Folks, skateboarding enthusiasts, and photography aficionados, welcome to a truly special edition of our new interview series. Today, we have the immense privilege of sitting down with a legend in the world of skate photography—none other than the renowned Australian skateboarding photographer, my friend, Mr. David Pang.
With a career spanning decades, Dave Pang has become a household name among skateboarders and photography enthusiasts worldwide. His lens has captured the defining moments of the most celebrated skateboarders in history, and his iconic images have graced the pages of every skateboarding magazine that matters. From gritty street scenes to bowl hammers, Dave's dedication to his craft has not only immortalised the skill and style of the world's best skaters but has also shaped the visual narrative of skateboarding as a whole. His work goes beyond capturing tricks; it captures the essence of our lifestyle and community.
Today, we have the unique opportunity to delve into the mind of this photographic maestro, exploring his journey, his inspirations, and the stories behind some of the most iconic skate images ever captured. Join us as we uncover the secrets behind the lens and gain insights into the world of skate photography through the eyes of a true master. Without further ado, let's welcome the incomparable Dave Pang to this exclusive interview.
Photo – Lee Ralph following up Christian Hosoi in an international star-studded Corio paint tray session, 1988
TAANE - Kia ora Dave! Man, you seem to always be energised and involved in something rad. As a legendary photographer, and lifelong skateboarder, do you have a favourite quote or mantra that motivated you when you wake up and cannot be bovvered?
DP - Almost every week I use the statement ’Stay Strong!' And I have to thank Mike Vallely for that. So, in a way he has influenced me as much as my vert heroes and again, Mike rules at life! Like everyone, I have had some great times and some tough times, so Mike's mantra helps me often and I almost daily share the mantra ’Stay Strong’ with my friends.
TAANE -That’s sick. Mike V is a proud man with passion and principles, and I love how he skates with speed and aggression! Especially in the late 90’s. Staunch as one-footed Japan airs, chest pushed out, staring crew down like, ‘If you giggle at my layback finger flip wall plant, I will rip that squashed nose off your face with my teeth’! Punk rock, skate purist. We need more of that energy in skateboarding. Boneless forever Mike V!
So Dave brother, you have captured some legendary skate moments on film, but have you ever had a session where you wished you had your bail gun handy but didn't?
DP - As I cut my teeth shooting with film and every shot cost money, I didn’t shoot as many lifestyle images back then, that is something I wish I shot more of, all the 1980’s Aussie crew hanging out etc
I am also programmed to shoot like I am still using film, and it totally annoys me when there is someone like Greyson Fletcher, Bob Burnquist, Clay Kreiner and Ben Raybourn etc skating and I hesitate as I have no idea what they are going to do! They blast some incredible move and I’m standing there like a Dodo looking at this incredible shot I should be shooting rather than spectating @#$!!!
Photo – Mark Gonzales. City Square Demo Melbourne, 1989
TAANE - Hahaha there’s also something poetic in that scenario though bro. It’s a feast for your eyes alone.
So, can you share your top tips for young photographers looking to improve their skills and become legendary like you?
DP - Don’t be afraid or too shy to say hi to the photographers and skaters that you admire and ask them questions; How to do things, and to critique your skating and photography. Use and understand flash photography.
It doesn’t matter if you copy someone’s style, tricks etc, nothing is really original (unless you're Tony Alva and/or Jay Adams or Ansel Adams and Brett Weston)!
Look at other styles and photo techniques and then see if you can adapt them to your skate photography (that’s what skaters do to the urban environment)! Shoot because you want to, rather than to make money or to get published. Take lifestyle photos as well as skate shots!
TAANE - Solid advice brother. If you had to choose one skateboarding trick that you think best represents your personality, what would it be, and why?
DP - I’m going to be greedy and list 2 tricks (basically the only 2 I can do!)
- Frontside grind
- Rock n Roll Board slide
I’m struggling to do both of these as effortlessly as I use to but I’m still trying!
