Feature / #Skate Interview → Mike O’ Meally
May 19, 2016
Interview → Mike O’ Meally
Interview → Mike O’ Meally
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It's no secret Mike O'Meally has captured some of history's most iconic skateboarding images. We had a chat with the LA-based photographer about his career, living in LA and future projects.
 

How did you get into photography? I started at college while doing a Fine Arts degree – Painting and drawing and Screen printing were my majors, and photography was only a Minor Elective, but I got hooked on it very quickly. I also was reading a lot of skate mags around that time (early 90’s) and the photos were so interesting and exciting, it made me want to shoot my friends skating in Australia.

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Tell us a bit about current projects and work you’re excited about… Currently, I have been shooting a lot in LA with some guys from the Westside of LA and Venice so look out for that one coming soon…

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Share one (or few!) favorite anecdotes from working with Lucien and the PALACE team… Well, Lucien is a favorite, he always gives it 100% until either his board or his shoes or his trucks explode or better yet he gets the trick quickly. He reminds me of a throwback to the 90’s yet with a modern twist and extra oomph in his tricks – but his style is classic. As far as stories, I don’t know if I can think of anything too crazy other than he is never in a rush for no man, he goes at his own pace – and he rarely ever gets stressed out. Those guys are a likable lot, they are always up for a good time – and they like to skate hard. Haven’t see anything too crazy, to be honest, but it’s always bubbling under the pot. Boring answer! 😉

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Who do you look up to and admire, career wise? Lately, I admire any photographer that has been at it for more than 20+ years and has worked on a variety of different subjects and projects. It’s not easy to stay in the game for a long time – but if you can keep doing work that you like and hopefully other people find some value in it too, that’s pretty admirable to me – sounds pretty simple, but it’s a long time if you really think about it.

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Who’s your favorite skater at the moment? I get asked this question quite often, but I always seem to come back to the same answer – It’s really hard to pick just one, I like many different skaters for many different reasons, but my favorites will always be skaters that have original style, don’t mind trying hard to make something happen- but also dudes that make it look easy and hard at the same time, if that makes sense? People who can struggle a little bit, but make it look cool. I think that’s what I am trying to say!

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In your opinion, what’s the best photo you’ve ever shot? And why… I don’t know if it’s the greatest one I have ever shot, but it’s certainly a memorable one for me. The photo I shot in New York of all the dudes skating down Broadway the day after the world Trade center came down, seems to stick in my memory and the feeling of the day seems to stick in the photo. Everyone looks a bit worried (understandably so!) but they also look resilient and hopeful – and to me that is a lot what skating is all about: having the determination and the will to get back up after you fall and keep trying. It’s not really a photo of a trick as such, more what it represents to me, and hopefully, other people get something positive from it as well.

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What makes a GREAT photograph? I am still searching for the answer to that, and I think that search – is a lot of what it’s about – I don’t completely understand what makes one photo great and another photo just good, but the answer I can give is that it’s a little bit of a mystery. A good photo contains all the basic elements of lighting, composition, timing and subject matter, but in my opinion, a GREAT photograph contains a certain 5th element, something unexplainable or not so obvious right away that requires you to go deeper than what you see right away on the surface. That’s what makes a great photo to me. It can also be something that breaks all those basic rules, but for some reason still works.

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How do you feel about the LA scene right now? I feel pretty good about it, there is always people doing stuff, it’s been my home for nearly 14 years, and people like to visit – so that is always a bonus.

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If you could have dinner with anyone, dead or alive, who would it be? That’s a great question, tough to call – off the top of my head I am going to say Anthony Bourdain, the Celebrity TV Chef, he likes to try strange foods and go to exotic places, so I would hope that we could have that kind of dinner, plus he seems like he would have good stories to tell.

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Do you think you’re leading the pack – from a career point of view? I am not sure that’s for me to say! I like to be in the running, either way! the thing I like most about our little world is that there can really be no leaders because it all changes so quickly and you just need to find a way to do what you feel good about. Skateboarding and shooting photos of it contains so many different nuances that appeal to different people in different ways, that to attempt leadership just kind of defeats the purpose I think. Having said that I certainly would not want to be at the back of the pack! I have been very lucky to even have a ‘career’ as such doing what I love, so in that sense, I already feel like a winner.

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If you were to go back to your younger self, what would you change about your career – if anything? Perhaps maybe one thing I would change is I wish I would have shot more of the non-skate side of things, people hanging out, more portraits, and try to be a bit more organized, but hindsight is 20/20 as they say. Other than that, I have been pretty lucky with the way everything has worked out, I don’t think I would want to change too much about it.

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What is your greatest fear? Trapped under Ice!

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What does it mean for you to be Always On The Run? Well, I am always looking for somewhere new to go, somewhere to visit that I have never been. My wife really likes to travel as well, so we like to keep it moving. I have been in a foreign country for the last 18 years, as much as the USA is my home now, I kinda still feel like I am on the run since I got here! Where to next? That’s the question I seem to get asked a lot.

 
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