Naughty – an interview with Dom Marley

Bobby Puleo, kickflip, 2004.

With so much ’90s nostalgia in skateboarding these days I feel like the noughties often get overlooked. Well perhaps Dom Marley thought that as well, and to remedy the situation he’s made a book about London skateboarding from 2000 to 2010. A few years in the making, Dom’s book Naughty is finally here. With the book launch happening tomorrow night, I spoke with Dom about putting together this book of skateboard history, full of familiar faces, from a slightly neglected era. 

All photos by Dominic Marley
Interview by Will Harmon

The time period of your book is the noughties. Why did you choose this time?
So initially, when I was talking to Jake (Sawyer), I really wanted to do something with this archive. And that period was definitely the time I was shooting the most amount of skate photos. And neatly when I started shooting photos was around 2000, and then I was shooting a lot up until about 2010. When we were kind of going through stuff that seemed to be kind of the overriding factor, but then also looking at this archive, and I think we mentioned it before, like, once the photos come out in magazines, they can really just get used once and then stuck in a folder, which is the nature of it. But then it kind of felt like I just wanted to put those photos in everyone’s hands from that time, if that makes sense. So it felt like a natural step to just do a London thing. I also have a bit of a love of black and white photography as well.

Yeah, why all black and white?
I think looking back over the photos… Well I used to print a lot of black and white and I feel like that was definitely the stuff I felt I liked the most, looking back, just purely the aesthetic of it. Also lighting outdoors in daylight, it’s something I’ve grown to really not like. Black and white photography, I guess disguises that a little bit, well not disguises, but it’s a bit more flattering in black and white because it only becomes about tone.

You mentioned developing before, so I’m guessing these photos were all shot on film. What cameras were these shot on?
Yeah, everything is film. I was quite loyal to the Hasselblad and so I would say the majority of it was shot with one. There’s some like more reportage-y Nikon stuff as well, and then a few random cameras in there also, but yeah, the majority is Hasselblad.

Jake Sawyer, wallride nollie, 2005.

You told me you spoke with Jake Sawyer quite a bit putting this thing together. Was he a bit of a driving force to help you get this book done?
100% man. From the absolute start of this thing, it was always like a talk with Jake about what we should do and how we should do it. And I think I kind of Yo-Yoed quite a bit with it, and I think you can become quite critical of your own stuff. So there were definitely like, a couple of times during this book that I thought, maybe it’s not not right, dunno, or not good enough to put out there, kind of thing… But then Jake gently reminded me that actually this initial thing is something that’s quite fun and quite light-hearted. It’s literally just trying to put it in the hands of everyone there. Like I don’t know, it’s hopefully something that reminds us of those days of like meeting in Slam, and then we go over the river and you know, there would be a session, and everyone would watch Brophy do something ridiculous, or Ben Jobe would be out skating and it was just super fun. It’s like more of a reminder of those times, which hopefully everyone gets that same thing who was around those days, that was it. But yeah, Jake was very much the driving force behind this.

Andrew Brophy, switch ollie, 2005.

And then and so how did you go about making the selections for the book? Was it a collaborative process between you and Jake?
Yeah, so Alex Skrzynski, Charlie Young, and Jake all helped. I kind of whittled it down with Jake and got a key amount of photos because there was a lot. And then one day, we just got everything literally on the table that I thought was a possibility. And then Jake, Charlie, and Alex, we had an evening where we kind of just all thrashed it out and decided ultimately what photos would go in. I was also beholden to the amount of pages as well.

How many pages is the book?
There’s 128. I kind of wrote a little caveat at the beginning of the book that not everyone I wanted to be in there, was in there, and they certainly were people I’d love to have been in there but for some reason or another, we just didn’t have the right photo or it wasn’t in London.

Charlie Young, backside flip, 2006.

So essentially, it sounds like one of the reasons you made this book is to kind of get these photos of your old friends and London skaters from that era and just give them something to hold onto. A physical book full of memories. Just basically give the skaters something back from the time that you spent shooting with them and hanging out.
100% man, yeah, I mean, that’s my goal with this book, is to have something that kind of captures that time for us in the city. The book sort of serves its purpose if I give a copy to everyone who is in it. But also, I guess moving forward, it would be sick if maybe some kids who skate Southbank now or like the next generation of people like would see the book, and there might be things in there that they didn’t know happened or haven’t seen before and might be stoked to see.

Lucien Clarke, kickflip noseslide, 2002.

They might be stoked to get into photography maybe as well.
Yeah, exactly. I certainly remember when I first started skating, especially in London, because that’s the place I grew up, and I’m familiar with, but you’d almost hear the whispers about what people did like, go and skate spot and be like, “ah, you know this guy…” and some people who you might never have even skated with or never even seen skating, but then you’d hear about what they did. So I think it’s nice to have a certain set of photos from that era. Especially things like Brophy switch ollieing the block, which was quite a thing then, and certain tricks in there and people who were just so influential in that time.

I’m guessing a lot of these photos were printed in magazines of that era, correct?
I think the majority of this stuff actually got run. Most of it would have ended up in magazines like Sidewalk, Kingpin and maybe a few American magazines as well.

Fairfield Halls, Croydon, 2005.

