In-Depth

Over the past year I have on a number of occasions questioned my own sanity regards this PhD, so let me put you in the picture…

Born out of conversation, inner personal debate and a chance opportunity to undertake a fellowship at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington DC, this research is the result of a lifetime working in the photography, skateboard and fashion industries. Undertaking a part-time PhD with the Royal College of Art London, I am currently in the forth year of what will most likely be a six-year program. Studying in London, means commuting monthly from Cornwall to undertake research lectures, workshops and supervisory meetings. Alongside studying, I work part-time, co-running a degree in Fashion Media and Marketing at Plymouth College of Art while raising an amazing nine-year-old girl who skates, surfs and lives life to the full.

In 2017 I was awarded an LDoc grant from the Centre for Doctoral training in Design Research. A world class hub funded by the AHRC, LDoc promotes and supports outstanding design research study and knowledge exchange. It offers a concentration of high-level skills and expertise in innovative, critical and ethical thinking within the creative and cultural industries.

The past years have been spent orientating my research questions in sound theory and methodology, undertaking interviews with leading voices from the skateboard industries in California and the UK. Here is a snippet of where the research currently resides.

This maker-practitioner PhD research aims to identify and represent the intersections where cultural relationships and behaviours have contributed to the replicated narrative of skateboarding’s visual past by the couture fashion industries. It aims to analyse and construct a new narrative through documentary film and experimental works that will contribute to current debates in media anthropology, visual ethnography and autoethnography. Examining cultural-based aesthetics, the research aims to generate an insightful in-depth study into the visual experience of skateboarding’s past and present, analytically interrogating the graphical representation of skateboarding by the fashion industry. In doing so the research addresses the role of tacit knowledge and the seductive relationship of insider communities within hypermedia environments.

Why fashion? The relationship between skateboarding culture and couture fashion has long been played out on the global catwalks and through the production of related photographic imagery and fashion films. The practices and consumption of these mediums interconnect through the frames of visual images and physical artefacts. Inspiring rhetoric of both acceptance and conflict, the research sets out to examine fashion’s nuanced approach to the construction of skateboarding’s visual identity asking, what can be learnt from the conceptualisations of replicated imagery by those charged with creating the imagery. Undertaking a series of case studies involving qualitative data collection and participant observation, I have spent time in Los Angeles interviewing a number of  industry experts. Paying particular attention to the role of photography and videography, the research discusses insider autoethnographic experience and practise.

This research is fuelled by personal passion, commitment, guided by intellectual curiosity and a sense that the parameters of scholarship need to be extended to include new perspectives on cultural practices, by participants suited as academic observers.

For further information email: Kirsty.smith@network.rca.ac.uk