Over 360 BMX Photos from 1994 to 2014 - Jared Souney Discusses his New Book

If you've followed BMX at all over the past thirty years, whether you realized or not - you've seen plenty of Jared Souney's photos. Jared shot many of the most iconic photos of the "mid-school" era and he has a brand new book showcasing over 360 of them. We caught up with Jared to get a bit more info about how Things Seen Along The Way came about, what we can expect, and how we can pick up a copy. 


You’ve shot a ton of iconic BMX photos over the years. What inspired you to now - in 2020 - buckle down and put this book together?

It started as more of an archiving project. When the year started, I had no plans to do a book of any sort. I had a lot of film just tossed in boxes. Some of it had been scanned, but my organization was terrible with a lot of that really old stuff. Then I had a number of hard drives that were equally disorganized. I had some early digital work on DVDs, so I really wanted to get some sort of cohesive, high-res library of my favorite shots that I could reference down the line. 

When you start going through the really old photos, there's a lot of stuff that begins to jump out at you that you might not have noticed twenty or twenty-five years ago. Some of the stuff b-roll that had imperfections that would have bummed me out at the time, I started to appreciate more because of those imperfections. Really the goal when I started digging - sometime in December or January - was to put names, dates, and locations to certain images I liked while I could still remember the details - and while my film scanner still functioned. At first, it wasn't a BMX project. I was just trying to organize a little bit across the board. 

Through that process, I started getting the itch to do something with some of the old stuff I was finding, whether it was to make some zines or put together some sort of digital project, but it was probably late February before I thought I might do some type of book. I still had no plan to do a BMX book. I thought maybe there might be some BMX photos in it, but it probably didn't become a BMX book until early July. I think at first it seemed too obvious to me. But the more I looked deeper at the photos, I just got more immersed in the old BMX stuff. 

You’ve shot for pretty much everyone in BMX at one point or another. For those unfamiliar, give us a little bit of your background…

I got into BMX in 1984 as kid in New England - right in between Boston and Providence. I grew up riding and reading the BMX and skate magazines of the time and got really interested in design and photography reading through all those. There was a DIY nature to the cultures and I got more into all of it through making zines and videos, documenting riding with my friends in New England. After college in Boston, I moved to California to work at Ride Magazine as associate editor and photographer. I'd done a lot of design at that point, but got to focus more on photos, working alongside guys that knew what they were doing - Brad McDonald, Mark Losey, and Keith Mulligan were all there when I got there. A couple years later, I left Ride, shooting photos of the Etnies and Primo teams - they crossed over heavily - as well as a number of magazines around the world like Dig, Ride UK, Freedom, BMX Plus - pretty much all of them. That was the Forward video era for Etnies, so it was pretty amazing. In 2003, I moved out to State College, Pennsylvania - near Woodward. I grew up with Kevin Robinson and he talked me into moving there to shoot with all the guys that had migrated there to ride year-round. I had been planning to move back to Boston, but after spending a week with Kevin in Pennsylvania, I found a house and spent almost five years there. In 2007, I moved to Portland, Oregon. That was going to be a temporary change, but I stayed and continued to shoot with the guys out here and travel around to contests and on trips to shoot for different publications. I'm still here thirteen years later. So, yeah. It was rad because I got to work with a lot of the different publications and all kinds of different people over the years. The moves I made brought me to dramatically different scenes of people. Looking back, 

I inadvertently ended up with these four very distinct and different periods of photos of BMX riding that showed a pretty wide range of characters and what I thought was a neat evolution of the BMX world I was living in. Even if you weren't a BMXer, it seemed like it could be interesting. 

Taj Mihelich - 2002

Who are some of the riders featured in Things Seen Along The Way?

There are so many, and still I wish there were more. There are a lot of very different people. I mentioned those different periods of my life and the book is ultimately broken up that way, You see some people in the book that I've known most of my BMX life - which is almost my whole life - like Jim Cavanaugh, Brian Chapman, and Kevin Robinson, in photos that are twenty years apart. Through the different periods, there are riders you can tell I spent a lot of time with. It's such a broad field - Ryan Sher, Gary Young, Taj Mihelich, Ben Hucke, Roman Tencza, Jamie Bestwick, Chad Kagy... What I like most is how broad that field is, though. Dave Young is in there, and so is Mike Spinner. Dave Mirra, Mat Hoffman, Brian Blyther, Anthony Napolitan - tons of guys from my early days in New England - Rich Upjohn, Joe Johnson... There are over 360 photos. 

What's the significance of 1994 - 2014?

