London Skate Journal (LSJ) is not your average online magazine. The photography project founded by Craig Jackson and Jonny Grant in early 2016 arms skateboarders with a disposable camera and the directive to capture images of their daily lives, ranging from the mundane to the intimate. The resulting publication is a true reflection of skateboarding experiences and culture.
The past few years have seen skateboarding culture become somewhat of a commodity to fashion brands and the media. The effects are easy to see, especially in the wake of Vogue’s ‘Skate Week’, but Craig Jackson doesn’t want to focus on that. He’s aware that there are positives and negatives to this shift; his aim with LSJ isn’t to be some “grumpy old man”, but rather to “test the waters and create an alternative skate media,” and provide something that hadn’t been done a thousand times before.
“We just wanted to offer an honest look into skateboarding in 2016. Skateboarders naturally live pretty interesting lives on and off [the] board,” says Jackson. “I think in a time when computers and phones seem to be taking over it’s important that the youth see the importance of getting involved in something outside of the house.”
After launching their long-in-the-works skate brand Theobalds Caps Co. at the beginning of the 2016, Jackson and Grant found themselves looking for a creative project to keep them busy in between cap releases, and a skate zine was just a natural progression of their interests and abilities. Issue #1 saw them reach out through their extensive network of skateboarding friends to lock in contributors and images from the likes of Mark Baines, Henry Edwards-Wood and Matlock Bennett Jones, spanning across Paris, London, and Bristol. “It’s nice to have to have a mix of pro skaters as well as friends and other people within the industry,” says Jackson. “We don’t give much direction when giving out the cameras, that’s part of the point… we don’t want it to get samey.”
The process sounds simple: buy a bunch of disposable cameras, pass them around and then develop them—but nothing is ever a straightforward as it seems. Jackson can recall several funny moments, but nothing as bizarrely funny as the screaming match he had with a close friend who works at a “certain sought after skate brand in London” while chasing down the contributors for issue #1.
“It turned out that he didn’t have my phone number saved and he’d been getting hassled all morning by a crazy hipster kid who was desperate to have him put a pair of these sunglasses on hold that were being released on that day. When I got through, I got an instant barrage of abuse. We pretty much got in a shouting match on the phone until I was finally able to get a word in edgeways and tell him that it was me. I guess it’s a sign of the times and also another reason as to why we want to create these zines.”
Nothing much changed in the making of issue #2, which is about to be released at the time of writing. Grainy, lo-fi photos highlighting the similar situations people go through as skaters—no matter their age, location, or skill level—still feature, and it’s obvious that everyone involved has no agenda past documenting a fleeting moment in time.