Mike Buff, IN YOUR FACE because he was in Oz’s lens!
Before I ever became interested in photography, I was into BMX. I mean, INTO BMX. It was everything. And that started when I picked up my first issue of BMX Action magazine in 1982, collecting articles on anything to do with E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial. The magazine tested the Kuwahara E.T., the same bike Elliott rode in the movie. I fell in love with the sport through Bob Osborn’s lens. From there I was HOOKED. I got my first BMX bike that year and from then on, that sport is what I ate, drank and slept. What does that have to do with photography?
In my case, a lot. I raced BMX and had a freestyle team. I read BMX Action religiously. Oz’s photos inspired me and my friends to ride. He shot all our heroes, and made them larger than life!
I had this image of Stu Thomsen jumping over the Redline-colored Porsches in my room, it was part of a calendar. One of those Porsches belonged to Oz.
I picked up a camera for the first time when I was in college, thanks to my mentor, AP Photographer Seth Perlman. A few months after I picked up a camera, I decided to shoot a BMX race. Long story short, I ended up shooting it for one of the magazines (BMX Plus!, not BMX Action) and ended up with a job for Plus! a few months later. I was still inspired by Oz, and other staffers at Action including Oz’s daughter Windy and the one-and-only Spike Jonze.
I never met Oz back then, at the end of the 80s he had more-or-less retired from the helm of the magazine and moved up to Carmel to pursue his passion for photography, this time fine art work. It was beautiful work, I remember seeing a few prints on the walls at GT Bicycles. His large format work is gorgeous, and you can see it on his site.
I finally had the chance to meet Oz a couple of years ago at a reunion for the best of the best Pro BMX racers, all my heroes (and most of them my friends now) in one place. I scored an invite thanks to Greg Hill and made my way to Phoenix for it.
Gathering if the who’s who of BMX Racing in the 70s-90s. Greg Hill on the far left and Oz is almost hidden toward the center near the back row.
Oz was there and I finally had a chance to meet him. Now he’s not only a hero, he’s a friend. We’ve kept in touch and I helped recommend a digital camera for him to get back into it, and he’s back with a vengeance. His photography still inspires me.
See his work at RobertOsborn.com. Check out “The BMX Years” gallery to see the images I grew up with, “The Large Format Years” to see his work after that, and “Recent Work” to see the beautiful work he’s doing now.
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