Gordon Nicholas was born 1985 in Northampton, Massachusetts, and currently lives and works in Vancouver, Canada. Having moved to Vancouver at a young age, Gordon has since taken a firm grip on photography, as an unconscious way to hold on to what so often gets left behind. He holds a BFA with a major in photography from Simon Fraser University and is currently shooting freelance. Gordon takes his everyday life and curates it, camera in hand, into a journal of good times had with his skate rat, road tripping, couch and concrete surfing friends. While his personal work has a very definite edge his commercial work is finely tuned and highly professional. Gordon finds a balance between his two bodies of work which inform each other meeting a balance rarely achieved.—Alana Paterson
How long have you been shooting skating and what got you into it?
I got my first camera around 1998. A Nikkormat with a 50mm and 105mm lenses that I still use. I had been skateboarding for a few years at this point and started bringing that camera around to shoot photos of my friends. These would have been mostly with Derek Swaim, Stacy Gabriel, and my brother Graham Nicholas in Kamloops, BC which is a small city about four hours from Vancouver. Once I finally made the move to Vancouver in 2004 I just kept up shooting and meeting new people to skate with. One thing led to another and I eventually found myself as the photo editor at Color Magazine.
Is there one photograph or photographer that inspired you to take up photography?
I can’t think of one particular but I can remember when I was just trying to figure out skateboard photography I was looking a lot at both the Canadian skate mags of the time (Concrete Powder and SBC) not to mention old TransWorlds and being very inspired by the photos of Ryan Allan, Scott Pommier, and Brian Caissie. More so than not tho it was Dylan Doubt whom I met when I moved to Vancouver who more or less pushed me and taught me most of what I know about skateboard photography.
How did you end up linking up with the guys from The Street Demon Video?
It all just started with most of us living together in the Pender Beach house in Vancouver. There were anywhere from five to nine of us living there, just skating everyday and having the time of our lives. We had some strong connections with people out of Victoria, BC and Edmonton, Alberta (where the Street Demon name originates from), and eventually Zach Barton who was doing most of the filming at the time had enough footage stocked up that he wanted to make a full video with the crew. From there I more or less just helped him logistically and produced the thing.
What’s the most interesting story behind one of the sessions you shot in The Street Demon Video?
That’s a tough question considering we’d been shooting for so long and it was really just our day to day routine. I guess one of the most interesting could be when me Zach Barton, Jess Atmore, Geoff Strelow, Tyler Warren and Reave Dennison drove down to LA and then Vegas one December to link up with Jamie Tancowny when he was getting hitched. Several blackouts later and the ceremony never actually happening we headed North. Since we had too much weed to smoke before the border we needed to spend the night in Mt.Shasta to dispose of it. Waking up we discovered the highway had closed overnight and ended up being stuck there for two days. Crawling our way out of there finally our windshield wipers broke up from the ice and i’m still amazed we made it home in one piece.
What’s the best and worst advice you’ve been given on photography?
I’d say the best was from a Grant Brittain interview I read years ago, he said if you aren’t looking through the fisheye how are you supposed to compose your shot. As far as the worst, just pick up any basic how-to-guide on photography.
What advice would you give to up and coming skate photographers?
Shoot with everybody you can and do your best to make yourself available. Skateboarders don’t like to wait or go back to try tricks.
Do you prefer digital or film?
It all depends on the application but by far I prefer shooting film. When you shoot digital and get to see the image right away I it never corresponds to the feeling you had while shooting it which looses something for me. You need that waiting time.
Do you ever use the darkroom?
Not since my University days.
What’s in your camera bag? Favorite piece of gear?
In the bag: Nikon D3S, Pocket Wizards, 4 Nikon SB-80s, a fisheye, 55mm, and 105mm.
Around my neck; either my Nikon F5 or Mamiya 7.
Are there any advantages or disadvantages to growing up shooting in Canada?
I would say both, and yet I wouldn’t have changed a thing. Obviously being in Canada you not only have the less than ideal weather to deal with and lack of spots. But all that being said some of the top skateboarders in the world can call Canada home (Rick Howard, Spencer Hamilton, Paul Machnau, Chris Haslam, Rick McKrank to name a few). It just makes you have to work harder and push yourself to get noticed. And yet those downfalls can also work to your advantage in terms of getting that stand out shot as our spots are generally new to the eye plus located in the most beautiful and diverse part of the world.
Do you have any favorite photos you’ve shot and why?
The photo of my friend Jess Atmore wearing his cops shirt getting booted from a spot by the cops. It more or less sums up skateboarding for me.
Who’s your favorite to shoot and why?
Bradley Sheppard, anytime I got a call from Brad to go out skating I new we were heading somewhere rad and going to to come back with a banger or two.
Have you had any work used recently or coming out? What are some of the publications you work has been featured in?
I’ve been fortunate to have worked with many of the awesome brands and companies that call the Pacific Northwest home. Lately I’ve been shooting skateboarding freelance for the three Canadian skate mags but have also been shooting more and more commercial style photography here in Vancouver.