Although Thomas Busuttil is a very versatile person, he considers himself first and foremost, a skateboarder. The reason might be that for him, everything he does is somehow linked to this lifestyle.
His passion for photography started about eighteen years ago when he was living in a small city called Beauvais, which is located 80 kilometers north of Paris. He got to know Yoann Kim there who was also a skateboarder and living on the same street as Thomas. Today Yoann is one of Paris’ most well-known skateboard photographers.
While in the beginning, Thomas preferred to skate in front of Yoann’s camera, over time he became interested in shooting photos himself. Through watching and following Yoann’s photography work, Thomas was influenced to start photographing too. He got to know the different formats and all the materials being used. Thomas dove into the world of infinite possibilities behind shooting the “right” photo. Today, Thomas is the man behind the De PARIS Yearbooks, which are published annually and depict the lives of skateboarders in different cities, not only Paris. As Thomas is currently working on the next edition about the French capital, we thought it would be the right time to do a short interview about his upcoming project.
by Paul Röhrs Photos: Jocelyn Tam
Thomas, I know you do a lot of lifestyle and street photography, but do you shoot skateboard photos, too?
No, not really. Sometimes I do, but actually, I don’t want to pretend like I would be better than other skate photographers here in Paris because they already do an amazing job and invest a lot of time in it. When I shoot skateboarding I like to not be recognized as “the” photographer. You know? I like to participate more as a guest and do my own thing. I don’t really want to show myself up.
You were born in Nice and then lived some time in Beauvais. What changed for you when you came to Paris?
That’s right. My first six years in skateboarding were in a rather small city where we did not really have any spots. That, of course, changed with moving to Paris. I also met a lot of guys from the scene here. The Parisians are very open-minded which is totally different to the smaller cities I was living in before.
Do you have any other professions besides skateboarding and photography?
Actually, I have been doing everything from being a skate-teacher to working for magazines, being a photo assistant or a film director, to being an actor in commercials.
Would you say that with the De PARIS Yearbooks you found the thing that you actually wanted to do?
I was waiting for a long time to find a project that fits me and that demands my total dedication. I always wanted to do something around media, image, skateboarding and photography. So I started the company.
How did the whole thing about the De PARIS Yearbooks come about and what is the idea behind it?
It began after I finished working for à propos and Soma. I just wanted to work with the skateboard media image and I really liked publishing but at the same time, I really wanted to do it with my own ideas. I found this concept of the De PARIS Yearbook very convenient because it can be applied to every city, every year and also to different subject matter. So, we do skateboarding now, but maybe one day it would be also interesting to make it about other topics like the environment, for example. I also wanted to create something relevant, something that could help the city, something that won’t be absorbed too fast and after one month it’s done. To me, it is of great importance that it is a book, which depicts a given city at a certain time.
Have you been inspired by other photo-books?
I really did like the connection with Anzeige Berlin and à propos, which both have kind of the same format. They’re doing their own thing and I think they both also transport a similar feeling, but I wanted to give this feeling a larger space, which is why I decided to do a whole book instead of a magazine.
Putting together such a work is very complex, at least in my mind. Tell me something about the process. How long does it take, what are typical problems you have to cope with and what keeps you motivated?
It’s a good question. I think I am doing this because I believe in it. I am really hard on what I am doing and that makes it even harder to really like something I created in the end. I always try to be as honest as possible with myself and if I really like the work I did I feel… well, “proud” might be the wrong word, but I probably feel satisfied about the progress because I always want to improve myself every time. It is a really personal work. I do not want to express myself with it but it is something coming from inside me, something that I want to share. It takes me almost a year to finish a book. Sometimes it can be stressful finding photographers, doing sessions, trying to help build DIY spots because it is not enough to just put the photos together–you also have to be outside and be part of this life and the city to get an authentic feeling for what you are going to do. We recently went to San Francisco and we really had a good time with the guys over there. I think sometimes you do not even need to spend three or more months in a city to get a feeling from it. If you are lucky and connect with the right people at the right time, you can share many things in like one or two days already.
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