Ed TEMPLETON is a visual storyteller like none other. His legendary photography series Wires Crossed sheds an intimate light on the lives of pro-skaters between 1995 and 2012, painting a picture of the skate subculture at its most raw and authentic.

Amidst the launch of Ed’s first limited collaboration with THE SKATEROOM, we caught up with the legendary artist to discuss his inspirations behind the collection and the powerful impact that skateboarding has had on his life.

It's been 11 years since the last photos for Wires Crossed were taken - how has skate culture changed since then?

Skateboarding culture has changed a lot. One thing that’s interesting about the [series] is that there is a lack of cellphones in the photos because most of this work was taken before they became widely adopted. Now, everybody has them at all times and the world has evolved in general. I don’t think I could shoot photos of skaters doing drugs or signing breasts or doing other things that were happening at the time, because everyone is much more image-conscious. They have sponsorship deals and everything has a fast track from the camera, straight to the internet. Everyone’s aware of that so they’re more protective.

Ed Templeton, a prominent figure in the skateboarding scene, showcasing his captivating photography

What is it about this project that makes it so timeless and resonant after so many years?

For me, it serves as a time capsule of a certain period. I wanted to tackle the question of – what is it like to be a pro-skater?

I realized I was [living] this charmed life. Getting paid and sent around the world to do the things I would be doing anyway is a privileged position. And the people I was surrounded by were living like rock stars – taking their fame and using it to have fun in the world. Colorful cast of characters.

I was in the position to document this as someone who was always a little bit more removed. I was always a bit older than the people around me – the responsible one, making sure we got everywhere on time. I had that little bit of removal so that I could look at it all like a scientist, an anthropologist. I wanted to explain skate culture from my point of view, which is very much on the inside. But, having said that, I also didn’t want it to be only for insiders. I wanted anyone off the street who likes photography to be able to understand this series. Of course a skater will know a lot of these guys, because they’ve seen them in videos and magazines. But I think Uncle Bob, coming into the show for the first time, will also get an insight into what skating is like. And you don’t have to know who these people are – it’s just interesting on a photographic level.

Was it always apparent to you that skateboarding and art go hand-in-hand?

I started skating in 1985. It was a period when skateboarding wasn’t as mainstream or as  big as it is now. The people who found skateboarding, who were drawn to it, were outcasts for the most part. I came from a broken home, my dad was abusive, he left us when I was eight years old. And I noticed that my friends, in my skate group early on, were also coming from dysfunctional families.

I realized that skateboarding is a place where misfits and outcasts come together, because it’s more individual – it’s not a team sport. And because they were all misfits and outcasts, they were all people who were also doing something else. No one I know from my childhood was only a skater. They were in a band, doing art work, doing photography, making zines… so I jumped into that culture. When I found skateboarding, the world opened up to me.

We could then say that it’s not just art and skate but creativity and skate…

Definitely – skateboarding is creative at its core. The whole point of street skating is to find interesting things to skate on – interesting obstacles in situations and architecture. To me skateboarding is like performance art. Because of that – like with ballet or something – you have to either see it in person or photograph it. So photography and skateboarding go hand-in-hand, because that’s how you capture this thing that’s only there for the person who’s doing it and for the friends who are watching. Through photography it goes to the wider world where people can see it.

Iconic skateboard artist Ed Templeton guiding viewers towards his inspiring artworks.

Which photos from the series are most special to you?

It’s very hard to pick a favorite. Each one for me is a memory. I look at it and a flood of stories from that time period comes back to me. There is one of Brian Anderson sitting in a window – he had just won the World Championships in Northern Germany. Crazy day, he was skating, doing autographs, interviews… Here is a guy who had just done this incredible thing, but this photo was [taken] after he had just showered and was sitting in the window, smoking a cigarette, relaxing. In the background there is pornography on the TV. I captured a moment.

Then, fast forward 20 years, he famously came out of the closet as one of the most famous gay skateboarders. So now I look at this photo and I see – here’s also a closeted man who was not willing, at this point, to come out to the wider skate community because of all the homophobia. He was worried about his career, naturally. And so the [work] has more meaning after the years have gone by.

Once a skater, always a skater

Despite not skating as much anymore, you’re still very close with the skating community.

Once a skater, always a skater. These are all my friends and even if I don’t see some of them, there is a shorthand that only comes [when you’ve] really been through something together.

What interested you in the idea of collaborating with THE SKATEROOM?

I think we met 10 years ago and had spoken for a long time, but this was perfect timing because I knew that the show [at Bonnefanten museum in Maastricht] was about to happen. It’s been a privilege for me to work with THE SKATEROOM because the skateboards are so incredibly detailed. When I saw the samples I was like – how do they do this? It looks like a photograph. You’re using the same process but on a skateboard.

The aspect [of working with] charitable organizations is really nice too and I am someone who wants to use my platform for something other than just myself. I run Toy Machine, which is a business, but we always wanted to think of ourselves as more of a collective, so whenever we have the chance we give boards to underprivileged kids, skate contests or auctions. I’m constantly giving art to different charities. It’s something that I feel like I can do to give back a little bit. I have this platform, this following on Instagram, where people are looking at me only because I was a skateboarder. That gave me a voice with which I can bring some issues up.

Ed Templeton, a prominent figure in the skateboarding scene, holding his limited edition skateboard.

THE SKATEROOM’s collections support underprivileged communities through skating initiatives, education and community building. Apart from working as a pro-skater, how has skate culture shaped your personal life as a young man?

For me the world opened up completely when I found skateboarding. Musically, artistically, physically – everything just changed for me. Skateboarding takes a lot out of you, it takes some of your flesh along with it. But it also gives back such an amazing community of people.

That’s what I feel like I’ve been born into – a community. I was a drifting kid who had no aim, and I found this thing that put me around great people. And so in some ways the act of skateboarding is almost secondary to the community I have been able to [build].

THE SKATEROOM’s limited collaboration with Ed TEMPLETON, featuring photographs from his Wires Crossed series, is available now.

Ed TEMPLETON exclusive collection