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Monday, October 1, 2012
Updated: October 2, 4:45 PM ET
Allen Ying's 43 project


Mr. 43, Allen Ying, at the 43 Magazine art show and fund-raiser.

Walking to Allen Ying's photography show was a reminder of Williamsburg, Brooklyn's evolving landscape. Manhattan has always been known as a city of constant change, buy the urban renewal happening now is almost unparalleled. Just a few blocks from Kinfolk Studios -- the hosting gallery known for its eclectic pop-up restaurants -- were two former locations of landmark skate shop KCDC. Right across from the studio, below the towering newly erected Wythe Hotel, is a yellow metal edged ledge popularized by Tim O'Connor's Scoliosis grind.

Living in NYC makes you either nostalgic or determined and Allen is certainly the latter. He's managed to create impassioned art without relying on corporate dollars in one of the word's most expensive cities -- where being creative with out major backing is often a struggle.

"It can definitely be hard when pursuing too many projects at once. I get bummed when I see talented friends working too much on side jobs to afford expensive rents and not enough on their own work -- whether it's skateboarding, photography or any other venture," explains Ying.

In 2011 he launched a Kickstarter campaign to create 43 Magazine: a non-profit printed skateboarding magazine. His goal of $20,000 was reached quickly and the only current New York City based skate magazine was born. More importantly, skateboarding drives 43's content, not ad dollars or the industry itself. Allen explains his vision for 43, "It was going for presenting an aesthetic that skateboarding deserves, one that's more accurate to the feeling of going skating." Even the choice of the square format -- a nod to record album sleeves -- is a throwback, commenting on the superiority of the recently revitalized medium.

Approaching the entrance of the Kinfolk Studios it was clear that Allen's influence is not only embraced by skateboarding, it's championed. A good art opening is usually one where you can only see the crowd not the artwork. By these standards the photo show -- that was also a fundraiser for 43 -- was already successful. The room was filled with attractive people, typical art opening lurkers, a few babies and of course New York's finest skaters.

For $50 this print could be yours and helps 43 Magazine do its thing.

The 43 show was also a rare opportunity to purchase affordable prints of Allen's work in editions of five, with the proceeds funding 43. An iconic shot of Mark Gonzales at the Brooklyn Banks sold out in an instant. One lucky owner of the print -- one of the few black and white images in the show -- managed to buy the print an hour before the reception leaving only four for the masses.

While the Gonz is as photogenic as he is legendary, every subject in Allen's photographs becomes iconic through his lens. His impeccable sense of scale frames a spot -- even one as publicized as the Brooklyn Banks -- from a wide and almost omniscient perspective. The skaters are rarely the predominant part of the shots, and sometimes not even the focal point. His flick of Curtis Rapp's backside 180 in the Bronx typifies this approach. At first glance it's a snapshot of two women descending the subway steps with a baby carriage, but a perfectly captured frame of Curtis blasting over a rail lies to the right.

Allen isn't a photographer that obsesses over finding new spots; he has the ability to make them all look fresh. "I'm not necessarily interested in always having a really scenic photo... cool background, because some of that stuff can become a gimmick." Allen explains, "there's so many factors in the skating more than the immediate area around the spot. Skating under the BQE feels different than a sunny plaza in the Bronx."

Ultimately Allen's show is a reminder of the impact of perspective -- a true throwback to the days before photo incentives and lucrative shoe contracts. It's art for skateboarding's sake and a reminder of the DIY roots that continue to inspire us all. Still, Allen isn't the type to bash technology or pine for the past. He shared a story about a recent shoot at Bum Rush the Spot in Brooklyn -- "I was shooting a bit at the event, and a dude on Polar was doing a huge wallride. I'm not sure if it was too hectic, but I shot a pretty standard photo. A few hours later Steve Rodriguez showed me a photo on his phone of the same wallride. Long shadows, silhouettes, golden light, banging wallride and some exterior context. He nailed it!"