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Skateboarders conquer public spaces. They fly through the air, adopting cool poses in the process. You have to be quick if you want to catch these brief instances. Rafael González and his Leica M6 with APO-Summicron-M 50 f/2 ASPH lens, have been wandering the streets of Panama City for many years now. Analogue photography is his passion. It all comes together in his Skate Thru the City series. In this interview, he talks about how he bundles his perception and his camera together, about the experience of analogue photography, and about skateboarding as a social event.

LFI: What does photography mean to you, and what do you specialize in? In what way were you influenced by urban environments, skateboarding culture, and everyday scenarios.
Rafael González: To me, photography is a way to express what I see in my surroundings. That’s the main reason why I picked up a camera: to document moments and have memories of my travels. Then, being outside skating with my friends, I started bringing my camera to capture everything around me that caught my eye; and from there I started developing my style.

When and where were the earliest and the most recent images in this series taken? Please tell us about Panama City and the skate scene there.
The earliest photo of this series was shot in downtown Panama City around 2014 - 2015. I don't remember exactly when the most recent one was taken; but since it's an ongoing series, I’m always shooting new images. The skate scene in Panama is pretty small, and there are not so many skaters to photograph; so I usually go out and shoot with my friends or whoever is down to cruise around the city.

How do you find your narratives?
I usually try to learn something first from the subjects I’m going to work with – whether a person or a place. Then, from there, I have an idea about what type of images relate best to the story I want to tell.

Your specific use of contrast, light, shadows and well-defined framing seems to be related to your analogue approach to image-making. How is it that you stick to this old-school technique?
I started shooting with an analogue camera, and what I like the most about it is the whole process involved in taking a photo – from loading the film in the camera and learning how to compose, to developing the film and then making a print out of it with my own hands in the darkroom. For me, it’s an experience that can't be replaced with today’s technology; and even if you shoot digital you should experience analogue at least once.

What Leica body and lenses are you using for this series?
I’m using the Leica M6 and Leica Apo-Summicron-M 50 f/2 Asph. lens. I like this setup because of its solid construction and the minimal design (not so bulky) that tends to go unnoticed, and also because it’s pretty light to carry when walking or skating around the city. This 50mm lens is super sharp and responds very well to most of the situations and subjects I usually shoot. I want to try a wider lens to get closer to the action; and maybe a zoom to experiment with more compressed images. (Interview: Carla Susanne Erdmann)

All images on this page: © Rafael González: from his series 'Skate Thru the City', 2014-ongoing
Equipment: Leica M6 with Apo-Summicron-M 50 f/2 Asph.
© Rafael González

Rafael González

Born 1985 in Panama City, Panama, González is a self-taught photographer. Influenced by urban environments, skateboarding culture, and daily life scenarios, he has “developed a signature vision exploring the relationship of these elements through meticulously constructed images taken in a variety of places, where cultures and societies collide or coincide”, as his website explains. His work has been published in Juxtapoz Magazine, i-D, Transworld Skateboarding, The Leica Camera blog, Lomography, Ilford Photo, Monster Children, and Huck Magazine. In 2017, he started Intêrstate, an independent print publication focused on skateboarding, film photography, and visual arts.

Intêrstate Mag
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