Melissa Cacciola

Melissa Cacciola

Melissa Cacciola
at Three Squares Studio
Fall 2015

Skateboarding is about the relationship between space, time, matter, and energy. Flip it and Reverse It seeks to stop motion and go beyond the apex of what we think we see. Using a large-format camera with period brass lenses, Cacciola uses the tintype medium to offer up thirty-five intimate, contemplative portraits of NYC skateboarders. Included in the series is a diverse range of skateboarders from Nike-pros, such as Stefan Janoski, Clark Hassler, and Brian Anderson to an Art History Ph.D., bartender, and Urban Planner. While the fashion, sports, and art-world co-opt the language of skateboarding to present a sleek, hyped world of attitude and surface, the tintype medium asks us to take another look. The constraints of this nineteenth-century format required by the long exposure transpose the sitter’s gaze as he or she must remain completely still for nine to twelve seconds. This time-lapse, combined with the reality that tintypes are one-of-a kind images (there are no negatives or copies), further redefine our experience and understanding of what it means to photograph and be photographed in the digital age.


Tackling an iconic subject such as skateboarding demanded an approach that stopped time thereby creating a different point of view from the guerilla-style YouTube videos or fish-eye action shots prevalent in the skater lexicon. Having evolved from the vestiges of California surfing, skateboarding as an American cultural phenomenon has shaped not only skate culture worldwide, but has dominated the fashion, art, sports, and music. It was the confidence and attitude of the skaters that caught Cacciola, their flaunting of physics and gravity which reminded her of the raw energy of Stephen Shames’ Bronx Boys. The grace, strength, and fearlessness of the athlete Brian Anderson is the heart and soul of the series Flip it and Reverse It. Capturing that ephemeral spirit of who we are is always the struggle and challenge of all good portraiture–a struggle which parallels the elusive art and sport of skateboarding and the challenge of just being yourself in a world that traffics in conformity.

Press: The New Yorker