From the way he skates to how he approaches photography, Ray Barbee applies a steady intention and passionate commitment to each of the areas he occupies. Known and respected as both a pro-skateboarder and a photographer, his unwavering vision sets him apart in both athletic style and creative output. These specialties blend together on the new Vault by Vans x Leica Cameras by Ray Barbee collection, comprising of limited-edition footwear styles and apparel pieces printed with his signature photography.
Serving as an emblem of life through Barbee’s lens, the new series of shoes and clothing unites his worlds of sport and fine art. Coming up as a skateboarder known for bringing freestyle, flat ground tricks to the street, Barbee became interested in the skate photographers around him and quickly got into shooting himself. The Leica ambassador’s steadfast devotion to mastering the craft led to establishing a singular creative approach, notable for his distinct use of black and white film photography and loyalty to developing that film himself. The collection’s OG Authentic LX styles pay homage to both of these facets, with a color story inspired by the 1990s and 2000s era of skate that Barbee dominated and two quotes to mark his love of photography. The left shoe is embroidered with his own words, “The joy is in capturing the journey,” while the right shoe is a nod to the Leica camera he loves, reading in German “I herewith decide: we’ll risk it,” a direct quote from the camera brand’s founder Ernst Leitz.
Following Barbee before sunrise to Venice Beach Skatepark in California reveals that he’s as nimble behind the camera as he is in front of it. His eye for light is informed by the movement and energy of skateboarding, rendered to his black and white style. “I’m looking at the color in front of me and turn it into shades of grey,” he says. As for what happens after he’s got the shot, his process harkens back to his early days as a pro. “I turned pro when the skate photographers were still shooting film and they had their own dark rooms. These dudes were doing in themselves,” he says. It’s a technique he relishes to this day. “I can send it to a lab if I want, but I can do it myself. Doing it myself is a huge part of the fun of the experience.”
Check out the video above to see the collaboration through Barbee’s lens as he offers a detailed look into his creative process. The Vault by Vans x Leica Cameras by Ray Barbee collection will be available globally at select Vault by Vans retailers on November 19.