The Upside Of A Drought: Skateboarding In Its Early Years : The Picture Show Severe droughts in the '70s left empty swimming pools, kick-starting an explosive skateboarding scene. Hugh Holland's photos celebrate the sport's golden heyday.
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The Upside Of A Drought: Skateboarding In Its Early Years

Severe drought often leads to wildfire, sometimes in a more figurative sense. In the late '70s, Southern California experienced such a drought. Emptied suburban swimming pools became evaporated playgrounds for kids with wheels — kick-starting an explosive skateboarding scene. "It spread like wildfire all over Southern California," says photographer Hugh Holland. "I know it happened in other parts of the world too, but California felt like the center of it all." He explores the early skating scene in his new book, Locals Only: California Skateboarding 1975-1978.

He was already an adult by the time he stumbled into this world of backyard skate sessions, older than the bleached-blond, tube-socked kids in his photos. But because he was cool enough to carry a camera — still a novelty in the '70s — they had no objections." Holland continued to document the scene until 1978, using recycled 35 mm movie film. "This was Hollywood after all," he says in the book.

The movie film had a warm, soft quality, lending to the photos a certain golden nostalgia. (Is anybody else reminded of The Smashing Pumpkins' 1979 music video?) It was the sundrenched heyday of skateboarding. And for Holland, it was a passing phenomenon. Today he continues to photograph in California, but his skateboarding series came to an end a mere three years after it began. "I feel that that was a brief moment," Holland says in his book, "It was like the beginning and the end." The beginning of today's popular pastime, and the end of its purity.