You’d be forgiven for assuming that photographer Tino Razo’s new publication was a visual love letter to the mullet; described by connoisseurs as “business up front, party in the back.” But while his photographs draw on an age when such daring coiffure was more common, there’s not really many mullets in sight.
Instead, we’re shown a stunning array of eerie images of decrepit and poignant scenes; the American dream as one shattered and refracted through abandoned swimming pools, cracked concrete and dusty streets. But that’s just the surface: what the publication is a love letter to, however, is skating; and the carefree rebellion of days spent scrambling about unchecked in the near dystopias of abandoned landscapes.
These disused pools are not eyesores, but makeshift skate ramps. Unpeopled scenes are the perfect canvases for skating, hanging out, revelling in the coterie of people who care about decks. A spirit of youthfulness and hope is wrought from the sights that many was found ugly, and through Razo’s lens and under the bright azure skies we feel a palpable sense of freedom.
There’s a beautifully written essay in the book from Razo, explaining how he came to be shooting these seemingly carefree guys under the Californian sun. He’d moved from New York with the woman he loved, and encountered a gruelling culture shock: “It was a tough transition for both of us, going overnight from being full-on New Yorkers to having beautiful, happy, healthy Californians all around us. LA is not made for hangovers like NYC is. It’s a fucked up contrast. Instead of walking out the door to the grime and bullshit of the city, we suddenly found ourselves stepping outside to see people running in spandex with bright-ass sun and palm tree backgrounds. This shit was fucked!”
In short, he lost his girl to surfing, and found his love for the world again through finding a gang of “dedicated pool skaters.” He says: “The crew was tight and the vibe was new,” and though he’d been skating or 30 years, “this pool session—and every backyard experience since—combined every part of skateboarding that I love in a whole new light.” It’s a testament to his skill as a photographer that this love shines through in both his images and words, creating an inspiring and vibrant pictorial narrative about finding love in unusual places.