Nazir Wayman, a Philadelphia-born photographer, is a self-taught visionary dedicated to capturing the very essence of his dynamic city. His lens offers a diverse perspective, much like the multifaceted spirit of Philadelphia itself. Employing a documentary approach, Nazir delves deep into the vibrant subcultures that define this city on a global scale. From the thriving skateboarding scene, a realm he intimately knows as a skateboarder himself, he grants viewers a front-row seat to witness moments of pure enchantment.
Drawing inspiration from the early 2000s adidas classics, Nazir's work mirrors the iconic design elements of those legendary shoes. From the unmistakable zigzag midsole to the bold, wide 3-Stripes, his imagery resonates with a palpable sense of nostalgia.
Ahead of our upcoming art show, we got the chance to sit down with Nazir Wayman to gain deeper insights into his journey as a photographer and his profound connection with Philadelphia's vibrant skate culture.
IF YOU COULD DESCRIBE PHILLY SKATE CULTURE IN 1 WORD, WHAT WOULD IT BE AND WHY?
I have a very unusual word to describe Philly’s skate scene. I would choose the word "Cousin." If you have more than 1 cousin, then you know exactly what I’m talking about, y'know. Every family has that cousin that they never see, that cousin that is like a brother to them, that cousin you absolutely hate. There are all different variations, but at the end of the day, we’re still a family.
WHY DO YOU THINK IT’S IMPORTANT TO DOCUMENT SKATE CULTURE THROUGH PHOTOGRAPHY?
I think it’s important to document Philly's skate culture because of how rich the history is and also it's what I embody. Being a skateboarder, going down to LOVE and Muni damn near every day as a kid until now, it was only right. I think about the photos and videos that have come out of the old LOVE Park days and think about how authentic and rich the time period was then and how impactful it was to have that documented work exist to inspire everyone going forward, even during the final days. My homie Jonathan Rentschler documented the final days of LOVE Park in his book “LOVE,” and I was just a kid then and had no appreciation for photography too much. But as time went on and I’ve become deeper into documentation of my life, I thought as a photographer and the next generation it only seemed fitting that someone who was there all the time with a camera could carry the torch, and document the Municipal building in a similar way being that they were on the same corner and tells the story of Philadelphia’s history and a shit city planning committee. Muni was supposed to be a lifetime project for me, something I never considered would be gone so soon. Vincent Kling is rolling in his grave now that all the center most plazas he’s built are all flat ground with no architectural intelligence. I never thought Muni would truly be gone until I was at least 50 years old but it’s whatever it’s crunch time now tho.
HOW DID YOU FIND YOUR WAY TO PHOTOGRAPHY?
My way to photography wasn’t one way; it was a snowball of things. The week that LOVE Park got shut down, I lost my dad to pneumonia. I remember being at LOVE with my phone on airplane mode and hours later after skating, I get a call saying that they were gonna pull the plug on him, so I skated over to Penn to see my dad alive one last time. His death made me realize how important memories were; he used to always have a bunch of VHS tapes, Polaroids, and prints in these huge bins in his closet. A year later I got this insane urge to go through his photos and found out that almost every piece of his archive got ruined in a flood. The heartbroken, gut-wrenching feeling that was, just fueled me to make my own memories and prints and stuff to show my kids. You know, as you’re taking photos, you are only getting better and learning what to and what not to do, so that you can have a good photo. I have to pay homage to 2 of my best friends, Kris Brown, and Nasim Jones. Kris and I hung out damn near every day during our high school days after school. I would either catch the bus from Philly to Abington, or he would come to Philly to skate. His school had a photo class so he was shooting only film and printing in the darkroom and everything. As he was getting better, he would give me cameras that the school would let him borrow so I could shoot. Nasim was my friend that went to my high school and he was one of the first people to do everything, even though he stayed super lowkey and humble about it. But he would every now and then take his camera with him around and take photos of the Philadelphia Urban Landscape, and I thought that was cool. But I had no interest in doing that; I just solely wanted to make things to put into a box for my future kids which involved my friends and family and me. As time went on, the interest of what photos meant just got deeper and deeper, and it felt like the urge to learn was never-ending. I’m sorry; I know you didn’t ask for a whole life story, haha.
WHAT’S A GOAL YOU SET YOUR SIGHTS ON AND ACHIEVED?
I feel like I make a new goal every time I wake up. It’s always been a great feeling exhibiting work and having people express gratitude for my work. It’s such a gracious way of staying in tune with your practice. In a way, exhibitions are just the act of interior designing; it’s an art in its own. To have work with a meaning and when people can express what their ideas/meaning of a piece can be back to you, it’s fascinating. Like, woah, you’re actually paying attention to something I did.
WHAT WOULD YOU SAY TO SOMEONE WHO WAS IN YOUR SHOES 5 YEARS AGO, HOPING TO BE WHERE YOU ARE NOW?
Shit, I’m still that kid that needs that information, lmao. But seriously, if you have a hobby, embrace it. If you have friends, embrace them. No work will mean much to you unless there is true meaning behind it that is near and dear to your heart. I would like to add a few things. Also, if you are not out and about shooting, you’re not going to get good work. You have to put the hours in; you have to study other photographers' work and see if you can mimic work to learn from it. The photos you take on the street are not the end-all, be-all; it’s just practice. My homie Dante makes YouTube videos and he would always open up his videos saying “just another day out in Philadelphia PRACTICING street photography.” It’s all just practice until that moment comes and you have all the information in your head to get the shot you want. Street photos aren’t going to look perfect now with a damn Nissan Maxima in the back, but it only gets better with time. My homie Rahim actually told me once now that I’m thinking about it and it really stuck with me, “Street photos only get better with time.” So let’s go over it again: Practice, Study, and embrace the culture you’re in.
PEACE AND GRATITUDE!
Come celebrate skate culture with atmos & adidas as we honor the launch of the atmos x adidas Adimatic collection on Friday, Sept 22, 2023 from 5-8 PM with a showcase of photographic works of Philly street photographer Nazir Wayman.