Phil Jackson is a photographer from Philadelphia I first met while working at a skate camp in Pennsylvania. Phil is the type of guy who skates like a bull rider: sketchy as fuck, going 300 miles per hour, and holding onto every trick with no concern for personal safety. He's also a real good photographer and travels a lot, taking pictures of all the weird stuff that happens in a car full of idiotic skateboarders.
About a year ago Phil won a photo contest we had with that photo up top there. A lot of people thought it was fake, but anyone who has ever seen skater kids at a product toss knows that level of energy is a very real thing. Right now Phil is working on his first book, Badlands, about the astonishingly dirty skate house in South Philly he called home for three years.
Vice: Hey Phil. One of my favorite things about you is that humongous old Monte Carlo you used to drive everywhere. Do you still have that thing?
Phil Jackson: After seven long years the Monte is dead and waiting to go to the junk yard. It is a sad day. I bought the car for $300 bucks off my friend Brian, he got it from a dude who moved to LA to write porno. So the car had a great provenance.
Yeah, you definitely got your money's worth. Your photos look like a never ending skateboard road trip. Do you have any good stories from life on the road?
The last trip I went on, we were in El Paso, Texas getting food from a burrito cart. My friend Dee was peeing on the side of this abandoned Chinese restaurant and, mid-piss, a 70-year-old lady came at him and started whapping him with a stick! He had to run away with his wiener out.
Old ladies have balls.
Then, in Washington State we skated a pool at a meth hotel. Some tweaked-out lady tried to pick up my friend Jersey Drew. "He's cuuuuute." she said. I thought it was awesome.
Speaking of drugs, your photography shows lots of parties and drunken late nights, but you've never touched the sauce. Howcome?
Maybe I am just a voyeur? I guess I just like to spy on my friends while they get drunk since I never have. I definitely feel like I've experienced things that, in reality, I haven't, just because I've been around those people so much and photographed them.
What's the deal with skating in Philadelphia? It's hard for me to define, but skateboarders there seem to be all about doing their own thing.
We definitely have our share of weirdos, but it's a lot more genuine than other places. Philly is the redheaded stepchild of New York in so many ways, but it keeps us down to earth. In New York you have so much Cool Guy shit that people just won't stand for in Philly. Here you get called out quickly for that kind of ego bullshit. So the people here that are doing their own thing are genuine grade-A oddball people. They're not trying to fake it, and that's rad. There are a lot of people who don't follow any sort of skate media outlet in any way. Also, there's the thing with FDR being in a pretty much constant state of disrepair, and you can see that in the way people skate it--hairball.
Skateboarding is in a lot of your photos, but it's usually not the main focus. Are you interested in traditional skate magazine-type photography, like skater/spot/trick stuff?
I shoot that stuff too. I use a fisheye and flashes and the whole lot, but I see that as more of a technical thing, like sports photography, and I think it has little to do with art. You can't make "art" about skateboarding, or at least I don't think you should.
Phil's first book, Badlands will be out soon. He also releases a zine once a year called Borderline Retarded that is one of the best and funniest things we have ever seen.