Aaron Penna • Kickflip • Angresse, France

‘When I shoot a cool photo I feel like I landed a trick almost!’

Greg Poissonnier


February 2023

Where are you from?
I’m from France, I live in the south west part of the country, by the well-known surf town called Hossegor, it’s like 45 min driving from the Spanish border.

Assuming you started off skateboarding at what point did you move to videography and why?
I started filming in 1998, I was a pro snowboarder at the time and we would film each other with a little Sony PC2 handycam for our crew videos, then in the summertime I was filming skateboarding when not skating myself, and started documenting our local scene for Puzzle Video Mag (Euro 411 kinda). I would also film for Quiksilver which was my main sponsor at the time, it was some sort of shift in my professional journey, I felt like it was time to walk away from being a sponsored rider, so it was another way for me to give back to my sponsor and “justify” my income.

When I released Dave Swifts’s interview, you mentioned your own story with him. Tell us more about it.
Well, as I said, I met Dave at Poods, Encinitas, in 2017. It was actually pretty funny cause I was on a trip with the freshly put together Olympic French Team, so we’re at Poods and I go check the pool from the plaza above and i see Matt Mumford down there, he sees me and kinda gets stuck like “I know this dude, but can’t remember where from…”, and I go “hold on, I’ll be here in a sec”, and by the time I get by the pool he’s remembers our common days at Globe shoes, we’ve been on tour throughout Europe together like 10 years before when I was working at Globe/Dwindle’s European marketing department. He was actually skating with Dave and that’s when we got introduced to each other, and to me, growing up reading magazines since the mid 80’s, photographers are on the same level as skaters, you know, I’d always pay attention to who shot the photo, so I was kinda tripping meeting him, he’s a big name you know, you gotta show respect (laughing)!

‘I felt like it was time to walk away from being a sponsored rider, so it was another way for me to give back to my sponsor and “justify” my income.‘

Gaetan Ducellier • Fs ollie • Mont-de-Marsan, France

Just recently you moved from videography to include photography as well. What triggered the change now that almost everything you see is skate clips?
Yeah that happened a year and a half ago when we got under lockdown due to Covid for the second time, I thought I could use that time to learn something new, especially cause I can skate with my kids at home in our driveway, which makes a cool subject for the learning process! Also, I sorta needed it for my work, I’m doing the communication of the French Skateboarding Commission (which is a part of the national federation), so that includes PR, social networks and so on, so as I was already creating video content I thought it’d be cool if I could add another skill with photography, especially since moving closer to the first Olympic games, media requests for rider interviews and images were more frequent, and we couldn’t afford to hire photographers for each and every event and/or “get together” of the team, it made sense that I’d do it and then be able to provide images where needed. I also run a board brand called cOLLAPSe skateboards, it’s way easier now that I can shoot okay photos for everything communication/advertising you know, catalogs, website, Instagram and so on…you always need imagery, even though talking Instagram, kids don’t pay much attention to photos, they’d rather watch some moving images, but it’s ok, I like it both! And to close that subject, I’ve spent my whole career with photographers, and I learnt so much from them, skate history and everything, I think they’re as much important as the riders, without them there’s no images to stare at for hours and dream about doing the same trick, or hoping to go that one spot one day…so it made sense, now that I’m getting into it I realize I’ve always been shooting photos with a special attention to it even though it was with random cameras.

Lukas Larrue • Bs kickflip • Seignosse, France

We were cruising around Seignosse Le Penon after Lukas just landed a pretty hefty bs 360 (as seen in cOLLAPSe skateboards 15-36 video). Looking for something else to skate, when coming closer to the Aqua park, Lukas webt all «dude i always wanted to skate that thing, let’s go!». The spot being quite a bust (cops are still searching for Mark Appleyard) I said ok, you guys jump the fence and I’ll shoot long lens from outside, Lukas and his buddy Loris went for it and skated like maybe 10 minutes. Lukas got the bs flip in no time, I got the shot which ended up printed as a double page spread in Sugar skate mag!’

Do you regret not taking skate shots earlier in your career?
No, there’s a time for everything, you know I really enjoy playing music and I’ve always said no big deal if I’m not playing right now, I’ll have time to do it when getting older when not being able to ride that much any longer, it’s kind of the same with photography. And right now I’m healing from a broken collarbone, broke it two times in a row, got two surgeries and everything so it sort of keep me sane, when I shoot a cool photo I feel like a landed a trick almost!

Proudest moment as a photographer? Maybe my first printed pic in Sugar skate mag in France?
Or no, shooting at the Olympic park in Tokyo last summer next to Bryce Kanights, Atiba, Jamie Owens, Jeff Landi, even though I wasn’t accredited as a photographer, that was fun, it felt like any other contest, especially since i’ve known BK since 2000 or something, it was unreal and fun!

