Probably most people reading this have seen something by Dennis Scholz. His work has been featured in all the relevant skateboard magazines for many years. It is highly possible that some of your favorite people have been in front of his lens. In recent years he has also grown into a new role at adidas Skateboarding. Helping the Berlin part of the operation stay on track, being the ears and eyes that a company like that needs. Our working relationship with Dennis has been great, most of the Berlin scene has reaped the rewards of those seeds. It was during one of those pre-planning meetings in his Berlin-Prenzlauer Berg office that he first told me he wanted to release a video part. I am not going to lie after seeing it, I wanted to have it be part of our “Place Presents” series. The reasoning being 1. because the footage was good and 2. it is so important to show that the people working to make skateboarding what it is, also get shown. Low-key Dennis worked hard on this part and he humbly wants you to press play.
All photos by Dennis Scholz.
Interview by Roland Hoogwater.
Hey Dennis, thank you for welcoming me into your apartment. Are you ready for your close-up?
Great! So being that you are a traveling skateboard photographer, how much of this part was you sneaking in and asking the filmer to quickly film you and how much was filmed at home in Berlin?
It is not as much tour footage as I thought. When it came down to editing the part there was more Berlin footage than expected. Because of Corona and my drive to finish the part I did a lot of tricks during the Berlin winter. I felt like Berlin opened itself to me. For example on some Skatedeluxe Berlin missions I would see certain spots and take a quick iPhone pic to remember, later I would then come back and skate them myself.
Funny, you didn’t skate it with them. I remember before I had ever seen you skate. We were at the Skatehalle Berlin and Kim Wibbelt was Kickflipping this pyramid. You were shooting it and I asked you if you could Kickflip it – I wasn’t quite sure I could do it – and you said quite confidently: “Yeah, I think I might be able to do it first try.”.
(Laughs) Really? I don’t think I could do it today, I used to do way more flip tricks.
It is not that bad! You have a couple of really cool flips in your part. The Fakie Big Spin Flip stands out.
I think that line took me 5 trips to make. Not because of the line, that took me about 7 tries. But that spot is made out of wood and in winter even if it has been dry for 2 days that spot is still wet. Berlin was entirely dry, except for that spot! But I wanted it in there, I saw Malte Spitz & Koni Rutschmann skate it and I knew it would look great on video. Valle Rosomako is the king of that spot!
I like that line, it is a standout. But what are your personal standout moments? A part can be like a photo album, it is not always about what you see, it is also about the moment before or after.
The line in Athens where I Ollie up the bench, Ollie to the next bench, and then Frontside 5-0 this metal box. The box is actually a grill and this guy was grilling corn on there the whole day. After work in the evenings, he would lock the grill and I saw that. We went by 2-3 separate times until the moment was right. We put the grill in the right place and I did it quickly. I like that clip especially because we went vintage shopping before, so, I had fresh pants and a fresh red shirt. That got me a little extra stoked to do the trick.
When it comes to filming, I like things to be a little mission. My ender happened on a crazy day. I had seen Tom Karangelov do a Backside 50-50 to Frontside Boardslide to Fakie there. I felt I could do it the other way around. But, on that day I had my first car accident. I went to my office to grab the camera, I had one of these carshare things. And I backed out and rammed a DHL truck. It completely fucked up the hood. While my friend was waiting for me at Pappeplatz skatepark, I arrived still shook, we skated for a bit, calmed down and, went down to the spot. It was a pretty bad start to the day but I kinda wanted to do the trick, even more, to flip the mood. In the end, it all worked out.
My personal favorite is the line where you Smith Grind this bench and you Ollie this weird pyramid. And this guy is bothering you?
That guy wasn’t bothering me. That is Nassim Lachhab’s brother, he is a magician and he is amazing! That was on a Titus trip to Morocco, he was so stoked that we came to Rabat to skate, so he came to hang out and perform his magic all the time. When I tried the line he had just come from his day job in his work outfit straight up. That line was done partially because of Dennis Ludwig. I was shooting Alex Elfving do a Kickflip over that same spot and after we got the photo Ludi said: “Come on, give it a few tries, I am gonna film it!”. Fun-fact was that I found that spot, so, it was cool to get a clip there myself. A bit basic but I like it.
Are you critical of your own skating?
Was it hard to make a part with the knowledge that people were going to see it?
But are you happy with the way your part turned out?
Great, I think you did well!
Thank you. You are never completely happy, but I feel like this shows me having fun and at the same time this is how I want my skating to look. Growing older, I feel myself becoming more critical of the way I want to put things out. I was very involved in the editing and the music selection. In the end, I enjoyed the process, and that is the most important thing.
You work in skateboarding, and because you see so much good skating do you feel like you have to show your best as well?
