Photosensitive is a monthly RADII column that focuses on Chinese photographers who are documenting modern trends, youth, and society in China. This month, we spotlight Skgr and his debut photography book that captures intimate moments in the lives of 19 skaters living in Shanghai.
Skateboarding culture is often associated with adrenaline-fueled tricks, the urban outdoors, and beer-guzzling, joint-puffing youth. But what do skaters do when they’ve set their boards aside for the day?
Skater&Room, a photography book by young creative Wan Yize, who goes by the alias Skgr, shows a softer, more intimate side to the movers and shakers of Shanghai’s underground scene.
While the photography book is Skgr’s first, he has gravitated towards skateboarding culture for years. He used to run a skate shop in the past, and now operates his own skateboard brand Skgr Skate.
The latter offers gear designs carrying elements of local Shanghainese culture; think references to our favorite convenience store’s logo — Family Mart is undeniably the most popular convenience chain in the city.
Skgr started photographing his fellow skaters in 2020 and spent almost a year completing the series, which he then turned into a book. The self-published tome was launched at a party in 44K, one of Shanghai’s now-defunct nightclubs.
Shot during the early months of the Covid-19 pandemic, Skater&Room offers a rare glimpse into the personal lives of 19 skaters living in Shanghai while also reflecting on the relationship between individuals and society, private and public spheres.
The 24-years-old photographer shares that the project was inspired by his own experience as a member of the skating community. He tells RADII:
“Since I started skating as a kid, I’ve seen many photos and videos of skaters abroad, but I didn’t find any formal content about the skateboarding community in China.”
Instead of attempting theatrical and hype-fueled shots, Skgr’s portraits explore a more humanistic side to the community.
“I love skating and I even founded my own skateboard brand, but what I find most attractive [about skating] is the people behind the culture,” he says.
Wandering around in an apartment shirtless, sitting slouched over on the edge of a bed, or wistfully staring out of the window, Skgr’s models are depicted in a thoughtful, authentic, and playful way.
Shot entirely on film, the images in Skater&Room are at once melancholic and hopeful. The unadorned, intimate setting sharply contrasts the bold tattoos on the skaters’ skin, making for an unconventional narrative of rebellious youth.
Competition is tough among local skaters, who covet brand sponsorship. Still, some successfully get on the radar of international labels and have even been the face of a recent campaign by Louis Vuitton.
If you ask us, however, creatives such as Skgr can do a much better job than capitulating to commercial shoots.
A precious and unique testimony to Shanghai’s distinct skateboarding culture, Skater&Room provides a peek into the lives of 20-something-year-old urban skaters, reflects on the construction and representation of young masculinity, and most importantly, encourages outsiders to learn to look past external appearances.
After all, even the coolest, edgiest, and most skilled skaters are regular people too.
The photography book is available for purchase through Instagram.
All images courtesy of Skgr
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