Lens On: Charlotte Thomas

Charlotte Thomas captures the heart and soul of the female skate scene.

Skateboarders have always been the coolest of the cool; they’re the boys and girls we all want to be. From the long, beachy hair to the endless pairs of worn-in, patched-up Vans, skaters have a unique style and substance that never fails to capture an artist’s attention. Cue Charlotte Thomas, the skate and fashion photographer whose new project “Concrete Girls” is capturing the British skate girl scene which she has spent a decade skating with. With experience shooting for Topshop, Vans, New Balance, Animal and Fabric Skateboards (among many others) Thomas’ raw and real style captures the soul of her subject and creates dynamic imagery that sparks ideas and creates conversations surrounding the underground skate scene.

Now, after a journey stretching over 4000 miles and resulting countless shots of skate girls (we wish we could see them all), Thomas is nearing the end of her quest to capture the heart and soul of the skate girl movement here in the UK. From photographing their style (including their boards, which are as much a representation of their personality as their outfits are) to them blazing across skate parks and the before and after’s of their skate sessions, Thomas is capturing the essence of the skating subculture through “Concreate Girls”, and we love it. Gnarly.

When did you interest in photography first begin? Have you always been arty?

I have always been into photography, as a young teenager growing up skateboarding was everything to me, it was only at the age of 18 when I went to university that I started to experiment with photography. I only used disposable cameras during my twenties as I used to like the ‘surprise’ element when collecting a film from my local Boots. Most of the time everything was out of focus, blurry or the colours weren’t very sharp but I loved this to me it was how I saw the world raw and unpolished. It’s ironic really we have all this super share technology yet everyone creating imagery in the skateboard and fashion cultures are aspiring for this disposable look. Its quite cool really!

Skateboard photography and fashion photography started when I moved to London. I was working as a shoot producer for Topman and Topshop where I was lucky enough to be subjected to the photography on a daily basis. It wasn’t until 4 years ago I decided to become a professional photographer myself.

How would you describe your style?

Photography quite raw and unpolished. I like capturing people when they don’t know I’m there. You can get the best smiles this way.

What sparked your interest in skateboarding?

I’m not ashamed to say this but a boy. I had just left school and the nineties behind. I had my first boyfriend at 16 and as I’m sure all young girls at that age, I had my heart broken or so I thought. He was a skateboarder so in order to get back at him I wanted to be better than him at skateboarding so I bought a board and practiced at my college car park until dark every night for two years before I went to uni. I got quite good at it so I continued to this very day, I’m 33 now so over a decade.

Where did the inspiration for your book Concrete Girls come from?

As I mentioned I have been skateboarding for over a decade now, when I stared there were only a handful of us in the UK and a handful internationally who were skateboarding. It was a very rare appearance to see a girl on a skateboard. Over the past 5 years I would say girls skateboarding worldwide has exploded which is a truly wonderful thing to see.

After breaking my coccyx several years back, I decided I wanted to set a project for myself so I could still be apart of the skateboarding world whilst I was recovering. So I started to take more and more skateboard photos. Mainly of my guy friends, but one day Sidewalk Magazine contacted me asking me to shoot a female skateboarder photographer named Stefani Nurding. I was so emotional as it had been my teenage dream to one day be in Sidewalk, never mind a piece of my work.

After this trip and article was published I came up with idea to produce my retirement piece. I wanted to travel the entire UK photographing the British Girl Skateboarding scene, I am 4, 356 miles in so far and just a handful of skaters to go.

“Photography quite raw and unpolished. I like capturing people when they don’t know I’m there. You can get the best smiles this way.”

Why do you think that female skater crews have always remained as underground and subcultural groups in the UK?

Like I mentioned before it was up until about 5 years ago. I believe we have social media to thank for this. Girls can connect with other girls, can be inspired on a second to second basis, share videos and make friends a lot more easily than we could back in the rely 2000’s. It has blown up through Instagram where some skateboarders have become full blown celebrities. It is great young girls have such talented and cool role models to look up to.

Have you found that girls’ skate culture is different from it’s more publicised male counterpart? And if so, how?

Not really, skateboarding is skateboarding it is the same whatever your gender. The only thing which has changed is it has become a fashion accessory thanks to the fashion brands putting a board under a models arm in every other campaign.

Aside from skaters, what else are you passionate about photographing?

I shoot fashion campaigns, I shoot for Vogue capturing backstage and runways during LFW and I will always attend LCM too, as its my favourite event in the fashion calendar.

Tell us about some of the girls you photographed and how you found them – you must have met some interesting characters!

All of them are very different in so many ways but what is so beautiful is skateboarding brings together what usually would be a weird bunch of humans. Stafani Nurding is one who always sticks in my mind, that girl is one of the most hard working skaters I have ever met in my life, she is a real perfectionist, so working with her is a real honour as she brings out the best in you. She has worked and modelled for some amazing brands she has some stories to tell.

When I went to shoot her for Sidewalk we were at a spot for 7 hours trying over and over again to get the perfect trick and the perfect image. It almost drove her to tears but the end result was worth it.

Stafani I Salute you!

What do you think is it about skaters that everyone finds so awesome? We want to be these girls!

They just don’t give a F**K!

Annabel Lunnon
Lens On: Charlotte Thomas

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