It’s no secret that I grew up skateboarding and worshipping all my favorite pro skaters. I remember hanging out at United Boardshop for hours when I was a teenager. I was allowed to go behind the cases and help out around the shop. I still remember when Chomp On This came out on VHS. It wasn’t hard to miss, it was bright yellow and it was on constant replay in the shop. For the uninitiated, it was a total joke skate video featuring skate photographers and videographers doing amateur tricks on mediocre ledges and rails. It was nothing worth talking about yet it was so mesmerizing. For me, it humanized skate pros and the people who filmed them. It just looked like so much fun to be there with them.
Fast forward like 20 something years and Atiba Jefferson is speaking at my school. Imagine how stoked 15 year old me would be to know I made this happen. Let me tell you how…
To teach about Action and Sports photography, I had my students do presentations on photogs they admired. Among the many presentations on Chris Burkard and Jimmy Chin, I had one group choose Atiba Jefferson.
Delighted. I snapped a photo and sent it to Cory Keen for a chuckle. About 10 minutes later, he sent me back a screenshot from Atiba that just said “yo this means so much”. Fast forward to the following Monday and I’m greeting Atiba at the entrance to my school. He’s checking out my classroom, asking about the equipment and overall just being a genuinely kind person.
Needles to say but he was an amazing speaker to the students. He didn’t go to college and wasn’t spouting off about the importance of higher ed for it’s own sake. Instead he was explaining how he practices gratitude every day and believes that the key to his success is just being a genuine and hard working person no matter how big or small the project he’s working on is. Of course the students were pumped to see his work and hear his story.
Afterwards, he stuck around and chatted with the students, signed autographs and gave away a few signed prints to the original three students who chose to spotlight him. All in all, a class act.
For being such a celebrity in his own right, he was as down-to-earth as one could be, a super cool example for the kids that being a self-centered jerk doesn’t translate well out there in the working world.
I have many more photos from the day but due to COPPA, I’m going to respect their privacy.