Photo – Have fun or don't come. Dave with a cheeky Rock 'n' Roll, pic by Noel Forsyth
TAANE - Nice brother. It’s endearing that a creative like yourself would choose the two most timeless and stylish tricks. All class. I wonder if in future, someone will answer this question with, ‘Fakie Smith stop to squat melon grab while looking backwards and wrapping your elbow around your own head’.
But I digress, so bro, you've been deeply involved in promoting your local Belco scene. What's the craziest or most memorable thing you’ve seen happen at (Aussie’s raddest skateboarding event) the annual Belco Bowl Jam?
DP -There are too many to mention, but a few memorable ones are:
Lachlan Abbott - Doing the massive high airs in 2022 with no pads and bailing – Ballsy!
Photo – Go big or go home. Lachie Abbott, Belco Bowl Jam 2022
Corbin Harris (Wade Corbin) - Doing the ollie over the channel to 5.0. grind fakie.
Barry (Bazza) & Lenny Strachan - These 2 dudes are all-time the most loyal Belco and Aussie skateboard legends, I don’t think I have ever taken a bad photo of Barry - style for miles!
Photo – The legendary Barry Strachan
Everything that Ben Raybourn and Grant Taylor did in 2010, but they did not skate the bowl anywhere near long enough.
Todd Webster (RIP) - Ripping the Bowl in the early Belco Bowl Jams.
Andrew Currie and Jake Duncombe - Killing the Bowl in the early Bowl Jams - and some great skating at Gungahlin skatepark that weekend too!
Otavio Neto - One footed backside Smith Grinds!
Photo – Australian skate royalty. Dorfus (RIP) and Sac Reynolds, West Beach Adelaide 2014
TAANE - I’m lucky to have witnessed most of those sessions and have loved the balls out hammers from crew, but I'm glad you mention Bazza because there's an x-factor in his skating. Baz has his own unique personal brand, dreadlocks, beard, flair and a big smile. He’s fluid, spontaneous and so compelling to watch. His cameo in 411 Australian Vacation (1998) was truly memorable. Mad props Baz!
So man, you’ve been in the midst of the greatest skaters in history, and all skaters appreciate a bit of hijinks. Tell us about a funny or bizarre moment you've encountered on your journey.
DP - Just about every big event that Cons gets to!
I love Cons like a brother! But he can get a bit over excited about the big events. At times I have to give him a run through of what happened (what he got up to) as he peaks too early and has a memory fade of the big moments (a lot of them he’s involved in and he still forgets)! I have some great images of Cons with some of the worlds skateboard legends - Grosso, Steve Cab Lance Mountain and more.
Photo – Cons and Jeff Grosso (RIP) share a moment at Bondi Bowlarama, 2010
At the Central Coast Bowl Jam, there was a semi private skate session at the indoor park, Cons went to get some more booze and the bottle shop guy wouldn't serve him (as he felt Cons was already too drunk). Cons put the money on the counter and did a runner! He then had to hide from the cops who were after him, then John Bogaerts (Ex pro skater & NSW Copper) headlocked Cons and moved him on from the indoor park, as he was getting a bit too rowdy! Cons I love him!!!!
Another story from way back when -
Lee Ralph & Michael Spittlehouse were driving from QLD to VIC and stopped by Canberra, their trip was being funded by them selling Vision stickers (how insane is that, funding a road trip by selling boxes of stickers Lee got from Vision, crazy!) Anyway their shitbox of a car broke down in Canberra (I got some great photos of them skating all across Canberra, it was in December). Anyway, many years later I caught up with Lee and he says to me, 'Hey do you remember when I had Christmas with your family'? I had no idea or could not remember. Their car broke down in December so my Mother-in-law Gillian has Lee and Spittle over for Christmas dinner and I totally forgot about it! And I didn’t take any photos! Crazy but true!!
