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Nepenthes NY set up the Artist Spotlight to delve further into the work showcased at the store. In this special series, we interview the artists involved with the show. We ask them questions about their art, the exhibition, and what New York means to them.


John Vetromile - Artist Spotlight 

1. Please tell us a bit about your background. Where are you from? When did you come to New York? What does New York mean to you?

I grew up in Bronxville NY, which is a small town in the southern portion of Westchester County. Growing up so close, the city felt like my backyard and was a place for self reflection and experimentation. When I was a teenager I would take the train down to skate, people-watch, and visit the museums around Midtown. I started visiting my friend who went to Pratt and discovered my love for Brooklyn. Bed-Stuy in particular was exciting to me as a teenager because it felt far from home.
I went to college in Pennsylvania and also studied in Akita Prefecture Japan for a year. After college I started working in advertising. I moved to Brooklyn 3 years ago and recently have devoted all of my time to photography.

2. Please tell us a bit about your process. Why this medium? How do you choose your subjects? Is there an overarching theme in your work?

Considering how skateboarding is a photo and video adjacent activity and I’ve been skating my entire life, it was natural to start photographing it as well. Also, skate photos were the first photographs I consumed and reflexively acknowledged were photographs. As for process and picking subjects- in being partially labelled as a skate photographer, I appreciate how I don't need to announce myself to subjects and let them know my intentions when I photograph them. I think this relationship between photographer and subject is unique to skateboarding. All of my subjects so far have been my friends who's skating I’ve observed on many different occasions. My familiarity with their skating really helps me decide some spots and tricks for them when we go out shooting.
I’ve been shooting fisheye because I love how the lens elongates space. When paired with flash, it leads to exciting results. Overarching all of my work is a sense of intimacy with the skater at the climax of their trick. Shooting as close to the skater as I do reveals all of their expressions and contortions in that moment.

3. Is there a message or narrative that you would like to communicate through your art?

Over the last decade, video completely took over as the predominant medium used for documenting skateboarding. So a message I have is this- I think the advent of video frees up photographers to experiment and portray skating in more fun and figurative ways. I try to communicate that through my work.

4. Is there an element of art you enjoy working with most? Why?

I most enjoy collaborating with other friends and artists. Nothing is more rewarding.

5. How do you source your inspiration? Where do you find the creative drive to continue making work?

I’ve always enjoyed the ‘60’s Japanese photographic expression that is often referred to as “Provoke,” after the magazine. I’m definitely influenced by the indiscriminate framing and general liveliness in that work. So when I discovered the skate photos Matt Price has been taking for Last Resort AB I had an ‘aha’ moment because they use so many of the same elements. The same is true for Mark Custer as well. Also, their photos both get me excited to skate.
What’s sustained my creative drive are my friends who I’ve been photographing. I love their skating so having the opportunity to link up and collaborate with them for a photo has been my favorite part about this process.

6. Please tell us how you became involved with Nepenthes New York.

I became involved with Nepenthes through Takashi Fuji who works for you here in NYC. He’s been a great friend who always supports my skating and photography. Congrats on his recent marriage.
He’s definitely the ultimate enabler and most recently he’s been trying to convince me to go bungee jumping. I'm not too sure about that one though because I’m afraid of heights.