Words: Alex Khatchadourian
Dani Bautista's photography is driven by the desire to document the everyday. The Hong Kong-based photographer shoots with a keen sense of curiosity and the urge to hold onto good times and memories made with friends while discovering new things in familiar places and a range of unchartered destinations.
While the power to document our travels may now be a possibility for anyone wielding a camera-phone, Bautista's photography and video work fuses skateboarding, travel and discovery like you’ve never seen before. From New York City and Barcelona, to India and several other locations throughout Southeast Asia, Bautista's imagery not only builds compelling stories about his ever-changing surroundings, but also is a reminder of just how striking an image can be, transporting us to another world entirely.
Having spent much of his life atop a skateboard, Bautista has fostered a strong connection to the streets, where he's become an expert at documenting the experience of discovery. His relationship to the urban landscape lends itself to the striking compositions and intimate moments that he captures in each of his photos. With the lens as an extension of his eyes, Bautista tries to take in as much as he can from his environment, and captures the freedom of skate culture and the people who inhabit and embrace it. His photographs have the ability to pack a punch and say everything he needs to say in a single image.
We had a chance to talk with Dani Bautista about how skateboarding informs his work and what drives his passion for photography.
Tell us a little bit about yourself and your background. Where did you grow up and how did it have an influence on what you do now?
My name is Dani Bautista, I’m a Filipino videographer and photographer based in Hong Kong. I was born in Manila and moved to Hong Kong when I was about 4 years old. I started skateboarding when I was 8 years old and from skateboarding I got into photography and filmmaking.
How did you become interested in and get started with photography and filmmaking?
I got into photography and filmmaking through skateboarding. Mostly watching skate videos and looking at skateboard magazines. I got a serious knee injury a few years ago and that gave me the time to become a little more serious about my photography and video work.
What is your biggest photographic influence? Why?
Skateboarding is my biggest influence on everything in my life because it’s what gets me hyped and gets me looking around and observing things. I’ll be on another kind of shoot in some location and I'll be thinking that this spot would be nice to take a skate photo at.
Why is skateboarding important to you from a creative standpoint?
I pretty much grew up being a skateboarding and been into it since. So my taste developed around that lifestyle.
What has been the most fun to shoot recently?
Skateboarding is the best.
Where have been your favorite locations to shoot/travel/surf/skate?
So far my favorite place is Barcelona.
A lot of your photography revolves around skateboarding and its surrounding lifestyle, what about shooting this subject are you drawn to most?
Just the experiences and adventures on being in the streets skating or traveling with the homies.
In your opinion, what makes a great skate photo?
For me what makes a great skate photo is the spot, skaters style, the trick, and composition.
Tell us about traveling and its impact on your work. How does the location influence the intentions and subject matter of a photograph?
When I'm traveling, it's often that I'm seeing a place for the first time. With the lens as an extension of my eyes, I try to take it all in, all the new things I've never seen before and all the familiar subjects that I see in every country. I photograph as a way to document this experience of discovery.
What would we find your backpack on a road trip?
Camera gear, skate tool, soft filmer wheels, and an extra shirt.
What do you love most about working and living Hong Kong? Tell us a little about the vibe of the city, and the skate scene?
I grew up here and it’s home to me. I love my friends out here and I like how convenient it is to live here. The skate scene is really small though but there’s a lot of good people.
Where does your passion for photography stem from?
I just love life and I love documenting it, mostly the good times. I like looking back on good times and that gets me looking forward for more.