It’s impossible to discuss Deanna Templeton without mentioning her husband of 15 years, pro skater and Toy Machine founder Ed Templeton. Despite the couple’s successful marriage and frequent collaborations, however, her gradual rise to prominence is no mere extension of her husband’s notoriety. From her teen years spent in the L.A. punk scene (where she appeared in music videos for the likes of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Dokken, and Megadeth) to her thought-provoking photography, Templeton is a poster child of unbridled sincerity. A devout vegan for 15 years, she would rather sip smoothies with Ed at their Huntington Beach home than embrace the party-hard lifestyle commonly associated with pro skateboarding. “We’re kind of nerdy,” she admits. “We don’t go to parties or anything like that.”
Templeton became interested in photography in the mid-’80s, when she and a high school friend would sneak into punk shows and take photos of the bands. In 1998, she began to take the subject more seriously and has since exhibited her work throughout North America and Europe. Recently, she completed a photo project for the 20th anniversary of Sole Technologies (which encompasses the Etnies, És, and Emerica skate brands), as well as the third installment of her Blue Kitten zine, a collection of personal photography intended to “share a part of [her] life that makes [her] really happy.”
Much of her exhibited work has documented people who flock to professional skateboarders for autographs. Portraying both the excitement and blatant insecurity that unfolds, her work raises serious questions about objectification without dehumanizing her subjects. However, Deanna does not try to make her statements too weighty. Adopting a “shoot first, think later” mentality, she uses her camera as a tool for understanding the culture that surrounds her.
XLR8R: When did skateboarding first catch your interest?
Deanna Templeton: When I was a kid I used to skateboard with my brother–we both had Bonsai boards with urethane wheels. We would just skate around our neighborhood. It was more of a pastime. Then, when I was 18, Ed caught my interest, and he just happened to be a skateboarder.
What prompted you to start photographing girls at skateboarding events?
Well, it’s not just girls. I photograph guys as well. It’s too long of a story of how it first started, but the reason I shoot them is because I’m still exploring the different dynamics that go on with the signings. Like, if a female goes to get an autograph, the places on their bodies are used kind of sexually; [they ’re] hoping that they might stick out among the rest of the girls. And then it seems like when a guy gets an autograph, it’s just pure messing with the guy. I mean they’ll have writing all over their faces, obscenities on their butt. The two are so different. I’m not judging either group; I’m just trying to understand. Especially when you think about [the fact] that most of the markers are Sharpies and they’re supposed to be permanent.
Have you ever felt frustrated by the experiences your husband has had with girls idolizing him?
Just twice that I can think of. Once, a girl pushed me out of the way to get up next to him. Being young at the time, I pushed her back. Another time, a girl came up to me and asked if it was okay if he signed her boobs. I just looked at her and said, “Sure, and then he could fuck you in the bushes later!” I guess I should be happy that she was considerate enough to ask.
How did these experiences change the way you view skateboarding?
It really hasn’t changed my view at all on skateboarding. I mean, this is the least crazy thing that could happen in skateboarding. In France, I witnessed a young girl come up to a pro skater that Ed and I were talking to and offer him a blow job for his shoes, so writing your name on a training bra or some cleavage seems pretty mild. I do have to say, though, I’ve been traveling to Europe now for the last 15 years and I’m not sure if I’ve seen any kid really get their bodies signed, or in Japan for that matter.
Skate culture is deeply immersed in consumerism and advertising. Would you have any problems with using your work with an ad campaign?
Not if it was something I felt really passionate about. Like if Planned Parenthood wanted to use a photo, then I’d probably be okay [with it], or if some non-violent animal rights group wanted to use a photo. I’m not sure if my photos have mass-consumer appeal.
What other photographers or artists do you see dominating in their field right now?
Ashley Macomber! Lauren Greenfield! I get a lot of people who email from my Blue Kitten booklets and they usually include their websites, which all have been amazing.
What equipment do you use?
My favorite camera is my Mamiya 6, then my Leica M6 (it’s taken me a while to acquire this one, but I sold quite a few photos to a museum, which enabled me to afford one finally). Then I have a Mamiya 7, a Fujifilm 6x4.5, an Olympus XA, an Olympus Pen half-frame, and a Contax T3. And I still have the Yashica T4 and Canon AE-1 that my mom and husband gave to me. As for developing, I have A & I [Color Lab] in L.A. develop all my film. I had a terrible accident when I was learning how to develop film; I messed up the chemicals when I was developing a roll of film that I shot of a friend of mine that [had] just passed away. I’ve never trusted myself after that. I usually print all my own photos at home in our darkroom.
Do you think photography has the power to change society?
Yes. Just look at war photography! Look at any photojournalist. And if no one’s changing from that, then there’s always fashion photography. It has (and probably will for a long time) been dictating what women change to look like.
What does the future hold for you?
Hopefully to keep on breathing, learning, sharing, and caring.