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Grace Ahlbom: Photographer of the Skateboarding Set

Grace Ahlbom

Age 23

Hometown Corte Madera, Calif.

Now Lives In a three-bedroom apartment in Clinton Hill, Brooklyn, with a high school friend and a classmate from Pratt Institute.


“I like romanticizing the idea of growing up as a boy,” Ms. Ahlbom said.

Nathan Bajar for The New York Times

Claim to Fame A year after graduating from art school, Ms. Ahlbom is a rising photographer and multidisciplinary artist who has shot “It kid” actors like Jack Kilmer and Lukas Ionesco, exhibited with the Still House Group and recently dipped her toe into the fashion world. The subjects of her minimalist portraits are often lithe teenagers with battle scars from skateboarding. “I like romanticizing the idea of growing up as a boy,” said Ms. Ahlbom, who came out as a lesbian in college. “In high school, I just felt so repressed. I wish I did more of what I actually wanted to do instead of conforming. I’d be hooking up with girls. I would have gone to the prom in a suit.”

Big Break While studying at Pratt, Ms. Ahlbom was cast to model for Ryan McGinley, the influential photographer who documented New York skaters and graffiti artists. She used the opportunity to score a summer gig. “I was just standing there naked, getting shot, and I also applied for a job,” she said. Two years later, Ms. Ahlbom’s senior thesis, a photo installation with quarter-pipe ramps called “Dig In Your Heels, Stick to Your Guns,” earned attention from fashion and art circles. “I didn’t anticipate it at all,” she said. “I didn’t think anything I was doing was that cool.”

Latest Project A collaborative show between Ms. Ahlbom and Julian Klincewicz, an artist and videographer who has worked with Kanye West and Gosha Rubchinskiy, was unveiled in March at the Temporary Contemporary gallery in Tokyo. Titled “Pure Desire,” it was a study of male adolescence and ennui as seen through teenage Icelandic skaters. “Iceland was sick,” she said. “It’s beautiful and it smells like eggs.”

Next Thing Ms. Ahlbom shot a digital editorial campaign for Helmut Lang, scheduled to appear online and on social media this summer. She is also releasing a zine through Dashwood Books called “Why Can’t We Be Friends?” that features photos from Los Angeles, New York, Reykjavik and Tokyo.

Skater Cred After a childhood spent skating bowls and half-pipes, Ms. Ahlbom is bemused by the sport’s prevalence in pop culture. “It’s so fashion now,” she said. “You go into Opening Ceremony and there’s a Thrasher section. I don’t judge people; I just think it’s funny.”

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