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Lance Dawes//Photographer

Lance Dawes//Photographer

Words by Maurice Pendarvis

Photos courtesy of Lance Dawes Photography

What made you want to leave the East Coast and head out West?


Well, when you grow up in Washington D.C…snow, I’ll just give you that. Any kid, regardless if it’s the 80’s, 90’s, whatever, if you don’t live in California, your dream is to probably live in California, if you’re a skater. I rode for Dogtown, Indy and Vans, and Dogtown and Indy were out of SF. Growing up skating in DC, SF seemed like it was a city, so it was easier to go to SF than try to pick a place in Southern California. I remember looking at the map and I remember thinking, Ventura, that’s a cool name, I should move to Ventura. But If I had moved to Ventura, that would have sucked I would have been in the middle of nowhere. Huntington Beach, that sounds cool, yeah right. Moving to Orange County would have been hell. So I moved to SF because I had sponsors there and I was going to school for film and San Francisco State was a really good school. So all those things combined, it just seemed easy. And this was before SF was the mecca, you know it was, Tommy Guerrero, Mic-E Reyes, they made SF rad.

How did you end up starting and running Slap magazine?


I was skating Fort Mason, a manual spot. It was me, Jovante, Rick Ibaseta, Greg Carroll, and maybe Henry was there but that was our crew. I see Gregg go over to the parking lot and he was talking to these dudes in a car, Gregg was like…Hey Lance come over and meet somebody, and it was MoFo and Scott Starr, he was a photographer from Santa Barbara that only shot for Skateboarding for a couple of years and no one probably remembers him but I think he was one of the best skate photographers to ever shoot. So they were like, hey we never seen you around here. SF is small and I was probably the first real transplant in SF before the wave came. I mean everyone I skated with were SF dudes, there was nobody from out of town. Basically, they were like, hey who do ride for? And I was like, I ride for Dogtown, which at the time was owned by Fausto, who owned Thrasher.

So they were like, let’s shoot photos tomorrow. So, being naïve from the East Coast, I’m thinking, how did they know I was a photographer? We went to the Tennis Court Banks in Berkeley and shot a photo of me, and we were driving around, and I mentioned that I was in film school and looking for a job. I couldn’t even get a job at McDonald’s I applied everywhere. So I got a call about a month or two later from MoFo saying the guy in the darkroom is leaving, be here in 3 days and the job is yours if you want it. Dream! I mean I had dreams of being a pro skater but being able to work at Thrasher was right up there.

I worked in the darkroom for a year and a half and then there was a rumor going around that Thrasher wanted to make another skateboard magazine, and make their own competition. I didn’t hear the rumor and knew nothing about it, but they asked me if I wanted to do it. I’ve made zines before but I worked in the darkroom, I don’t know how to make a magazine. They are like well, you can do whatever you want, say whatever you want, here’s the company credit card, you go where ever want…just make it happen. You hire who ever you want. I had no idea what I was doing and the friends that I hired, we had no idea we made it up.

That’s sometimes is the best way.


Well, it’s the best way to learn, just by throwing yourself into it. I don’t know if it’s the best way to make a magazine. It was all cut and paste too, there were no computers. Thrasher had a few computers but they were just doing typesetting on them. But we were the bastard step-child of that building. We didn’t get a computer until a year and a half into Slap. We had to do everything cut & paste by hand. Which at the time we didn’t know that was bad, we just thought that’s how you did it. If you look at early Slap, you can see that everything was cut out by hand.

Is it true you got “laid-off” from Indy because you didn’t want to blog?


Yeah, it is true. Look I have nothing against NHS and Independent, I’m still friends with them, I’m a Indy guy till death. I got “laid-off” because they gave me a job description and in that job description it said they wanted me to go to amateur contests and blog, among other things. There’s a lot of politics involved with Indy because part of it is Fausto Vitello and Eric Swensen, they made Indy, and back in the day they hand shook on a contract that NHS would distribute it its kind of run by two different companies. So, Fausto hired me for lack of a better word, “To keep it real,” to keep the integrity of what Indy is, and I’m old enough to know that. And not that I’m afraid of change or progression you have to know your roots and history for you to be successful in the future with a company like Indy Indy is like McDonalds and Coca-Cola, it’s a household name. So once Fausto passed away, NHS pretty much started running Indy as a whole because there wasn’t that vitality of Fausto. But NHS started doing things that I didn’t agree with and definitely thought that Fausto wouldn’t agree with so we butted heads and I didn’t think it was a bad thing butting heads. You can’t have everyone just say yes, and I’m not a yes man. So going to am contest really in the big picture these days, maybe in the late 80’s and early 90’s it meant something, am contest mean nothing now. Nothing against the ams but the contests don’t mean anything. And blogging, I had my own blog, I blog all the time but blogging for Indy it was partly me being lazy, I’ll take the blame but the other part is I didn’t feel it was pertinent to what Indy needed.

But I’m an Indy guy for life and I always will be.

What’s the best advice someone has given you or you given to someone else?


I don’t know the best advice someone has given me but I’ll tell you a saying that I tell skaters all the time, and it might be stupid, but it seems to work. When I watch people skate and they’re having a hard time landing a trick or doing anything ’Is to go fast and think slow’. If you want to go down a 20 stair, you better haul ass doing it, but slow your thinking down, and I think that kind of applies to everything in life…Go fast and think slow.

Skaters usually have a favorite spot but do you have a favorite place to shoot?


It doesn’t matter to me whether it’s a curb, or a pool, or a rail, or anything, but when you shoot something and you know its rad that really is the best feeling in the world. It’s different now with digital because with film, you’d shoot something, and in your head you’re thinking, that’s pretty rad. But I don’t care if you’re Ansel Adams, you don’t really know what you got until you see it. So getting your film from the lab was like a Christmas present everyday like, ‘Oh my God I cant…oh I fucked up! Digital is so instant, its so much easier, but it takes the romanticism and the mystery out of it all.

But my favorite spot to skate, I love Marseille Marseille is fun. I loved it at the time because there weren’t a lot of skate parks, now there are so many parks. But all the times I’ve been to Marseille have been fun.

Another interest of yours is Landspeed Racing, how did you get into that?


My dad was a drag racer up until I was 10 years old, my parents got divorced, he sold the car his big regret is that he wished he kept the car. I’ve always like cars but it doesn’t mean I’ve always been into cars. Growing up I was as a skater, and that was all that was in my head, that and music Punk Rock. When I moved to SF I had a convertible Fiat, and the top was all ripped off and I had to park on the street. There was year where this homeless dude in my neighborhood, I would catch him in my car sleeping. I never had a place to think about putting a car but when I moved to LA I got a house with a driveway and a garage and it was on. Then my friend Sal Barbier got a old truck, a 37 pick up and took down to his buddy Jake who was going to build it. So I go down and meet this guy Jake, and find out that he used to work at Plan B and XYZ, and we had all these mutual friends and we just clicked. So when I went to

build the 1944 Independent Truck for the 30th anniversary of Indy I had him do it, and he was like we race. So, El Mirage is only about an hour and half away from here. So, I went to go check it out and as soon as I went there I was like this is it there’s nothing cooler than this. It’s been 4 years of racing and I think I took my first run at Bonneville…illegally.

If you had to sum up your career up to this point would it be because of hard work or luck?


I mean it’s both. I had a lot of luck being at the right places at the right time but without working my ass off I wouldn’t made it this far.

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