New York City native Alex Corporan was part of a generation of skaters who effortlessly transformed skateboarding culture within the city, and whose unique style of street skating translated globally as being a rough and creative alternative to the style coming out of the West Coast. With the reissue of Full Bleed, ten years on from the first publication, Corporan’s keen eye for photography works to capture the essential grit of the scene. The indelible shots span time and geography, leaving no spot uncaptured, an elegy to the past as much as a fiery sermon about the here and now, and potential future of the scene.
Corporan is a storyteller, and with Full Bleed the pages leap with icons and history, every shot fought for. Skateboarding culture has been radically transformed, from a sort of hated and irreverent pastime to a fashion industry with a slot at the Olympics, and the NYC crews were essential to its transformation to a widely accepted cultural phenomenon. The book chronicles the work of Spike Jonze, Larry Clark, William Strobeck, Cheryl Dunn, and Atiba Jefferson, touting the work of 90 photographers in total. 40 years of history in NYC, the city itself and all of its changes captured through the lens of skating.
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Full Bleed. Betty T.V show crew, Williamburg Bridge by Alex Corporan.
Hi there, thanks for taking the time to chat today, and congrats on the reissue of Full Bleed, it's extremely special. Evidently a labor of love, what story were you hoping to tell through your editing and selection of the images for the book?
Telling the photographers that I was doing a book on NYC skateboarding photography was the easiest part since I know all the photographers throughout my career in skateboarding. They have either photographed my friends and I or we’ve been friends and family forever. The editing process on the other hand was hard because I wanted to make sure the vision for the book was going to come out like an art piece or a love letter to the NYC architecture that was our backdrop instead of making it look like a core skateboarding magazine. I’m so grateful to my partners Ivory Serra and Andre Razo who helped me produce and finish the process of putting together Full Bleed (the first edition). On the 10-year anniversary my friend Dan Dobransky who is an editor helped me edit the added 100 pages with new and old photographers work that’s never been seen with keeping the same flow as the original.
New York City is such a special city for skateboarding and for arts and culture. What sparked your entry into photography? And into skating?
My spark for photography came from my love of skating because the ever-changing backdrop of NYC is so compelling. Skateboarding came into my life in the mid 80s, my best friend introduced me to it and I never looked back. Photography has always been my other love so combining those two was a beautiful explosion in my heart. I like taking portraits of people and street photography because skateboarding has shown me how to meet amazing people, navigate in and out the city and the world that most people have never seen.
Often skateboarding is described as a sort of great equaliser, bringing together diverse cross sections of society, where everyone bonds over a shared love of skating. What was your experience of the scene like? More broadly, how would you characterise the scene today as opposed to when you were coming up?
The scene back then was a very tight knit group of skateboarders. We weren’t accepted by the masses. All we had was each other because we were trying to figure life out while growing up. Skating was seen as uncool, but we were loving this piece of wood with wheels venturing all around the city with barely any money, sharing food, lying to our parents about where we were going etc. There were no skateparks either. We only had one in the Bronx called Mullaly’s but it was janky as fuck and dangerous just to get in and out. So, we would steal wood from any construction site or anything that looks like a rail to slide on, and drag it to the middle of the street or park.
The current scene is completely different because now it’s accepted by everyone. People are so fascinated with it. There are hundreds of skateparks around the world and many more still being built. Skaters are now being heard. We are being seen. We have a voice in the communities. There is money now where you can get jobs as a skateboarder because the respect level is so high. I think it’s exciting to see the movement get bigger and bigger with each year that goes by.
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Full-Bleed. Chris Keefe, Long Island City, by Mike O’Meally, 2003.
Skate photography is so compelling, at least to me, because it's so vivid and serves well to capture the setting as well as the style, in dress and in movement, of the individual skater. Are there a few selections from Full Bleed that you can tell me a bit more about, ie the background or history?
That’s a hard one, the whole book is a giant story in itself but I can say the Mike Hernandez one foot tail grab at Mullaly by Spike Jonze, stands out to me so much because as I said before getting in to the most dangerous and only skatepark at the time was a test of life but getting out after sun down was like the movie The Warriors. Survival of the fittest.
Matt Hensley (Stale Fish at the Harlem Banks) by Bill Thomas - talk about The Warriors movie, you only had 15 minutes max skating that place before you get shot at and bottles thrown at you. You had to run out of there hoping you didn’t get cut up. This place was in the heart of Harlem and very few even touched this spot. I was lucky enough to hit this spot up with my friends but it was very short lived.
Group photo of the Shut Skateboards team on the steps in Central Park by Bryce Kanights. This photo showed what NYC skateboarders looked like in 1989. No blue sky’s board shorts and one ethnicity here. We were “the united colours of Benetton”.
Young Harold Hunter wallie in Times Square by Charlie Samuels. Harold was the key to the Lower East Side to skate. He was so funny and loved by the world. Harold kept a smile on your face even when you felt down and out. He was a ray of light. I can go on all day with this but I’ll give you those four.
