In the summer of 1975, Southern California experienced a severe drought that emptied all suburban swimming pools and drainage ditches. These were soon invaded by trespassing kids restless to fill the long summer days, who turned them into playgrounds that became the essential springboard for the skateboarding scene. Hugh Holland, an Oklahoma-born photographer who moved to Los Angeles nine years before, was right there among them, capturing the spirit and energy of this golden age in his beautiful photobook Locals Only: California Skateboarding 1975-1978.
A self-taught photographer from Oklahoma, Holland decided to seriously pursue his hobby after moving to LA. One afternoon in 1975, he was driving up Laurel Canyon Boulevard when he encountered young skateboarders carving up the drainage ditches along the side of the canyon. Transfixed by their grace and athleticism, he knew he had found a perfect subject. While he was not a skateboarder himself, he spent the next three years documenting these kids and their stylish territorial way of life.
Unlike other photographers capturing the burgeoning craze, Holland’s photographs were never about the tricks. Shot in the streets of LA, parts of the San Fernando Valley, Venice Beach, Orange County, and as far away as San Francisco and Baja California, Mexico, these images perfectly capture the beauty and grace of this unique cultural phenomenon.
Warm, soft and bathed in a certain golden glow you get from the haze and smog in the afternoon light, these images capture the vibrant energy and youthful innocence of tanned, bleach blond rascals in tube socks and Vans as they lived a never-ending summer. We see bodies in motion, from flatland kids skating freestyle to canyon kids going vertical, but also intimate and candid portraits of kids waiting their turn, resting by the chain link fence at Kenter, or cruising the streets in vans and convertibles, all set against a sometimes harsh but always sunny Southern California landscape.
In 1978, as the scene evolved from teenage rebellion into athletic professionalism endorsed by sponsors, his documentation came to its natural end. As he explained, he “was interested in that shirtless, no socks, no shoes time.”
Featuring more than 120 beautiful images accompanied by an interview with the photographer, Locals Only is a rare record of photographic history and cultural anthropology from an insider’s perspective.
Locals Only: California Skateboarding 1975-1978 can be purchased from Ammo Books for $19.95 in hardcover.