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American Sneaker Photographer: Ron T

Interviews

Camille Lumogdang
September 8, 2022

Ron T @solecialskills is an American photographer who takes beautiful photos of sneakers with his iPhone. He started photographing all of his sneaker collection after one of his friends didn't believe he had many collections. One day he wants to have his own collaboration with one of the sneaker brands!

What was the moment you first got drawn to sneakers, and which pair of sneakers triggered your passion?

I’m probably dating myself, but the Nike visible air units first caught my eye in elementary school. In particular, the Nike Air Max 90 “Infrared” caught my eye with its pop of color and daring design. And if you want to talk about bold, then there might not be a bolder sneaker from that era than the Nike Air More Uptempo, another shoe that gripped my consciousness and has yet to let go.

But a single transformative moment was when I was watching the NBA finals and saw Michael Jordan in the Jordan 13 “Bred.” The silhouette captivated me with its dimple paneling and distinctive holographic eye. It’s nowhere near the most popular Jordan silhouette, but it was one of the first that I purchased with my own money.

All images via @solecialskills

What’s one moment or trend in the history of sneaker culture that resonates with you?

One moment that comes to mind is the start of the Yeezy line. Until then, Nike was the leading player in the game and had no real challengers. Yeezy disrupted all of this with its unique approach to marketing, fresh designs, and unrestrained creative freedom.

Having worked for several tech startups, I resonate with the role of the disruptor. It’s about addressing a need in the market and pushing that entire industry to new heights. This is exactly where we are today, with unprecedented choices, collaborations, and voices in the sneaker industry.

Please describe how it feels to you when you get and wear a new pair of kicks?

Obtaining a new pair is already monumental in today’s landscape of bots and resellers, not to mention package thefts. I sigh with relief once the sneakers are in my hands because I don’t take them lightly when I decide to obtain a new pair. I also abide by a no resale and no bots rule, mostly so I can keep my purchases under control!

It starts with the packaging and the box. That sets the tone when you actually pull the pair out of the box. I tend to spin the sneaker in my hand to take in all the details and feel the materials. A lot of sneakers tell a story these days, and it’s awesome to take that in as you unbox. And, of course, I’ll never get tired of that new sneaker smell.

To actually wear the sneakers, I have this ritual where I’ll put them on and wear them around the house (I don’t wear outside shoes in the house), and when I’m ready, I’ll walk straight out the door outside. Knowing that these are yours and you’re about to step out in them for the first time is an unparalleled feeling. They are an extension of you and a representation of your personality for all the world to see. It always feels monumental for the first time because I’m really picky with my sneakers, and wearing them for the first time is essentially a commitment to keeping them and making them yours.

How did your passion for streetwear/sneaker photography develop?

It started off as a challenge from a friend in 2019. He didn’t believe I actually had as many sneakers as I claimed, so I told him I’d post a picture of my sneakers every day, on Instagram.

What started off as an answer to a challenge became my primary passion and hobby. I started with some terrible shots of me looking down at my feet. Then I graduated to an iPhone X, literally bending over backwards taking rear/side angles of myself wearing my sneakers, using 2x (the only available zoom level at the time) portrait mode to get that depth of field (but also some closer than desired angles).


Since then, I’ve been happy that 1x portrait mode has been added, and more importantly, have embodied the belief that every sneaker has its own unique angle. It’s my job to find and share that angle. That’s something I try to bring out in every photo for every sneaker, honoring that sneaker in the best light possible. Sometimes I don’t succeed, which is okay. That gives me an opportunity to go out there and try again. It’s a learning process and there’s a lot of room to grow.

Technology and sneaker trends have changed since I got started. What has remained constant for me is exclusively using an iPhone, and doing all the editing on the same phone. I truly believe the best camera is the one you have with you, and if one can eventually master photography using a phone, then the tools ultimately don’t matter as much as the vision.

What are some of your favorite creators/designers or brands and why?

I’m a big fan of Union LA and have made sure to obtain at least one of each Nike/Jordan collaboration silhouette. Their use of materials and colors really aligns with my style and aesthetic and they’ve created some of the most striking sneakers in recent memory.

I’m also a firm believer in sneakers as a storytelling vehicle, and to that end I really appreciate what James Whitner and the group behind Social Status and A Ma Maniere have done and continue to do. I own a fair number of their Nike/Jordan collaborations and they are exquisitely designed.

Lastly, I’ve long been a Ronnie Fieg follower, and it’s been amazing to see him come up in the industry and turn Kith into a household name. His attention to detail is unparalleled and everything he creates is high quality.


What is one sneaker collaboration that doesn’t exist, but you wish/think should exist?

Sometimes it feels like literally everybody has a sneaker collab! So maybe I should have my own…


What are some of the current pairs of sneakers in your rotation?

I’ve got a somewhat unsurprising rotation currently: Yeezy 350 V2 Beluga 2.0, Nike x Union Dunk Low “Argon,” Nike Foamposite 1 “Royal,” Jordan 6 x Travis Scott “Olive.” That being said, I try not to repeat sneakers often, so “rotation” is more like “this week’s pairs.”


What is your ultimate holy grail sneaker that you have not managed to acquire so far?

It’s gotta be the Yeezy 2 “Red October,” as that’s been on my grail list forever. Most likely will remain a pipe dream, but it’s nice to have goals!

Other than kicks, what are some of your daily essentials or treasured items?

As a sneaker photographer, I keep it simple: iPhone 13 Pro, Geometrical Pocket Tripod Pro, weather report. The pocket tripod folds flat like a credit card, so I always have it with me. It aligns with my belief that the best camera is the one you have; the same applies to tripods. And one should always be mindful of the lighting where possible. I treasure those overcast but dry days where the clouds are a natural diffuser.

What's your favourite sneaker to photograph?

Just judging from my own photo history and social media posts, the Jordan 11 “Bred” has to be my favorite. The silhouette is iconic, and this particular colorway has its own place in history. On top of that pedigree, the black and red are a stunning combination, highlighted by the patent leather that this sneaker is most known for.

With all that, I don’t think it’s possible to take a bad photo of this sneaker, though it does pose interesting challenges with reflections. Overall, it is simply a stunning sneaker that I never grow tired of capturing.

Where people can find you on social media?

Instagram: @solecialskills

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An engineer who loves writing in her spare time.