Ricky Rhodes, a commercial and editorial photographer based in Cleveland, Ohio, documented an old foundry near the city’s center in summer 2014. The abandoned property turned gathering place for locals, and leftover slabs of concrete were used to build ramps for the (very) DIY skatepark. With the help of designer Garrett Haas, Rhodes released a limited edition book, and created a dedicated website for the work, Queen Ave. Rhodes sees the work as a promotional effort, but also as a way to connect with the local skaters. “All of the skaters were into ‘zines, like Phil Jackson’s ‘Borderline Retarded,'” Rhodes told PDN via email. “I thought this would be a good way to share the project with everyone.” Proceeds from the book are given to the volunteers who help keep the skatepark going. PDN corresponded with Rhodes via email to find out a bit more about the work.
PDN: What prompted the project? When did it begin?
RR: I became interested in the skatepark because of it’s proximity to the city. I first visited it in January 2013 with the friend who told me about it; it was freezing and desolate. I went back in the summer of 2014 to show someone else the park, and it was full of people. One group of people was throwing a memorial barbecue for their brother, while another group was mixing concrete and building ramps. It was such an interesting mix of people and activities. When I came back with my camera, most people were standoffish, but I just kept coming back… when I wasn’t working on a commissioned shoot, I was there.
PDN: How did you approach your portrait subjects? How did you earn their trust?
RR: After I developed my film, I brought the contact sheets to the skatepark. I’d leave them out on a table where everyone congregated. I think that was the way that people finally started to trust me during the project. I haven’t given out any formal prints yet because I’ve been busy shooting and scanning the project along with doing commercial and editorial work. Hopefully, I’ll be able to give out some prints once the nicer weather rolls around.
PDN: So you shot film? What did you use?
RR: I shot half the project with a Bronica ETRS 645 and the other half with a Mamiya 7II, with Kodak Portra 160, 400, 800.
PDN: The color palette is very quiet and subdued. Does it reflect the vibe of the place?
RR: Some days there wasn’t much activity because it was so hot. Other days there would be a concert or birthday party. I was attracted to the slower, quieter moments. Subconsciously, I think the warmth in the photos mimics the actual heat of the summer. —Amy Wolff
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