Jonathan Mehring is hands down one of the best skateboard photographers there is today and ESPN.com is stoked to have the opportunity to speak with him. We didn't get the chance to talk about his trek up the Amazon, his foray into Turkey (the land of the last Roman Empire) or his water fights in the Vietnam, but Mehring did shed some light on what it takes to get there and how it all began for him.
ESPN.com: How long have you been a photographer?
Mehring: I started shooting in high school when I randomly took a photo class. That was probably about 1994. My first published images were in 2000 in Slap Magazine. I've been working professionally ever since.
What was your job before that?
I had a lot of jobs before and even during my years of shooting skating. During college I worked in the Graphics Lab which was sort of an on campus Kinkos. Summers I worked at a camera repair shop in Va. called ProCamera and one year I worked in a vineyard pruning grape vines. After school I was getting paid a little bit to shoot skate photos but not enough to survive. I worked in various camera stores as a retoucher or color printer and I photo assisted for several different photographers.
How did you transition into becoming a skate photographer?
I guess that's always what I wanted to shoot. In school they had us shooting a lot of art related subjects but I would always go shoot my friends skating in my spare time. Even on my first roll of film in high school I have skate shots.
You've traveled to some of the most obscure locations in the world to shoot skating- which place had the best spots?
The best spots to skate are probably in China and Spain. Although Russia and all the former Soviet States have really good architecture for skating as well.
Which place place was the sketchiest?
The sketchiest places have been Mongolia and Krygyzstan. Both are super poor and a lot of people have drug and alcohol problems. This leads to a lot of street violence and petty theft crimes. Both places our crew was robbed, threatened, and in Mongolia we had stones thrown at us. Also in Vietnam, this past winter, was the sketchiest driving experience I've ever had by far. Jerry Hsu and I both crashed motor bikes and everyone in our crew had near death experiences several times a day for almost a month on the road there.
What makes an epic skate photo?
To me it's an amazing looking spot with good lighting and a bang'n trick.
Do you look for something in particular when you go out to shoot or plan a trip?
What should a skater do or keep in mind when they go to shoot a photo?
They should want to do the trick for themselves. If they go out with a photographer just to get the job done then it takes a lot of the fun out of it.
What's your favorite photo that you've shot and why?
I don't know about my one single favorite but my favorite group of photos is probably the Utah desert shoot I did last year with IPath. We camped off the grid, weathered intense storms, and successfully skated on rocks which had only previously been documented a couple times.
What's your favorite skate photo of all time and why?
That's tough one. At the moment a Thomas Campbell photo of Adrian Lopez comes to mind. It's a silohuette shot and he's ollieing from one circular rooftop to another. It was in Hong Kong in about 2000 or 2001. Or maybe Jeremy Wray's water tower ollie by Dan Sturt. That's a good one too.
Any advice for someone that wants to be a skate photographer?
If you love skating and you love to shoot and you're not in either one for the money then go for it. It's a great life.