Print Matters - Mark Noble's 'Emulsion' Photo Book
Capturing an era of heavy influence in the UK and beyond...
18 Apr 2022
Interview by Rob Dolecki | Get your copy of Emulsion HERE
When it comes to the BMX journalism roadway, Mark Noble has logged some heavy miles. In fact, he’s well over three decades deep, from running publishing companies (4130), to heading up magazines (Freestyle, Invert and Ride BMX in the UK), to also documenting pivotal moments in the UK and beyond. We even worked together on co-publishing DIG at one stage.
The past year, Mark decided to comb through thousands of his analog photos and create a printed compilation encompassing a decade and a half of his photography. The result is Emulsion, just under 300 pages of photos shot from ’87- 2004. Read on for a little insight on the process from Mr. Noble:
So how did Emulsion come about? What was the inspiration?
I guess you could say it was something that I've been meaning to do for a long time now. I kept all my photos in boxes here at home in the loft and garage, and for years when I glanced at the boxes and files it made me think, 'there's probably a book in here somewhere - one day, when I have the time'. And that time was suddenly put upon me early in 2021 when I was laid off from my job at CSG, when I was told that BMX was no longer significant to their business. Their words. I was like, "What?"
So anyway, I had to do something, along with trying to find a new job of course... Also, BMX lost another good human around that time - the news about Dave Beveridge just hit me hard as well, and I figured one way of marking these riders, the likes of Dave, Scott Carroll, Jason Davies, Mirra, and too many others, was to have their riding in a book of some sort. I also talked to the people at MIND, the mental health charity about the project, and got them involved. And so here we are, practically a year later, we have a photo book that's somewhat bigger than I originally envisaged called Emulsion - basically, it features the people, places, and events that shaped BMX in the UK through the heydays of the underground years of BMX, from '87 to 2004.
Your brother Chris had done the design work for Ride BMX (UK) magazine back in the day; how was it partnering up with him again for this project?
Just the best. He's great to work with, not just saying that 'cause he's my brother of course – I've worked with many designers over the years and still, hands down, Chris is the best. He's a Photoshop genius, a layout perfectionist, has the best creative ideas, and the honest process of working together and so on was just great. It was reminiscent of the old magazine days for sure, back at 4130 Publishing with Ride BMX and everything else we did, but in a way, this was better, because with this photo book we kinda had more freedom...
How many negatives/slides did you go through to compile this collection?
Ah, so, so many – I guess I looked through something close to ten thousand photos? All 35mm slides, negatives, black and whites... there's no digital at all. Some of the film hadn't aged well either, so you'll see the odd scratch or film blemish here and there, or worse. Call it patina if you like! Chris and I were debating about how much Photoshop work to do on the scans, whether to restore them completely or not – so I threw the question out there on Instagram and unanimously everyone said to keep the blems. Chris was stoked - otherwise that could've taken god-knows-how-long to fix up some of the photos! In the main though, the images are perfect. Most of the old films actually stored reasonably well...
Are there any photos used that have never seen the light of day before being published in Emulsion? If so, how do you think they’ve become important to see in 2022?
Oh, loads. This book isn't a hit-list of photos that were all in the mags - there are plenty of pictures that have never been seen before. Candid portraits, scene photos, event pictures, all sorts of stuff that I hope people enjoy. Alongside the published photos that people may remember from the magazines, of course - but seen in a new light, in a new book, they also look really different... cover photos without logos and cover-lines and so on. Plus, no photo is cropped - everything is full-frame, no cut.
Emulsion is a real look-back on a hugely influential time in BMX, arguably, the most influential time in BMX when everything became rider-owned, rider-run, and BMX improved no end – we were running everything from the bike companies, to the videos, the events, the places, the contests, the magazines, the videos, the trips... there was no cheese, these were underground times, and the people involved really gave a shit about BMX - so I think it's important to show that today. I hope people enjoy that side of the book...
Are there a few images that stand out to you in the book?
Sure, I actually have loads of favourites... the wallride shot of Dave Slade, images of old Backyard events, random KOCs and trips to the Worlds, secret ramp sessions, old friends, moments on film when you could feel BMX change, all sorts – crowd shots – actually, the crowds in the backgrounds are really interesting to dive into: no phones, kids stoked on BMX and living in that moment... were you there? So many photos to pick from to be honest, so many riders in there, I mean, there are about 800 photos in the book!
How can someone get the book?
I'm selling them direct so I fired up a simple Big Cartel shop page – here: https://emulsionbmx.bigcartel.com/
Photos of BMX from 1987 to 2004 by Mark Noble – featuring the People, Places, and Events that helped shape the UK BMX scene.
ORDERS OPEN NOW
• Please note, books will be delivered from the printers mid-April, and we'll send out your orders as soon as possible after that... thanks for your patience with this!
This book covers a unique era in BMX. Right now, both BMX racing and freestyle are globally renowned sports with official Olympic stamps of approval. The eighties were BMX-Beat-Kelloggs-fueled craze days of Burners and Supergooses and planks on bricks, with your plastic wheels in the freezer – innocent times. Whereas the nineties was arguably the most influential decade for us all. Gone were the eighties aesthetics and utterly lame bikes and products of the early days of BMX, for the nineties were all about us riders taking over and making it happen.
Riders giving a shit and running the events, starting the bike companies, designing the products, inventing the tricks, digging the jumps, building the ramps, running the magazines, filming the videos—real riders making a real change: by riders for riders.
I was lucky enough to be there with camera in hand and documented the lot – I photographed anything and everything that caught my eye: all for the BMX magazines of the time.
And so, to cut a long story short, this book features my own favourite photographs of BMX from the best years of making magazines that helped inform and inspire a whole generation of BMX riders: FreestyleBMX, Invert, and RideBMX (UK).
• 288 large-format pages + Covers
• Over 800 photos
• Printed on 170gsm FSC satin art paper
• Page size – 325mm tall, 232mm wide (12.9" tall, 9.1" wide)
• Printed in Wales
• All film photos (no digital)
• Some photos featured in the magazines, some never published before...
• Plus words from Tim March, Effraim Catlow, Simon Tabron, Zach Shaw, Stuart Dawkins, Jim Dirt, Steve Bancroft, John Buultjens, Chris Noble, Ross Milne, Will Smyth, Paul Roberts, Owain Clegg and Dorset MIND.
• Designed by Chris Noble
• Hand-numbered, Limited Edition of 250 copies.
• A percentage of the profits will go towards Dorset MIND mental health charity
The Next Generation
"Inspired by Courage’s roots and penchant for pushing boundaries"