Selby & Menke

Selby & Menke

Ambassadors of Shred — The two female skate pioneers, Jenna Selby and Louisa Menke, discuss the skate image, photography and the freedom of the open road.

As pioneers of the female European skate scene, Algerian-born Dutch skater Louisa Menke and UK-based Jenna Selby are passionate about skaters representing themselves in authentic ways.

Through her company Rogue Skateboards, body of photography, films (see: 2011’s As If And What?) and UK girl skate jams, Jenna has nurtured the sometimes disparate Brit scene. And as a diehard street skater, Louisa has pushed the limits of female shredding, recording rad video parts, shooting pics and making art.

Ahead of their appearance in our Anywhere Road skate photo exhibition, we got the two real-talking riders to-and-fro’ing on email. Here’s an extract.

Louisa: The image of skateboarding bandied around in the press is often quite different to the reality.

Jenna: Yeah, from what I’ve seen, everybody [in magazines/videos] seem to be a lot better turned out – a lot slicker dress-wise [than in reality].

Louisa: I think it’s a really important thing to be able to represent yourself in your own way. When other people like brands and magazines represent you they can create an image of you that is interesting for the crowd and sells a certain personality. This can create a confusing situation for yourself and for others and will end up being a lie.

Jenna: For me it’s something that just shouldn’t be an issue – skaters should just ‘be’ and be seen and represented in their own individual way. But I think sometimes when brands want to sell a product they have a particular type of person in mind – be it in looks or shape. The more this is filtered through, the more pressure it puts on people to conform in a certain way – something which this sport was never about. I feel that it is really important to keep that sense of ‘realness’ by skaters doing their own thing and representing themselves through ‘zines, photography, art etc. And if they are asked to be part of a campaign or news story, it’s important that they have more of a say in what they are doing so that they can be seen in the right way.

Louisa: Skateboarding has been a big part of me for longer then half my life and it was the most important thing to me for a very long time. When I got into photography I decided to apply for art school and once I got in I decided to go for it. It was the first time I ever put something else above skateboarding and at the school I felt lost and misunderstood. After a while I came to a point where I could communicate to the others and make them understand my point of view, this made me realise how much skateboarding has influenced my identity. There’s a certain state of mind that lives within skateboarding and if you feel it, you will stick around.

Jenna: [Skate culture] has always been a big part of skating – it isn’t like the majority of sports where you turn up for your lesson, play for an hour, then go home again and not think about it until the following week. There are so many elements to it. So yes, I think it is really important to capture all sides of it. The sport itself is creative – many of the people involved are that way minded and you find skating influences a lot of the work they do, be it music, art or photography. One change I think you do see happening though is that skaters used to set style and the mainstream would try and copy. But these days it seems that there has been a shift and skaters – not all, mind you – try and copy a mainstream style and perhaps in this way their identity is slowly being lost.

Louisa: I shoot photos of skaters (I don’t shoot skate photos by the way) because I’ve been skateboarding for more then half of my life – it’s something that’s very dear to me. Photography gives me the opportunity to look at skateboarding in a new way; it opens my eyes.

Jenna: I’ve always preferred documentary photography or photojournalism – capturing people naturally in their environment instead of creating something fabricated and unreal. I guess I’ve always been drawn to skate photography because of the way skaters use and see their environment – which is in a completely different way to most people. I also feel shooting at a street spot adds to the story – I don’t really like shooting in a park (unless it’s a concrete bowl) as I feel something is lost from both the trick and from the shot.

Louisa: I wish we could go back to when there were no skateparks and skateboarding was just on the street again. Don’t get me wrong skateparks are fun, but the essence of skateboarding is way more alive when you’re out on the streets.

Jenna: Yeah I agree, although you do meet more people at a park. When you’re out in the street and exploring for spots, things are a lot more creative… you find people repeat the same tricks again and again when skating a park. I reckon perhaps a mix of the two is a good thing?

Louisa: Road trips are fun and therefore we need more of those.

Jenna: Definitely road trips. At the end of the day, although exposure is good, people have to also enjoy what they are doing or what’s the point. Comps can be a bit daunting and expecting people to be able to perform to their best in a three-minute run is a lot of pressure.

Louisa: The best thing about skateboarding is that you can do it everywhere. It’s different and similar wherever you go, just like music.

Jenna: Yep, skating is about making the most of what you’ve got, the crappiest park or spot can turn out to be a lot of fun… America has better weather than Europe, though!

Louisa: Instagram is pretty interesting, I just can’t seem to get a grip on why Oprah Winfrey gets a 10,368 likes on a photo of a cup of tea, though.

Jenna: I’ve not used it but I reckon like any new technology there is always a bit of overkill, like when colour photography became accessible to everyone.

Louisa: Whoever thinks that [skating and photography is redundant] is on a sinking ship.

Jenna: Yeah, perhaps it’s time to capture kids on scooters instead? That’s when you know things are going downhill! Skating and photography are about exploring and using your environment – something which is ever-changing.