Brandon Westgate • BS 180 kickflip • REAL Fundraiser at a school in the outskirts of Boston

Karim Ghonem


November 2022

Can you tell us something about Boston no one knows?
Nothing really comes to mind. Boston skate scene has a pretty rich history though, some heavy hitters came out of there…

You are from Rhode Island, MA which is a bit south of Boston. How welcoming is the Boston skate community to people from the suburbs?
Rhode Island is actually a state. Smallest state in the US, total population is 1 million. To put that in perspective, Boston area has a population of about 4 million. You might have heard of Providence? That’s the only ‘city’ in RI really. It’s about 40 minutes from Providence to Boston. Providence has some skate history itself.

Boston skate scene is like any other tight knit scene in any major city. Might be a couple cool guys in the mix, especially the younger kids, but ultimately, it’s all love as long as your cool. I have never experienced anything but respect, but at the same time it helps when your down with the shop owners or you’re rolling into town with guys that can shut down the spot. Know what I mean?

There seems to be shortage of skate photographers in the greater Boston area. Ryan from Highwater mentioned that they all moved away. What is going on?
There are a few guys out of Boston that are really going for it, but it’s inevitable that they are going to leave and go where there is a larger scene in terms of pros, industry, etc…big fish in a small pond kind of thing. But there’s definitely some hungry and talented photographers coming out of the area.

‘There are a few guys out of Boston that are really going for it, but it’s inevitable that they are going to leave and go where there is a larger scene in terms of pros, industry, etc…big fish in a small pond kind of thing.’

Anthony Shetler • Kick flip boardslide • Boston

How would you describe the Boston skateboard community?
Tight-knit, passionate, tough…skating crusty street spots in the dead of winter. It gets cold up here, so you know they are 100% down for skating when they are heading out in January with down jackets, hats and gloves to go street skating. You ever slam in 30 degree (Fahrenheit) weather on concrete?

What are some of your underground heroes?
Everyone that came before me shooting skate photos with film, that’s impressive. Or any kind of action that you might have one shot at, literally. Anyone out there shooting digital, stop and think about the level of confidence it would take shoot something gnarly with film. No checking the shot on the spot and adjusting for light or recomposing or changing your angle. Sounds nerve racking. That’s where experience comes into play I guess. Also, I take my hat off to anyone who was able to take their opportunity in skateboarding and wasn’t afraid to venture out and continue progressing in their craft outside of skateboarding. I’ve always admired that. Seems to be frowned upon in some circles, not to me though.

Any names that come to mind?
Anyone whos photos you saw in the mags pre 2005’ish (I think that when digital camera started becoming more commonplace, right?). Some of my favorites are Spike Jonze shooting all the World stuff back in early 90’s. You can see he was experimenting and just trusting his instincts. Of course we only get to see the shots that worked out but still… Another example everyone might be familiar with is Erik Ellington. I think it’s great how he’s not afraid to exist and work in skateboarding, still skate, and be a part of the fashion world too, which has nothing to do with one another. Not afraid to combine the two either. But really anyone that can just rise to the top of whatever they do, then not be afraid to move on, even though the majority of people would hold on to that one success for dear life. It’s fascinating to me. I think I’m just rambling now.

‘I think it’s great how he’s not afraid to exist and work in skateboarding, still skate, and be a part of the fashion world too, which has nothing to do with one another.’

Matt Lane • FS kickflip • Boston

You follow a classic pattern: Injured skateboarder turned photographer. Would you have ever picked up a camera without the injury?
I think I would have. I was always intrigued by cameras and photography. I was the family photographer growing up, always sticking those disposable point and shoots in people’s faces anytime I got my hands on one. But I shoot a good amount of (non-skate) sports and action these days, that might not have happened if it weren’t for skateboarding. Skateboarding is the reason most things in my life are the way they are, so I’m sure it influenced my photography. But yes, I’d probably be shooting photos either way.

