PRINT MATTERS - Jared Souney & Things Seen Along The way

The biggest BMX Book ever Published

27 Aug 2020

Things Seen Alongthe Way7

Interview by Shad Johnson | Courtesy of SNAKEBITE BMX

Photographer, designer and long time DIG contributor Jared Souney recently released an awesome (and huge) photo book featuring an extended collection of his amazing BMX photography portfolio shot between 1994 and 2014. Fellow Portland resident Shad Johnson (Goods/Snakebite) recently caught up with Jared to find out more...

Taj Mihelich Chase Hawk Austin Tx 2001 Small

Taj Mihelich and Chase Hawk Austin TX 2001

Hey Jared. You surprised me at the shop yesterday with your new photo book! Honestly I was blown away on the size,quality, and how you kept a project this massive quiet for so long. Can you give us a lil' background on what inspired you to get this book going?

I didn’t plan on doing a book, it started more as an organization project, just to get a bunch of old film out of boxes and into a filing cabinet. I had been using some of the last winter rainy season here in Portland to scan and put names to images I liked while I was still able to do it. In other words, while I had a working scanner, and while I still had some sense of the who, what, and where of the photos. There was no rhyme or reason to my film archives after moving across the country a few times over the years. No organization at all. A lot of the old stuff was crammed in boxes and I’d go through it occasionally and maybe scan things for instagram, but I wasn’t necessarily doing it in an archival manner. I guess I was trying to start fresh and put together my favorite shots on a hard drive in some sort of cleaned up archive.

I think in early February I started dumping some of my favorite shots into an InDesign file… not necessarily as a book, just seeing where it went. Things were starting to shut down at that point due to the pandemic, and I was just occupying my time, tinkering around on the computer and around my studio. That file I was working on was in no way a BMX book. It was a little of everything — weird photos from around Portland, snowboarding, skateboarding, motocross, music, BMX — really a little of everything with no real direction. Then the world shut down.

I kept scanning and dumping stuff I liked off of hard drives into these InDesign layout files that kept growing. I think I figured I’d maybe make some zines or something. At some point in March or April I had these three or four massive layout files with hundreds of pages each… I had over 2000 pages between them, of just random shit I liked put into spreads. One of the files was very loosely chronological, and was action sports focussed overall, but it wasn’t specifically BMX. I spent weeks just moving shit around in these different documents. I kept coming back to that chronological document, organizing it further, cutting stuff from it, adding stuff to it. The more I went along it wasn’t cohesive at all. It was like five books that someone shuffled into one. I think in June at some point, when we’d been stuck shut down for months, I was losing my mind trying to figure out what to do with all the shit I’d been moving around on my computer. I didn’t feel like I was getting anywhere, so I started focusing on one of those layout documents, trying to put together some sort of story. Slowly the more I edited it down, the more focussed it got. It probably wasn’t until early July that I said “fuck it, I’m gonna put all this BMX stuff into something of its own.” At that point I made another InDesign file, moved all my BMX stuff that I’d been playing with into it, and then just locked myself in to making something out of that, even if I never actually printed it. I don’t think I had fully committed to making it until the second week of July, and then I gave myself till the end of the month to have something done, and just focussed completely on that. I’d say most of June and all of July, every waking moment I was moving photos around InDesign documents in my head.

I guess it was partly kept quiet because I didn’t know what I was doing, if anything at all, for most of the process. By the time I figured out what I wanted to do, it had become about telling the story of the BMX that I experienced. I guess I didn’t want to have it steered by outside influence, but I also didn’t want to tell people I was doing something I wasn’t sure I was doing. I really wasn’t sure until probably a week before I sent it to the printer at the end of July. As it turns out things are very easy to keep to yourself during a global pandemic. Right around the time it went to print I posted a few little bits in my Instagram story. My girlfriend obviously knew because I spent six months moving files around my screen at all hours with no real direction. Otherwise, I didn’t tell anyone, cause I didn’t even know what I was doing.

Things Seen Alongthe Way8

It probably wasn’t until early July that I said “fuck it, I’m gonna put all this BMX stuff into something of its own.”

One thing I was pleasantly surprised with was the span of the book. It follows you as you leave New England, then to California, Woodward East, and then Oregon. You get such a different feal for each area. Are there any images that stand out to you in the book and if so why?

Yeah, each time I moved was to a completely different scene, so I was around entirely different people, and the environments were very different. I think some of my favorites are related to the evolution of certain people. A good chunk of the guys in the book that I grew up riding with in New England still ride. Brian Chapman, Jim Cavanaugh, Mark Florek, Mark Rainha, Kevin Robinson, etc… those guys have pictures in the book that are taken 20 years apart. So you see a bit of their evolution, along with mine, along with BMX as a whole. I guess the book is comprised of my favorites, be that photographically, or the person, or the scene.

Most of my favorites aren’t photos that I even noticed back when they were taken… there’s one of Tom Masterson from 1997 that was taken at an old skatepark called ZT Maximus in Boston. Maximus was one of the places I learned to shoot photos. And those were the guys I learned to shoot with. It’s a bomb drop into a bowl on the surface, but the graffitti on the walls, the people in the background, the fact that Tom is riding brakeless in 1997… it’s got so many little things to look at. What’s changed? What’s stayed the same? That’s the sort of thing I hope someone who didn’t know much about all this would notice too.

Every one of those photos has its own story behind the scenes (probably a few stories), but at the same time the hope is that you don’t even need to know those stories to appreciate it in some way

Book 2
Book 3
Tom Masterson Ztmaximus 1997

Tom Masterson, ZT Maximus - 1997

That photo of Tom stood out to me too! Like I said earlier I was blown away by how big the book was so I think BMXers who love print and BMX history will be into this!

How can someone get the book? I know you said you did a limited run!

This edition is already fully sold out. I didn't really have a gauge if anyone would care, so that was rad but unexpected. I may do a more "general release" edition in the future that's not a numbered edition... that would likely be a different cover to keep this edition unique. I haven't planned anything on that front yet as this was completely unplanned in itself... and I still have to get these all out the door, ha!

It’s not the cheapest book in the world, but it is (was) a limited edition (250 copies), hardcover photo book, and each copy is signed and numbered. It’s printed on heavy uncoated paper… to me, it’s an art book to me as much as it is a BMX book, something I hope people hold onto. The book includes two limited edition A5 sized prints (the Joe Rich photo from the cover, and a photo of Ralph Sinisi grinding a car in NYC from 2000), both signed and numbered the same as the book. You can’t get these prints anywhere else. The book weighs five pounds and was selling at $84 plus $15 to ship within the US. So I was able to keep it under $100. ’84, coincidentally, was the year I lost focus on anything but BMX. There’s no advertising or branded bullshit in this thing, just 404 pages, and over 360 photos.

Eventually it will be a flipbook online, but as far as the print goes, that’s it. I was hoping to do a photo show around the book at my studio, but things are pandemic-fucked, so that might happen down the road, hopefully. Thanks to everyone I’ve taken photos of along the way.

"This book follows the BMX that I lived for the last several decades, focussing on the period which I was most involved in producing content. These are friends I made along the way."

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