I first met Shaun at the old Skatepark of Austin during a team barbeque for local photographers and filmers. He was sitting up on top of some ramp in the corner of the park with the largest lens on his Canon that I had ever seen. My first impression was that he had to be some legit photographer in town from Southern California on assignment for a magazine. Lucky for the Austin skate scene, I was wrong. He had just relocated to Austin from Dallas. It didn’t take long before I started to see Shaun everywhere. He quickly became the photographer that everyone wanted to shoot with in town. It only took one session with him to understand why. He is the best person to spend hours camped at the bottom of a stair set or ditch with. He has an uncanny ability to keep the session light hearted and fun regardless of the situation. I have spent countless hours on the road with Shaun and shared a million laughs. Texas skateboarders have been blessed to have a photographer as talented and committed to skateboarding as Shaun for the last decade. I’m glad that I talked him out of selling all of his gear a few years back.—Chris Sumers
How long have you been shooting skating and what go you into it?
Since 2001 or 2002. It was just a natural progression from skateboarding. I always enjoyed looking at the skate photos in magazines and always wanted to document my friends and help get them the exposure I thought they deserved.
How has living in Austin, Texas influenced you as a photographer?
Sometimes it feels like street spots are limited, and everyone is stuck skating the same stuff instead of finding new spots. Trying to find a new way to shoot the same boring bump to bar, or whatever, is always a challenge but makes me try to find a new perspective when shooting at a spot I’ve shot at 100 times before. Austin is growing fast, so new spots are popping up. I like finding new stuff with a skater in mind.
What’s the best and worst part about shooting in Austin, Texas?
Best: Small city, easy to navigate and get around. Everyone knows everyone. Unique spots.
Worst: The endless party. Getting an early start to the day seems impossible. The spots I mentioned are being killed by teams who pass through, when the locals should be laying claim.
What motivates you to shoot?
Friends and the progression of skateboarding. Watching kids get better and better. Learning or wanting to try something new while shooting. Also, the personality of the skater. It’s a lot more fun and motivating to get out with fun, motivated, and positive people.
Have you had any photos published in print and does print matter to you?
I can excitedly say I was published in all the major skateboard magazines I grew up with: Slap, Thrasher, TransWorld, and The Skateboard Mag. I’ve done articles, events, ads, and photo contributions. I do think it’s important, especially to guys like myself who have careers outside of skateboarding and photography. It’s a great feeling and having anything in print is always amazing. Thumbing through a magazine is way more exciting than clicking around on the internet. At least to me, anyways.
Is there one photograph or photographer that inspired you to take up photography?
Not really, but as a kid I remember being into Joe Brook’s photos.
What’s the best and worst advice you’ve been given on photography?
Best advice: Shoot nudes. Just kidding. I used to email photographers for advice when I first started. Shad Lambert was the only one to continuously respond and give me pointers or whatever. So a big thank you to him and everyone else that let me pick their brain.
Worst advice: No advice is bad if the source is credible.
What do you like shooting besides skating? Any influences from non-skate photographers?
I really enjoy landscape or nature photography. I couldn’t name any specific people, but the photographers for National Geographic make me want to shoot more than skateboarding and are a huge inspiration. They make it look too fun.
Do you have a favorite photo of your own?
I’m super critical of my photos. I will get real excited about a photo and then a few days later I’ll be totally over it. I shot this front blunt of my friend Short Bus in this old pool out in Bastrop, Texas. The way he does front blunts, the spot, the fact that it may have been one of the last shots I took on film. All of it. I did an article on the place in Thrasher several years ago. R.I.P. Grinder Ledge pool.
What’s the most interesting story behind one of your photos?
Nothing too crazy or real interesting really happens to me. However, the front feeble that James Hardy did was a major mission (April TWS Contents photo). More so for him, than me. He drove up to Austin early in the day, set up cones in front of the rail, removed a rusty bike that was locked to the rail, waited a few hours for me to get off work, and then we had the wait for the sun to set a little bit. After all of that, he breaks his board and then quickly sets up a new one, doing the front feeble first try.
What advice would you give to up and coming skate photographers?
Get some of those gardening pads for your knees or bum! They are lifesavers, especially in the Texas heat. Get a car with good gas mileage, because you’re the one who is probably going to be driving.
Do you prefer digital or film?
Neither. They are completely different beasts. Film looks prettier. Digital is just awesomely convenient.
What’s in your camera bag? Favorite piece of gear?
A bunch of new and old gadgets that weigh me down and have put me in debt. My favorite piece of gear is anything that doesn’t malfunction.
Who’s your favorite person to shoot and why?
I have a few for various reasons. Luke McKirdy because he can skate everything with ease, Holland Austin because he’ll actually get up early to skate and is a rad kid, and Max Taylor because I know it’s going to be something good when I get the call from him for a photo. Anyone who is willing to push the boundaries of their ability.
What’s your favorite skate photo of all time?
That’s a hard one. I don’t have the best memory and my tastes constantly change. Some people can just recall every photo or ad in any magazine, like those who know every video part and who skated to what song. I am not one of those people, but any photo of John Cardiel was easily a favorite. More recently, anything of Grant Taylor and Raney Beres is always rad.
Your photography website:
I keep a little blog called Lunchbox Party, shaunmefford.tumblr.com. I also do a couple of ‘zines – Karate Foot (with my friend Shawn Rylander) and Lunchbox Party (on my own).
Check out more of Shaun’s choice shots in the gallery below.