Since emigrating to New York from his native Holland in the 80s, photographer Ari Marcopoulos has vigorously documented all he encounters on the gritty city's streets: Basquiat, graffiti tags, the Beastie Boys, cop cars, pickup basketball games, tattoos, friends, trash, tree branches, sidewalks packed with colourful characters. But throughout his 40-year career, the photographs he made of skaters in the early 90s have remained perhaps his most cherished. They've filled books and spangled Supreme shop walls since the OG Lafayette Street outpost's infancy. These pictures have also inspired Marcopoulos's newest project: an exclusive zine and limited edition collaborative collection with adidas Skateboarding.
"The idea came from celebrating the core skate scene in New York in the 90s but translating that spirit to now," Marcopoulos tells i-D. In addition to a collaborative footwear and apparel offering, he's made a 26-page zine, AIGHT', which captures a winter day of shredding in the sunshine at spots like the Foley Square courthouse, or some busted stairs on Allen Street. Shot on black and white film, AIGHT' recalls Marcopoulos's now-iconic sessions at the shuttered Brooklyn Banks. But paired with some mixed media elements and bright pops of colour, it feels like a fresh lens on the Lower East Side, and the creativity of New York City skate culture.
Today, we're pleased to exclusively premiere AIGHT's accompanying video, which lends an intimate look at Marcopoulos's afternoon with adidas Skateboarding's tip-top team riders. Living legend Mark Gonzales spray paints his moniker on walls and moving trucks before ripping a no comply wallie over a traffic barricade. Tyshawn Jones — the 18-year-old Bronx native who broke out for his star turn in Supreme's "cherry" — chills on a basketball court before pushing down Allen with the force that's made him such a thrilling talent. Set to the sounds of old school jazz riffs, the film at once recalls NYC skating early 90s golden age, and spotlights a new generation.
Ahead of the adidas x Ari Marcopoulos product reveal and zine launch, we had a quick chat with the man himself to learn more about the collaboration.
Tell us about the ideas that shape your adidas Skateboarding collaboration.
The idea came from celebrating the core skate scene in New York in the 90s but translating that spirit to now. I visited some of the old skate spots with contemporary skaters. Then I kept it all simple as far as the collaboration items. I used existing patterns but gave them my twist.
Are the soles of the sneakers modelled after a contact sheet?
The soles are bright pink and green. But the sidewalls mimic the film edge on a contact sheet. I have learned the proper terms while working with the show team of adidas.
Do you have any favourite spots to shoot skaters these days?
There are no favourite spots. My favorite part is finding new spots. Interpreting architecture in support of shred action.
Beyond skating, are there any neighbourhoods or streets in the city you find yourself returning to?
I live in Fort Greene, so I find myself there. A good friend of mine I hang with has a bookstore on Bond Street, so you can find me there as well. But I stick to Brooklyn, pretty much.
Mark Gonzales is featured in the video, and in the new zine. You and Gonz have known each other for some time, and collaborated in the past. Do you remember how you met, and what your first impressions were? What have you enjoyed about working together over the years?
I met Mark at Alleged Gallery, I think. He is a very interesting and engaging person. An amazing mind and a mind-boggling skater. I always love hanging out with him because he has an interesting view on things in general. And his mind makes amazing leaps from one subject to the other.
You've often said that you prefer to focus on the present moment rather than look back at the past. What excites you today?
Yesterday, today, tomorrow, they all excite me. It's whatever is in front of me. I am not so tied to subjects. But my girlfriend excites me, my children excite me. Trees excite me. People I see in the street excite me. I can say I am just excited, period.
Text Emily Manning
Photography Ari Marcopoulos