capturing the diy skatepark scene in nottingham
Developers moved in and demolished the park, but not before photographer Aria Shahrokhshahi preserved memories of the community.
When Aria Shahrokhshahi started to take pictures of his friends at a self-made skatepark in the heart of Nottingham during the summer of 2016, the then 18-year-old photographer wasn't aware of how important his timing was. A year on there would be nothing left to capture, as the DIY skate park was demolished in May 2017. The former hangout that locals had built with their own hands, where people had come together on a daily basis to skate, hang out, mess around and generally just be, is now gone. An investment firm plans to build corporate office buildings and flats on the space.
Because of the sudden demolishment of the skate park, Aria's photo series, titled DIY, has unintentionally become a testimony to the importance of spaces like that, for how much they serve the community. They are so much more than just concrete and ramps. In DIY, the young photographer shows a skatepark is it's own universe. We caught up with Aria to talk about his summertime memories of hanging at the skate park, and why it means to much.
When you started to take photos at the skate park you didn't know it would be destroyed not long after. What drew you to document the community there in the first place?
I found the whole place fascinating: being able to skate undisturbed in your own space. Like when you build a den as a kid, you almost feel cut away from everything outside of the den. You dictate the rules. I wanted to show a side of the skate community I feel hasn't really been shown before, especially in the UK.
Skating continues to draw in new generations, why do you think it's still such a compelling culture?
I originally started skating four years ago when my bike was stolen. I'm still learning, I am by no means a good skater but that's also an amazing part of the skate community: it doesn't matter your skill level, people always support you and push each other to get better. Besides it being really enjoyable, it is the freedom it gives you that draws people to the board. There aren't a defined set of rules, it's how you do it, your style, you are in control and I think that gives comfort for a lot of younger people.
What are the greatest misconceptions about the skate community?
I feel that a huge misconception is that they it's just "stupid kids" who smoke too much weed and cause trouble, but when you really look into it and experience it you will find that it is so much more than just some dudes flipping wood.
Looking at your photos, people seem more central than the act of skating itself. Can you tell us about the community you captured?
The bond people had with one another was strong. A lot of them have become good friends of mine, people who I respect and trust. Also there were just some admirable guys. They never give up and that's something I respect. A guy I know was literally stabbed with a bottle and beaten up pretty bad on a night out, the next morning I was at the skate park and he was there, still covered in blood, drinking a beer just skating. I've seen people slam super hard on concrete and then just get straight back up and try again. I feel that's a life lesson you are forced to learn from skating.
What does the taking down of the park mean to the guys we see in the photos?
These guys built the skate park with their hands, they brought the concrete, made everything themselves. It will suck but these dudes aren't going to sulk, they will find somewhere else and make a new one!
How do you look back at your summer at the skate park?
I remember being really free, not worrying about anything in the news, just hanging out and enjoying myself. I think it's important as young people we don't forget that we need to let go sometimes and not always be so serious. We are only young once to do stupid things, make mistakes and enjoy ourselves -- because we might not always be able to.
Text Catherina Kaiser
Photos Aria Shahrokhshahi