Subterranean Kids Follows Skaters Sneaking into Spain’s Underground

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All images by Ruben Juan. Used with permission.

Ruben Juan is a 22 year old graphic designed based in Valencia, Spain. He’s spent a big part of his life taking photos and these days works as a freelance photographer for skateboarding magazines and companies.

He’s sometimes known as “Rbnisonfire” online, and indeed, his images live up to this name. Recently, Ruben has been working on a series called Subterranean Kids where he followed young men into the underground parts of Spain and photographed them as they did tricks with their skateboards.

Dangerous? Yes. Super cool? Heck yes.

Phoblographer: What got you into photography?

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Ruben: I don’t really know, i think it just happened. I started to take pictures when i was a kid, but it was really bad. I had my first camera with 14, a little action camera which introduced me into photography. Was gradually taking more importance to me, and finally i worked hard to get my dslr with 16. Now i’m 22 and share moments through my eyes and my camera is something really important in my life.

Phoblographer: How did you get into wanting to do cool projects like this?

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Ruben: I think this question is simply… i can’t be quiet! I am a restless person, with many curiosities. I’m a person who thinks the work pays off, and who love his work. For me, work is like a way of life. Creating is almost a need, so, this is it. I keep creating and working in projects always, the most of the time just for me. But the true is that i’m so lucky to work also for other people who appreciate it.

Phoblographer: The way that this is presented seems like it’s some sort of big secret location. How did you go about gaining the trust of these kids to do the project?

Ruben: One of the friends that went with us (and that also was our guide the first time we went there), went down to the spot some years ago. One day, Hugo Miralles (a good friend, who coordinated the incursions) told me to go down there to explore it and to see if we could skate something. And yeah, after the first mission, the opportunity of turn it into a photography project came out quickly. Esteban Velarde, editor of an important spanish skateboarding magazine called “GOMAG”, saw the photos and told us to do an article about the project. And finally it happened.

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Phoblographer: Did you ever feel like you were in danger? What was going through your mind the first time that you entered the underground?

Ruben: We didn’t know what we would find there. So it was like “Take care, man!” all the time. Some of the spots we skated were very dangerous, but the situation was always under control. The first time that we entered to the underground was amazing. We were there like 6 hours, crossing all the tunnels and exploring the place. Was a great experience.

Phoblographer: Why do these kids love skateboarding here? Some of what they’re doing looks incredibly dangerous (though so cool.) They don’t really look like kids either, they look like grown men.

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Ruben: The best part of our incursions was that, when we came down there, we got away of the outside world. We spent hours down there exploring and skating, alone and quiet. Skateboarding is always dangerous, you must have a lot of skills and experience to do some things. The most of the skaters that went with us have been skating for years, and some of them were professional skateboarders, so they always knew what they where doing.

Phoblographer:­ Talk to us about the gear that you used for this project. It looks like hauling lots of gear would be extremely cumbersome.

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Ruben: The gear I used in the project was the gear i normally use. I used mostly the brightest lenses for the normal shots, because in some points there was not much light. I took with me also a tripod, and three flashes, for the skateboarding shots. The backpack was full of batteries, so yes, was so cumbersome to load with the gear all the time.

When you went down to a location like this, you were obviously thinking about how to get cool extreme angles of the skaters. But what went through your mind when it came to thinking about showcasing the location?

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Ruben: Generally, i really like to show the full location, and to work a lot with the composition in my skateboarding photos. So, it was really nice to shot in a place like this, because let me a lot of possibilities to play.

Phoblographer:­ Were there ever any super scary moments?

Ruben: The most crazy moment was when Cristian Sánchez wanted to skate the rail of the big central gap. It was the seventh floor, and skated it without fear. It was amazing but yes, a little bit scary– the fall, as you can see, is, well, not really nice, haha.

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Phoblographer:­ ­ What do you want to do with this series?

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Ruben: The intention of this serie was just document the adventure in a first moment. But then, came out the opportunity of publishing the story, so it became more important and wanted to do it the better i could. I’m so happy with this serie.

What i’m currently searching for with my work is to do multidisciplinary projects, doing a mix between video, photography and graphic design. I’m working in a couple new photo projects and in a new photo zine, so that’s what i will do this next months.

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Chris Gampat

Chris Gampat is the Editor in Chief, Founder, and Publisher of the Phoblographer. He also likes pizza.