Photo – Road trip adventures. Lee Ralph, Spittle and crew, 1989
TAANE - Bro that’s insane, some skaters would give their left nut to have a Lee Ralph cameo Christmas appearance! Probably both nuts back in the day.
Ok we know you're all about the community. Can you share a heart-warming or hilarious story about how your work has brought the skate community together?
DP - I have had the opportunity to photograph Australian skating since the early 1980’s, as much as I get fully stoked on photographing my skate idols, I get an even bigger thrill when unknown locals get published in a magazine (or nowadays, viral internet coverage). So my first two-page spread in Transworld in 1986 was a pretty EPIC moment, with Danny Van, Dave Clancy etc getting international coverage.
Getting crew published in the recent Juice Magazine (Pipe issue) was great too. Although the article photos and coverage were way too small, and crew had written some EPIC stories to go along with the photos but they weren't used.
I’m also fortunate that I don’t rely on my skate photography for a living because I have always had a full-time job paying the bills and feeding myself and the family. So I am always happy to have my photo used for fundraising and to get new skate facilities. This was done for the original Belco Skatepark back in the 1990’s, and I've used my photos to get more facilities in Canberra and elsewhere!
Photo – Covers, posters, articles. Dave Pang has shot a small library collection of em
TAANE - Selfless acts of generosity to build your local scene, fucking beautiful my bro! I've gotta acknowledge also that getting a two-page spread in a 1986 Transworld is a proper hammer! Magazines were pretty much all any of us had to keep updated on skating in the 80’s, and I reckon it’s difficult for skaters today to comprehend how revered Transworld and Thrasher were before the internet came about. And even more so, how difficult and prized it was for Aussies and Kiwis to make it into their pages. Mad respect bro!
Ok, if you could session with any historical figure, dead or alive, who would it be and what tricks could they teach you?
DP - The historical and current skaters I’d love to have in a session, and learn tricks from (and take photos of) include:
Shogo Kubo - Style for miles
Steve Olson - How to be cool at everything
Photo – The one and only Steve Olson
David Hackett - Unlimited energy and style
Tony Alva - Innovation and coolness
Lee Ralph, Gregor Rankin & Michael Spittlehouse - As they were mainly VIC based, I didn’t get to photograph them enough. Aussie skaters may not realise how amazingly influential these three New Zealanders were on Aussie skateboarding! I don’t think I have one bad photo of Gregor, but I don’t have enough photos of him!
Photo – Gregor Rankine was incredible, Tail tap with Gregor style
Greyson Fletcher - Outright spontaneous tricks and the gnarliest style
Grant Taylor - Learn to pop! and around terrain skating
Jimmy Wilkins - Learn to pop!
Peggy Oki - Matching it with the boys (Dogtown & the Z Boys)
Patti Hoffman - Skating vert back in the days (she skated for Variflex with Eddie Elguera etc)
Clay Kreiner - Total gnar!! and around terrain skating
Rodney Mullen - Learn how to skate tech! and try to understand how this genius thinks!!!!
Dale Smith - Conehead - I'll leave this for the crew to research!
VIC skaters who I don’t think I got to photograph enough and do their skating justice - Tony Hallam, Tas & Ben Pappas
Simon Sac Reynolds - My brother from a different mother. Sac travelled a lot in the 1980s but we didn’t cross paths much and I have to say Sac was Australia’s OG skate punk! He sort of scared me a bit back in the 80’s, I do have photos of him back then but not enough!
Photo – Australia's OG hardcore punker, Simon ‘Sac’ Reynolds, slashing it up
TAANE - Whoah that is an eclectic list but absolutely ruling.
We've seen you're quite the advocate for our TAANE bamboo jocks. What's the raddest trick you've ever pulled off while wearing them?
DP - I've had the privilege to be wearing TAANE for almost 12 months now and so far they have helped me to not be lead astray by Cons too badly! That’s a pretty EPIC track record!
