Craig Fineman, Pools

JTF (just the facts): Published in 2012 by Stussy/Dashwood Books (here and here). Hardback, 68 pages, with 66 black and white images. The book also includes short essays/remembrances by Duncan & Malcolm Campbell, Michael Gutierrez, Jim Goodrich, Pat Ngoho, Audrey Rader, Lorin Fleming, and Mike Funk. (Spread shots below.)

Comments/Context: Craig Fineman’s black and white images of late 1970s dry pool skateboarding aren’t like most skateboard photography. They aren’t about attitude, or swagger, or roughness, or trick making one-upsmanship. Instead, they turn the gravity defying moves of these athletes into a kind of stop motion ballet, following the flowing momentum of arms and legs across curved expanses of smooth concrete and then freezing the action at moments of grace and power. They capture skateboarding with a sense of pared down purity that seems almost elemental.

The images in this thin volume were all taken at one midday session, where the bright sun beats down and casts shadows across the lip of the empty kidney shaped pool. In many cases, Fineman positioned himself at the bottom of the pool, looking up at his subjects as they moved up and down the side walls. The result is a set of images that are often underneath the action, where the apex of the turn is the most precarious and the subject is about to drop. Riders balance with outstretched arms and flexed knees, turning with precision or grinding the edge, with long sun bleached hair thrown into motion.

The architecture of the set up and Fineman’s sense for composition lead to images with unexpected vitality. Bodies surf the concrete like waves, cresting with stored potential energy. The shadows cast on the bottom of the pool are like echoes of the primary action, the silhouettes distorted into another plane of movement. And when the upward angle is just right, the extended fingers of the riders seem to pluck the electric wires overhead like guitar strings.

The fluidity and suppleness in these images transcends the normal boundaries of sports photography, taking the pictures toward the elegance of dance. Fineman’s photographs combine wheels up muscularity with sculptural refinement, turning the gestures of the riders into natural forms.

Collector’s POV: It is not at all clear where vintage prints from this book might be found, as Fineman doesn’t appear to have either obvious gallery representation or any secondary market history. Add the information to the comments area if you know the details.

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Read more about: Craig Fineman, Dashwood Books, Stussy

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