222: Skin Phillips/After The Goldrush
Photographer Skin Phillips, this week’s guest, has had one of the most extraordinary careers in British skateboarding. Completely self-taught, and driven by a thirst for knowledge and a desire to experience life behind the borders of his hometown of Swansea, Skin came up in the late 80s and early 90s.
Initially published in RaD and mentored by the great Tim Leighton-Boyce, he soon followed in footsteps of Bod Boyle, Steve Douglas and Don Brown by heading to the States, where he embarked upon a truly remarkable career in the US industry. He was a staff photographer at Transworld, and eventually ended up running the entire thing during that institution’s undoubted heyday. Later, he took a role as team manager at adidas Skateboarding.
An amazing CV -but this brief overview really doesn’t do justice to Skin’s outsized influence on global skate culture during this period. He shot with absolutely everybody – and I mean everybody – and has the tales and respect that go with such an outsized CV, as a quick look at the comments of any his recent Instagram posts will demonstrate.
So far, so legendary, and if you checked out Skin’s Nine Club chat from the other year, you’re probably familiar with that part of his story. What hasn’t been so well documented is the way things changed quickly for Skin after he was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Finding himself unable to stay in the States, he returned home to Swansea where he’s spent the intervening years coping with the new realities of his life.
I went to see Skin in Swansea early in January 2024. We cover the history, sure. But we also cover plenty of themes that aren’t discussed too frequently in the surf, skate and snow industries. How quickly his life and career circumstances changed after his diagnosis, and how he’s coped with this, as well as the mental challenges this has entailed.
This is a tale about the challenges of dealing with a diagnosis that changes your life overnight, when there’s no safety net in place, and you’re left to work it out.
It’s also about the last thirty years of the UK, and the political manoeuvring that has wrought such havoc during that time, as epitomised by Skin’s South Wales home turf. And it’s about British working class culture, and how things such as skateboarding, football, music and art are the light in the darkness.
It’s an important one, this. Big thanks to Skin for this poignant and powerful conversation (and to listener Marc Evans for the help setting it up).