California is the birthplace of skateboard culture and, even though skateparks are found worldwide today, it is where these parks continue to flourish as the sport evolves and architects, engineers and skateboarders collaborate to refine their designs. The artist Amir Zaki grew up skateboarding, so he has an understanding of these spaces and, as someone who has spent years photographing the built and natural landscape of California, he has an appreciation of the large concrete structures not only as sculptural forms, but also as significant features of the contemporary landscape, belonging to a tradition of public art and Brutalist architecture. To create the images in this book, Zaki photographed in the early-morning light, climbing inside the bowls and pipes while there were no skaters around. Each photograph is a composite of dozens of shots taken with a digital camera mounted on a motorized tripod head. The look of the resulting images is unusual in that Zaki’s lens is somewhat telephoto, which has the effect of flattening space, yet the angle of view is often quite wide, which exaggerates spatial depth. The technology also allows Zaki to photograph certain areas from difficult positions that would otherwise be impossible to capture. In his text, Tony Hawk – one of world’s best-known professional skateboarders – describes how Zaki’s photographs of empty skateparks and open skies evoke memories of the idyllic freedom that he felt when he first visited a skatepark as a child and saw skaters flying like birds in and out of the concrete pools and bowls. Hawk has skated in some of the parks featured in this book, and for him several of Zaki’s images, taken from the skater’s perspective, recall the experience of trying to learn a particular trick. In his essay, the Los Angeles-based architect Peter Zellner charts the beginnings of modern vertical skateboarding in the mid-1970s and the subsequent proliferation of purpose-built skateparks, and he draws parallels with the almost simultaneous reinvention of American landscape photography, when photographers turned their lenses away from the natural world and refocused on the man-made landscape. Zaki’s remarkable photographs of strangely supernatural skateparks, devoid of their users, inherit this reinvented tradition by finding beauty in a seemingly denatured concrete suburbia.
‧A mesmerizing collection of photographs of concrete skateparks located across California, the birthplace of skating culture, by the artist – and erstwhile skateboarder – Amir Zaki
‧Features a contribution from the skateboarding legend Tony Hawk
‧With an appreciation of contemporary American landscape photography and the evolution of the modern skatepark by the Los Angeles-based architect Peter Zellner