In education, resilience is the new buzzword. While we used to celebrate inherent “intelligence,” we’ve thankfully come to understand that life is filled with abrupt wheelbites, bound to send each of us body-spackling into the pavement, whether we’re “gifted” or not. It’s through resilience then—or “grit”—that we dust ourselves off and nurse our wounds before giving it another go to eventually stick a handful of landings, riding out those small, but memorable moments of triumph.
To this new educational paradigm, I can think of no more metaphorically appropriate pursuit than skateboarding–it’s the freakin’ hardest! Landing a new trick for the very first time can take thousands upon thousands of attempts, each attempt putting one’s body at risk of certain impact with a hard surface. And then, when you do stick it, repeating that success might take another thousand attempts.
It takes grit. Success is determined by resiliency.
Thirty-three-year-old photographer Chris Jolly has become a master of framing up these small moments of triumph.
“Skateboarding to normal people is just another hobby that kids do, but to a skateboarder it is so much deeper than that,” says Jolly, who has been documenting Jacksonville’s vibrant skate culture for the better part of a decade.
Skateboarders from Northeast Florida have historically punched above their weight. And while he’s never been wanting for talented, photogenic subjects, Jolly’s work broadens the scope beyond simply skater-and-stunt. In Jolly’s imagery, Jax’s urban environs are central. Stairs and handrails and otherwise practical city ephemera add captivating geometry to timestamped compositions of skaters mid-slide or in flight.
“We look at the world differently,” says Jolly of his four-wheeled compatriots. “The feeling you get when you are out with your friends working towards a trick for a video or photo and you get what you went out for is indescribable.”
Jolly’s work has been featured in several prominent publications. And though photo rates are paltry these days compared to what they were at the height of print media, and younger documentarians of the culture have moved to iPhone videos and ad-hoc edits uploaded to IG, Jolly persists. He remains resilient and inspired.
“Our city is jam-packed with great photographers–even outside of skateboarding–and I am happy to still be shooting skating, along with everything else in this city.”
This feature originally appeared in Void Magazine’s February 2021 issue under the headline “True Grit: Photographer Chris Jolly documents the grit and triumphs of Jacksonville’s unique skateboard culture.”