We’re heading to the City of Angels, as we sit down with documentary photographer and skateboarder, Robert LeBlanc.
From the time his balance could allow, he has spent his days a camera in hand and a skateboard underfoot. It was his second ACL tear however, that forced his hand in turning his attention to documenting the gnarly tricks, rather than furthering his own injuries…
I knew that the life of jumping and down things was at it’s end… I had to come up with a backup route
Robert speaking on coming to terms his hanging up the board and gluing a camera to his hand.
Even though Robert has pulled back from harrowing grinds and kick-flips, skateboarding is never far from mind. From Robert’s perspective, it’s the board that saved his life and made him the artist he is today. So it’s the board that he will always be faithful to. As such, we decided to press that fact and learn more about why skateboarding and photography work so well together.
The work ethic that you have to develop with it to.. You have to keep trying it and trying it and you get beat up. You get hurt, but you can’t give up and I think that goes hand in hand with photography. If your not out there doing it and your not out there pushing yourself and putting yourself in tough situations. Then your not gonna get the photos that you need to get, your not gonna get the result that you need.
Robert speaking on how skateboarding helped save his life and made him a better artist.
We explore his travels to Bulgaria and Prague with friends and fellow skateboarders, Drew Kessler and Ben Scarazano. We laugh about the randomness of the destinations, but quickly pivot to silent fascination, as he describes the Gypsy communities on the outskirts of town, skateboarding through Stalin Square, the massive Communist party rallies experienced and even a disheartening story of hungry kids fighting one another over a chocolate bar.
You have this little area, that was kind of this sign of oppression to the people there. But one you feel they took it back and now its this center of creativity and all these kids skateboarding… it was a really cool change from one to the other that I thought was amazing.
Robert LeBlanc speaking on on Skateboarding in Stalin Square in Prague.
Beyond his stories of the road, we eventually move our interview inward and discuss his own personal struggle with alcoholism and in turn, the awareness and resolve he uses to focus his lens on the reality of addiction. Particularly, his project to bring attention to the sobering, yet empowering lives of those recovering from meth addiction.
So you hear all these really crazy stories from people and the deep dark roads this drug takes them down. So I wanted to create a project where people can understand that you can get out of it. Like there is hope, there is light at the end of the tunnel…
Robert speaking on bringing focus to the victims of Meth addiction.
Last but not least, what kind of interview would it be, if we failed to acknowledge and analyze his book, Unlawful Conduct (2015)? A project on skate culture, the struggles of addiction, of violence and even the resultant discovery of the Robert’s identity as a documentary photographer. His book has sold out across the 8 countries, in such esteemed stores as MoMA PS1 and the Frye Art Museum.
Though, difficult to find, it is at times still possible… So be sure to check out show links below for a link to the only copy we could find in the wild, otherwise known as Amazon. As well as a link to Skylight Books in LA where you might just find a copy in stock from time to time.
Tune in today folks, it’s a great show!
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Don’t miss our last 2-Part Special with the one and only, Stephen Somerstein.