Photo: Phil Innocenti
Every now and then I’ll come across somebody who is super talented, but they don’t really know how to get their name out there or they’re not really the kind of person that’s like “hey, look at me!”. Tim Burkart is one of those guys who I came across when one of his friends dropped a link to his portfolio site to check out. I knew right away I wanted to get ahold of this dude and find out what he’s all abut and do one of these Photos: features so people could see the work he is putting out. Luckily, Tim was up for the interview and he sent through a ton of damn good photos for you guys to check out. Let’s find out more about Tim, then check out this PHOTOGALLERY to see his work!
Name: Timothy Burkhart
Location: Chicago, IL
I started getting into BMX toward the end of grade school, so probably around 13 years.
Years shooting photos: I’d say about 7 years.
What was it that first got you into BMX? Any early memories just pop up?
My first introduction to BMX was when I was in like 5th or 6th grade and there were some shady older kids on my block that used to steal bikes and build them up from scratch. They had all these bikes I’d never seen or heard of before like GT Dyno’s, and Haro’s…brands that were unknown to me at the time. They would always ride around doing bunny hops and endos on the streets and building sketchy launch ramps. I thought it was the coolest thing ever, so eventually I tried to start emulating them (minus the bike theft). I worked with my grandfather over the summer cutting grass for his personal business just to buy a Haro Mirra 540 air and after that I was hooked. The day I learned to bunnyhop was probably the greatest day of my young life. After I got that bike, BMX spread throughout my close group of friends and we would find anything to ride and it was pretty much your classic BMX story from there.
What was it that got you into cameras? Was it duet to BMX or what?
BMX was definitely my “introduction” to cameras and photography. I pretty much bought my first camera to start snapping photos of my friends riding, although I had no idea what the hell I was doing. My high school didn’t have a photography program what so ever and DSLR’s were just coming out, so I had to buy my own film camera and teach myself by a lot of trial and error.
What was your first camera setup?
Much like I worked to save up to buy my first legit BMX bike, the same happened with buying my first camera. I spent one of my spring breaks in high school working in a factory at the place my grandmother worked at. I did a bit of everything; maintenance, cleaning and working on a production line, pretty much whatever I was told to do. I think I worked six days in a row, almost my entire spring break, just to buy a camera. After I finally got paid I went straight to the camera store and bought a Nikon N75 with a 28-90mm third party kit lens. I still own this camera today and will keep it for the rest of my life, although it doesn’t really see much use anymore.
What’s your current camera setup?
For BMX I shoot pretty much just digital, but I shoot a lot of film for other stuff… landscapes, candid, things like that. I just sold my Nikon D300 and upgraded to the Nikon D800 in the last 2 months and I had to switch out my lenses to accompany the new full frame body. So my bag looks like this right now:
Nikon 50m f/1.8D AF
Nikon 70-210 f/4 AF
Tamron 20-40 f/2.7-3.5 AF
Zenitar 16mm f/2.8 MF
Nikon SB-600, SB-28 and SB-800 flashes
Alien Bee’s trigger and receivers.
Fuji x100… for some lifestyle stuff or to help a filmer get a second angle, it’s a great little camera.
Random old tripods…I really need to get some legit light stands soon.
Mamiya 6 usually with the 75 or 50mm lens attached… Before this I was using a Pentax 67 or Mamiya 645AF
Olympus Stylus epic or Yashica T2 35mm
Olympus Pen EE half frame 35mm
A few rolls of 120 and 35mm film
Do you have a dream setup or are you pretty content with what you have now?
I’d have to say for right now I’m pretty content with what I have at the moment. The D800 has been nothing short of amazing for me so far, although I would definitely want to upgrade a lot of my glass when I get the money. I just happened to find the Mamiya 6 kit at a thrift store for an insane deal and it was one of those cameras that I dreamed of owning but couldn’t afford, so that has been a blessing. I think I would just like some battery packs for my flashes to make my life easier and stop worrying about dead batteries and recycling times.
You are based out of Chicago, which gives you a real good crew of riders to shoot with. Who are some of your favorite guys to shoot with?
I got into photography shooting my close friends from the suburbs, so shooting with them is always a joy and they will always be my favorite people to shoot with.
Have you had the chance to shoot with any pro riders? Who are a few guys you would really like to take photos of some time?
The past few months have been pretty unreal, I’ve been shooting with almost all the pros we have here in town. I’ve known some of them for a bit, but it feels lately there’s just been a lott more going on shooting wise. I’ve been meeting up with Trent McDaniel, Timmy Theus, Kevin Porter, and Brian Kachinsky, whenever our schedules sync up. I’ve also ran into Jeff K. and Mike Hinkens while meeting up with Brian one night, but unfortunately some security guard ruined our session. I was also recently down at Texas Toast and got to shoot some photos of Bob Delaat and Aaron Day from the Sunday trail squad, which was a ton of fun. Kachinsky always has some amazing riders coming to town, so possibly having the opportunity to shoot anyone that is passing through town is pretty exciting.
Did you go to college for photography? Do you feel like it’s important to go to school to get into the photography profession?