You were there at the foundation of Supreme, and watched the brand’s transformation from a small shop to a global force in the world of fashion, what underpins Supreme’s ethos? Any good stories from the early days?
The stories from back then are endless. There’s way too many great stories. The back of the shop was a very special place. The revolving door of our clubhouse was something out of this world. I’lll leave that there.
The city of New York has undergone immense change over the years. What places do you regularly hit up for food, drink, clothes, to skate, that serve as incubators of old school, classic NYC?
New York has definitely gone through a lot of changes. Loads of local spots closed and are now gone. The best part of NYC is that there is always something to go to no matter what. I enjoy going to Forget-me-nots and Dudley’s in the Lower East Side for food. For drinks you can find me at 169 bar and Bacaro where most of the Max Fish bar family on Mondays get together for tasty beverages. As for shops I always kick it with the Burton snowboards and Labor skate shop fam.
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Full-Bleed. Qlon Douglas, World Trade Center by Charlie Samuels.
The inclusion of a foreword by Tony Hawk, is a nice full circle moment for you, as someone whose first skateboard was a Tony Hawk deck. What has Hawk’s role within the scene been, and is he still looked to as an icon?
Hawk is just purely an amazing person and skateboarder. His passion and energy resonates with skateboarders past and present. He is still making so much happen and is the biggest skateboarding icon still to this day. When he did my foreword, I had no doubt in my mind that he was going to be spot on about NYC.
The grit and style of New York skateboarding is very different to the skating on the West Coast. What are some key stylistic differences between the coasts? Any specific tricks, photos, or indelible skate parts would you point to as constructive of the New York style?
In the West Coast you mostly drive to the spot with a trick in mind ready to go once you get there. In the east especially in NYC you’re skating to a spot thinking one thing and run into something else spontaneously. We’re also dodging people, cars, cyclists, dog poo etc. NYC is very challenging because we don’t have places like in the west where it’s gated or there is no one really around. The west is spread out, but over here in NYC… every inch every corner there is something to hit so you’re truly creating your own style to navigate the streets. If you really want to see real New York style, Check out Zoo York Mix Tape video by R.B Umali.
Like Spike Jonze, who transformed from skate photographer to videographer to director, or Sage Elsesser who performs as Navy Blue, there are so many artists who skate and skaters who make art. What would you say is the bridge between skateboarding and art?
The bridge is the freedom of expression. As a skateboarder we think differently because of all the obstacles in our way to make a trick at a spot from pedestrians to a crack on the floor or the conditions of the spot. We all have a different eye. That’s where I see the bridge is at because we’re looking at everything from unique angles.
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Full-Bleed. Park punks, by Jessica Bard, 1980s.
Do you skate much these days? What crews or individual skaters are you a fan of?
I still skate but not as much as back then. I mostly cruise around but because of all the fun projects I’ve been working on I’m trying to stay out of the injury list. When the opportunity strikes, believe me, I’m on the board ASAP. Skateboarding is good like that. You can just roll around one day and the next you want to jump on and off everything. As individual skateboarders that’s a hard one: Carlo Carezzano, Jiro Platt and Ari Misurelli are 3 of many. I also like the Gang Corp. crew, they have that raw energy that I haven’t seen in a long while.
Looking forwards, what change or perhaps, consistencies would you like to see in the world of skateboarding?
I just like to see everyone out there still supporting and pushing the skate scene to the limits. I’m loving the growth. One thing I would say I want to see is for the newer generations to know their history.
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Full Bleed. Sean Kelling, by Giovanni Reda, 1990s.
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Full Bleed. Steve Olson and model, by Ivory Serra, 2005.
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Full Bleed. Thalia, courtesy of Jessica Bard, 1989.
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Full-Bleed. AJ, Midtown, by Cornphoto.
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Full Blee. Anthony Pappalardo, by Mike O’Meally, 2002.
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Full Bleed. Hacket, Midtown, by C.R. Stecyk, 1980s.
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Full Bleed. Hackett and Olson, Brooklyn Banks by Pepe Torres, 1983.
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Full Bleed. Harold Hunter, by Charlie Samuels 1989.
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Full Bleed. Richie Rojas, by Tobin Yelland, 1980s.
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Full Bleed. Rookie girls, by Elska Sandor, 1998.
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Full Bleed. Tony Trujillo, KCDC, by Michael A. Cohen, 2008.
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Full Bleed. Unknown Skater, Financial District, by CornPhoto.
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Full Bleed. Kids skating in street, by Zephyr, 1976.
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Full Bleed. Quim Cardona, by Ted Newsome, 1990s.
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Full Bleed. Vehicle Crew, Jersey Alley, by Craig Wetherby, 2000s.
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Full Bleed. Wiley Singer, SoHo, by Tobin Yelland, 1980s.
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Full Bleed. Jamie Affoumado aka Puppethead, by Irene Ching, 1982.
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Full Bleed. Keenan Milton, Brooklyn Banks, by Sam Glucksman, 1990s.
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Full Bleed. Bruno Musso by Pepe Torres, 1983.
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Full Bleed. Brian Westgate, by Angela Boatwright, 1999.