In Conversation with James Whineray

Photo: Blair Gauld

Photo: Blair Gauld

James Whineray boasts a diverse resume; as a photographer, his work has been collected and exhibited nationally and internationally. As a skateboarder and the founder of Bilde Paper, a magazine profiling skateboarding culture in conversation, he's sold copies everywhere from Warsaw to Dubai. After a childhood spent on the road, the multi-tasker has found home on the laidback coast of Freemantle, WA, and his relaxed approach to life is reflected in his photographic work, which celebrates meaning in everyday experiences and is rarely planned out. We threw a line over to WA to catch up with James about life, skateboarding, and his plans for the future.

I believe a congratulations are in order; you became a father last year. How has that changed your life? 

The strangest thing about all the change is that there is no change. We have less time to do some things, but other than that it’s all much the same as it was before. I guess one major change is that all of a sudden everything in the future seems more important; a little less 'yolo'. 

Photo: James Whineray

Photo: James Whineray

What’s important for the future now?

As clichéd as it sounds, I’ve never really worried about where I'll be in ten years, but when you’ve got a kid you’re not worrying about yourself anymore; all of a sudden it's not, "Where will I be in ten years?", it's, "Where will Kit be on his tenth birthday?". I don’t want to be rich but I also want to go on a holiday every now and then and not be stuck in some shitty job, unhappy and over my lifestyle. I'd like to be doing something for money that I'm proud of, but also keep a nice lifestyle. So yeah, you have to start making plans. I’m making plans. 

You travelled quite a bit throughout your childhood. What effect do you think that had on you?

Travel tends to lead to more travel, or at least the urge. Unfortunately we’re in a position with our work and life right now where we can't travel for a while, which I find daunting. We did a big trip a couple of years ago to the Middle East and Europe; that fixed us for a while. Now we do lots of road trips and small holidays which fills an ever-expanding void. I would love to drive around the Middle East for a year or something, though. Probably not happening for a while. 

Photo: James Whineray

Photo: James Whineray

You’ve been skateboarding most of your life. How old were you when you first picked up a board?

I was travelling with my mum in an old converted school bus when I was about eight years old. We had stopped at a caravan park for a little while and a tradie helped me make a board by bolting a few bits of ply together and planing the shape of the kicks out. I even painted the old Alien workshop gas mask logo on the bottom inspired by an old skate mag found at the op shop. I started around then but got really into it at around twelve. I’m thirty now. I really wish I had kept that first D.I.Y board... you never understand the importance of things when you’re young. 

That guy sounds like a legend. How long did you use the D.I.Y board before you got a proper one?

I think it took quite a while. A full set up in the nineties was at least $250; my parents weren't poor but that was still a shitload of money to spend on what was considered a 'toy', as you hear almost every skateboarder say when reflecting on their childhood. I remember getting a proper ‘double kick’ skateboard out of the local skate shop when I was ten and I think I had the D.I.Y from around seven so I guess to directly answer your question, three years? 

Photo: James Whineray

Photo: James Whineray

Do you think skateboarding helped you deal with being uprooted to new places as a kid?

Definitely, I’ve moved around a bit and you can meet skateboarders wherever you go. It makes arriving somewhere new a lot easier when you know you’ve got some friends before you even get off the plane. Making friends can be pretty tough, luckily skateboarders will never know. Well, maybe not never. 

Do you plan to introduce your son to skateboarding once he’s old enough?

Yeah, I think its a good thing to be doing at a young age. Having a passion in something from a young age is important and if that something can follow through to your twenties, thirties, and so on, that seems even better. I would also like for him to surf. I'll have to wait and see what he’s interested in, I guess. Who knows, maybe he'll want to ride scooters instead? 

Is that every skateboarder’s nightmare? Your child wanting to ride a scooter?

Haha, nah not really. I honestly think I wouldn't care what Kit wants to do. People ask me this a lot and as predictable as it is, my answer is always 'I just want him to be happy, smiley emoji...' 

Photo: James Whineray

Photo: James Whineray

You’re now based in Fremantle, Western Australia. What appeals to you most about the area?

First of all Fremantle is home but more so we like the quiet lifestyle. Fremantle is home to a mere twenty five thousand people which also makes it a lot easier to work in almost any sort of industry, as there’s less competition. I work primarily as a photographer and theres plenty of work but not a tonne of competition. 

As a photographer, you’ve said that you enjoy photographing people who aren’t ready or aware that they’re being photographed. What kind of stories do you aim to capture?

Sometimes I work on projects that focus on a particular story or subject, but for the most part I simply carry a camera around and take pictures of whatever I'm interested in. As I take pictures for work I tend not to go out and take pictures with something in mind. I would love to work on a project and I am sure I will one day, just not now. 

Photo: James Whineray

Photo: James Whineray

What’s your go-to camera set up?

I don’t get too caught up in photo gear. I use an old Olympus point and shoot 35mm camera and a pretty stock standard old Canon DSLR for work. I wish I cared more but it's so hard to keep up with everything. I try to minimise my computer time as it is, and new gear requires extra computer time in my head. 

You’ve also started a bi-annual skateboarding magazine, Bilde Paper, exploring skateboarding culture. Why did you create the magazine, and how does Bilde differ from other skateboarding publications?

I had an idea a couple of years ago to do a zine that was quite simply nicely designed and not full of ads. After working on it for a while I started getting some people involved and found a bunch of great content, and thought I may as well try do it a bit bigger and make a proper magazine. I was probably a bit ambitious doing it myself as it's been pretty hard to get the second issue done in terms of funding; that’s by far been the biggest hurdle. I also decided to print on this beautiful paper which costs an arm and a leg. It would have been real smart to start with something smaller and cheaper that I would easily be able to continue doing. 

What can we expect in the second issue?

It's all under wraps until it happens. A good friend of mine taught me a valuable lesson a while back: 'Don’t say it, do it'. I’m trying to stick with this for Vol. 02 as unfortunately it's all up in the air at this stage regarding the money stuff. 


Before we say goodbye...

Morning or night? 5:30 am walks with the boy. 

What will you never do? A 360 flip down a set of stairs. 

Define success? Happiness. 

Where were you 5 years ago? Same place I am right now. 

Where do you want to retire? Maybe Mexico near a beach with a point break?

Photo: Blair Gauld

Photo: Blair Gauld

 Find more of James's work on and @james_whineray. Special thanks to Blair Gauld for the imagery.