PSYPAD x SIRINBIRD x WORDSHOP MVP

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Just a few months ago we interviewed emerging electronic music producer psypad, and today he is raising the stakes with his latest project - a vivid collaboration with a Russian fashion brand Sirinbird.

This time, expanding from his roots in deep techno to more delicate soundscapes, psypad infuses the director's cut of Sirinbird's promotional video with a touch of ethereal. We get a sense of profound longing, a feeling as fleeting as an aroma you recognize but cannot identify:

From the makers of the video:

"A borrowed light, an oblique image, a stolen glance, an uncertain commentary. The cautious eye seldom risks going so far as the images depicted on the silk here: a hidden softness, a perfume that awakens, magic echoes rolling off the clouds. And in a single stroke, in an instant, open the frontiers of the world beyond.

A synthesis of tone-painting and visualization that characterized the Russian national music of the XIX century is now growing in the air of young electronic music producer - psypad.

Under the usual upper stratum of «modern electronic» pulsates the musical tradition of Russian fairytale coming from Rimsky-Korsakov, Borodin and Rachmaninov.

To listen is not enough. This music demands to be seen. It brings to the fore its acoustic treasures and timbres with such radiant intensity that it crosses the sonic border and becomes colors, patterns, signs.

These signs play with one another while developing their own linear progressions thus creating a complex, multidimensional, polyrhythmic canvas reminiscent of the structure of Stravinsky and Prokofiev.

Frozen in its insistent repetition the theme is similar to lamentation, perhaps a lullaby with mysterious whispers and creaks. From it grow new rhythm and melody variations to generate new images – restless bells, hoofbeats. Multiplying electronic noises increase the sense of mystery and secrecy while maintaining the lightness and transparency of the silky musical narration.

Myth is "the essence of consciousness as it itself appears in a phantasm of reality." The collaboration of electronic musician psypad (Ivan Tolokonnikov), fashion designer Sirinbird (Irina Batkovoy), and Wordshop Music Video productions is a project in which music interacts with visual symbolic protoforms to create a mystical space for the unique fashion objects.

Inspired by Russian fairytales, the stories told on Sirinbird's natural silk ask: Where does myth end and reality begin?"

Credits:

  • Directed by: Andrey Mousin, Alena Koukoushkina
  • Original Music by: psypad
  • Camera: Nikolay Belikov, Vasily Ovchinnikov
  • Starring: Elena Yakunina, Anton Goverdovsky
  • Edited by: Sergey Chebotarev
  • Color grading: Maxim Mironov
  • Styling: Margarita Sayapina
  • Crew: Marina Tolstobrova, Ivan Smurygin, Margarita Suslova
  • Special thanks to Lesya Rusakovich, Bat Norton, Vse v Buket by Ksenia Ponomareva and Larissa Sukhova
  • Script: Andrey Mousin, Alena Koukoushkina
  • Produced by: Wordshop Music Video

PSYPAD - ELECTRONIC MUSIC PRODUCER


Age: 24
Years a musician: 18
Place of birth: Moscow, Russia
Current city: Moscow, Russia
Primary occupation: Musician

Facebook - Soundcloud - Instagram - psypadLIVE - psypadVEVO - Management


In today's interview we chat with psypad (Ivan Tolokonnikov) - an independent music producer from Moscow who tells us about his creative process, the Russian dance music scene, his debut album Sonos, and his latest music video that hit the world-wide-web just seconds ago. Enjoy!

Ivan, wow, man, who would have thought 12 years ago when we were both in school that one day we would be having this conversation about your debut album Sonos and your new music video?! Looks like you’ve come a really long way since I last saw you. Can you tell us a little bit about your development and how you went from being a school boy to becoming an electronic music producer?
After starting studying at university, I got bored of it fast and since I was previously studying piano at music school for seven years I found my escape from this boredom in music. At first I got myself the Korg's Electribe synth and started trying to make some music. In the beginning it was, well, how to say it... Bad? But then, after some time and practice, I started to like the results more and more. And after even more time and practice my tracks started to become more appealing to other people.

Do you remember what was the defining moment that made you think: “Yes, I want to do this, I want to be a music producer!”?
No, I don't remember that moment. But maybe that's because I was raised in a musical environment. My grandmother taught me piano since, I think, I was five. Then my parents sent me to music school and I studied there for seven years, training every day. But on the fourth year studying there I very much wanted to leave the school and to never come back there, but my grandma, thank god, was persistent and I graduated the school. 

So why music? Why not, say, painting or writing?
Because at the time I was more interested in music. Even though I painted previously and still make sketches from time to time. And not writing because I never was any good at it.

Do you play any other instruments?
I tried to learn to play the guitar, but had no luck at it.

Tell us a little bit about Sonos. How did the idea come about, how long did the production take, and what did it feel like to be working on such a big project?
At first it was an EP, not an album. We planned to release an EP consisting of four tracks – "Alone", "Sunday" (Night and Morning) and I guess the fourth was "Delirium". But during the process the tracklist extended quite a bit. The idea to name it "Sonos" came pretty much by accident. Previously I wanted to release an EP with tracks named after Greek gods and other mythical creatures (i.e. Zeus, Hades, Medusa), but this idea never came to life. And "Sonos" was a word Latin enough for my liking. It also tied in pretty well with the idea of "handcrafted sound", so we stuck with that name.

