Alex Olson is no stranger to the camera’s eye—he’s been in front of one for damn near his whole life. But did you know that over the last few years, Alex has been honing his craft behind the lens? We caught up with Alex for a quick Q&A about his take on photography while he sat courtside at a heated tennis match between Reese Forbes and his dad.
Words by Blair Alley. Photos by Alex Olson (noretrospective.com)
How long have you been shooting photos for?
You know, I kinda actually don’t know, but I think it started when I started hanging out with Ed Templeton. Two—two and a half years ago.
Was there a specific moment you can remember getting you sparked on photography? Was there one photo that did it?
No, I think my friends started shooting, and I had toyed around with shooting photos. I always liked it. I had a couple friends that got me into it. Curtis Buchanan, he works at Supreme, he started a blog and I was like, well I can do it to. I didn’t know anything, that always bothered me—I wanted to learn f-stops and everything.
Is there a certain subject that you really enjoy shooting? I noticed a lot of your work is of people, and cityscapes, and stuff like that.
Whatever catches my eye, but people recently. It used to be just weird obscure random shit. I like shooting patterns of things. If there’re multiple patterns of something, I like to shoot it. Shooting girls, I guess.
That’s always good. What’s the best photography advice you’ve been given?
I don’t know, just keep shooting. Look at books and notice their framing and what they’re shooting. I think that’s the best thing you can do. Figure out what you like about the photo, and what makes you look at it.
Are there any photos you felt bad about taking?
Felt bad? No. I don’t think so. But I could be wrong [laughs].
Do you have one favorite photo of yours that you’ve taken?
I have a couple favorites. There’s one of a guy that had a reflective trenchcoat. I shot with a flash so it illuminated him and it looks pretty cool. It looks like a ghost walking kind of—Billy Jean music video.
What advice do you have for people interested in photography but don’t know where to start.
Start off with a point and shoot, see if you like it. If you do, upgrade. Don’t be scared to shoot photos.
Have you tried your hand at shooting skate photos?
No, I haven’t really had an interest in it. Maybe a little. No, I haven’t, to answer your question.
Cliché photog question: Digital vs film?
It all depends but I like film. I think it’s better to learn on film because you learn from your mistakes, and with digital you can’t see your mistakes really because you just erase them. I’m definitely a film guy. Learn on film, then deal with digital. To learn lighting and everything—that’s too expensive to learn on film. Learning lighting is definitely awesome to learn on digital. Dude, I never went to school or anything, I just asked people a million questions, just be annoying about it.
Most of the stuff you want to learn about photography, you can’t learn in school anyway, especially skate photography.
Yeah, that, and I think early 90s and late 80s skate photos were the best. It’s now so accessible, back then if you bought a camera, it was an investment and you would know how to work it. Now people buy cameras and are like, “Oh I’ll learn.” You can see your photos instead of honing your craft. Like Glen Friedman and those dudes. I don’t know if he went to school or not.
What cameras do you use currently?
I just bought a Contax G2. I love that camera, but I don’t think that’s a good camera to learn on, because it’s kind of a technical point and shoot. I have a (Nikon) FM2 and a Contax 2. The first real camera that I spent money on, it was a Contax T3—just a point and shoot, but you get really nice photos, it has a really nice lens. A good cheap point and shoot camera is the Olympus Stylus. You can find those for like ten bucks. That’s the first camera I bought just to shoot around and I got really good photos from it.
Is noretrospecitve.com your main photography site?
Yeah, I don’t have any others. I always wanted one and I tried to make one called olsonstuff and it kinda never worked out. It was really hard to update and everything. Noretrospective.com, since it’s a group, it’s more motivating because you see other people do stuff. It’s cooler like that. The kid that originated is named Jack Siegel, and he had this site called theskullset.com. And then he approached everyone that’s on that site [noretrospective].
Do you have any shows coming up?
[Laughs]No. no, uh-uh. You know I had one and I did not like it. It was too stressful. Photography is hard because I might like a photo that you don’t like and vice versa. Photography is kinda tricky like that—for shows and stuff. I don’t think I have strong enough photos to have an actual show.
More of Alex’s photos can be found on his page here.