Whenever I take up a new sport or activity, I like to immerse myself in the culture of the people and their lifestyle. Skateboarding has an incredibly different sub-culture to anything I have encountered before, in fact it seemed as though my life was turned upside when I began meeting and interacting with other skaters. I went from deciding what I would order from the Donna Karen AW Collection to deciding which Roxy tees would be most maneuverable in. One aspect of the culture that I could relate to was the strong connection that many skaters have with graphics, art and photography. My teacher, Steve Olson has produced several art exhibitions, with many more in the pipeline, and it is clear that Olson is happiest when he can collaborate with his son.
Alex Olson, who is currently one of the leading professional skateboarders, also has a talent for art and photography. I was led to his website www.olsonstuff.com and was impressed by his work. He posts daily on www.olsonstuff.tumblr.com which has garnered quite the devoted following. After spending a week or two looking through the photographs he chooses, as well as the questions he is asked and the answers he offers, I was intrigued to find out what motivated and inspired this young man, who, from an outside perspective at least, appears to have the world at his feet. Alex kindly agreed to be interviewed.
Kirsten Lea: Why did you start a tumblr page?
Alex Olson: I just liked it and wanted to do it.
K: Would you like it to lead to anything?
A: I mean if it got me somewhere that would be amazing and it would be hours well spent looking for images while I’m bored. I was never trying to shoot for something bigger I just like doing it and seeing other people’s stuff.
K: I notice a lot of skateboarders get involved in the art world. Why do you think that is?
A: It’s another job, like skating, where you’re your own boss.
K: Do you think it’s because pro skate boarders design their own boards and get used to drawing graphics?
Alex designed the board, pictured here, to look like the YSL logo but incorporated his own initials.
K: Why did you choose YSL?
A: I always liked that logo and thought it looked good and so I wanted to make it with my name.
Steve Olson: Do you think we could get a cease and desist for that? Whatever. It’s cool.
K: Alex, I’d like to give you a gift. What would rock your world?
A: I’m lost on this one.
Steve Olson: I don’t think he likes the term “rock your world”. Rephrase it.
K: I’d like to buy you a present. Money is no object for me and I love buying people gifts. You may not be materialistic, but what could I buy you that would make you really happy and reflect well upon me?
A: Well, I’d say something that we talked about in the past. You would have to listen to know what I was into.
K: Okay, I’ll decide at the end of the interview….
K: You have good style in your skateboarding, but understandably, a career in skateboarding doesn’t seem to fulfill you. What are your ambitions?
A: I don’t know. I’d like to make a career out of something else. Not just one thing. I don’t feel safe with only one career option and nothing to fall back on.
K: Steve mentioned that you might be working with photographer Mario Sorrenti. What would you like to achieve from that collaboration?
A: Well you make it sound as if we’re going to be working on some project together. I was just trying to assist him but he was never in town so I never got to.
K: Do you take photographs to please yourself or for other people?
A: I do it for myself, mostly, but if I do it for others, I just want them to laugh. I don’t know. I don’t try to get too deep with the art thing. Those people bug the shit out of me. If you like it you like it, if you don’t you move on to something else.
K: The responses on your blog are very blunt and direct, particularly if you don’t like the question. Have you ever wanted to cultivate an image or on-line persona and if so, is that part of it?
A: No, that’s just me being myself
K: Do you ever consider how you come across?
A: Yes, I’m sure I come off as a dick but I’m just being truthful to what I think the Q & A is.
K: On your tumblr it says, “ask me anything”. So what do you like being asked about most?
A: I don’t ever think about this type of stuff. I don’t know. Sorry.
K: Well, what do you most enjoy thinking about or talking about?
A: Here we go again… I really don’t know. I don’t look for conversations. If they happen and they’re good, it’s amazing but I’m not a big talker.
K: What kind of person would you like to be?
A: A good person.
K: What style of comedy appeals to you most?
A: Dry comedy.
K: Who is your favorite film director?
A: I don’t have any.
