Zered Basset • Fs pivot fakie • Cambridge Bowl, MA • 2003

Ben Colen


November 2022

Can you tell us something about Boston no one knows?
Don’t drive a U-Haul on Storrow Drive.

Until you were 18 years old, you lived and skated in Long Island. How different is the skate scene to Boston?
Long Island is a big suburb with a lot of real spread-out towns, you need a car to get around, so it was kind of more like a bunch of little scenes that would run into each other, where Boston is a pretty small city, and when I moved there was a really tight scene where everyone would kind of meet up somewhere and cruise all over the place.

In an interview with No Comply Network, you mentioned that you were looking forward to moving out to Boston as ‘it was a fun place to skate’. Was there something specifically you were looking forward to?
Mainly being able to leave the house and just go skate, rather than having to wait for someone with a car to pick you up etc.

‘Dude would just show up in Birkenstocks and kill everything.’

_Will_harmon_crooks_northeastern uni - 1999
Will Harmon • Crooks • Northeastern University • 1999

What are some of your Boston underground heroes?
There were a ton of rippers there when I moved there and who moved there shortly after, some of them got more recognition than others. As far as skaters people might not have heard of this one guy Mike Brown stands out, dude would just show up in Birkenstocks and kill everything.

Where there any local photographers that inspired you at the time?
My roommate Sean Keenan was probably the biggest inspiration, he was shooting skating too at the time I met him, and he and I used to talk photo stuff all the time. Also, Dimitry Elyaskavich from NY was a real big inspiration when I was just starting out.

Favorite local skater you have shot in Boston?
Mostly my friends and roommates I shot with the most, Joey Pepper, Steve Nardone, Vanik Hacobian, Matt Willigan, Jerry Fowler, Jahmal Williams. There’s a lot more names than that but really just any of my friends.

Favorite local spot to shoot?
Probably Boston City Hospital which isn’t there anymore, but it was always rad to get a photo there.

‘Probably Boston City Hospital which isn’t there anymore, but it was always rad to get a photo there.’

Jahmal_Williams_ollie_BOS City Hospital_Colen1998
Jahmal Williams • Ollie • Boston City Hospital • 1998

Proudest moment as a photographer?
Honestly just any time you get to see a photo you like in print is a great feeling, especially now when so much stuff goes to social media etc.

Most embarrassing?
Back when I was shooting film it was a habit for people to swap a roll out halfway thru (to go from color to BW for example), and then put it back in later, advance the film and finish the roll. A couple times I accidentally double exposed photos I’d shot at the beginning of the roll, ruining them, which was pretty lame to have to tell the skater.

In the same interview, you said that the best thing being a skate photographer was to go to new places. Which trip stands out for your personally and why?
The times I got to go to Thailand for Skateboarder (3 times with different people) will always stand out. That’s my favorite place I’ve been. I went there pretty early on in my career, and it was such a different place from the US. I love it there.

‘Also, Dimitry Elyaskavich from NY was a real big inspiration when I was just starting out.’

Zered Bassett • Kickflip • Somewhere in MA • 2003

You worked for some big board companies and skatemags. What did you enjoy the most?
They both had their good points. With working for Skateboarder, I liked the random kinds of trips I’d get to go on with different crews and stuff. When I was at Girl it was cool how I had kind of a set crew to go out with all the time. It was almost like a family thing.

Who was your most favourite team rider at Girl to shoot with?
Probably Alex Olson, he’s a really good friend of mine and half the time he just wanted to shoot photos right in our neighborhood which was always a bonus, but I loved shooting with all the guys over there.

Reminiscing about the time where you could still work as a staff photographer for skatemags or brands?
No, not really. I had a great time doing all that stuff, but I really like freelancing too other than the occasional stressful stretches.

‘Honestly, I prefer to read other people’s interviews, I’m terrible at it.’

Danny Supa • BS flip • Charlestown • 2002

What are some of the mags/brands you are still shooting for?
These days I do a lot of stuff for SB. I definitely try and get photos in Thrasher whenever I can too.

Being a skate photographer for all these years, how is it different today compared to when your first started?
A lot of stuff is the same, but there’s no question that when I started photos kind of had priority in a way and then that flipped and video became a lot more important. Plus now there’s obviously less mags and so much stuff goes to social media, which is kind of a bummer but that’s how it is so you gotta roll with it.

Last question. If you could interview a person, who would it be and why?
Honestly, I prefer to read other people’s interviews, I’m terrible at it (laughing).

Joey Pepper • BS noseblunt • Chinatown, Boston • 2000