You shot a pretty iconic photo of Fairfield Halls, it’s a night photo, no one is skating, but it’s just the ledges and the plaza. And then Jake told me you actually went to that college as well before that, is that right?
Yeah. So I was studying at that college maybe for a few years before that. I think the thing that that photo taught me or not necessarily taught me but showed me is that the significance of a photograph can change with time. That was shot on a 5×4 camera and I remember sort of making the journey over there one night, and I stood up atop the car park and you’ve got a great view of Fairfield Halls. All I wanted to do was shoot a portrait of Fairfields, just because we spent most of our days skating there growing up. So I just thought I just wanted to take a photo of it, because I just wanted to see it to be honest with you, and have a photo of it. And then sometime after that, I remember even like the college itself asking for a copy of that photo for their archives.

How did they even find out that you’ve had it?
So I was studying at another college, Chelsea College, and I ended up getting a job at Croydon College to help the photography students there. So I did that a couple of days a week and whilst doing that, they used to lend me all their kit. So it meant I could borrow a 5×4 camera and go and shoot photos of Fairfields and stuff. I could also use their darkroom; they had this huge place to print. So yeah, I was kind of working while I was in college then and they saw the photo, and were like, “Can we have that?”

Chewy Cannon, switch frontside boardslide, 2006.

You’re like: “Yeah, but it’s gonna cost ya!” Haha.
Haha, yeah. Nah though, they really helped me out quite a bit. One guy in particular, Paul Taylor, really helped me. Good to give him a shout out. But yeah, then as Fairfields very much changed, like that car park got knocked down, the stairs got knocked down and the ledges are just totally gone now… So then all of a sudden, you’ve got this photo where the place isn’t even there anymore. And it’s the spot that we all grew up in. So I don’t know how many photos there are of it out there…

It’s the first place I ever skated in the UK actually, in 2001.
I remember the day you came down.

Yeah, that’s the first time I met you.
Yeah, friendly guy, haha.

Lev Tanju, varial heelflip, 2004.

Another thing that’s kind of interesting is that you skated a lot with Charlie Young there back in the day, and also Lev (Tanju), who are both featured in the book. And now you work with both of these guys at Palace, right?
So Charlie and I, we always always skated together back in the day, and then all of a sudden, we kind of started shooting together and working on stuff together in more recent years, then we ended up both working at Palace, and obviously Lev’s the dude at Palace.

He is the dude!
It’s pretty amazing.

Jake Sawyer you told me about how you almost had an exhibition in Covent Garden years ago… You want to talk about that?
Jake, just being a star, and ultimately, the driving force behind this book,he was always so supportive. Like I said earlier, the book kind of YoYoed and nearly happened quite a few times over the years. And I think there was one point where the book was nearly ready, and Jake managed to book an exhibition space on Floral Street, which would have been an amazing opportunity to launch the book, as it was a really good space. And I showed the photos to everyone, but I just couldn’t… I think the editing process, I wasn’t happy with where it was. I mean, I’m a firm believer in letting things happen organically, but sometimes you have to push things a bit, but it just didn’t feel right. It would have been lovely to do that show, but it wouldn’t have had the book book attached to it. The book should have been done as well. And everything comes out at the same time, but I wasn’t particularly happy with where the book was. It just didn’t feel like the final product.

When was this?
Maybe it was four or five years ago.

Ben Jobe, frontside 180 nosegrind, Southbank, 2005.

When Slam still had a Covent Garden store basically, before the pandemic.
Yeah. It would have been around then. because that kind of wasn’t too long after we started the book. And also good to mention that designer Justin Day, who’s a friend of mine I used to work with when we were at Kingpin. He was a designer there and we became friends and worked on a lot of stuff and also Justin was a person to bounce off ideas with from the beginning. But yeah, he was involved in that book from the get go, like, doing layouts and stuff and being very patient with it.

So you’ve been working on this book for a while huh?
It’s been finished for over a couple of years now, which was weird, but I couldn’t quite get the printing right. I had all the photos selected for a while. Basically the last things were trying to figure out the cover, the artwork and printing was the last process.

Why did you decide to focus on just London for the book? You were travelling all over the place back then…
Yes I did travel a lot back then, but I’d always be taking photos in London. And yeah, I think when I looked at all of the photos from all of those years of photography, it felt like the natural thing to show is the work shot in London. It was a good opportunity for me to put it out there with that, rather than like a collection of photos all over the place, which the narrative would become blurred a little bit, if that makes sense.

Olly Todd, frontside 180 sw. crooks, 2001.

Yep. And then what can you talk about the name Naughty?
Naughty… Okay, so like 2000 to 2010 are known as the noughties. And for me, growing up, I always remember that word ‘naughty’ as slang, would be when something’s quite good. So that to me is what skating is… Also there’s something quite London about the word naughty. So I quite liked it.

I’m thinking of like, Nugget, sitting on the ledge at Southbank getting a photo in the magazine, you know?
Yeah, haha.

Nugget (Gabriel Pluckrose) was extra naughty.
Yeah, I’m stoked Nugget’s in there. It’s exactly that, it’s everything this book should be, like a photo of Nugget… Just think how much energy and how much positivity Nugget brought to the scene. You know, when you’ve been in Slam and Nugget would pop in and you just be laughing at everything and like that kind of awesome feeling from back then.

And now you work with Nugget.
I do! Nugget will be designing these Palace clothes, and then he’ll come out and style the lookbook and stuff. Yeah, he’s really integral. He’s amazing at what he does. I mean, they all are, everyone there does amazing stuff.

Thanks Dom. See you at the book launch!
Thank you! It was a pleasure. And yes, I’ll see you Wednesday night!

Naughty will be available at the Palace shops in London, New York, Tokyo and Los Angeles, and select skate shops in the UK soon.

Naughty, 2024