1994 was when I started taking photos of some of the places we were riding in New England - the earliest rolls of film I had that I was digging into began there. There's one photo that opens the first section of the book that was taken in 1989 and a portrait of Brian Chapman that was taken in 2017 - just because I liked it - but, for the most part, that's the period I'd say I was most involved in BMX from a documentation standpoint. The scope of it all just kind of fell into that spread of time and - from a thematic standpoint - twenty years was a nice chunk of time. 

Is everything in chronological order? I’m sure the differences between something shot in 1994 and something shot in 2014 are drastic… 

It's a loose chronology. I took some editorial license in certain places in the book just for flow, but for the most part, it's laid out chronologically. It's structured into sections based off of where I was living at the time - New England, California, State College, Pennsylvania, and Portland, Oregon. The sections are chronological. There's some movement within them, but loosely chronological. 

There are a lot of differences and a lot of similarities and that dynamic is what I like best about it. Some of the early stuff is certainly more gritty and loose in terms of photography. Some of that just comes down to the old film stocks versus the more modern digital medium, as much as it does technical ability. You see an evolution in bikes and in overall fashion, as well as in the photography. I approached this as an art book as much as - if not more - than a BMX book. So, there are photos that I love that might not have been used anywhere in the past, just because they didn't really fit in the particular thing I was shooting at the time. It's cool to look back and see that the riding all still holds up. So, given that there's twenty years of time documented, there's certainly a lot of differences across the board. I guess that's the idea in laying it out that way - to move through that and watch it. 

Chad Kagy - 2005

I see a lot of familiar photos in here. Are these all previously published?

There are a lot that have been in magazines and such - and also a lot of new ones. A lot of the early stuff has never been published and a lot of the later stuff was never printed - it was all shot for the internet. A lot of it has made its way onto Instagram at one point or another. I guess in that regard, it comes down to what you consider published. There are a lot of outtakes from shoots where things didn't get used because it was the same day as something else that ran in a magazine and looked similar. Some of the stuff might have been in ads or some obscure catalog that people never saw. So, this is pulling a lot of that together in one place. Someone that read Dig didn't necessarily get BMX Plus or RideUK. So, it's a mix of published and unpublished. It was also an effort to make something that hopefully anyone could pick up and flip through and not feel left out. You hopefully wouldn't need a backstory or a BMX history to at least find it interesting. 

Are there any stories or captions in here or is it 100% photos?

There is very little text in the book. There's an intro and each photo has a number. An index in the back tells you who it is, when it is, and where it was shot. That was very deliberate. There are so many little stories I think people can pull out of these photos on their own. I wanted this one to be more about the images - and the images as whole. With every one of the photos there are five-or-six stories and I'm sure the guy in the photo would have five-or-six of their own, too. I guess the hope is that if someone has seen the photo before, seeing it on it's own - not in the context of a magazine story or ad - might let people look at them either in a different way than they had before or look at them harder trying to find their own stories in each photo. 

How did you decide what made the cut for the final book?

That was maddening, even when I decided to focus entirely on BMX. It was a very different process than making a magazine or a web feature or selecting for an ad. In the end, it came down to trying to tell the story of the BMX that I've experienced, but also showing some of my favorite images at the same time. That story would be different for everyone who lived it. 

I realized I when I was making it that five-or-six photographers could make the same kind of book from the same time periods and they would all be completely different books - even if they had the same people in the book. It will still be a totally different perspective. That's what makes something like BMX rad - the uniqueness of the moments and the individuals. 

Every one of the shots in there is its own moment - even if it's a common trick. There were certain people I rode with and shot a lot in each period that just had to be in it - people that are lifelong friends. But, there are also a few shots of people I've met once or twice and just happened to like something about the photo. 

For the cover there were a few different photos I went back-and-forth between, but when I settled on Joe Rich, it seemed so obvious. I've known Joe for a long time - pre-Standard era. I wish I got to shoot with him more. He was dealing with injuries over the years and it just happened that a lot of the time I spent with him he was recovering. That photo was one of the first magazine covers I shot - Ride - and, from a '90s and 2000s standpoint, Joe is an icon. 

The hardest decisions came when I got down to the end. I had to give myself a cut-off point and that became 400 pages -if you include the covers, it's 404. There are people I wish were in there, but I also tried to step aside on some of that and make the decisions around photos I wanted to use and certain experiences I wanted in there. At one point in the project, I probably had 2000 inDesign pages between different documents of photos dropped into different configurations. If the world wasn't mostly shut down for a couple months, I never would have been able to get through it. 

I’m sure it’s hard to pick, but what are one or two photos that stand out to you?

