Proof Sheet: James Givens

I would much rather write about James in 1-3 word descriptions with bullet points, but I guess I’ll actually try this out.
In a world where everyone is a photographer now because of Instagram, James is actually doing his due diligence in the field, whether it be setting up his flashes before the session gets heavy, or reaching out to elder photographers for advice on perfecting his craft. Some how, he manages to do everything with great humility for someone his age while maintaining his sense of humor too (Snapchat cosmicwarlock). His photos speak for themselves. He has an eye for it. See for yourself. Choose life, choose James, choose your man. See, I knew bullet points would be better. Sorry James.—Geno Failla, Owner, Lurk Hard/Pizza Skateboards

How old are you and where do you live currently and where are you from?
I’m 22-years old, born and raised (and still) in Sacramento as far as now goes!

How long have you been shooting skating and what got you into it?
I’ve been photographing skating for almost six years now. I was a few years deep in shooting photos of my homies at the time for high school memories, and once I had access to a digital camera, I figured I might as well photograph us actually skating since we were always out. No one else that I knew of at the time did it, and I didn’t have to worry about blowing through a roll of film. Also, the spots we were going to were just getting way too gnarly.

Is there one photograph or photographer that inspired you to take up photography?
My mans, Kyle Duval. When I saw his “Fresh Crops” I was trippin’ because he was the dude shooting photos of the guys in Sacramento that I looked up to. Same with Mark Dillon. Now, they’re just the big homies and it’s super sick. Other than that, my inspiration comes just as much from my palm as it does from print, which is cool and crappy. Obviously, nothing beats a magazine or photo book, but Instagram as a daily source of photographic content (skate and non-skate) is totally adequate.

What’s the best and worst advice you’ve been given on photography?
The best advice I’ve got was from my friend Alex, and it was to keep your gear on you at all times, you’ll never know what you’ll get into. The worst advice I’ve received, by far, was to work weddings, haha.

Do you have a favorite photo of your own?


This portrait of Kagen is hands down, my favorite of all time (thus far). The kit, the scene, and the expression, all come together to make a timeless photo of a great person.

What’s the most interesting story behind one of your photos?
The tale on the photo of Salba is always a fun one. So I’m at the Vans Pool Party, shooting photos (shoutout Shamando) and it’s a really rad time. It’s the Legends Division or whatever it’s called, and I’m still in awe from being on the deck. Salba takes his first run, doesn’t do too well, takes his second run, same thing. On his third run, he still wasn’t doing hot and he flips. Throws his board, throws his helmet and almost hits someone, and then goes up on the deck and WWE’s the chair that was next to my bag and storms off. I was bummed because I thought my bag got smoked, but everything ended up being intact fortunately!

What advice would you give to up and coming skate photogs?
I still am on the way myself, so this is a hard question, but man, understand that you have to pay to play. You’ll go out days on end and can come up unsuccessful every time, but don’t become bitter because of it. You’re owed nothing. Also, develop a solid work ethic, learn constantly, don’t be too self-critical, be personable, and most importantly: Don’t be a dick.

Best thing about shooting in your hometown:
Everyone likes to have fun, so nothing is too serious. Also, there’s four Popeye’s Chicken establishments within 20 miles of each other.

Do you prefer digital or film?
Both are great. I use digital for skating, product, or whatever else because I like instant feedback for those kinds of things. But I started on film, and enjoy using it to document personal stuff. I’m also a fan of the fact that film is a memory that is tangible and can’t be corrupted by a virus.

What’s in your camera bag?
My workhorse, the Canon 7D with a 24-70 f/4 and 70-200 f/4, Rokinon 8mm, and the good ol’ Olympus 35SP. Two Vivitar 285HVs, two Quantum T2s and their batteries, four Chinese transceivers, stands, and napkins. Napkins are essential.

Your photography website if you have one:
I’ll get on that one someday haha. @CosmicWarlock is the insta-handle where everything ends up!

James Givens. Self portrait.
James Givens. Self portrait.

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