This is the office of Jake Phelps, the long-time editor of a magazine called Thrasher, which is far and away the most important publication in the world of skateboarding. This office is located in San Francisco, California, and was photographed in November 2008. Mr. Phelps is still in charge of Thrasher, and likely it looks pretty much the same seven years later.
I love this Interiors series because the pictures are so much more interesting if you know a little bit about the context. Thrasher magazine was founded in 1981, during the golden era of American skateboarding which has now been made legendary by books (and movies made therefrom, both documentary and fictionalized) about the California skateboarding scene of the 1970s. This is the scene where Tony Alva and Stacy Peralta came from, tearing up pavements in Southern California and turning skateboarding from a hobby of suburban kids into a vibrant and fascinating culture. Thrasher has been there to document that culture since almost its modern beginnings. Jake Phelps himself started in the mail room of the magazine and worked his way up to the top spot, in this office.
Skateboarding has always been a counterculture, on the fringe of American suburban culture, and has cultivated a sort of rebellious vibe–skateboard culture dovetails pretty closely with punk and hardcore music, sometimes heavy metal, and skaters often view themselves as iconoclasts or noncomformists. At the same time skateboarding has always been about good clean fun. I haven’t been on a skateboard in 20 years, but I did read Thrasher back in the 1980s and 1990s, and although I was never a very good skater I certainly identified with the ethos. This office with its world map, filing cabinets and phones–and also photos of Einstein, a No Parking sign and what at least resembles a Slayer banner–seems to exist similarly on that knife-edge between establishment and insurgent, between cool and radical, where many other American (and world) subcultures also exist. Skateboarding lives in thousands of skate parks, drained pools and sidewalks all over the world, but part of its collective brain and heart also resides in this room.