Lowcard in 2007 published your first skate shot. You also ended up Thrasher and Juice. Which publication stands out for your personally?
Honestly, it’s an honor and a privilege anytime someone uses a photo I shot in their publication, for their ad, website, whatever. There are a lot of talented photographers out there who could easily fill that spot, but to have them choose a photo I shot…always thankful. Same goes for any skateboarder that wants to shoot a photo with me and trusts I’ll get the shot. Corny answer I know but, hey…

In your Skate Jawn Interview in 2014, you were asked for your advice to upcoming photographers. You said: ‘If you’re good at it, and you really like it, hopefully something becomes of it. That’s what I’m hoping.’ 8 years later, has ‘something become of it’ for you personally?
Definitely. I have gotten to the point where, even though I’m not in the tour van and I’m not a superstar, I still get opportunities to work on skate projects all the time. Whether it’s someone trying to start a company and wants shots for their website, or product shots, or someone has a trick in mind or needs a photo for whatever…People still reach out to me and I still get to stay involved with skateboarding through photography. What’s better than that? Getting to stay involved in the thing you’ve been doing and loved since you were 10 (I’m 45 now), through something else you’ve been doing and love to do for close to 20 years. Plus, the friendships that you create through photography, those last forever. Same as skating. I’d say something has definitely become of it. I got to meet and shoot photos with Snoop Dogg! And can think of a few people I’ve looked up to or been a fan of in skateboarding and can call them friends now through the opportunities that photography has given me.

Jarrod Pimenta • Hippy jump • Harvard Campus

Is there one skateshot you wish you had taken?
Lots I guess. Can’t think of any examples at the moment, but I can tell you what’s worse than missing a shot and regretting it. Not taking backing up your hard drive and losing a couple thousand photos. I now have backups of backups, but those early years, shooting photos with my friends and traveling non-stop, those photos are gone.

Happens to all of us unfortunately. Proudest moment as a photographer?
Each and every time a photo of mine gets published or used. Anytime someone calls me up and asks me to meet them cause they found a new spot or need a photo for their sponsors, I’m proud. Most embarrassing?

Most embarrassing moment shooting photos?
Nothing really stands out, probably just missing a shot or blowing it out with the lights and having to ask if they can do it again. I used to take it much more serious too, that might have been annoying to some people. Now that I’m older and been shooting photos for a good 15+ years, I’ve found my comfort zone, I’m way more confident in what I’m doing so I’m able to keep it a bit looser and keep it fun…

Andrew Rebello • Pivot fakie • Providence, RI

You are still shooting skateboarding besides having an office job and a big family. How do you balance it all?
Well, the “office” job is me working from my house, which is a game changer. I build websites, so I can work pretty much anywhere with an internet connection. My boss is really cool too, so I’m able to be pretty flexible with my schedule now, I can take off whenever I want. Still have to pick the kids up from school most days, but even that is pretty flexible, the wife will fill in if I need her too. It’s good, I’m able to pick the things that sound fun, and because I don’t really depend soley on photography to pay the bills, I gives me freedom. Keeps it fun too.

What is on your wishlist?
This going to sound really corny, but I just want all my friends and family to stay healthy and happy for as long as possible. Sorry for that answer…

Last question. If you could interview a person, who would it be and why?
Wow, that’s a good question, I have no idea (laughing). Someone who’s been around in skateboarding for a long time and is still relevant today. Curious to hear their perspective on skateboarding today vs then. The amount of skate content that’s out there now vs then, the level of skating today vs then, the underground appeal vs skatepark moms today. If I had to go with a name of the top of my head, I’ll go with The Gonz. First off, it’s The Gonz. That guy has seen it all, and I know he has a unique perspective thing from everything I’ve ever seen or heard. He IS skateboarding, I think it would be interesting to hear his thoughts on it all. And just life in general – a fresh perspective is always interesting to hear. Another person in the same light is Mariano. Guys has been in my Top 5 since video days came out, that was like what, 91? And he’s still in the mix with the younger kids, still making a living off it. Guarantee he’s got stories too.

‘People still reach out to me and I still get to stay involved with skateboarding through photography. What’s better than that?’

Jay Burton • Ollie • Boston