Over the course of the last nigh on two decades, Joe has ticked every box in terms of Sidewalk coverage. He’s landed himself on the cover on more then one occasion, has found himself the subject of near enough every interview format going and you’d struggle to accurately count the amount of tour photos and random Witness appearances he’s made. It goes without saying that his coverage doesn’t stop there either; he had an equally as constant presence in Document during the mag’s ten year run and frequently brought Manchester to the pan-European table via Kingpin over the years, though despite all this, his first published photo can be found safely tucked away in Sidewalk’s dusty archives.
Years before he’d created an unrivalled back-catalogue of technically progressive video parts, towards the tail-end of Sidewalk issue 25, a then 14-year-old Joe Gavin could be found midway through a backside nosegrind at Manchester’s infamous Town Hall, even though this specific statue wasn’t his regular city centre spot of choice.
I’ve said this before but the Gasworks was our spot and that was pretty much all we skated, but I remember we just used to skate curbs there but they weren’t too legit for a photo, even then. The Town Hall was kind of the older dude’s spot. People like Mot, Femi, Ste Malloy, Keith Miller, Dan and Tom Henshaw, Ben Morley and many more were all killing it there daily, so I felt a little intimidated at first. Plus the ledge seemed well high when you were a nipper.
Since arriving in Manchester the previous year to study, Milton Keynes native Leo Sharp had been contributing photos of his newly adopted scene to the mag on an increasingly regular basis, though this was to be Joe and Leo’s first encounter with each other.
I already knew Leo was legit and wasn’t telling me what to do, and I’m not sure he came out to just shoot my New Blood; he was probably shredding himself then just got the photo. I’m not sure I felt pressure but I definitely remember thinking, “shit, I’ve got to do something”.
Joe can actually remember the first time he saw the photo in print, too –
When my friend’s subscription came through I ran to his house and got all hyped; him and my other friend started kind of play fighting and he fell and split his knee open real bad, to the bone. I got all panicked and called an ambulance but I remember flicking through the mag as I was on the phone; I was well keen to see it.
I also remember taking the mag into school and proper bigging myself up (laughs).
Whereas Joe and his crew favoured their aforementioned Gasworks playground, the Town Hall was undeniably a staple spot of the Manchester scene until council made a half-arsed attempt to skate-stop the hallowed statue in the early 2000’s.
They put cobbles around the ledge thinking that was it, but they actually turned it into a cool gap in, gap out spot that people have done some rad shit on. I think Manchester – like any other city – has changed a lot since the days of deserted Sunday’s and kids smoking weed on the steps of their local town hall. I just don’t think you would be able to session it all day any more. People do still go there to film a trick or two, though.
Despite shooting with a photographer he didn’t yet properly know at a spot he wasn’t overly familiar with, looking back on his New Blood from 2015, Joe says he’s still stoked that this was his first photo – It could have so easily have been me doing a stinkbug at Bones, but luckily I got this, which to me kind of sums up the 90’s steez that I was so fond of and desperately trying to emulate. That single fisheye ledge photo like Menace or Alien Workshop ads at the time…that’s all I wanted. I think I have a Gershon A-Team board and a pair of DVS Stealth’s on as well (laughs).
In the 17 years since this nosegrind first introduced an unknown kid from Manchester to the waiting skateboard world, it’s safe to say that Joe has been there and done that on both sides of the camera, in almost every respect. Full-length videos, regular scene edits, educational compilations, event coverage, comedy, documentaries, social media domination…as far as the skateboard media goes, Joe has quite literally created the lot. He’s even been known to turn his hand to photography from time to time too. With that in mind, Joe offers up these parting words…
One thing that day kind of made me realise – even though Leo lived around Manchester – is that every time a skate photographer is around and shooting photos, just get in there and try your hardest. That was a thing that I stuck with, whether it was with Leo or whoever else. Don’t feel bad if you don’t land your trick or you stress out. As a skater that wants to come up, you just have to try and go and meet these people, and as a photographer they just want people who are really keen and have a spot in mind. I used to feel a bit awkward skating with someone I didn’t really know but as I’ve gotten a bit older I’ve realised it’s something that’s really important, and I am very thankful to all the photographers I’ve had the pleasure of skating and shooting with.