Growing up in the 1970s and 1980s in Virginia’s apple country, E. Brady Robinson spent a lot of time roller skating around the cement basement of her parents’ split-level, listening to Soul Train. Everything from The Commodores’ “Easy,” to The Jackson Five’s “I Want You Back,” to Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive” blared as Robinson spun around and around, suspended in the cinematic limbo of adolescence, sandwiched between what life had been so far and what she imagined adulthood would be. Skating was an escape, a portal to freedom and adulthood.
The closure of gyms and yoga studios during the COVID-19 pandemic presented an opportunity for the Baltimore-based photographer, who has always been an athlete, to return to skating. In July 2020, Robinson ordered a pair of Candi Grl skates—white with pink laces and pink wheels—online, citing a need to move. Remembering how empowered skating made her feel as a girl, she hit the streets, meeting up with friends and eventually a wider network of female-identifying Baltimore skaters.
A documentary photographer by trade, Robinson began capturing her companions with their limbs in motion suspended in time, as well as the natural glamour of confident women who are totally in control of their bodies and having fun with that power. Skating is something skaters do just for themselves, just for enjoyment, and that’s what makes it so special. Her subjects dressed for the shoots wearing whatever they felt best in, and the results portray “the beauty that comes from celebrating life through movement and female empowerment,” says Robinson. This series of roller-skating women, called SK8R GRLS, was one of her first occasions to reconnect with people, her favorite subject. The resulting pictures, shot in the studio and outside during the “golden hour,” right before sunset when the light is at its warmest, are evocative of the warm-color gel lights of 20th-century roller rinks.
Capturing the city by including neighborhood landmarks became another goal for Robinson, who spent the earliest days of the pandemic shooting empty streets as an homage to home, with several images included in BmoreArt’s Issue 09. Robinson crisscrossed the city for popular skate spots, shooting at the Druid Hill tennis courts, the Ravens lot behind the Baltimore Museum of Industry, Lake Montebello, and a rooftop garage on Saratoga Street, among other locations. Forever tied to this communal moment of release after long isolation, the images function as both landscapes and portraits. And yet, the skaters themselves are boundless, embodying, for Robinson, the “escape from daily life” that coasting over pavement provides. While roller skating doesn’t erase the trials of the last twenty months, for herself and her subjects, “skating is way better than reality.”
Photo subjects include: Amy Cavanaugh (@amy.cello), Caitlin Gill (@caidylynn), Jade Davis (@bawdbyjade), Tina Thompson (@tthompson843), Brittany Wight (@invertedmermaid), Les Gray (@lesgra.y), Hayley Furman (@visual.intrigue), Jessica Lauryn (@lady_lauryn_), Sophie Kluckhuhn (@sophiekluckhuhn), Wildège François (@_novaaqua), Alexis Ojeda-Brown (@thee_jamdalorian), Barbara Bailey (@relax_withb), Elena Volkova (@thinstring), Sara Autrey (@getshreddedvintage), Alaska Kellum (@alaska.skates), Vickie Walker (@vickiew13), Lean Bean (@legbruiseleah), Dina Fiasconaro (@dfiasco)
E. Brady Robinson is represented by Addison/Ripley Fine Art in Washington, DC. The Sk8r GRLS series will be featured as a solo show at Baltimore’s Hotel Indigo from January 26, 2022 – March 18, 2022. A No Pix After Dark LIVE Interview will be held Thursday, January 27, 2022@ 5:30 pm (limited seating. Please RSVP to Caitlin@mdartplace.org). The SK8R GRLS reception will be held on International Women’s Day, March 8, 2022 from 5 to 7pm. Hotel Indigo is located at 24 West Franklin Street. This event is free of charge.