French photographer Vince Perraud was in town a few weeks ago working on some personal projects and dedicated a couple hours of his time (on his birthday, no less) to sit down and talk with us. When I say “us”, there were so many people that wanted to be a part of this interview while there are only so many seats and microphones. Oddly enough, I was the only one who hadn’t met Vince before and therefore had the least business being in there. We subbed between myself, Chris Mortenson and Jeremy Pavia while Gutstains held it down and Reed Stark was there to share some stories from a rider’s perspective. Vince was a bit nervous and unsure how everything would go having a less-than-perfect grasp of the English language so we implemented some brain softener and upheld a more relaxed environment (and an untraditional format) to make sure everything would go as smoothly as possible.
1:30 – The challenge of breaking into a new scene
2:29 – Reed’s introduction
3:00 – Starting in BMX
4:35 – Growing up in a small town in France
5:14 – Mortenson pops bottles
5:45 – From bikes to cameras via knee injury
7:11 – Inspired by Manu Sanz
8:41 – Dealing with shotty equipment
11:51 – THE LIGHT
13:14 – Having an Instagram photo on the cover of RideUK
14:13 – First cover (Soul Magazine)
15:30 – His latest cover (RideBMX)
18:39 – Vince’s take on the death of print
20:09 – The challenge of being French
25:45 – Mortenson steps in, talks about nude women
28:04 – Having an assistant then not having an assistant
29:23 – Shooting without flashes
32:05 – Shooting events (Simple Session)
33:18 – Moving on from BMX
35:54 – The many variables in photography
40:14 – More about the Instagram photo that made the cover of RideUK
42:04 – “Do you do any video work?”
42:20 – Guts’ favorite Vince photo
44:08 – The infamous fisheye pool photo on the cover of Soul
48:36 – Waiting to put out photos instead of posting online
53:42 – Pavia steps in
55:08 – “What drives you?”
56:41 – “What is your end goal in photography?”
58:27 – “Have you “made it”?”
1:00:45 – One camera and lens setup for life, what would you choose?
1:02:56 – “How much value do you place on social media?”
1:04:53 – “BMX is so small”
1:06:24 – Three pieces of advice for the emerging amateur photographer
1:08:30 – Where do you see photography going?
There’s no shortage of ditch spots in Texas and when Chuck told us he was taking us to MegaDitch™, I figured it could make for a good photo and Guts was on board to shoot this wallpaper.
We met up rather late and rode the spot for a minute before starting to setup for the shot as the light was quickly fading. The dark sky made the photo super dramatic and I love the contrast between that and the gum tire.
Guts is a lowkey technophile who knows how to get the most out of the least equipment. He knows all the tips and tricks to squeeze every stop of light out of a Sunpak 555 flash and he knows how they work inside and out. To spread coverage across this huge (huuuuuge) ditch spot, he tripled up the 555’s (thus creating a 1665) and pointed each in a different general direction. It’s nothing short of amazing that he got light from corner to corner in the frame.
I’m not really sure who the intended audience of this mini “documentary” actually is, but it gives you a little behind the scenes look at what its like to be a BMX photographer/filmer. Despite being severely cringeworthy at several points, there are a few bits of good information sprinkled throughout. If you’re an aspiring lensman, check out the video and read below for a little friendly advice of my own.
I’ve only been in the game for a few years now and some could make the argument that I’m no more qualified to offer advice on this subject than the people in this video, but I couldn’t just have you guys ingesting a bunch of vague pointers. In my years of paying dues and finally getting my foot and my camera bag in the door of the BMX industry, this is the best advice I could give you if you’re looking to do the same.
-Do it for the right reasons.
I feel like I read this in every interview with any BMX photographer ever, but if you’re trying to make a million dollars from shooting/filming BMX, go to the nearest pawn shop and sell all your shit because its not going to happen. Shooting BMX should be, above all else, a labor of love. You should love this shit so much to begin with that getting paid for it shouldn’t matter until you can do what you do with one arm tied behind your back and security breathing down your neck. If you get no genuine thrill from pedaling miles on end while lugging a 50lb camera bag, you’re in the wrong business, friend.
-Know your craft.
This goes beyond reading your camera’s manual cover to cover and knowing what every function does. This is about shooting so many photos or filming so many clips that you can see what its going to look like before you even pull the camera out. This is about closing the gap between what your photos/footage looks like and what you want your stuff to look like. Not by going out and buying a bunch of expensive gear, but by knowing how to squeeze every ounce of capability out of the tools and the light you’re given. Some of the best advice I’ve ever come across is, don’t practice til you get it right, practice til you can’t get it wrong.
-Its not about gear.
As much as you think having a VX1k, 1Dx and Einsteins or a Panasonic with the whale eye will miraculously make your shit look like Jeff Z or Navaz’s, you’re sadly mistaken. Unless you’ve got tens of thousands of dollars to run through B&H like Supermarket Sweep, you should be more worried about doing what you can with what you have instead of worrying about what you could do with what you don’t. Always try to keep in mind that there’s someone out there doing better with less.
-Be your own worst critic, not your number one fan.
No one likes a dude who’s feeling himself to the max. And its even worse when their photos/filming aren’t quite up to par. If you somehow think you’ve arrived or are more worried about your Instagram followers than continually improving the quality of your work, you’re doing yourself a huge disservice and you probably look like a douchebag. Don’t buy into your friends telling you you’re the shit, you gotta see the things that you could’ve done better. Its easy to let a hundred likes go to your head, but if you think that shit matters in real life, I honestly feel bad for you.
-Network, network, network.
Social media has made it easier than ever to meet and communicate with riders from your town all the way up to your favorite pros. In most industries, networking is a bunch of shaking hands and trading business cards, but in BMX it can be anything as simple as saying “whats up, let’s shoot sometime” on Instagram to just sharing a blunt at the skatepark. But be cautious of your hunger level when it comes to stuff like this though, most people can spot a weirdo from a mile away. Which brings us to our next topic…
-Don’t be a weirdo.
In the modern BMX climate, you might be surprised how far being a normal, level-headed person could take you. You could shoot the best photos ever, film the crispiest clips, but if you’re a pain in the ass, next to no one is going to want to deal with you. Don’t be the guy poaching photos/clips of people you don’t know at the skatepark. Don’t be the guy bugging your one and only local pro to shoot on every social network every day. Just try not to be “that guy”.
-Do good work and things will happen.
Same as when it comes to riding, the longer you’re out there doing you and making it look good, people will eventually notice. There’s no better feeling than being the go-to guy for riders or companies, but the only way to get there is to be consistently dialed and reliable. As soon as you start wondering why you’re not getting the recognition you deserve or why people aren’t fucking with you, your mind is in the wrong place and you should stop and re-evaluate why you’re doing what you’re doing. You shouldn’t have to speak for your work, your work should speak for you.