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How skateboarding and an iPhone helped this photographer develop his creative eye

Photographer Nate Carroll, in a green flannel and blue hat, sitting on the ground at a skatepark taking pictures with a camera
Screenshot from Capturing the Moment: Democracy, a series featuring photographer Nate Carroll. 

Take a diverse group of talented photographers and ask them to explore the theme of democracy in America. What’s the result? Capturing The Moment: Democracy is a series following four talented photographers on assignment as they seek to capture unique images representative of democracy in America.

Skateboarding is democracy — at least to photographer Nate Carroll, who is based in Richmond, Virginia. He says there’s freedom in skateboarding and it brings people from different cultures and experiences together.

“We just live in a fake society,” he said. “We’re so brainwashed. We’re so conditioned. Especially in American culture, it’s kind of conditioned to white experience, Black experience, poor experience, rich experience, you know what I mean? I think for me, skateboarding breaks down that social conditioning and it’s just like this is who I am.”

Carroll was always interested in showing the world through his eyes. He couldn’t afford a camera, so he started developing his photography skills with his iPhone 7 Plus, and he encourages others to create images with any tools they have available. The diverse and open-minded community he found in skateboarding helped him develop his creative eye for capturing photos. 

As he got more involved in photography, he bought a camera and learned about different styles and techniques, like long exposures. Through street photography and skateboarding, Carroll discovered that most of us have a lot in common with each other.

“If you go to whatever skate park, you're not going to see one race,” Carroll said. “You're going to see multiple. When Martin Luther King talks about the character and getting to know the character before race, you know, that’s skateboarding.”

Hear more of Carroll’s story with Capturing the Moment: Democracy. Watch Thursday, January 6 on VPM PBS or on PBS.org.