Yes, for sure. I feel that in the response when I upload a skate clip on my IG. I could post a VOGUE cover that I shot but it would get less feedback than I would get by posting a line at Dogshit (skatepark). That fact is super cool because it shows my heritage, where I came from and I think that is important. When it comes to the part, I think I wanted to prove to myself that I still had a good part in me – not like I’m old and it’s the final one or something. But I just feel like it’s so important to be eager and focused and know what you’re capable of – and know how you want things to look.
I feel ya’ I have the same kind of thoughts.
I feel like we both skate better than like 10 years ago. Skateboarding is a mental game as much as it is physical. You have to feel confident and with so many good skaters around you, that becomes easier.
I also feel like skateboarding has become friendlier to more types of skating. you don’t have to get on the big rails. You can skate curbs and do fun tricks and it just looks good, as long as your trick selection is on point.
You can see that in this part. Combining that in the line where you do 50-50 up, 5-0 up, and kickflip backside tailslide down.
That was me fucking with Yannick Schall! I used to always do those tricks in a game of skate situation and he always hated it. “That’s not a trick! Doing a wheelie out of it!”. But in reality, that line was a struggle, because there is no pushing involved, so, going full speed was a really big part of getting the line to work. I didn’t want to do the last trick going 1 km/h.
If you are going on tour, do you often try to get tricks?
I don’t try to when I’m the photographer, it’s important to focus on doing the job first. But sometimes it can be really helpful for the whole group to skate all together. Skatetrips live and die by the vibe of the sessions and by me trying stuff from time to time I can lift their spirits a bit and even motivate people. Skaters have egos and if even “the photographer” is getting tricks there are no excuses.
Why do you think I always skate with people on tour? I am trying to get the session going, which can at times be understandably hard during a 2-week tour.
True! I only do it if I know I can do the trick within 10-15 minutes. I don’t want to hold up the crew.
Still, many of the tricks went down on trips, like the 5-0 on the grill in Athens.
That was actually a homie tour, straight up skating with the boys, not a job. I think those are so important to keep the flame alive. I remember talking to Leo Preisinger in a bar once about skating yourself and keeping the motivation up. While he’s skating on a less regular level he said that shooting a sick photo just gives him more fulfillment. I was thinking about that, but learning and trying new things on a skateboard is still more fun to me than shooting photos. Of course when everything works out, you’re at a once in a lifetime spot and nail the photo that’s an equal type of hype. But doing a trick yourself is still the best feeling. Does that sound weird?
No! You need to remember that you started skating and everything else came from that. So it is actually really important to keep that perspective. I also think it is important to tell people that you don’t only shoot skating. You also shoot running or other things.
True, it is important to shoot multiple sorts of things. I remember when I just finished university and I was just shooting skating. Meeting people at the Bänke and trying to get tricks together with Dan Schulz (filmer). I think I lasted for about a month, after that I realized I need multiple types of jobs to keep me balanced. I really lost my will to skate, dragging a backpack with flashes around. It just didn’t make me feel like skating. I just don’t like the thought of having to shoot a good photo to pay rent. That is not a nice way to hang with your friends. It was still fun but I needed something more to keep doing it all.
So I was looking around and I had a good connection to adidas and I managed to do some cool running shoots for them. After that came many other commercial projects for multiple companies. And in turn, that all lead me to learn more as a photographer. It showed me that there is more to it than carrying a heavy backpack with flashes (laughs). I think for me it is healthy to do things outside of the skateboard world.
So going away from skating has actually lit a fire again.
Yes, I also tried different things and took smaller cameras out, or only shot with natural light. It really brought the fun back into it, being more flexible, skating around, having fun. So, if something happens in front of the camera, that’s cool but it is not the end all be all. That’s the thing with skateboarding, you can’t force it.
In that sense, skateboarding changed as well. Nowadays, a point-and-shoot photo can have as much of a chance of landing in a skate mag as a generator and lights type of photo does.
True, but back in the day, if you didn’t have 4 flashes with you, you couldn’t shoot. It is all part of growing up, which goes for both my own mindset and skateboarding as a culture.
You did say before we started the interview, that you felt Berlin wasn’t the last stop on your journey, where do you feel will be the last stop?
I don’t know, not the US, I like the east-coast but I don’t like the west-coast at all. Maybe Copenhagen or Amsterdam. CPH is sick! But my girlfriend loves Amsterdam so we will see, the pandemic has shown us that you can do your work from almost anywhere and those places are not much more than a 1-hour flight away from Berlin. People from the US talk about Europe like it is one country, which doesn’t seem very educated at first but size- and travel-wise it can be.
Coming from a different country and living in a foreign land I can only say that you should give it a go. Interestingly you will never feel more German than you would outside of Germany. I don’t mean that in a nationalistic way but you will notice all the microscopic differences that each country in Europe has to one another. Dennis, that was my last question. Thank you for this interview.
You mean differences like that we don’t deep-fry Snickers bars? Joking, thank you! I am excited & even a bit nervous for this to come out.