I remember Jake coming into the shop as a young buck. He was pretty quiet and hard to get a read on at first but the one thing that was apparent was his love for skateboarding. I would see him pretty regularly at the skatepark and noticed how quickly he progressed and developed a unique and seasoned style. It always tripped me out whenever his age came up—he was the youngest of his crew but seemed wise beyond his years so I’d always forget. All that time he must have been so quiet because he was taking in every detail around him. This trait shows through in his photography—he’s got a great eye for what’s going to look good and is very creative in his approach. There’s nothing better than when he gets so stoked on something that he can’t contain his calm and cool demeanor and cracks a big smile, usually followed by a quick short burst of maniacal laughter as if he’d been waiting days to let it out.—Dan Askew, co-owner of Escapist
How long have you been shooting skating and what got you into it?
I picked up my first camera about six years ago. When I was a freshman in high school I snapped my shoulder and basically couldn’t skate for like four months. Seeing how much of a skate rat I was I had to do something to where I was at least still being exposed to skateboarding. Having said that I was always super stoked and intrigued with photography. I had mentioned to my dad that I wanted a camera and it just so happened that his best friend growing up was a photographer and hooked me up with a camera for super cheap. Been hooked ever since.
Is there one photograph or photographer that inspired you to take up photography?
A big inspiration to me would definitely be Aaron Smith. He grew up in Kansas City as well so I was constantly seeing his photos in magazines of all the dudes that I looked up to here. I seriously spent hours on hours just studying his photos on flickr. The way he lit and composed his photos was just so insane to me. Other photographers that are really inspirational to me would definitely be Matt Price, Dave Chami and Mike O’Meally. I always felt like Matt took on a more creative and unique approach in his photography. He can literally shoot the most simple trick and make it look so rad. Dave is really sick to me due to the fact that he can always create a strong composition with his surroundings. Not to mention he lights his photos extremely well. I think Mike O’Meally’s work kind of speaks for itself. I feel like a lot of people including myself sometimes kind of overthink things when trying to shoot a photo and it causes you to stress out and maybe not even shoot a photo that you are stoked on. O’Meally documents what is going on in a skate photo more than anything while keeping it simple and raw. That’s really refreshing to me.
What’s the best and worst advice you’ve been given on photography?
The best advice I’ve ever gotten is to have fun. To me shooting skating is just as fun and exhilarating as skateboarding is. If it makes you happy then that’s all that matters. Too many people hate their lives because they didn’t pursue what they truly enjoyed to do. Life’s too short for that. If shooting skateboarding makes you happy, then shoot skateboarding. The worst advice I think would be the complete opposite of that. What’s the point of wasting your life doing something that you don’t want to do?
Do you have a favorite photo of your own?
My personal favorite photo I have ever shot would definitely be this photo of my friend Grant kickfliping into this rock bank. I remember getting to the spot and and shooting the trick from a handful of different angles trying to see which angle would look best. I ended up just going and sitting next to my friend who was filming it straight on and realized it looked pretty sick from right there. Once it began to get dark my flashes began to kind of reflect the green graphic from his board onto the rocks. It was one of those instances that you knew early on that you were going to walk away with something rad.
What’s the most interesting story behind one of your photos?
I guess there’s something about me shooting kickflips that always has a backstory to it [laughs]. This particular spot is a pretty popular one in Kansas City. You can’t really see up top but you would usually skate this spot as a ledge with the scary drop off on the other side. I remember hearing about and seeing the footage of someone ollieing the other side a long time ago and thought that it was insane (this is the spot that Rowan wallied to flat in Propeller). So when I got the news that my friend Blaine had kickfliped it while I was out of town on a skate trip, I was kinda bummed I wasn’t there to shoot it. Luckily for me Blaine is one of those few dudes that is always down to skate anything a second time. When we went back it was the middle of the day and instantly started getting hassled by security. We ended up only getting three tires and on the last one he was being chased by a security guard and landed it right in his face. It ruled. Even funnier we were skating around the same spot about a week later and he thought it would be funny to kickflip it once more for shits and gigs. He landed it again third try.
What’s unique about shooting in your hometown?
Growing up skating and shooting in Kansas City has been something I have grown to appreciate. You’re given insanely hot summers and ridiculously cold winters, so a lot of the concrete here is pretty rough and haggard. I think the Midwest in itself kind of has its own feel. The spots are really unique, the architecture is really old and there is just a gritty feeling to it. That has made shooting here that much more rewarding. Kansas City is cool because it’s small enough to where you can get to a lot of the spots in a matter of ten minutes or so but it’s spaced out enough to where it doesn’t feel like everything is too crammed together at the same time.
What advice would you give to up and coming skate photogs?
I feel like I’m constantly still looking for advice myself but I would say don’t be afraid to email photographers you look up to. You will always get some sort of feedback.
Do you prefer digital or film?
I shoot skateboarding all digitally, mainly because that’s how I started out shooting. I am an advocate of both though. I think there is a universal feeling of excitement that will never change when shooting film.
What’s in your camera bag?
Some battery packs
Little 35mm point and shoot