The release of Ed Templeton’s Wayward Cognitions is timed perfectly – perhaps to take his mind of the fact that he has now retired from professional skateboarding. As far as diversions go, it’s a pretty solid effort – an excellent curation of Ed’s prolific photographic output over years of travel, stateside and abroad. VICE recently caught up with Ed to talk about life after skateboarding – as usual, he’s got a lot to say. The interview can be read in its entirety here.
Thematically, Wayward Cognitions is a departure from your previous photo books. Can you talk about the process of picking the images for this book?
I just wanted the freedom of not having a specific theme for once. Most of my books are very specific, to the point where the title of the book pretty much explains the subject matter. Those books have come from having a big archive to mess with. I just have fun searching for words and coming up with groupings. Teenage Kissers was born that way. I searched the word “kiss” in my archive and had so many photos of people kissing that I was able to narrow it down to “teenagers kissing”—although technically not all of the people in the book are teenagers.
For this book, I had a title in my head before I even started thinking about what would be in the book. I was thinking about how my style of photography produces a lot of stray thoughts. All the photos that I shoot that are not shot for any reason or theme—which is most of them—are just stray dogs with no place to go. I just walk around shooting people, and most of it does not fall into the category of something that I will use for a future project. So that was the spawn of the title, Wayward Cognitions, which is a more poetic way of saying stray thoughts.
The bulk of your book seems to be strangers passing in front of your lens, many of whom don’t appear to realize you are taking their photo. Have you had people freak out on you?
I don’t use a flash for the most part—only natural light. Also, I have developed a few techniques that make my shooting fluid and essentially unnoticed for the most part. Or even if you did see me, you would have some doubt over whether I was shooting you or something else. There’s some acting involved sometimes, other times Deanna [Templeton’s wife] helps me by throwing a screen, or talking to me really loudly so we look like we couldn’t possibly have been shooting someone else.
I also feel hyper aware of all the people around me. I’m not only thinking about the person I’m shooting but about the people possibly seeing me shoot them, including their partners. You can’t go in with blinders on. That homeless guy passed out might have some buddies across the street watching him, or that girl doing cartwheels in a bikini might have a meathead boyfriend waiting to stomp some ass, so you have to be aware of the whole scene you are a part of. I pick and choose my battles for sure. I have passed on photos to avoid a likely confrontation. It’s not worth it, there are other photos down the block. The times where I have just said screw it and went in shooting regardless of my surroundings have mostly turned out OK though. Nobody has freaked out on me.