any kind of photography school or anything and I was able to do it. Sometimes I do bug out, like, "Damn, I've literally been around the world a few times and seen a lot of crazy shit," and to think where I came from in Fort Greene to what I do now.
Do you share the BDSM stories and photos with your family?
Ha! Yeah, man. They're not into it at all. I shot a whole church series of things happening on a cross. We crucified this girl and my mom was not thrilled. She's definitely religious and I got asked to leave. She was like, "Ian, I think you should go. I really think you should go home."