Some of the early photos from the Boston area are my favorites just because that's where I came from and those guys are part of the reason I ended up down this road. If I hadn't shot those photos, none of the photos after that would have happened. Back then, you wouldn't have set out to be a BMX photographer. I was just interested in BMX and photography, so it was natural to document what my friends and I were doing for our own zines and such - maybe with the hope of getting them in a magazine or something.

Tom Masterson - 1997

There's a spread of Tom Masterson at ZT Maximus - an old skatepark in Boston - that I love for all the shit in the background as much as because Tom was a huge part of the New England scene at the time. That dark, grimy skatepark covered in evolving graffiti is what BMX was to us at that time. There's another one from almost a decade later of Mike Parenti flipping off a palm tree that is an outtake from Gary Young's 2002 Dig Interview. In it, there's a guy in an old car in the background that looks like he could be the Zodiac killer. That's a photo that's never been scanned before. Both those photos were scanned specifically for the book. It also comes back to the fact that when I lived in California, I rode with Mike and Gary a lot in that period and it was some of the most fun ever, so it's as much about him being someone I really liked riding with as it is about the photo itself. 

Mike Parenti - 2002

I’ve had issues getting photos printed at a quality I was happy with in the past. Do you feel like the prints in the book do your work justice?

Yeah, it turned out pretty well overall. I actually made a zine right after the COVID shutdown started in March - that was as much a paper and print test for the book - as it was a quirky zine about melting snow-people in my neighborhood. I used an uncoated paper for the book which, if you aren't careful, can get really muddy. So, I had that printed ahead of time as a paper test. It's so expensive to print hardcover books that it would have been a bummer to have 400 pages of mud.

I see you’re only printing 250 copies. If demand exceeds that, will you do more?

This book will cut off at 250. I wanted it to be limited. I'm planning to put it online as a flipbook down the road - to make it more accessible. It's incredibly expensive to make books - especially 400 page hardcovers - so fronting the money for even that size run was very intimidating. It was a bit of tense thing because I kept the whole thing a secret, mostly so I was doing the book I wanted and not being guided by outside influence. Because of that, I didn't have any real idea of what the demand was going to be for something like this. I wanted it to be something that people will hopefully hold onto and pass along to someone else.

It's not to say I won't do some other sort of book down the road in a larger edition someday. Maybe something lighter so it doesn't cost a fortune to ship overseas... I really didn't expect this to be over five pounds, but man, paper is heavy. This particular book will be limited to 250, though, and they are all signed and numbered. I also included two A5 sized prints - one of Joe from the cover, and another of Ralph Sinisi grinding a car - also signed and numbered with the edition. I intended to do a photo show at my studio to coincide with the book when it came out, but alas, that may be a while. 

Jim Cavanaugh - 1992

I know you’ve professionally moved on to other projects. What’s your relationship like with BMX - both riding and shooting it - in 2020? 

I still ride some. Photo-wise, I love shooting BMX - I'm just around it on the day-to-day less. I do some design and marketing type projects that are BMX related occasionally and I still follow BMX closely. I still get to take to some photos here and there, too. I like to nibble around with some '90s flatland or on the micro mini in my studio. 

In reality, being somewhat out of the industry loop probably made it easier to do the book because, at the end of the day, I was just trying to represent what it was to me over the years and tell a little bit of that story - not make what someone else expected me to make. 

For those who want to pick up a copy of the book before they’re all gone, what do they need to do?

I published it under the small label / brand I do out of my studio called Ransom Six. It's available in the online store at ransomsix.com and I've pointed thingsseenalongtheway.com directly to the store page to buy it. I would have liked to get some spread around to shops, but printing is so expensive that if there were other channels involved, it would have to be more expensive. We got fifty expedited copies, so on a first come / first serve basis, those are spoken for and shipped or shipping. I will have the rest in two weeks, so everything else is scheduled to ship about September first, or as soon as we get them. I really didn't expect it to be so heavy - it just sort of happened. So, one regret is that it's so expensive to ship overseas. I've been asking overseas people to message me through the contact page on the site so I can give them a shipping rate for their location. Because of the weight, only US and Canada are listed in the store shipping options. We are down to ship anywhere for sure - I just wish it was cheaper. I can't say enough thanks to the people overseas who have bought/shipped them. 

Like I said, I had no gauge for what to expect, but they have been going pretty quickly and they are limited to that 250.

Taj Mihelich (plus a young Chase Hawk) - 2001

For more information or to pick up a copy of Things Seen Along The Way, visit Jared's site.

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