I did go to school for photography, but it was more based on the fine arts and conceptual side of photography opposed to the commercial side. I had the mindset to go to school and learn more about shooting and focusing only on BMX photography, but when I started school my whole interest/perspective of photography shifted. I really started to get into the Contemporary fine art side of photography, which became my main focus for a bit opposed to BMX. I believe my interest in fine art photography helped change the way I approach shooting riding photos and allowed me to mold my own style photographically and find what worked best for me.
I don’t believe people have to go to school to try and further a photography career; you can learn a lot of techniques on your own with the help of the internet, books and just by constantly shooting, but I think I learned a lot about myself while I was in school than anything. I personally wouldn’t take back all the time I spent in school; I met a lot of amazing people and had some amazing artists for instructors that taught me a lot about approach and aesthetic. I think each person is different though and what worked for me may not work for someone else.
Do you shoot photos for a living, or do you have another job to pay the bills?
I currently work for a pretty large online based company here in Chicago. I edit photos all day as well as shoot products in our little studio. It can take a blow to my productivity in terms of working on my own photos. It’s hard to edit photos for a living then find the will to go home and do it even more. It would be a dream to be able to make a living traveling and shooting riding photos, but right now I don’t have a problem doing what I need to do to pay the bills.
You have had your photos featured in a few places. What are a few of the places you are most proud of?
I’ve had images popping up here and there as of late, and I’m super grateful whenever anyone wants to use them. It’s always rewarding to share photos with other people and receive positive feedback. Right now I’m pretty psyched on anything and everything, but I think there will hopefully be some images to show in print in the future… That will probably be the pinnacle for me. The internet is an amazing place, but for a photographer there is nothing quite like having your work shown in a physical space like a magazine or on a wall.
What do you shoot outside of BMX? Do you get into weddings or anything like that?
I think I shoot almost anything and everything. I always have a camera or two on me at all times and anything that catches my attention and interests me throughout my daily life I’m usually photographing it. When it comes to non-bmx photos I’m interested space and scape and also how people inhabit and interact with their surroundings. I also work on a project with a photographer/friend of mine, Stephanie Bassos, called People Vs. Places. It’s a double exposure snap shot series we have going on just to keep busy and have fun while we both work on our own photographic projects. Check it out at PeopleVsPlaces.tumblr.com. I have shot a few weddings, but it’s not really my style, although I don’t mind doing it if a great opportunity arises.
What’s the weirdest thing you have been asked to shoot photos of?
I got asked to shoot a birthday party for a woman my sister worked for at a hair salon, but as well as owning the salon she was also a stripper by night. It was a pretty low-key affair at a bar with karaoke, but it got a little wild at the end. All her friends were strippers or musicians in bands and they were all weird people, which made it everything pretty awkward.
I’d imagine shooting in Chicago could get a little sketchy in some neighborhoods. Have you ever been caught up in any sketchy situations?
Luckily I haven’t had any issues, but it’s always something in the back of my head. I’m always making sure my bag or gear is within sight. Hopefully I won’t have any issues in the future.
Who are some of the photographers that really influence your work?
BMX: Walter Pierenger, Andrew White, Chad Moore, Jeff Z., Jeff Allen, Vincent Perraud, Rob Dolecki
Non BMX: Philip Lorca-Dicorcia, Larry Sultan, Nan Goldin, Hannah Starkey, Thomas Prior
… These are all I can think of right now, but there’s definitely more.
A lot of photographers have also got into filming and editing. Have you got into that at all?
I haven’t yet. I just got my D800 and it’s the first camera I’ve had with video capabilities. I definitely want to play around with filming though, just so I can help people get clips when needed or grab some second angles for some of my filmer friends.
Let’s say you got a fat budget from some company to take 5 riders anywhere in the world to shoot for one week. Who do you bring, where do you go and why?
Pretty much anyone in Anthem 2 would be amazing to shoot with as well as Ruben and Van Homan. Take me anywhere I have never been and I’m psyched. Although I’d love to go to Spain or New Zealand, just because the scenery has always looked amazing to me.
Where do you want to take things in the next few years? Where would you like to be in 5 years?
As long as I have a camera in my hand I’m sure I’ll be fine anywhere, but I just want to keep progressing and having fun. I just love taking photos and if I could make a living doing what I love then all the better.
What kind of advice do you have for the people out there thinking about picking up a camera?
Experiment, have fun, and do things your own way. Some mistakes end up working out in the end.
Where can people check out more of your work? Do you have a portfolio site? How about Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or any of the other social media sites?
Portfolio: www.timothyburkhart.com (being updated)
Facbook: Timothy Burkhart
Do you have any shout outs or thanks?
Too many people to thank here, but thanks to all my friends and family, as well as my girlfriend for putting up with my crazy schedule. Thanks to all the dudes in Chicago past and present for helping me out anyway they could by shredding in front of the lens or just being amazing friends/people: Mike Stanek, Matt Meckley, Ryan Wayne, Frank Labudzik, Anthony Levenda, Brian Cerceo, Raf Covarrubius, Vincent Glielmi, Kachinsky, Timmy Theus., K.P., Trent McD,aniel Andrew Brady, Deli and tons more. Huge huge thanks to Anthony Loconte for bringing my name up for this series and also being an awesome friend and amazing filmer. I owe him as well as The Union the biggest thanks for giving me this opportunity.
Anything I missed you want to say?
Just enjoy riding and have fun, because that’s why we all started in the first place.
I wanted to get Tim’s new edit that dropped last week in here as well. Stoked on it.