Living Proof Interview
Living Proof Magazine
Featured Artist – BLOTTO
Intro and painting by Nikolas Greenblatt
Ever since Dean “Blotto” Gray first picked up a camera, I’ve watched him transition from an ambitious, enthusiastic photographer into an ambitious, confident documentarian. His photographs seep from a creative eye that, over the years, dilated into a wide-angled lens that exposes a different side of snowboard photography and snaps the standard of even the snowboarding staple “action shot.” As I got to know, and work with, Blotto, I’ve wondered what gets his shutter going-from his influences to his approach, and since this is the sports issue, his favorite teams. He still wouldn’t tell us where he got the name “Blotto” from though.
Tell us a little about yourself and what you do.
I picked up a skateboard in 1986 in Phoenix, Arizona. Mini ramps, street and crete led me to the frozen wave in Flagstaff during ’92. Been on the snow ever since. I’m the Principal Photographer at Burton Snowboards, documenting the global and rookie teams at photo shoots, contests and tours.
How did you get involved in snowboarding?
Our posse of skate rats would hang out at this local shop called Bare Cover in Phoenix. One of the co-owners would always go ‘snowboarding’ on the weekends, but we really couldn’t comprehend it because we lived in the Phoenix where it’s always hot. Then our buddy, Craig Boone, went on a skiing trip with his family and came back claiming snowboarding was beyond fun. So we tried it and were sold immediately.
Would you consider it a sport?
Snowboarding has always been more of a lifestyle for me, a great form of self-expression. I’ve never referred to it as a ‘sport,’ or worse, an ‘extreme sport.’
When did you make the transition between snowboarder and photographer?
Luckily, I realized my snowboarding skills weren’t on par with the big dogs, so I picked up a camera to shoot them instead.
What first inspired your interest in photography? Does it still inspire you today?
Mofo’s images in Thrasher Magazine inspired me to pick up a camera. Skateboard photography can’t be matched in quality or originality. So yes, it definitely still inspires me to this day.
What do you try to convey through your photographs?
A farsighted aesthetic.
First camera? First snowboard?
Leffler sold me his Minolta for 30 bucks. Boone drove me all the way across Phoenix to get a Winterstick for a 100 bucks.
How did you get involved with Burton and shooting the Burton Team?
I did a bit of Road Managing with the team, and it parlayed into this photographer gig.
Has your approach to photography changed now that it’s your job?
It hasn’t changed my approach to photographing itself. The job has changed what equipment I use on a regular basis (ie: Digital).
How has snowboarding changed since you started photographing it?
Riders abilities on snow has been the biggest change over the last decade.
Is it better to be spontaneous or have a planned shot in mind when capturing snowboarding?
Half the time we’re planning out shoots (and shots). The other 50%, it’s purely documenting what’s happening.
What better represents snowboarding: the action shot, or the behind-the-scenes sort of lifestyle shot?
What snowboarder of days past do you wish you could shoot?
What’s the weirdest place you’ve been to?
Snowboarding indoors in Japan in August. It feels like you’re in a giant meat locker, then you walk outside and it’s a 100 degrees.
What’s your favorite spot to travel to?
Japan in the winter for the endless pow.
Ever been detained while going through customs?
For some reason no.
Are you a sports fan at all?
I’m a sports fan for sure. I take weeks off at a time to watch the NBA and MLB Playoffs.
What teams do you follow?
Phoenix Suns and Boston Red Sox.
Most hated sports team?
San Antonio Spurs, FOR SURE.
Favorite athlete of all time?
Best game you’ve ever seen?
Phoenix Suns vs. Dallas Mavericks – Triple Overtime – 2007 season.
Favorite era of basketball?
Right now because you gotta be a team to win.
Have you seen any crazy sports in any of the countries you’ve traveled to?
I still don’t understand Cricket.