Photo – Tony Hawk, Stale Disaster at Woden, Canberra 1989
TAANE - Ah give it some time, Cons is probably playing the long game haha! Stoked you love our ridiculously comfortable bamboo jocks my man.
As someone who has photographed the greatest skateboarders ever, have you had a moment where you ‘fanned out’ while meeting one of your skate idols?
DP - I’m so fortunate that my camera has allowed me to get up close and personal with so many of my skate idols. But the all-time person I was keen to meet (but was also super nervous as I put him up on such a high pedestal) was Steve Olson. I didn't want to be disappointed (as he and Dave Hackett are a bit weird in the Fruit of the Vine video) but DAMN he is the nicest guy, and so damn good at life! He seems to be a cool Dad as well.
Photo – The epitome of cool, Steve Olson
I’d also really like to meet my skate photography idols, James Cassimus, J. Grant Brittain, Spike Jonze, Glen E. Friedman, Jim Goodrich, MoFo, C. R. Stecyk III, Ted Terrebonne etc.
Photo – Lance Mountain, tuck knee invert. Ramp Riot, Torquay 1988
TAANE - So rad! Joey Dodd introduced me to Steve Olson when he came to Bondi and we hung out a bit, but the first thing I said to him was the most grommet shit ever:
Me: ‘Hey Steve, I liked your Nine Club Interview’.
Steve: ‘Thanks’ *silence*.
Haha man I’ve read numerous Olson interviews and admired skate photos of the legend for over 3 decades, and that dumbass intro was the best I could come up with! What a dickhead.
Ok, we’re in the home stretch now bro. In a parallel universe where you're not a skater or photographer, what do you think your alternative career would be, and what would you be doing?
DP - I love what I’m doing and where I am, but in a parallel universe I’d love to be an architect, so maybe I could be designing skateable buildings, skating them and then photographing folk skating them!
Photo – Mark Gonzales Stalefish. Prahran demo, 1989
TAANE - Design a skateable building, skate it then shoot it - that’d be the holy trinity of skateboarding! Ok if you could sum up your skateboarding and photography journey in one word or phrase, what would it be, and why?
DP - Privileged!
Photo – Jason Jessee blasts a Method air fakie, Prahran demo 1989
TAANE - On the contrary, Australian skateboarding is privileged to have a legend like yourself in our scene for so many years!
In closing, do you have any people that you’d like to shout out or acknowledge for supporting you on such an incredible life journey?
DP - It may seem cliché but 110% thank you to my wife Jodie. Even when we started dating Jodie would come with me to various skate spots while I skated and took photos, she did numerous drives down to Torquay for the Hardcore Ramp Riot's and she would type up the lists of photos that I would send off to various magazines! She’s definitely a keeper!
Then my 2 daughters, they also contended with being taken to various skateparks and having random skaters staying at the Pang household over the years. My Mother-in-law Gillian who was a great cook and supported my skating and photo antics over the years.
Tony Hallam was the dude who introduced me to the Hill brothers (Hardcore Distribution/Globe) and essentially facilitated me getting my first platform pass for the Torquay Ramp Riot, so Tony really kick started my professional skate photo career and I am so thankful.
Chad Ford and Sasha Steinhorst (RIP) who allowed me on the platform for all of the Bondi Bowlaramas. The Conveys - Blake, Byron, Tony and Sylvia they are the most creative and down to earth people ever.
The OG CBRY Crew, Matt Davis, Tim Houston, Tim Whitten, Trevor King, Cam Wells, Martin Batchelor, Paul Hart, Stixy, Micky D, Todd Webster (RIP), Spud Webster, Locha, Ed, Matt Inwards, Patch etc
John Fox for getting me published in Skatin’ Life magazine, the JJJ skate segment each week, Big Day Out skate things and for being the Bondi Caretaker for so long!
The CROSS Crew, and all todays CBRY Crew and the rest of the skate crew that I hang out with both in person and virtually.