K: We’re on a private jet for five hours. What movies do you want to watch?
A: I’m not the biggest movie guy. Something I haven’t seen?
K: Okay, you’re not into movies. Do you like documentaries?
K: Do you prefer to edit footage yourself or have someone edit for you?
A: Depends on what I’m making.
K: I like your photography. My favorite is doubles! What is your favorite?
A: Lil Monster.
K: What compliments do you receive on a regular basis and which mean the most to you?
A: When someone really likes a skateboard trick I did or when someone likes my photos. Those don’t happen on a regular basis.
K: Are you being sarcastic?
A: No, it doesn’t happen everyday.
K: What creative outlets have you found to be the most expressive and fulfilling for you?
A: Photography and music. But I don’t feel that I’m expressing anything by it.
K: Do you think that you might be autistic?
A: I might be. I don’t know. I don’t think I am but I’m not sure. I could be.
K: Do you find it easy to remember phone numbers?
A: You’re just saying that because of my dad.
K: Yes, you totally called me out on that….
A: …. Not anymore. I used to remember the pattern of phone numbers but not the numbers themselves.
K: Do you find it difficult to care about other people?
A: It depends.
K: What would someone have to do for you to care about his or her wellbeing?
A: I’ve never thought about it. If I like the person a lot then I’d care about them.
K: Have you ever fallen in love to the point where you put their happiness before you own?
A: At one point in my life, maybe. That type of love is when you have kids.
K: What is the best date you’ve ever been on?
A: I hate dates. Maybe I should start to like them…
K: Yes, they can turn into some of the most special moments of your life…
A: … I’m not really a talker and that can be hard for the other person on the date.
K: That’s very thoughtful of you. The best date, for someone who doesn’t like talking, is going to movies, but you don’t like films. How ironic is that?
K: What is the best date you can imagine?
A: One that doesn’t feel like date.
K: Do you like to dance?
A: Yes. Mostly drunk.
K: What do you like to drink?
A: Beer or Vodka.
K: What is the best thing an ex-lover has ever done for you?
A: Cook for me.
K: What did she cook for you?
A: She would cook breakfast. Eggs on toast with tomato.
K: What is the most precious thing you have lost?
K: What or whom do you value most in your life?
A: Friends, family and food.
K: You have two days alone with your lover. How would you like to spend them and where?
A: I don’t know. Where are we spending this so called “alone time”?
K: You get to choose where to spend the time and how.
A: Well, I’d go to New York because if something happened between us, I wouldn’t be stuck in a place I don’t know.
K: How do you settle differences in your relationships?
A: Talk or write.
K: What is your longest grudge?
A: I’ve never ever though about this.
K: Maybe you don’t have any?
A: I don’t have any.
K: What terms of endearment do you use?
A: I couldn’t tell you.
K: Because you don’t use any or because you don’t know me?
A: How about I just don’t know. I try to be nice.
K: What hurts your feelings?
A: HA! I don’t know. It would just have to happen.
K: In skateboarding you have to get used to getting hurt. Do you find that prepares you for dealing with emotional pain?
A: Yes, that’s how people learn. They try a different way.
K: How much responsibility do you take for your own problems?
K: What can you guarantee about yourself?
A: I can guarantee that I’m not going to guarantee.
K: What do you like best about yourself: your talent or appearance?
A: Skip this question
K: I’ll rephrase it. What would you most like to be complimented on: your talent or your appearance?
A: I hate compliments. I don’t take them well and I think that people throw them around too much and don’t really mean them. They’re not meaningful.
K: What qualities have you found in women that you like or respect that you have not found in men?
A: Taking care of people.
K: Do you like girls to take care of you and nurture you or do you prefer to take charge?
A: I like being cared for and I also like it if they can take charge.
K: What makes you feel safe and cared for?
A: Knowing everything is okay, right there and then.
K: Do you find it easy to admit when you’re wrong?
K: What is your favorite vacation resort in the world?
A: New York City.
K: What is your ideal living environment?
