Ed Templeton and "Wayward Cognitions"
As the saying goes, Toy Machine Skateboards owner Ed Templeton is your favorite skater's favorite skater, for reasons that go far beyond his role in pioneering street skating and flat out ripping for three decades. The reality is one would be hard pressed to find someone who contributed more to the visual landscape of skateboarding than Templeton. From his iconic Monster and Sect characters, to the 25 years of skateboard graphics he's drawn, to his numerous photo books, Templeton embodies the raw, artistic credo that skateboarding was once regarded for.
Recently his life story was chronicled in a six-part "Epicly Later'd" documentary that covers his humble beginnings skating the streets of Huntington Beach to his rise to art world luminary. Recently, XGames.com sat down to ask Templeton some follow up questions to his "Epicly Later'd" series as well about his latest photo book, "Wayward Cognitions," along with the meager wages of the modern skateboard graphic designer.
XGames.com: How difficult was it to narrow the images down for the new book?
Templeton: My archive is 56 books of proof sheets plus a box of stuff from before I started archiving in a better way. Each book has about 75 proofs, and each proof is a roll of 36 exposures, which is in the ballpark of 150,000 exposures give or take a few thousand. But only about half is properly archived as of yet. Each day I spend a little time plugging away at the digital archiving of the old books, and it's the bane of my existence. For this book I just tried to start going systematically through all of the stuff I have archived, but then just started searching for cities that I don't plan on doing a future photo book about, or just remembering photos from the past that would work. You have to follow through on your original idea and not rework it until it turns into something way different than you intended.
The book is largely void of personalities from the skateboarding world. Was that a conscious decision?
It was a conscious choice for sure. I have a big future project in the works called "Wires Crossed" that will be a photography book and show that deals with my life as a pro skateboarder. I'm finally ready to get started on that project and that's the one I'm scared about tackling. The whole reason I started shooting in the first place was to document the subculture of skateboarding. Now that I'm decrepit and washed up, I should really get it going. So all of the photos I have shot over the years on skate tours around the world will be part of that other project.
I'm a huge fan of when you write the stories behind the photos on your prints a la Robert Frank. You personally printed each image in the book and laid it out yourself. Why did you choose to only write on a few images?
That's another future project, photos that need stories. Not every photo needs a story. This book is a traditionally straight photo book and I wanted the photos to speak for themselves. I liked the idea of telling a story without words, even if it's a vague story. Still, a few photos with text leaked in.
Inside Ed Templeton's "Wayward Cognitions" book
This week, legendary skateboarder and Toy Machine owner Ed Templeton returns with a new book of candid street photography spanning 20 years of travel and at-home moments. Dubbed "Wayward Cognitions," the book represents the in-between moments that arise when shooting in the streets without theme or subject. "It's about looking, people watching, finding pleasure in the visual vignettes we glimpse each day," says Templeton. What follows is an assortment of selections from the upcoming release.
In your "Epicly Later'd," you tell the story of having to kick Chris Senn off the Toy Machine team. Did he see your heartfelt retelling of that story?
I'm not sure if he ever saw it. His take on the story is way different. He spoke about it in some interview and totally got it wrong, claiming that we kept money that he was owed. I was totally honest with him and there was no ulterior motive. I was presented with a budget wall. The only choice was to kick someone off to stay under budget. I chose Chris because at the time Kerry Getz was a rising star. It was the lamest choice I have ever had to make. And of course, Kerry ended up quitting and Chris said he would have rode for us for free. I should have kept him on, but once it was done, things were damaged. I have seen and talked to him since and all is cool.
Also in those episodes, you talk about a major Mike Vallely fallout. You posted a recent photo of you and him shot in Huntington Beach. What was his reaction to that story being told?
We are cool. The reality is that I shouldn't have told that story. It was my desire to make my "Epicly Later'd" spicy with a juicy old story that blinded me from the fact that I would be dragging Mike into the mud. He told me as much and was pretty pissed at me. I regret bringing it up. I wrote him a letter and apologized. That photo I posted was the first time I saw him in person since those aired. But it was water under the bridge and any awkwardness wore off quickly. It's just another episode in a long storied friendship.
You've been fortunate enough to have your own skateboard company in Toy Machine where you've been responsible for 99% of the board graphics over the years. Why do you think artists in skateboarding can't break through the $300 per graphic glass ceiling? What can be done to change things?
I agree that it would be great to pay artists a fair wage for the work they do. It costs us $14 to make a board, and we only make between 300 and 500 decks of each graphic. That's the sad state we are in. Toy Machine is a pretty small company. The pie slices have been shrinking for years, between so many companies, shops making boards and people selling blanks, so the days of paying $1000 for a graphic are gone. The graphics are only in stores for three months. It made sense when a graphic would come out and be a special thing, and last in stores for years. I wonder if raising the board sales bar from $2 a board to $5 a board and not offering guarantees would work. I'm not sure if those numbers would make sense. But it would be nice. I used to invite artists to do board series all the time. Then in 2008 the recession hit and [Tod] Swank called me up and said no more outside artists. We can't afford it. So from 2008 until this last year, I pretty much did 100% of the graphics, packaging, ads, t-shirts, everything. I feel so lame asking artists to work for so little, that's why I just do most of it myself.
With skateboarding being the center of your world forever, how difficult is it for you to not skate in times of injury and also possibly think about hanging up the board altogether?
I have always been fine with injuries. I have so many interests outside of skateboarding that I need three lifetimes to read and do all the stuff I want to. Being hurt was traditionally a perfect excuse to paint or do something else. I never get bored, there's always something to do.