Professional skateboarder and artist Ed Templeton unveiled a new collection of his photographs this past weekend. The show, titled "Memory Foam," captures Templeton's impressions of the people of Huntington Beach, Calif., and is hanging at the Roberts & Tilton art gallery in Culver City, Calif.
Templeton is an active and inspired member of the skateboarding community. He's ridden professionally for more than two decades and is the founder and owner of the Toy Machine skate brand. He's also a prolific and widely collected artist and photographer who's shown his work around the world and has published multiple books.
In November, Templeton suffered a potentially career-ending injury while skating a demo for his shoe sponsor, Emerica. In addition to catching up on years' worth of reading and watching films while he's been couch-bound, preparing "Memory Foam" has been a necessary distraction for Templeton as his leg heals.
For "Memory Foam," Templeton displayed 68 photographs on the gallery walls and presented an accompanying slideshow in the "Project Room" to complement the printed work. These are but a fraction of the images he's captured on or around California's Huntington Beach Pier over the last few years.
"What you're seeing here is a selection of thousands and thousands of photos that didn't make the cut," says Templeton of the exhibit. "Once I found out I was using the big room [of the gallery], I dug into some boxes and found some older prints, but by older I mean 2010. Almost all of it was 2011, 2012. That was a way to narrow it down, because we've been shooting HB for so long.
"That's why this isn't a book yet, because it's a real big task to whittle it down to something. So I think, to help me edit for this, I just said, 'OK I'm going to go for the recent stuff.' It could be deeper, but I feel like there's so much work that it doesn't cripple the show at all to have that limitation of just recent HB photos."
Templeton and his wife of 21 years, Deanna, who is also a photographer, grew up in Huntington Beach. Although they've travelled the world through skateboarding and their art careers, they've embraced their hometown as they've gotten older. "Growing up in Huntington Beach, I barely ever went out on the pier. I just turned 40 and my job is essentially sitting in front of the computer doing Toy Machine graphic-type stuff or in the studio painting, and they're both at my house and they both involve sitting," Templeton explains. "So once a day it's like, 'That's really close, the beach; go down there and get some fresh air, get amongst the freaks that are down there.' And in doing that we realize[d] we live in a photo wonderland.
"I could fill this place with photos of London or Barcelona; I mean, I've gone to those places so many times, but compared to this it's so spotty. This is a daily thing just for fun. We go down there, days go by where I don't get any photos that are good, but that's the key of going down there: Once a week I'm going to get a couple great photos from walking around there so much."
"Memory Foam" highlights charming absurdities, juxtaposing young and old, reality and reproductions and the awkward against the ironic. It shows a broad cross-section of beachgoers, from evangelical preachers to girls in bikinis, with an objective, interested, engaged lens. The faces in the images are not familiar, nor are they skateboarders. Yet the photos look like snapshots taken by a friend, with little separation between Templeton and his subjects.
Huntington Beach is full of characters and is a colorful community, yet Templeton predominantly shoots black-and-white photos in his series. "I've always preferred black and white," he says. "Sometimes color can ruin the photo -- like the different colors that are in the background, they're not as pleasing sometimes. So the black and white divorces that whole aspect of making a photo good or bad out of it.
"I like the agelessness of it, too. I think today, [in] this day and age, advertising has taken over and it's always part of every shot, in a way. As I look around I feel like I'm always trying to cut out that stuff so it does make it more timeless."
With an opening so well attended that the work could barely be seen, a second viewing is a must. Ed Templeton's "Memory Foam" will be up through Feb. 16; for gallery hours and more information, go to robertsandtilton.com.