Sometimes, the smallest things trigger the most overwhelming responses.
For William Strobeck, who is perhaps best known for his work on Supreme videos like “cherry,” “PUSSY GANGSTER” and his latest effort, “KING PUPPY,” that thing could be as slight as a pin. A simple piece of memorabilia brings up a cocktail of warm nostalgia and vivid memory, like the madeleine cake in Proust’s In Search of Lost Time. Thumbing the tiny pin and speaking of the New York City that he moved to over 15 years ago, Strobeck notes: ”It just seemed wild. I came up here for a visit in ’89 and I remember driving into the city and when you’re coming in from Upstate — just driving in, all of the walls are covered in graffiti. Even 10 years ago it felt like it was much more raw, youthful and just alot more action going on.” Things in the city have undeniably changed and Strobeck knows it. Much of his aesthetic attempts to capture whatever vestiges of raw, unrefined energy that he can still find. As a soundtrack of reggae fills the air, the photographer lets HYPEBEAST in on a treasure trove of skateboarding history.
“I just feel like back then it felt so badass. Back then, the drug thing was bad. It used to be all buildings with no windows around here; there’d be a building on fire down the street and no one would care. There was that and the Beat scene, the cool scene at the time, was what feels inspiring to me. Madonna and Basquiat and Keith Haring grew up in that shit. There were 500 people hanging out and one of them was doing a film and one was doing a photoshoot and one had a band playing… then they’d go out and they’d all have their spots. It just seemed happening.”
Sounding somewhat defeated, Strobeck sighs, “And when I first moved here in 2002 or 2003, it was still like that. There was artists and like runaways and everyone could afford to live in the city, now it’s like a land of the privileged.” Things have changed in the era of the Internet, though, and Strobeck has adapted, somewhat reluctantly. He yearns for the feeling of spontaneity and danger that eludes him in today’s East Village. “There’s way more money here now and I liked it more then,” he remarks. “I could walk around with a blindfold on and feel safe now. Even 10 years ago you’d walk around keeping one eye open. I know secretly in my head that I don’t wanna live here in the East Village but it’s convenient for me.”
“I know secretly in my head that I don’t wanna live here in the East Village but it’s convenient for me.”
Strobeck’s signature portrait backdrop is a blown-up photo of the makeshift mantel from his previous apartment; “It’s a timestamp,” he says, of a bygone era. When asked if he’d continue the series, he says, “If anything, I’d take a photo of the blown up backdrop and use that as the backdrop in my next apartment.” Very meta. Elsewhere in the living room, the photographer has stockpiled wigs, a baseball bat and a stuffed banana from Dave & Busters worth “at least 300,000 tickets” as props for his houseguests to pose with as they see fit. A massive collection of rare video-tapes—including H-Street’s Hocus Pocus, a copy of 101 Skateboards’ Snuff stashed inside of Life Skateboard’s A Soldier’s Story and a copy of Kids that was borrowed from Hollywood Video, never to be returned—leans and teeters throughout the apartment. Elsewhere, Strobeck has hoarded bricks from Philadelphia skate monuments Embarcadero and Love Park.
Sprinkled into his collection of skate trivia obscura are senior photos of Strobeck’s frequent collaborator and “best fucking friend ever,” Jason Dill and Kids star, Chloë Sevigny—William refers to her as “Chlo” for short, and whenever he speaks of Dill, he slips into a spot-on impression of the Fucking Awesome head honcho’s nasally voice. The faded photos graced Fucking Awesome’s inaugural skate decks, which Strobeck collects. While the rest of the photos elude him—”I think their mothers still want their senior pics”—he’s still in the process of “weaseling” a complete collection.
As far as streetwear ephemera is concerned, Strobeck has plenty of grails and one-off collectibles, including Mark Gonzales Blind hoodies from the early ’90s, a vintage Photosynthesis tee, and a super-limited, waterlogged Dash Snow zine — marked as just 5/30 — that Dill gifted him.
Amidst these fragments of history, Strobeck takes a moment to point out a post for Dennis Hopper’s Out of the Blue. Neil Young, who handled soundtrack duties on the film, personally signed Strobeck’s copy of the poster when he interviewed him for Supreme. “Dennis Hopper directed it as a comeback after he kinda lost it making his second film,” Strobeck opines, before adding, “It’s just so fuckin’ cool to look at that time period. The splices are real. It’s all done pretty raw and super fucked-up. There’s a ton of fucked-up-ass shit in it, but it’s one of my favorites.” He takes a moment, reggae filling the space between sentences. “Top three favorite fuckin’ movies, ever.”