My friendship with French photographer Pierre Prospero started in 2003, sleeping on his hardwood floors in Paris. My friend Soy Panday (who you may know as one of the founders of Magenta Skateboards) lined our American crew up with Popi—his nickname— since he had a big enough apartment for us to crash at and an unstoppable enthusiasm for tourguiding us around Paris. Over the years we’ve stayed in touch as his artwork in photo and video form coupled with his worldwide travel has progressed to pinnacle levels. One of my favorite works of art from my French friend was his Jolie Routine skate video he put out in 2004. Parisienfeaturing Soy Panday is another great short by Pierre. The dude is just so damn creative in every aspect of his life. Popi and I email regularly, updating each other on our lives usually via quirky photos, and he’s remained a constant source of inspiration since those sleepless nights on that damn floor. Merci beaucoup, Ne pas modifier.—Blair Alley
How long have you been shooting skating and what got you into it?
2002 is when I started for real. At that time my passion was more videography. I was working for adidas, traveling a lot, and was surrounded by great photographers like Sem Rubio and Bertrand Trichet. After trying to kill them with tons of questions, a Nikon FM2 became my first camera.
Is there one photograph or photographer that inspired you to take up photography?
September 1996, I was riding for a small Parisian brand, and I met the French photographer Artus De Lavilléon, trying to shoot my first ad. At the time, digital photography didn’t existed at all, so he was shooting film. At the spot, a kind of dance started with him—the flashes and his light meter, moving everything around the spot to make sure the light was in the right position—for like 10 minutes. Then he told me I only had five tries ’cause he only had five frames left on his roll of film. The camera was a Hasselblad 503CM with some kind of 90mm lens. I was fascinated and I knew I wanted to try it on my own one day.
What’s the best and worst advice you’ve been given on photography?
It’s the same actually, “In photography there is only one rule: There is no rule.” from Benjamin Deberdt, Art director of Kingpin Magazine at the time.
What do you like shooting besides skating? Any influences from non-skate photographers?
Of course, tons: Peter Beard, Frank Ockenfels, and a lot fashion photographers. Besides skating, I shoot commercially for banks and super corporate stuff and a few fashion brands too. But for myself, I focus on “moments” and feelings people share without paying attention. Mostly stolen.
Like the picture on the subway of this couple. It’s a series named Metromance (bouche à bouche de Métro in French). No comment needed.
Do you have a favorite photo of your own?
This picture is a perfect résumé of what skateboarding is for my friends and me. Downhill, crazy parking lot, Sunday afternoon, shot with with a film camera and hand printed.
What’s the most interesting story behind one of your photos?
Joey Pressey in Paris:
He was supposed to ollie and land on these shitty banks I found, didn’t work of course, and the board fell into the river. Really disappointed, he went back to London, but I discovered the photo 10 days after at the lab and then got unexpected coverage all over Europe with it.
What’s the best and worst part about shooting in Paris? How has living in Paris influenced you as a photographer?
This town is expensive, full of tourists, and six months of the year the weather is grey, but—and this is really important—it’s also very charming. The small streets, museums, café terrasses, little brasseries, incredible architecture, the morning light in September, the Parisian women and the way they dress—it’s so romantic, it’s like a Chet Baker jazz concert that never stops.
During the week, Paris is evil. It’s super hard to skate, between businessmen, tourists, and silly security guards, choices are limited, but it’s so unique. Whatever you shoot, you know it’ll be interesting. This is where I learned to focus on the background as much as the subject.
Does having photos published in print matter to you?
Of course! It’s my goal everyday! That’s why I work mostly with film, to have my work printed. Magazines, books, art shows, ads—print first!
What advice would you give to up and coming skate photogs?
Well, most of my clients come to me because they’ve seen my personal work, but in the end, I’m shooting the ad like everybody else. Something you do for you, without having to listen to what someone says, a photo you get to do your way is the most valuable thing. Ever.
Do you prefer digital or film?
Digital doesn’t work for me. I don’t see any difference between my 5D and my phone. If you take a digital picture it means you don’t care as if it’s an Instagram picture. If you work with film, you have to focus so much, and be sure about what you’re doing, It’s the best process to make good work, plus you take a few pictures, not a thousand you never remember or look at twice.
“Digital is perfect”—okay, but film is charming, composed with little mistakes, and surprising colors—a tiny adventure, almost.
What’s in your camera bag?
Nowadays, a Contax G2 45mm f.2, easy to carry and it’s a beautiful camera. In 2-3 years, my Canon 5DMKIII wont work anymore, this camera will.
Do you have a favorite camera right now or piece of gear?
I’ve fallen into Contax gear a lot. Usually I try to change my gear once a year, switch one brand to another, push myself to change my perspectives. It’s the best way to make progress.
Who’s your favorite person to shoot and why?
Hard to say, but I think Pontus Alv. He’s so spontaneous, unpredictable, and he won’t do the trick twice. Raw skateboarding, a lot of energy, he pushes you to go straight to the point: Shoot a skateboard picture and capture the moment.
What’s your favorite skate photo of all time?
Any Bobby Puleo picture shot in NYC.
Your photography website:
Check out some of Pierre’s choice shots in the gallery below: