He’s earned a reputation as a professional skateboarder and used his unique insight into this wild youth culture to build an impressive photography archive, while she showcased her photographs around the world: Ed & Deanna Templeton lead a turbulent life. Over the years, yesterday’s skateboarding tours turned into book releases and traveling art shows.
We talked to Ed & Deanna about their artistry and their longterm relationship – and asked how their outsider position as drug free, monogamous vegans influences their work. This is Part 01 of 02.
Interview: Eric Mirbach
Please introduce yourselves. Who are you, where do you live and can you give us an overview of all the things you do?
Ed: My Name is Ed Templeton, I live in Huntington Beach, California with my wife of 24 years Deanna, and I run a company called Toy Machine Bloodsucking Skateboard Company. I also make take lots of photos and make paintings.
Deanna: Hello. I’m Deanna Templeton and I currently live in Huntington Beach with my husband Ed. My list of things that I do: making smoothies, veggie juices, dinner and shooting photos.
Deanna, your work “Scratch my Name on your Arm” gained a lot of attention in Germany. Can you tell us more about the show at Kunsthalle and how it came about?
The ‘Scratch my Name on your Arm’ show came about by a young man owning a previous zine of mine called “Your Logo Here” put out by an Australian publisher P.A.M. He worked at the Kunsthalle and showed it to the director one day who liked it, so he commented on my blog about offering me a show. The crazy thing about this is that I really lagged on updating my blog at this point, I think I left it stagnant for about a year and out of nowhere I just decided to check it out and look thru some old posts. I started to read some of the comments and came across this one from the director of the N.R.W. Forum asking if I would be interested in showing with them. At first I didn’t believe it, Ed and I looked them up on the internet, the names from the comments were of people who actually worked there, (I guess you could say I thought this was just a joke of some sort.) So I said yes. It was an amazing experience. They were so supportive and professional. I’m really thankful for that opportunity.
“I was the responsible one while the rest of the guys would be getting drunk and stoned.”
Ed, as a professional skateboarder you have been touring the globe – what is it you miss about that life and what has changed for the better?”
I have been missing skateboard tours since 2008 when the recession destroyed our budget! We would normally tour every year across the US and Europe but that was seriously cut back after 2008. Two years ago I broke my leg quite badly and that has really slowed down my personal and professional skateboarding. Deanna was always with us on skate tours too, so we have always been traveling together. As far as eating, being vegan in 1990 was really tough – the protest was real! But now its really easy. The world has become hip to healthy food and most places have some vegan or vegetarian options. But there are also websites and apps that can really help you find the vegan food wherever you are. In 1990 we didn’t have that, so there were many nights I went hungry or ate only bags of chips and nuts from gas stations. When we would find a health food store we had to stock up with sandwich supplies and snacks for the long stretches of the country who had never heard of vegan food.
It seems like both your work is rooted in this long affiliation with skateboarding and the crazy situations this life puts you in.
Ed: For me, photography started from the desire to document the scene I was part of, I wanted to explore the subculture I found myself in, and the amazing people and places we got to experience. So it was originally rooted in skateboarding but then photography opened up from that narrow focus into a tool for capturing everything and amassing a big archive that as an artist I can regurgitate in many different ways.
Deanna: I have been so fortunate to be able to travel with Ed on some of his skateboard tours, especially over in Europe. We go to places you would never go to as a tourist. You really get to feel more like a local then an outsider, which helps a lot with photography.
Especially in your photography, a reoccuring topic is youth culture in all forms. Kissing, smoking, half-naked teenagers, all the crazy things adolescence makes you do – what is it that sparks your interest?
Ed: Adolescence is the major transformation in your life, the one you remember forever. We all look back and laugh at the things we did and what we wore. That phase is fascinating to me and I think it’s such a theatrical time that it really translates into good photos that tell stories, we all went through that stage of our lives, so it’s a shared experience.
Deanna: I shoot a lot out of exploration, feeling sometimes a little nostalgic or wanting to dig in more and try to understand whats going on. That’s what shooting the ‘Scratch your Name’ series was about, trying to understand where todays youth is coming from, without judgement. Exploring the differences from my experiences of being a teenager.
“Voyeurism yes, judgement no. I think they are two very different things.”
Ed, in your short film for Leica you said that you’ve often felt like an outsider when touring the globe as a professional skateboarder. You didn’t drink and weren’t interested in chasing girls – were you trying to find your place in that world by the means of photography?
The only thing that put me in that world was the act of skateboarding. For the rest of it I felt like an outsider. But also I was the responsible one. I was driving, and making sure we got to places on time, getting the hotel rooms. The rest of the guys would be getting drunk and stoned. So because I was an outsider in that way, it gave me a perspective that was perfect for photography. I wanted to document these guy living the rockstar life as celebrities in our little world of skateboarding.
Deanna, how did you discover photography for yourself? What’s the story?
The story is in parts. Part 1, growing up in the 70’s our family was all about shooting photos for memories – polaroids were big at that time and people really put together photo albums. I think my Mom tried to do something a little bit more, she bought an SLR camera and tried to do little fashion shoots with me. I think she wanted to explore outside the family album box. Anyway, one night I ran away from home – not really for myself, my family life at this point was fine, it was more to help out a friend whose home situation was terrible. This lasted for one night and it sucked, we tried to sleep on the grassy part of a sidewalk, then some guys drove by and said we could sleep in their van – sketchy – but we actually got into the van! I don’t know what we were thinking. When we found out the guys were going to sleep in the van too we took off. We ended up walking around the rest of the night and then I called my family to pick me up in the morning. For some reason instead of being really pissed off at me my mom took me out shopping ( I guess as a reward?) and I got a Canon T-90. I was 15 years old. From there I made a friend who was a few years older than me who took me to her photo class at school and at night she would take me to punk shows. She would shoot the bands while I watched in awe. This was something I thought I wanted to do. Later, on a flight to Guadalajara to visit my extended family and I packed my camera in my checked luggage. You can guess what happened next, my new camera was stolen. Part 2, life happens, teenage years. Then I meet Ed. Later on in our relationship he starts to take photos. For one of my birthdays he bought me a point and shoot camera and encouraged me to shoot pictures as well.
Ed: I saw that she was really into shooting so I thought she needed a better camera.
Deanna: So he bought me a Canon AE1 for Christmas and I haven’t stopped since. I think that was 17years ago. I don’t put cameras in checked bags anymore either.
Deanna, in Dusseldorf you said that you’re never trying to judge in your photographs, that you’re just trying to understand what’s going on – but still: Both your photography has a hint of voyeurism, would you agree?
Voyeurism yes, judgement no. I think they are two very different things. For most of my portrait shots I do ask permission to take the photos. When I’m shooting candidly and trying to capture a moment I don’t ask, I just shoot, and hopefully I don’t disrupt what was going on. As for moral doubts, yes I have them. When I was shooting people for the ‘Scratch’ book, if I noticed there was any hesitance in a subjects’ answer when I asked if I could shoot them I would be sure to tell them, “If you don’t want your photo taken then that’s ok, no worries.” Especially if I was shooting young girls, I realized quickly that some of these girls didn’t realize they had the right to say “No”. One group of girls said it was ok for me to shoot them but that they were bummed that some other guys were shooting their butts. And I told them you can say “No”, you have that right. After that I tried really hard to pay attention if I noticed that someone looked like they would rather not be shot.
Then again, you always share a lot of rather intimate moments, too – Deanna naked and/or wrapped in plastic wrap, Ed swimming naked as well as rather explicit imagery… Why do you give these insights? Do you ever feel like you’re making yourself vulnerable by doing so?
“We are not exhibitionists or supermodels, but our relationship can tell stories too.”
Ed: Yes, I feel vulnerable, and I would imagine Deanna feels more so. I think you have to put yourself out there if you want something back. We have to deal with the small percentage of people who can’t handle that imagery, but in hopes that there are a bigger percentage that connect with those photos of a real uncensored relationship being laid bare warts and all. Sex is part of life and anybody who has been in love will have these moments and I wanted to document those moments in the same way I would document smoking teenagers. We are not exhibitionists or supermodels, but our relationship can tell stories too.
Deanna: All the intimate photos that Ed takes of me or of us, I think these are going to be so amazing to look back at when we get old. When he’s shooting them I don’t think about where they’re going to end up I just think of these beautiful memories. However, when they are put out into the world I don’t look at them like I’m looking at myself, I look at them and appreciate them as art the way the artist intended them to be looked at. Sometimes you do get a jerky response, at one of Ed’s first shows some guy was looking at nude photos of me and then noticed me and came up and asked if I had a boyfriend. Kinda funny, kinda not. Plus in the beginning I made sure to come to all of Ed’s openings completely covered. Turtle necks, longs sleeves, sometimes gloves. No skin showing but my face.
this interview was originally printed in Vegan Good Life issue #01,
February 2015, which came out as a German version only.