A legend among mere mortals, a proper host from LA to Sydney, and I’ll get serious for a minute here, a downright inspirational human with or without a camera in his hand. You’ve seen Mike’s photos in mag pages for years and years, but this newly curated collection at mikeomeally.com is truly staggering. As a fan, and studying his photographic eye for years, I was blown away by some of the gems in there I hadn’t seen and got a heavy mainline dose of juice! Click around and then scroll down for a Q&A with my mans with the lazer beam eyes and rudeboy rhymes!—Blair Alley

You chose the Jeff Pang/post 9-11 photo as your landing image. It’s the most talked about photo in our office too. Do you feel this is the strongest image you’ve ever shot?
Well, I can’t decide that, but it’s one that I do feel very strongly about. It was a very intense feeling in New York City that day, September 12, the day after the World Trade Center collapse. I look back on that photo and I’m almost removed from being there, I have vague memories of actually shooting it, which for me is very unusual. I get lost in the faces of all those guys, they look so intense. Scared, maybe—but certainly determined. For me it kind of sums up what skateboarding is all about. Face your fears from the front and keep going, lean into them almost. We were all skating downtown towards the WTC, so it’s become somewhat symbolic for me, how to get up from an absolutely terrible situation and literally put your your best foot forward. And the fact that Jeff Pang is wearing Nike Cortez and riding a long board, just makes it seem even more special. When does that ever happen?

Which of your photos have you gotten the most requests for a print of?
Possibly the one we just spoke about, but also the one of Jason Jesse getting pulled by the Hot Rod. Puleo’s backside ollie is also a popular one and Ricky Oyola backlit pushing in Philly is also popular. There are a bunch of different ones that people seem to be stoked on which is nice. I am always happy to make custom prints, so if anyone’s is keen, please contact me through the website.
How did you find yourself in a mining camp and what did you take away from that experience?
I was commissioned to shoot photos for an annual report for a zinc mining company after giving a presentation at Semi Permanent in Sydney a few years back. An art director who attended the conference named Rosanna DeRisio approached me after my talk and said she liked my work, particularly my portraits of boxers and skaters, and she was trying to pitch something a bit different to this big mining company, so after a few different bids, we got the job. I went to one open cut mine in far North Queensland and another deep underground mine in Tasmania. I learned so much about mining and in reality, I knew very little before I got the job. I experienced real and intense claustrophobia and I learned a lot about how zinc is vital to our everyday lives, basically we would be done without it! Also I gained a huge amount of respect for anyone that works on a mining site. If it’s a driller or a truck driver, a geologist or a blast technician, there are so many complex and important roles that everyday men and women do, often very far away from their families, working long hours under stressful and also dangerous conditions. There are really the unsung heroes of modern civilization. Whatever your stance on the environment and or mining, it’s naive to think that we could have all the luxuries of a modern world with out the hard graft that these people put in. It was a really interesting and rewarding and at times terrifying experience, but I would do it again, no problem.
How tough do you gotta be to be a boxer, and how tough do you gotta be to be a skater?
I think they’re very similar in a lot of ways. Both require skill, balance, determination, a high tolerance for pain, and the guts to get back up after you get hurt. Also the training side of it requires such dedication, often without any reward. I don’t know if I could say anyone is tougher than the other. I have seen some really tough boxers, so that might seem like the logical choice, but some of the slams I have seen in skateboarding, it could be a draw, maybe skaters are tougher? I was sitting shooting Brian Anderson at the end of that rail in his Yeah Right! opener where he smacked his chin and mouth, his whole face really on the ground, full force. I know the average boxer, and certainly the average skater would not get up and shake that off the way he did. I think skaters might have the edge—but don’t beat me up for saying that. They both have my utmost respect.
Is there a skater out there you’d like to shoot but never had the opportunity?
I’ve been lucky enough to shoot most of the skaters I never even thought would be possible. I don’t think I ever got to shoot Tommy Guerrero yet and I always really liked the way he skates. Maybe we’ll sort that out one of these days! He’s sick in my opinion, the ill-est style.
Name the first three skaters that come to mind when you hear the word “photogenic.”
Man that’s a tough one. Lets see—can I name 33? I’m gonna go with Alex Olson, Tino Razo, and Wade Burkitt, but that’s seriously not my only three faves by any means. Everyone I shoot has something going for them. Sometimes the most un-”photogenic” skaters make the best photos, so you never know.

Any plans of doing a book in the future?
That would be nice for sure, there might be something coming out of London soon, so keep your eyes peeled for that, and some other projects, so Don’t Watch That, as they say.

See Mike’s work at mikeomeally.com. Follow @Mikeomeally on Instagram.