"KIDS" movie filming in Washington Square Park 1994

‘I was a small-time east coast guy so it was always a challenge to get anything noticed.’

Gunars Elmuts


December 2022

Assuming you started off skateboarding at what point did you move to photography and why?
I’m 49. I started skating in 6th grade…so that would be 1984ish. My best friend Drew and I met this kid Peter who moved to MA from FL and he brought his skateboard to school and started tick tacking around the classroom and we were immediately hooked. Drew Kilgore quickly became the best skater in town. I was okay – but never like him. So – I would try and keep up and got injured from time to time. My Mom is a great artist (painter, photo, sculpting, etc) so she had a Canon AE-! with a 50mm lens… which was a solid camera at the time. So… when I was injured, I would bring my Moms camera and shoot photos just for fun. It was just a way to have some purpose while hanging with my friends when I couldn’t skate. Fast forward to high school and I signed up for a photo course. My teacher Dave Prifti (RIP) some of my photos from Jr. High and took an interest in me and my work. He was the first person to encourage me to keep at it.

Is there one skateshot you wish you had taken?
All of ‘em! But anything by Daniel Harold Sturt would likely be the bar for me.

Danny Way over the Great Wall of BK bridge 1996.
‘Danny Way over the Great Wall of BK bridge in 1996.’

Proudest moment as a photographer?
I don’t know. What means the most to me though is when I get a sweet letter from an unknown skater or snowboarder whose photo I took that got published in a magazine… and they are just beyond stoked. I’ve had Mom’s write me saying how their kid being published changed their lives for the better. That’s pretty cool in my opinion.

Any letters from mom’s that were complaining that none of their kid’s photos has been published?
(laughing) No.

Most embarrassing?
Nothing publicly embarrassing. But like many of my peers, I’ve forgotten to load film and kept shooting without knowing I was shooting blanks.

‘They didn’t pay me or give credit… but I was stoked!’

Jim Gagne
‘This is one of my all time favorite pics I’ve taken. Jim Gagne at 2nd St in Fitchburg MA late 80’s. Wes VanAanen and Kirk Starret watching in the background. DIY launch ramp and all. Rawness. It tells the complete story of that time for me.’

You had a full-time role as a photographer for Transworld. When was that?
Was never ‘full-time’ technically, I was on retainer/exclusive with TW Snow in the early to late 90’s. Before that, I was just sending photos to Thrasher, Poweredge, TW, Snowboarder Mag, ISM, NSBN and other mags. I think Thrasher published my first pic in 1988 when I was a sophomore in high school. They didn’t pay me or give credit… but I was stoked!

How did you get the job?
Trevor Graves introduced me to Kevin Kinnear (TW Snow editor) in 90/91 I think at Stratton. Trevor was the original snowboard shooter on the east coast… and he was about to move out West… so that was going to leave a void here in the East. Since I was already shooting for TW Skate and shot snow for fun since I had been snowboarding since the 80’s, he passed the baton to me.

What was it like to shoot for magazines back then?
I was a small-time east coast guy so it was always a challenge to get anything noticed. Most photographers (who are the mercy of their photo editor), will tell you their favorite shots never made it into the mag. Unless it was one of those iconic shots then you never knew. That’s maybe one of the best (and worst) things on social media … you get to curate your own images.

‘I would shoot 8 rolls of film trying to get one trick. More often than not – they would never make it.’

Wes VaanAnen
‘Wes VaanAnen [R.I.P.] 1989 Fitchburg, MA at their DIY skatepark with DIY spray painted logos on his clothes. Westley came from very limited means but made the most out of what he had. His boards, trucks and wheels would get skated down to the bone - and he usually ripped harder than anyone regardless. 2nd Street, Fitchburg, MA.’

What is more challenging? Shooting snowboard or skateboard?
Both have their own challenges. But skateboarding has way more creative options – especially street. With snowboarding – you tend to find the best hit/jump/etc and then try to make an interesting pic beyond the trick itself. With skating – the environment is always as important as the trick (if not more in my opinion) so…. I’d have to say SNOW is more challenging to make an INTERESTING photo.

When I reached out to you, you mentioned that you only have shots until 1991. Why did you stop?
I moved out of Boston in 1991. Then kept shooting in NY till about 98. I had stopped shooting skateboarding professionally around 96. There was just no way to make money. I never did it for that reason – but once tricks got way more technical – everything had to be a sequence. I would shoot 8 rolls of film trying to get one trick. More often than not – they would never make it. I got to the point where I wouldn’t develop the film and toss it into the trash. Big Brother mag was just doing video grab sequences and the traditional mags and their photography became somewhat obsolete and unnecessarily expensive. Also – 6 frames per second wasn’t fast enough for the new style of skating.

Rodney Mullen. Imagine how many Olympic medals he would’ve won 1991
‘Rodney Mullen. 1991. Imagine how many Olympic medals he would’ve won.’

What was your involvement with the movie ‘Kids’ from 1995?
I moved to NYC in 1993 so I shot with all the “kids”. Soon after I was hired to convert a sporting goods store into an “action sports” store because of my industry background. Soon after I told the owner we needed to sponsor some local skaters. He agreed so Harold Hunter, Jeff Pang, Peter Huynh, Ryan Sikorski, and Rodney Torres (I’m proud to say I was his first sponsor) became the PSNY team. SInce Supreme hadn’t opened yet, PSNY was the spot where all the downtown skaters would meet by WSP and get grip-tape, boards, etc. S0 – when KIDS was casting they heard about the store and came by to do intel. I think we even had a casting call at the store, but I could be making that up.

Compared to the local skate scene you grew up with to now, what has changed?
Girls skate now. Back in my day – that was NOT the case.

‘I moved to NYC in 1993 so I shot with all the “kids”.’

Harold Hunter Union Square 1995
Harold Hunter 1995

What is/was your connection to the Boston skateboard scene?
It’s pretty limited to be honest. Since I was a full-time high school student who had to take the train into Boston – I was a little grom who was lucky enough to find the best skate scene in the MA area because of people like Ken “Zito” Deutsch, Fred Smith III and more. Leaving MA when I was 17 – is hard to believe how many great memories were accumulated during that time.

What are you up to now?
Still pushing. Take photos only for fun now. I also started a vegan good company which takes up all my time. https://www.instagram.com/numuvegan/

Last question. If you could interview a person, who would it be and why?
Stanley Kubrick or Jimi Hendrix. Aliens (laughing).

80’s me in Fitchburg, MA. Monty Nolder deck, rip grip, skate rags, Airwalk proto, and I think a Zorlac tee. Photo by #jeremytraub
‘80’s me in Fitchburg, MA. Monty Nolder deck, rip grip, skate rags, Airwalk proto, and I think a Zorlac tee. Photo by Jeremy Traub.’ Robbie Gangemi - Ollie • Boston City Hospital • 2000