Reading through Time: 4 moments
“You have to be a very specific individual to know how I’m well-known. And he’s that person, ” says artist and expert skateboarder Ed Templeton, reflecting on his shoot with acting professional – and skate enthusiast – Jonah Hill
In the summer of 2018, Ed Templeton was invited to the film leading of mid90s. Directed by Jonah Hill and loosely based on his lived encounter, the film follows a 13-year-old boy as he befriends a group of skateboarders in 1990s Los Angeles. As a former professional skateboarder, and founder of skate company Toy Machine, Templeton was one of the industry heads on the guestlist. “I think [Jonah] wanted to give it a test run with the people who were most affected by it, as it was our culture, ” says Templeton. On the night of the survey, in a rather surreal minute, the actor came up to him and said: “Hey! Ed Templeton, I know who you are. ”
Jonah Hill were raised watching videos of Templeton skating, and poring more than his photos in publications. “It’s funny, I’m famous to Jonah Hill because I’m a skateboarder, but a random person on the street won’t know who I am, ” he says. “You have to be a very specific person to know how I’m famous. Plus he’s that person. ”
Most readers of British Log of Photography will know Templeton as a photographer, painter, and collage artist. But before that will, he was a skateboarder. Templeton started skating in 85, and went professional within the early 90s. In 1994, he picked up a point-and-shoot camera, and began recording skate culture, tagging the beginning of his artistic career.
Now, he comes from Huntington Beach, California, running his skate company together with his artistic practice. “Having [Toy Machine] continues me in a position where You will find freedom as an artist. Dont really have to do commercial work, or sell artwork to survive, ” he says. This freedom indicates there is little to no division between his industrial and personal work. “Everything I actually do commercially, essentially, is some thing I might do in a fine artwork sense. ”
“Some of the weirdness that happens whenever you meet someone for the first time dissolved away, because we both had a good idea about each other’s backstory, or at least the things that all of us valued in life”
Last 30 days, around three years after meeting Jonah Hill at the premier, Templeton was asked to shoot the actor for the cover of GQ Style. The artist rarely takes on editorial commissions, but the answer was an immediate yes. “I feel lucky to be in a posture where I only take people I like, ” says Templeton, who has photographed actors like Elle and Dakota Fanning, Asia Argento, and model Ruby Aldridge.
All of the artist’s commercial work is managed by a photo agent, Sophie Howard. “She must really hate me, because I turn down close to 90 percent of exactly what she throws at me personally, ” he laughs. However the GQ assignment was “perfect on all levels, ” he says, “because I’d currently met him, and I think he’s a cool guy”.
When take day came around, the mutual affinity with skate culture forged an instant connection between the pair. “Some of the weirdness that happens when you satisfy someone for the first time melted aside, because we both had a good option about each other’s backstory, or at least the things that we valued in life, ” says Templeton. He arrived at Paradise Cove in Malibu – Hill’s hometown – where he had been greeted by a huge system. GQ had rented a good RV, pitched tents to accommodate all the racks of clothes, and set up a meal provider for their staff. They actually had an on-site florist, crafting Hawaiian leis out of refreshing flowers.
Templeton arrived with just two cameras – a Leica M6 and a Fuji GF670 medium format – and his assistant for the day: his wife and fellow photographer, Deanna Templeton . He jokes about how people might see their partnership as “claustrophobic”. They invest almost every moment of the day together, and assist one another upon shoots and during the editing process. Deanna makes a short appearance on our Zoom call, when she passes more than a strawberry and acai breakfast every day smoothie. “We’re kind of inseparable at this point, ” he says, fondly. “It’s nice to have someone that tests you a bit, you understand? ”
On the day of the take, they had around five hrs to photograph nine looks. Coming onto set using a subject who already knew him, not as a photographer but as a skateboarder, additional an unique dimension to the encounter. They shared references in order to skate culture, poking enjoyable at one another and producing “little in-jokes that can only come from someone who knows about skateboarding”.
Templeton remembers one second where Jonah Hill had been staring back at him intensely. “I was like, ‘okay, that’s good, stay presently there for a second’…. And he said out loud, ‘I never believed I’d be eye-fucking Ed Templeton today’. ”
The images had been all shot on film, which is rare for a publication commission. Cost is one element, but so is time. “People who make magazines, and rightly so , are used to immediate gratification, ” says Templeton, who knows photographers that have worked on commissions with far less control of their images. “What was really rare was that [ GQ ] gave me such a lengthy leash, ” he says. The magazine supported his creative vision, allowing him you a chance to develop and scan their film, and create collages together with his signature doodles and washes.
Hesitantly, he confesses to using digital interventions to speed up the process. “Photoshop is something I prevent in my real life like the problem, ” he says. “I’m this kind of luddite. I work with a pc all day long, but when it comes to art work, it’s always been analogue. ”
Still, Templeton is pleased for the flexibility and we hope that GQ team gave him. “I felt really comfortable, and it took a lot of the stress off, having someone state ‘We know what you do, and want you to do what you do’, ” he says. “It was freeing, and liberating. I just had to be Ed Templeton, and shoot how I normally shoot. That, to me, has been rare. ”