The exhibition – which is at Curve Dept skate shop on 25th August – features some her favourite photographers and friends, including the likes of Ollie Murphy, Amy Warwick, Matt Martin, Adam Connett, Matthew Kirby, Callum Leak, Josh Mansfield and more.
This homage to youth culture provides a snapshot into the personal lives and relentless ways of these creatives. Much of their work tracks and captures skating during this notable period of change. As in recent years, it’s clear to see the scene in London has gained major mainstream attention and faced challenges as a result of urban gentrification. This has heightened the importance to showcase the free-spirited nature of skateboarding and the unless battle to reclaim the streets.
We chatted to Sophie Leigh who talks us through her route into photography, how Winner came about and what advice she’d give to others looking to do the same.
When did you take up photography and why?
I’ve always been in and out of photography and only really found my interest for it towards the end of university. I’ve always had an interest in film photography, I guess there is something characteristic about film compared to soulless digital images. There is something about capturing a special moment in a single shot that motivates me in photography. I got my first point and shoot 3 years ago for a tenner and this started me off and I started taking photos on the street, of skating and everywhere I went.
Do you have a favourite image and why?
I don’t really have a favourite image as I’m always discovering new photographers. But I guess my favourite photo book at the moment would be Tino Razo Party In The Back book. I love the light in the photos and the idea of skating and discovering abandoned spaces and pools!
What was your first introduction to skate culture?
I’ve always had an interest in skating and the freedom and creativity it brings and how you can change spaces. But I first started about 2 years ago now, my boyfriend has skated since he was younger and I guess this was a big influence to me. A lot more girls are skating now more than ever and I think it’s great and it gives confidence to other girls to go out there.
Why did you start documenting and photographing the skate scene?
I never had the intention of documenting the skate scene to begin with, I think from carrying my camera everywhere I go and the diverse photographs that I take, a lot of skating photos naturally came out of this and I then realised I had accumulated a lot of photos. If I’m at a skatepark I’ll always get my camera out; I really like photographing the way the light falls and the quiet spaces. It seemed like the right thing to start up an exhibition naturally from this.
There are many skate brands and skaters themselves that have become popular because their aesthetic is more indicative of skating’s creativity. How do you see the connection between art and skating?
I think in the past and even currently there is a stereotype of skaters being lazy but this is completely untrue because you have to be creative to start skating. Especially when DIY spots are built for communities. Skaters do everything, they fall off and then get back on and are always learning new things. When talking to others and from my own experiences, you look at the world and space in a completely different way and this is creativity in itself…and I guess this is where photography crosses over too as I’m constantly looking for the next thing to shoot. I definitely feel like I’m in a sort of creative/skating bubble and taking photographs has come from this.
How did the idea for Winner come to you?
It came from being surrounded by a lot of great photographers who are all completely different to each other. Youth culture, skateboarding and art all intertwine in the exhibition. I felt like I wanted to shed light on people’s creativity and what’s happening within the skating community and in the past.
Is there a story behind the name?
Winner comes from a photo I took in Elephant and Castle shopping centre, it was a slogan on a arcade machine and it’s stayed with me ever since. I like the positivity it brings, especially within the exhibition and on skating itself.
What advice would you give to others that are thinking of putting on an exhibition?
If you want to do anything you just need to do it. This is something that happens in skating too, if you love what you do, which for me is photography and skating, then the possibility of an exhibition and creating a space for the night is definitely possible.
Photograph © Adam Connett, Amy Warwick , Matthew Kirby, Matt Martin, Ollie Murphy and Sophie Leigh