As skateboarding has grown in popularity and seeped into the lives of an ever-increasing number of households, the industry—and I'm painting with a broad stroke here—has morphed into a more family-friendly, watered-down version of what it once was, like MTV or domesticated animals. Which is why 43, a New York-based magazine that debuted last year from photographer Allen Ying, is a much-needed breath of clogged city air. A large-format quarterly that's heavy on excellent photography and light on ads, 43 combines stories of late-night New York City skate missions with photos that wouldn't be out of place on gallery walls anywhere in the city. Which is fitting, because on Tuesday night, in celebration of its third issue, 43 hosted a photo show at Temp Gallery in Tribeca.
While its previous issues have drawn praise within the skateboarding world, it’s probably safe to assume that this issue has received the most attention of any 43 so far, thanks to one of its photos body-jarring the internet a couple of weeks ago. The image above, of a gentleman by the name of Koki Loaiza, ollieing a subway platform was spread far and wide not only on skate sites, but regular-people blogs like NYMag's and Gothamist, among others.
I caught up with Allen to talk about his new issue and the pretty things inside of it.
VICE: Let's cut right to it. Who is Koki, the guy sailing over the 145 Street subway gap, and what is wrong with him?
Allen Ying: Koki is an MIA local, and he's a beast! I only got to meet him that night. It was all pretty surreal, but he's rad. Koki was the only one in our crew who thought he could do it.
I’ve heard some whispers around the ole water cooler that Gonz ollied that gap, or one like it, way back when. What do you know about that?
I heard that rumor recently too, but I haven't heard someone definitively say, “Oh, he def did that.” It was just someone saying they heard he might have done it. I'd love to hear about it if he did; that'd be amazing.
That photo introduced people in and outside of skateboarding to 43, but for those who know nothing else about it, what can you tell me about your magazine?
43 is an independent skateboard magazine. I like to call it a photo-book-style skateboard magazine. It also happens to be the only skateboard magazine based in New York.
Starting a magazine ain’t cheap. What resources did you use to start 43?
I did tons of research and development to start the magazine, and distributed a sort of issue 000 media kit to prospective advertisers, as well as visited a bunch of them. To launch the magazine, I applied for some new credit cards and raised funds on Kickstarter.
Mandible Claw and his crew, who you were with when you shot the photo of Koki, is putting out a new subway-skating video that’s tied to this issue, right?
Yeah, he put out an amazing subway-skating clip on the internet in 2011 [above]. That went kind of viral as well, and it was amazing. He's just finished a followup with different and probably better skating and spots. It's a segment in his upcoming independent skate video titled Tengu, which will be available on DVD but not the internet.
In the article that accompanies the subway photos, you allude to the tension going on in skateboarding right now regarding the pacification aspect of skateparks. Like nomadic peoples being pushed onto reservations, skaters are pushed out of the streets and into these parks. What do you and your photos have to say about these trends?
Ha, I'm glad you caught that. I'm not any sort of authority or expert on skate parks affecting skateboarding. I'm not necessarily interested in dissecting it, either, but I know it's different, and I don't think the same kind of culture and thinking can develop when you're not skating in the streets experiencing the world.
What else is in this issue?
This issue ended up being a New York City piece, with a variety of local and visiting skaters. It might be the only local photo representation of recent skateboarding in New York. One part of the issue is an article on Static IV, the upcoming installment of Josh Stewart's long-term independent video series.
This magazine is like 700 times prettier than any other skate rag out there. How would you describe the ideas and aesthetics of the people involved in making it?
43 is about bringing things back to the pure, raw essence of skateboarding. It’s about leaving out the fluff and presenting skateboarding in the form of nondisposable, quality photography that does justice to the magic of skating.
If 43 aims to go back to the raw essence of skateboarding, do its fancy photo book and fine-arts components conflict with that?
Actually, yeah! For a while I've been thinking that the way I shoot skate photos is a little too formal and clean for skateboarding. I've been keeping it in mind when shooting, to make photos where the raw feeling transcends to the viewer. Clean magazine layout has a similar contradiction, but with both I feel like the juxtaposition works well. The photo show on Tuesday was in a pretty raw space. At first I was unsure about it, but after we hung the prints that juxtaposition looked pretty sick as well. It's like, raw skating in clean photos on raw walls.
Do you consider it important to build more bridges between skating and fine art? I’m asking because I know that 43 is sold in museums and, as you mentioned above, the release parties are held in galleries.
Well, it's not necessarily part of 43's mission or plan to bridge skateboarding with fine art. The art museums found 43 and requested it for their stores. But it's more that I find skateboarding a bit more special than a lot of the other stuff out there, especially when captured properly in still or moving images. It's always a miracle when all of the factors of photographing skateboarding actually come together: the light, traffic, pedestrians, composition… all of that has to align with one of the few times the skater is going to do something he's been struggling to do and that has never been done before. Sure, you can take control and stage everything—especially if you have production budgets—but then all of the spontaneity and magic is gone, along with the culture and heritage of skateboarding. And as for the galleries, I really enjoy the social aspect of viewing photography at an opening, and it presents the work in a way that it can be well appreciated.
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