I’ve been emailing back and forth with Jake Darwen for the past few years now, like me he’s from New Zealand and has made the move to Australia to pursue his dream of shooting skate photos. Our mutual friend Pedro Day told me that Jake lives off 10 dollars a day and is sleeping on the couch, that’s the best internship I’ve ever heard of! It’s obvious Jake has the passion, all you have to do is look at his photos to see that. All the technical advice I may have given him means nothing without some fire, and to be honest when I look at the photos he emails me or that he’s been getting published it gives me a solid spark. I’m truly stoked that Jake is getting recognized for his talents and I can’t wait to finally meet him—I’m hoping he can give me a few pointers.—Dave Chami
How long have you been shooting skating and what got you into it?
I've been shooting skateboarding photos for about four years. It's a pretty cliché story about how I got into it: but by the time I was 16, I had a few bad injuries from skating. My mum started to get annoyed at me because she would always have to take time off work to help me at home with my broken leg or broken ankle etc. Every time I got a new injury she would always ask me why I continued to skateboard given the fact I’d broken my wrist, ankle, snapped my shin in half and ruptured my ACL. Following my knee reconstruction, the doctor told me I wouldn't even be able to stand on a skateboard for at least 12 months. I couldn't fathom the thought of not skating for that long so I weighed up the options and decided that I would try to start shooting photos instead, so that I could still go out skating and stay in the loop. A couple of weeks later I went halves with my parents on a Nikon D40x and for the rest of that year I couldn't roll around or anything so I'd just drive my car around shooting skate photos with my mates and get them printed at the local camera shop every few weeks. A year later when I was able to skate again, I didn't have the same passion to skate as I did for shooting photos of skating. As time went on, I started sending my photos to Mark Barber (a renowned NZ skate photographer) and he'd always take time to help me out by critiquing my work, telling me what I needed to work on, what the best gear was to buy, etc. He's continued to help me right through until now so I’m really grateful for that. He was the editor at New Zealand Skateboarder at the time and helped me get my first image printed in the magazine. From then until now I've been chasing that same feeling of getting an image printed that both you and the skater are happy with. The images are priceless memories that are immortalized in print forever. That's the main reason why I try and go out shooting everyday.
Is there one photograph or photographer that inspired you to take up photography?
It's hard to just name one because I look up to so many different photographers work ie. Brian Gaberman, Anthony Acosta, Mike O'Meally, Steve Gourlay, but if I had to name one, it would have to be Dave Chami and his work. He's also from New Zealand so it's inspiring for me to see how far you can really go shooting skateboarding from living in such a small city at the bottom of the world. One of his photos that stands out to me the most is the photo of Ben Gore doing the frontside nosegrind pop out with San Francisco in the backround. That image is timeless.
What's the best and worst advice you've been given on photography?
The best advice I've been given is to shoot every image like it's your last. I feel like if you’re doing that, you’re always trying to progress and shoot everything the best you can, trying to find new angles, trying different lighting techniques, etc. The worst advice was to shoot party photos.
Do you have a favorite photo of your own?
What's the most interesting story behind one of your photos?
For a few weekends, Tom Kelly and I tried to get a photo of him skating this roof bowl, which is located just off one of the main roads in Auckland City, so it's always congested with people. Every time the weekend came, it would rain or be way too windy to try climbing up it. We were out skating on a Friday afternoon and the weather was crystal clear, there was no wind or anything so we just decided to not let the opportunity go to waste and checked it out. When we got there, the sidewalks were overflowing with people just finishing work and the roads were filled with cars because it was peak hour traffic. We had to be quick and make sure that no one caught Tom skating on the roof so he climbed up, gave me the thumbs up and started trying to get this hurricane. A couple of near death attempts later he had landed it and not one person had even seen him on the roof. Everyone was just looking at me wondering why I was lying on the ground shooting photos of them when they were walking towards me.
What was your first photo in TWS and how did it come about?
My first photo in TWS was of Dennis Durrant doing a frontside feeble in Brisbane City published in the current December 2012 international issue.It all came about from sending some of my photos to Dave Chami for critique; he told me that he'd pass one of the photos of Dennis Durrant onto the editors at TWS, but that he couldn’t promise anything. I didn't hear back for a while and then Joey Shigeo sent me an email asking for an image of Dennis for the upcoming international issue. Luckily, there was more of a chance to get something printed in the magazine for his ‘Check In’ because Dennis has recently been living in Brisbane for the last 8 months, so we’d been skating a bunch since he’s been back. So it ended up working out perfectly. A massive thanks to Joey and Dave for helping me get my first image printed in TWS! Hyped!
What advice would you give to up and coming skate photogs?
I'm still asking for advice all the time from other photographers, but a piece of advice that I can pass on from what I've learned is to always be motivated. Even if someone is asking you to shoot a photo at six in the morning or cut a kink off a rail at midnight, if they’re keen to do it then you have to be on the same vibe that they’re on. Also, if you’re ever struggling with photos, don't hesitate to ask for critique from another photographer—you'll be surprised about how many people are willing to help out!
Do you prefer digital or film?
They both have their pros and cons. I do love the purity that film produces in an image but I've never really had enough money to peruse shooting with it. These days, it's so much easier to just whip out your digital SLR and know what your photo looks like right then and there—the only disadvantage of that is losing the whole excitement factor of waiting to see how your images are going to look like before you get them developed.
What's in your camera bag? Favorite piece of gear?
In my camera bag is:
Nikkor 10.5mm Fisheye
Nikkor 50mm F1.4
Nikkor 85mm 1.8
5 x Pocket Wizard Plus ll's
1 x Pocketwizard Flex TT5
And in my other bag is:
1 x 400w/s Lumedyne Action Pack
2 x Sunpak 120j flashes
2 x Nikon SB 800 flashes
My favorite piece of gear in my bag is the Nikkor 50mm F1.4
Do you plan on making the move to the US to shoot?
That's what the dream has always been: to live and shoot skate photos in the States. Hopefully one day it will work out.