Ben Hermans

Ben Hermans

You got time for this thing?

 

Yeah let’s do it.

So you’re currently in Nepal. Please explain to the readers what you’re doing over there?

Word, give 15, to many distractions in the hotel room. I’m sitting with Daiki Hosada right now, you heard of him before?OG Osaka legend..

Yeah I have, I feel he bought one of my zines?

He’s got it! He was hyped on Geoffs cover (see DT issue 5)

That’s dope!

Aite, so Nepal. Where to start?! Long story short, we are building a skate park! It feels like it’s been such a long time out here but It’s only been like 3 weeks.We’ve got a really solid crew this time.The park is pretty much finished actually.

That’s dope! How did the Community Collective start and where did the idea spark from?

Basically we just saw all the rad projects other people were doing around the world. Travelling to countries that have small skate scenes but lack infrastructure. The Community Collective was just an initial platform to help raise some money so we could start a build in India.. It was kind of a way into the “scene”. Now we are all one big community and we basically just work for the bigger organisations that coordinate all the planning and fundraising. For me, that’s much better. I don’t need that kind of responsibility right now. The park that we built in Ethiopia cost around $40,000.I don’t even want to try and handle figures like that.

So what are the bigger organisations that handle that?

The Main one is called “Make Life Skate Life”. We help out a little behind the scenes but they have put it together really well. “Skate Pal” or Skate Palestine is another one, which we do a bit more consulting for. They operate exclusively in Palestine… Well, the West Band. I doubt we would be able to go into the Gaza Strip or anything..  I’d love to try tho.

How long have you been involved in these projects?

Since December 2014 when we first went to India to help build a few ramps out there. I made so many friends out there that were just starting to skate, now there in Nepal for the build and they are killing it. I’m want to try get out to India again and work for a skatepark construction company out there. I’d only get paid 100 rupees a day but it would still be sick.

So you came from a very DIY background right?

Yeah I grew up pretty off the grid. It was sick seeing how to do things yourself from a young age. I feel it’s a different kind of privilege than coming from some kind of wealth. I have a lot to thank my parents for. What ever I was into, my Dad would find a way to build it. Remember when all the kids in school had razor scooters? My parents wouldn’t buy me one, instead they would help me build one from scrap metal. We would make fibreglass decks, stuff like that. My parents built a mud brick, solar powered, two storey house. It runs off hydro power during the Winter and Solar during the Summer. Then when I was 16, we built a small skate park a bit further off in the bush. It’s such a grommet design but it was sick when I was a kid. It stays buried in leaves and branches now, it can stay that way ha-ha.

That’s amazing. Sounds like you had an amazing childhood. So how many overseas skate park projects have you done in total?

I have worked in India, Palestine, Myanmar, Ethiopia and this is my second trip out to Nepal. Each trip is always so amazing for various reasons, but my trip to Palestine was by far the most eye-opening thing I have ever seen. I really tried to study a bit of the history before heading out there, but It’s so huge and incomprehensible that I actually had to be there to get an idea of what’s really going on. (The Palestinians living under occupation of the Israeli defence force) Living and working in a Muslim state for two months was a lot to cope with. Ramallah is a city in the West Bank, which has a mix of religions, meaning that we could get beer there. Every so often we would spend a weekend there to blow off some steam. One night we got particularly drunk and tried to find our way back to our accommodation. It was about 4am and 4 of my mates and I were super drunk bombing down the steepest streets. At one point I noticed we passed a military outpost of the Palestine authority. Soon after two soldiers walked down the road towards us. I suggested that instead of skating away, it would be best do approach the soldiers in a calm like manner. Once they were within 10 meters of us, both soldiers started yelling at us in Arabic loaded and aimed their automatic rifles at as! We were forced to the ground and had all of our possessions searched. They even went through every single photo on my friends camera. After a while they got someone to come down and translate for us. Eventually we got things straightened out and the soldiers ended up giving us a lift back home!

 Holy shit! You must have been shitting yourself!!!

Yeah they wouldn’t have had a clue what was going on.It was pretty lucky that they didn’t try shoot us.

Aside from the building projects, you’ve travelled a fair bit right?You were in New York last year?

Yeah I try and get away as much as possible. It was about 3 years ago that I quit my job, sold my car and ended my lease. My New York trip was ridiculous. To be honest, I kind of took a bit of a break from skating and was just having fun doing other stuff. Going to the beach, Tinder dates, all the good stuff haha. I’m keen to get back there and do some skating, maybe work on some spots with Jerry Mraz. Jerry was a huge help out there for me. He got me a job, took us skating, man he’d even deliver left over food and beer from his work! I cannot speak highly enough of that guy.

And you’re off to Europe soon too right? What are your plans over there?

There is a bunch of stuff I want to make it out there for, but it came about because I knew we would be working on another project in Palestine in September. I’ve saved up a bunch and also lost my room in Melbourne so everything just fell into place. I’ll head to London first and stay with Chris (Jones), then meet up with Melbourne’s very own Ricky Davidson in Manchester. From there I don’t really have any plans. I have my friends building parks over the Summer so I’ll try do a bit of that too.

You’ve been taking photos for a while now huh?

Yeah for sure. It was a hobby ever since I was a teenager. Similar to skating, I went through phases of interest. I actually studied a BA in commercial photography for 3 years which taught me a lot about what I don’t want to do with my photos. Haha. Over that time I was right into shooting skating. Eventually I lost interest in that and took up more of a documentary style approach, which suited the travel I was doing whilst building parks. I’m pretty happy with where I am now, just documenting the projects I work on and all the crazy stuff that happens along the way. It’s nice to just have those photos for myself, but I want to keep publishing that stuff too. Hopefully people are interested. I also just started working on a series that I’ve wanted to do for a long time. It’s hard to explain, but I have built this stereoscopic camera rig with two analogue SLR’s. Two camera shooting at once basically. I use the two photos to get a 3D effect when you look at it through 3D glasses. I have finished a series I made while I was in New York last year. I’m still sitting on it at the moment figuring out how I want to show it.

 

That’s sick. You defiantly go through phases huh. I’m really looking forward to the 3D project. It sounds amazing!!

So aside from all the building, travel and photography, you have In James Robertsons new video right? How is the video coming along?

 

James sent me a snippet of the intro today. He’s on top of it, it’s just been really drawn out due to everyone being on different schedules all the time. I’m sure most videographers can relate. I feel guilty because I rarely get a chance to get out filming with him because I’m away so much, especially as I’m getting hooked up really well and I don’t get much productive skating done. James is just waiting on getting some super 8 film processed, then it will all come together. Hopefully I’ll be in town for the premiere.