Relapse: Boyd Harnell

TransWorld SKATEboarding

Volume 21 Number 10

file: Relapse–Boyd Harnell


Boyd Harnell

According to Dale Smith, 70s pro skater and skateboard historian, 1947 was the year that Peter Parkin in La Jolla, California took the handle off his handmade scooters and created the first skateboard. It was also the year Boyd Harnell had his initial photography printed in Speed Age magazine. Through the 1950s, Boyd specialized in motor-sports photography and shot some of the first motor-drive photos of car races with a gun camera taken from a WWII German Messerschmitt fighter. He's had a very busy and fulfilling life as a photojournalist, a newsreel cameraman for NBC in San Diego, and a cinematographer for NASA, documenting early testing of the Apollo command module. He also produced a bullfight film for Universal's Castle Film division, acted as a film project supervisor for commercials and documentaries for the Airstream Travel Trailer Corporations, made a TV documentary in Turkey for Explorer Motorhome Corporation, and had a short stint as managing editor at a major car magazine. That should have kept anyone busy, but then skateboarding boomed in the 1970s and Boyd's son, Tony (a semiprofessional), got Dad into shooting skating at the plethora of skateparks in Southern California. Boyd worked as a contributing editor for Skateboard Japan, Wide World Of Skateboarding, and other skate publications abroad. His travels with the Pepsi skate team took him to Hong Kong and Tokyo. In 1978 he traveled to South Africa (then under apartheid rule) with freestyle champ Chris Chaput and others who were probably the first American skaters to visit that country. Chris taught Zulus to skate, introduced locals to skateboarding, was attacked by a baby elephant, and then was nearly mauled by a cheetah at a wildlife compound.

After his skate-photography days, Boyd continued to shoot auto racing for domestic and overseas publications, produced another documentary–this time on the Holocaust, went to Japan as an editor and photographer for a major wire service, worked as a copywriter for a major ad agency, and was an overseas correspondent/photo journalist for Capital Cities ABC in New York. Phew!

For the last decade or so, Boyd has been a photojournalist, doing driving impressions for Japanese and American car magazines. He also markets his vintage auto-racing images and silver prints to private collectors and has a series of his silver prints in four international photography museums, including the George Eastman House International Museum Of Photography in Rochester, New York. Oh yeah, he also provides photos and graphics to Alva Japan.

I think Boyd needs to take a break–he makes us all look like a bunch of slackers.–Grant Brittain