A: A city with a beach. I don’t think I’ve ever thought about that in my life.
K: Do you use nature as a source of inspiration?
K: Do you enjoy being surrounded by nature?
A: Yes, I really like it. I just don’t do it that much.
K: Do you like a peaceful or hectic life?
A: A mix of both?
K: Do you have any interest in interior design?
K: Describe your decorating style
K: What books are you reading at the moment?
A: I’m not reading anything at the moment.
K: Have you read any books that you really like or that have inspired you?
K: Do you remember your dreams? Do you have any recurring dreams?
A: Yes, but I don’t remember any recurring dreams.
K: Tell me about a dream you do remember.
A: I don’t remember the last one. But I have been able to control them in the past.
K: Are you someone who, if you put your mind to it, can achieve anything?
A: No. I can get a lot of things started but I can’t finish them. It’s my biggest downfall.
K: Your Grandfather was a fighter pilot. Would you join the air force to fight for your country?
A: Yes. 100%.
K: What are some of the phone calls that have changed your life?
A: Friends passing away.
K: What worries you the most?
A: My family’s health.
K: What have you not had enough of in your life?
K: What subject matters vex you?
A: That I was un-schooled.
K: Do you enjoy learning new things?
A: Yes, all the time.
K: What is your greatest talent?
A: Well, it would be to skate.
K: Are you jealous of other people’s success.
K: What would you like to achieve in the next five years?
A: To get to a place where I can change again in the following five years
K: What legacy would you like to leave?
A: ‘Change’ in some way, shape or form.
K: If you could make a change in the world, however small, what would that be?
A: Make schools better. That’s the one thing we should do if we want to make the World better.
K: Name three things you’re optimistic about?
Alex doesn’t answer
K: Name one thing, then.
A: What I’m doing after skating.
K: Do you feel you have enough control in your life?
K: In your relationships with men, do you make most of the decisions?
A: Sometimes, not always.
A: I try to be, but it gets crazy at times.
K: Do you know your own net worth or at least how to work it out?
A: I don’t really know. I probably should know.
K: When do you feel impatient?
A: Being put ‘on hold’ on the phone.
K: Are you quick or slow to reply?
A: Depends. Quick for this one.
K: What makes you blush?
A: I couldn’t tell you?
Steve: He’s flirting with you.
K: I don’t think so
Steve: No, he’s flirting with you.
K: Are you flirting with me?
A: What? That wouldn’t work. I don’t know but it’s happened.
K: How do you like to relax?
A: Just by resting.
K: Have you ever tried yoga or meditation?
A: I’ve been going to yoga this month but I need to go more.
K: I love Yoga. Do you go to a class?
A: I go when my friends will go with me.
K: How about a Spa? You’re coming to Europe for a skating tour and I invite you to stay at my spa for the weekend. You can have treatments and we can have supper (the food is amazing). And if you get bored or you don’t like it, I’ll send you home on the jet… Yes or No?
K: Wonderful. Now let’s talk about Fashion. At what age did you start dressing yourself?
A: 13 or 14.
K: Who are your style icons?
A: Paul Newman.
K: Whose wardrobe would you most like to raid?
A: I’ve never thought about it. Prince.
K: Name a female whose fashion sense you appreciate.
A: Chloë Sevigny.
K: Perfect answer. I agree. She is off the charts in terms of style.
K: Do you prefer vintage clothing?
A: Ha! No I don’t really care or shop for vintage clothing.
K: Name your favorite luxury goods brand.
K: Would you like to design your own fashion line (non skate-related)?
A: Yes, given the chance. Yes.
K: Do you like Victoria Beckham?
A: Yes. Spice Girls.
K: What are your favorite fabrics and textures?
K: What clothes turn you on?
A: It doesn’t matter what clothes she’s wearing. If she looks good, then it’s working.
K: Let’s end on a good note.
I decide to leave the present on this occasion. Full of contradictions, I’m unsure what exactly inspires Alexander, or even if he knows.