To the best of my knowledge, not many books have been published based solely on BMX (Paradigm Shift by Kay Clauberg is one, Ricky Adam‘s Destroying Everything is based loosely around BMX). When I say published, I mean they are sent to a publishing house and approved by an editor. This does not include the many DIY books produced locally from various scenes. Yesterday Fat Tony announced the release of his flatland book using the online publishing service Blurb. Although it won’t be put up for a Pulitzer or recommended by Oprah, I think it’s a great idea, not just for himself, but for our jeopardized industry. I got ahold of Fat and talked a bit about it.
What inspired the making of this book?
“I had been thinking about making a BMX book for several years actually… At one point it was on my list of lifetime goals to do a book through a big publishing company and have it sold in bookstores around the world. Over the years though, as I was analyzing my intentions and goals more, I reevaluated that one and decided to scale it back. The work versus reward just wasn’t there, and it didn’t interest me as much anymore.
As a photographer trying to make a living through BMX I looked at several options and ways to make a book profitable, and none of them seemed very good. Then I took a step back even further…the real reason I wanted to make a book of BMX photos was just so I could have a dope ass collection of my favorite shots and so I could look back and see who I had the opportunity to shoot with all around the world over the years. So I figured if I made a book for myself the way I wanted it, I didn’t have to make any money from it for it to be worth my time.
That’s why I went with the print to order system through Blurb. I literally printed one book for myself, and that’s all I have…and I don’t plan to order any more for myself or friends or anything. If I don’t sell a single book, I don’t care. My ego may be slightly hurt because no one was interested in my work, but whatever, haha. If I do sell some, I’ll make a few dollars per copy. The main thing is that I have a book I can look back on years from now, and I’m stoked on that!”
What made you choose Blurb?
“I’ve used Blurb in the past and had great results from it. The first book I ever made was from a trip I took to Ecuador a few years ago. I came back with a ton of travel photos that I was psyched on, so I put together a book with them. The following year I went to Africa and made another book, then the year after I did the same from a trip to Southeast Asia. Blurb lets you design a book the way you want, which is awesome… My background in graphic design helps a lot with that. I used Adobe InDesign to lay out the entire thing, then I just have to upload a PDF to the Blurb site.
With that said, if anyone wants to buy any of those other travel books, they are on my Blurb bookstore as well. Or if you just want to look through them, you can preview the entire thing on the Blurb site. I’ve never promoted those or anything because they don’t have anything to do with BMX. They were purely done so I could have some good memories sitting on my coffee table.”
Is flatland your favorite genre to shoot?
“I don’t have a favorite type of riding, and I really don’t have a favorite discipline of BMX to shoot either. On a personal level, these days I ride more skateparks that anything… As far as flatland goes, I feel like it’s the discipline of BMX that gets the least attention, so being a media guy or whatever, I always try to show flatland as much as possible to help it get some of the recognition it deserves.”
Are the photos previously unseen or have they been published?
“All of the riding photos have been published before—either in magazines, on Web sites, or in the annual flatland calendar I put out through Flatland Fuel. Some of the lifestyle and portrait shots haven’t been seen before though. I kind of look at this book as a “best of” type collection, so I wasn’t trying to come out with new work necessarily, and I didn’t shoot anything specifically for the book.”
Do you feel that BMX is lacking more mainstream outlets, such as books and calendars?
“I definitely think that any time BMX is put in front of people it has the potential to help the industry grow. For example, if a kid that had never been exploded to BMX saw a calendar or book at his school’s book fair, a local book store, or a library, he may get that spark to pick up a bike, or look at his bike differently. So yeah, I think more mainstream outlets like that could help the industry grow, for sure. However, I hate seeing mainstream media showing BMX photos that aren’t shot by a BMX rider. You know the kind of photos I’m talking about…a dude coming down from airing a quarterpipe, horribly timed tailwhips, etc. I cringe every time I see those kinds of photos that somehow make their way into mainstream media!”
Do you think it would help BMX as an industry to branch out in those respects?
“I don’t necessarily think the BMX industry needs to branch out into that type of media though… It’s not like a bike company should make it a priority to make a calendar or book and get it into Barnes & Noble. That’s not their business. They should keep doing what they do best, which is making bikes. I do think it’s up to photographers like me to reach out to the mainstream media and help them portray BMX more accurately. That’s something I’ve been working on a lot and will continue to work on.”