Silk City Bomb Squad – Interview with Photographer Nolan Price
28th June 2019 by Will Stewart
A profile of The Silk City Bomb Squad, a freestyle bike crew from Paterson, NJ. Inspired by Nolan Price’s photo book “Boots + the Bomb Squad”.
We were lucky enough to catch up with Nolan Price to ask him some questions about his book on the boys that inspired the film. If you’d like to see your film on MadeGood.tv, then please feel free to make a submission.
MadeGood – Please tell me a bit about yourself, and give me some background on your photography.
Nolan – I got introduced to photography at a very early age through my dad who always had a camera present through most of my childhood. He gave me his first camera when I took a photo developing class in high school. I’ve always had an interest in photography but didn’t really start shooting regularly until many years after getting the camera from my dad. I grew up skateboarding. It’s all I did and all I was concerned with until I couldn’t do it anymore and once skating wasn’t an option, I finally had more time to get into other hobbies so the camera started coming out with me more and more.
MadeGood – How did you meet the Bombsquad kids, and what made you want to take photos of them?
Nolan – The first Silk City Bomb Squad rider I met was Boots. I met him while I was shooting photos of an upcoming project featuring the dirt bike street riders of Newark, New Jersey. We were shooting photos in a parking lot and there was a young kid there on a bicycle. I introduced myself and asked where he was from and when he answered “Paterson” I knew right away he was in the Bomb Squad crew. I was familiar with the crew from seeing them while driving around Paterson and had already been thinking about trying to go out and shoot photos of them. I exchanged phone numbers with Boots and met up with him later that week to shoot. I wanted to get them riding downtown in traffic so I asked him to meet me downtown at rush hour. He showed up that first day with BS. Drew, BS. Fai and BS. Smokey. Shooting with them was very different from shooting the dirt bikes, I had a little more control because I could communicate with them while they were riding unlike shooting the dirt bikes. Everything about it attracted to me. It was fast and unrestricted.
MadeGood – The kids obviously seem happy to have you around, but were they always keen to have their photos taken? Did it take time to build trust with them?
Nolan – I think all the kids were pretty hyped to have their photos taken right off the bat so there wasn’t much of a trust building period. I think it all happened pretty naturally and they didn’t have much of a guard up while riding and I think from spending so much time with them trust slowly got built. At first it was just us riding in the streets and then we went our separate ways but as time went on and we all started getting to know each other a little better on a more personal level, I could tell they felt more comfortable around me and more comfortable having me around them more than just when we were riding. It was all pretty natural, we all live in the same city so I see most of them regularly and we’re all in a group chat so I’m in contact with them more than I am with most my friends.
MadeGood – I’ve featured a few shorts on this blog of bike crews from disadvantaged areas, and it seems to be a good way of bringing young people together and giving them a sense of belonging. What are your thoughts on this, with reference to the Bombsquad?
Nolan – I think the bike life movement is amazing for kids to get into. It’s an outlet for them to do something outside and keeps them out of trouble. Most of them get obsessed and ride all day and night, winter or summer it doesn’t matter. They’ve become friends with kids they may have never spoken to before and getting to travel to other cities and meet kids from all over it because of bikes. Theres definitely a sense of belonging. As far as this city goes, these kids are like celebrities. Everyone knows Silk City Bomb Squad here. If they weren’t riding bikes they would be doing some bullshit and I think they all know it. They’d be getting into a lot more trouble and spending way more time inside playing video games. When I grew up I had skateboarding. I was never inside, I never watched TV or any of that but I grew up in a suburb. I had many influences around me to pick from. In disadvantaged areas the choice of influence is much less. It’s not until they see kids or people they can relate to that they then think “oh hey thats cool I wanna do that”. Bike Life was first sprouting in all inner city areas and because of social media other kids were able to see it and be able to relate to it. Sometimes if an idea isn’t presented people won’t think of it on their own. A perfect example is the skatepark the city built in Paterson. When I was growing up there was only a couple people who skateboarded in Paterson, Filmer Jim, June and Damian. You would always hear about them because it was rare to find a skater in Paterson. Now theres a big scene in Paterson because once that park got built it offered a new thing for a kid to pick up that he wouldn’t have thought prior to seeing kids in the city skating around
MadeGood – How have the kids reacted to seeing your photos, and what is their reaction to your book?
Nolan -The kids always liked having their photos taken but they definitely prefer video over photo. As for the book, there were many mixed feelings on it. Everyone was hyped on it when I printed the proof copy and showed them all but once I printed the whole run and gave them all copies I started hearing “why is it a book on Boots?” I explained why I did everything I chose to do but I guess it was hard for them to see from my point of view as someone who’s on the outside documenting it.
MadeGood – I knew about your work through Steven Mastorelli’s short film. What is your relationship with him, and were you involved in the film in any way?
Nolan – I know Steve Mastorelli through skating. I would always hear the name and we had a bunch of mutual friends. I was a fan of the stuff he would make so when he hit me up interested in shooting a short film on the Silk City Bomb Squad, I was excited to help and even more excited to see the finished product. I brought him to some locations in Paterson that i thought would look interesting for the video and drove him in my trunk to get some shots but honestly I didn’t have much other involvement in the film besides that, it was really all him and I’m glad he created such an awesome video for the kids to be able to look back on one day.
MadeGood – Do you plan to continue to take photos with the kids?
Nolan -Yes I’ll most definitely continue shooting photos of the kids. Because of them, I recently got into learning to shoot video so I’ll go out riding with at least one of them fairly frequently to shoot videos and photos. I’ve gotten to know them pretty well so they hold a spot in my heart. I want to see them continue to do positive things in their life and I think its interesting being able to photograph and document a person throughout many points in their life and seeing them grow, literally and figuratively
MadeGood – Nice one Nolan! And thanks for letting me use the photos exclusively in this post, they’re great. Can’t wait to see more photos of the kids!