‘I think they’re as much important as the riders’

Arthur Fontis • Heelflip • Bayonne, France

What is your take with Skateboarding in the Olympics? I am kind of interested on your views as you started skating when it skating was considered a crime in the 80ies and now you work for the national Olympics team.
Pretty much like most of the skateboarders I’d have rather stayed away from it in the first place, but we all knew that was coming, so instead of witnessing the worst shit show ever, as I was in a position where I was able to be part of the whole process, I thought it was wiser to involve myself and try to make sure skateboarding was presented in the best way possible to the mainstream, of course we’re showing only one side of skateboarding which is “competitive skateboarding” but we’ve always taken every opportunity to explain our culture, where it was coming from and where it belongs, and to be honest, I don’t see myself explaining to my family and friends who for sure will tell me about Olympic skateboarding that it’s not skateboarding, see what I mean?

Competitions have always played a major role in skateboarding, there was a time when you wouldn’t turn pro without winning an Am contest, some people were dreaming of wearing the Zephyr team uniform I’m pretty sure, so nothing new in the end….and something else made me go into it: snowboarding! I was a pro snowboarder back in 1998 when snowboarding appeared for the first time in Nagano, and the ISF at the time just said f#ck off to the TTR organization, who was the legit snowboarding organization at the time when it came to contests, which resulted in the boycott of the event of the best snowboarders, or at least the very best one and most popular Terje Haakonsen, who for sure (except a tsunami or something) would have won the first ever snowboarding halfpipe event, but instead of that, Gian Simmen, unknown Swiss rider took the win. Not saying Gian was a bad rider, he was actually really good, but the fact that the best one wasn’t there didn’t help at all, plus all the shaping problems and so on they had throughout the years and events. All that to say that the IOC and World Skate took the subject differently and created this skateboarding commission, made of skateboarders, to run the whole thing, and at the end of the day what we saw in Tokyo was just another contest, with way more eyes lurking on it, but it was the competitive skateboarding we knew before and like it, or not, but Olympics weren’t much different from other comps.

As you said, I started back in 86-87 when it was considered a ‘crime’, I’ve spent so much energy explaining to people kicking us out that what we were doing was worth checking instead of giving us shit, so I guess this is now a major help for skateboarding’s understanding and acceptance by the mainstream, which I’m sure is precisely what a lot of skateboarders don’t want, they wanna remain outcasts, they don’t want to share and explain why skateboarding is the best, which in a way I understand, but I’d rather try to make people stoked about it!

‘Like it, or not, but Olympics weren’t much different from other comps.’

Keegan Palmer • Alley oop kickflip lien melon • Tokyo, Japan

I have to be honest. I was not a big fan of the event. I guess also as there was no audience. However, there was one guy that stood out for me personally. Vincent Milou. He had by far the most fun of everyone in the men’s street contest. I also liked his Olympic ‘uniform’.
(Laughing) Yeah Vince for sure man! Vincent is from my area so I’ve seen him starting skateboarding basically, we would go to the same park, Hall04 skatepark in Hossegor, it’s funny you mention he had the best kit, because I used to give him so much shit for not paying attention to how he would dress, but nowadays he’s tripping so much about it, he needs everyone’s opinion about what color shirt he should wear (laughing)!

Those Nike kits were so good, so many options, different tops and bottoms to choose from , but the funny thing is, the riders placed their kit orders in 2019, so by the time they got ’em in 2021, the trends and styles had changed, style got more loose fit and baggy so they all got too small pieces , Vince actually made up his pants from a one piece kit that he had cut and got his grand ma to sew it for him!

So yeah, best style and best smile, so gutted for him that he ended up 4th. I was commentating the games on national TV and so we got Vincent on a TV show after the event, he was like “no I don’t care of the result, I did the tricks I wanted to do so I’m stoked, skateboarding has been respected and we all had a blast, best day!”, but I was like “dude, you were so close from a life changing result, and it would have been well deserved…”, and then after the show and after talking to the journalists and other TV consultants I think he started realizing what impact a medal creates and so he texted me saying “dude, I start to be gutted, it was so close!“.

“Dude, I start to be gutted, it was so close!”

vincent milou_kickflip frontside lipslide
Vincent Milou • Kickflip fs lipslide • Tokyo, Japan

You also mentioned your board company called cOLLAPSe. How did this come about?
Long story short, it all started in 2011, I was ‘riding ‘ for a Texas based brand called Old Man Army at the time, and these guys gave me a guest model for the French market, and I managed to get it produced here at a friend printing company, then I realized how easy it was to produce your own skateboards, so when things kinda faded away with OMA, me and a friend decide to create our own thing, with no particular ambition at first but just creating our own team, and skate our graphics, but it seems like people dug it as we’re still alive 11 years later!

What is on your Wishlist?
Being able to skate normally again without worrying of breaking that collarbone a third time…it will take time since I’ll have to remove the metal plate that’s on my bone before skating again.

Last question. If you could interview one person, who would it be and why?
Jeff Grosso, I’d love to spend hours talking skate history with him.

Kevin Campbell • One footed carve grind • San Sebastian, France