Speaking of handcrafted sound, in the description of your album you mention that you’ve built all the sounds for the album using analog gear. Logistically that sounds like a very complex process requiring impeccable organization and lots of troubleshooting. Was it really so?
Due to my production habits it is really the only way it could be. I enjoy the ability to edit any sound at any time in the production process, so I try not to bounce the sounds to sample form for as long as I can. In terms of logistics it is quite a process if you are used to working with samples, but since I worked with live synths throughout the development of my production techniques it is just the way I am used to do things.

How did you go about writing the lyrics for the album?
Since the lyrics were written by Nikita (manager/co-producer), my role in them was only editing. But as far as I know, for Nikita this process included quite a bit of self-reflection.

Great vocals on this album by the way. Did you collaborate with Russian vocalists? And what was the recording process like?
Thank you! Yes we did. Aside from my vocals on "Alone" we have my friend Olga's vocals on both "Sundays" -- the night and the morning edits. Recording was both difficult and fun. The most difficult for me was "Alone". I had literally no idea how to work with my voice.

Any reason why you and Nikita chose to write the lyrics in English for this album?
We wanted to reach a wider audience.

What is the most enjoyable part of the production process for you? Composing, arranging, mixing?
I don't take these parts separately because even while I mix I can put some changes into composition or arrangement. So I think it is safe to say that I enjoy the process as a whole.

Which track is your favorite on the album? I personally really enjoy "Delirium", "Sunday [Night]", and of course, "Alone" - it stands out as the leader of the album to me.
My own favorites are "The Mountain" and "Sunday [Morning]". Hearing my own voice on "Alone" makes me cringe.

Really? I think that your voice is what makes "Alone" so memorable.
Yes, although the vocals are heavily tweaked and distorted at places, my voice is still well recognizable. Funny thing is that I really had no idea how to use it before starting with "Alone" so it took some time to get the result our team liked.

This is very interesting, but before we continue and talk more about "Alone" I think it is a good idea to watch your first music video for some context:

You know, the general vibe I get from the album is dark, melancholic. Some people I’ve asked to describe it say that it feels like an echo or a memory. Is this indeed a retrospective album, if you will? Would you say that it’s rooted in your past somehow?
This album, as we've realized ourselves after the release, is a retrospective of the year prior to the release. The album describes the things that have happened to me or Nikita during the year, both the heartbreaks, the good times.

How did you achieve that distant, introspective feel?
Can't say that that was intentional... I just felt connected with what I was composing about and tried to not to interfere with this flow. I guess I've managed that.

What draws you to the darker side instead of the brighter, uplifting one?
The darker side is deeper. As they say, a happy artist is a bad artist. While I can't wholly agree with that statement, I still think that making art about the darker sides of life can be easier and more colorful as a result.

Photo by Vieralinn

Photo by Vieralinn

Now your album has been out for a while and you’ve been very busy promoting it, directing music videos, and also acting in them! How do you manage to stay focused on making new music on top of all that and what can we expect from you in the future? An EP? Another full album?
Since the release I've been spending most of my time in the studio and I hope to have an EP ready by the end of the year. I think I'll take a little pause with releasing albums. For now I'd prefer to go smaller.

Okay, so let's take at look at your new music video now!

Tell us about it! What was the process like? What was the most challenging part of the production? How long did it take?
I myself didn't really work on the filming and editing, more so - the director refused to show me any cuts of the video apart the final. So all I knew about how it would be were the parts I took part in filming. The first time I myself saw it was just before the color correction phase. The production of the clip took nearly half a year, with the first scenes filmed in May and the last filmed in September. For me, the most challenging part of the whole process was being a camera trolley during the filming of the outdoor scenes. And the hardest part of that was when I had to go in reverse. Imagine: there's a cameraman in the trunk of your car, covering the view of the rear-view mirror and all what's left are the side mirrors and the director's vocal commands. There's an actor behind the car, that the cameraman has to make a close-up shot of. You can't see him, so you have to trust that the director will tell you to hit the brakes just in time.

I see some of the characters come from your earlier video – "Sunday [Night]". Is this the continuation of the previous story?
Depends on us filming the third video, but the chances of us doing that are pretty slim. So I'd say "no, it is not the continuation".

But.

In the "Sunday [Night]" video our protagonist ends up laying unconscious on the road... Pretty much like in this video. So maybe they are connected, after all... That's for the viewers to decide.

Let’s talk gear because who doesn’t like to talk about gear? What’s your studio like? What DAW do you use?
I use Ableton Live because it's the only DAW where I understand the logic of the interface (points to you if you've noticed the pun). Now my studio looks like a gear nerd's lair - I have a case with my DJ gear (XDJ's 1000 and A&H Xone:92) sitting on my window, Sub37 and Virus Polar on the table right beside the window and the main workplace with all my little things - two Beatstep Pro's, the Roland's TR-8, the rack version of MFB's Dominion X and my favorite, the Tempest by DSI. Also there are two guitar pedals lost somewhere under all that gear - the reverb and the distortion.

What are your go-to synths and what piece of equipment did you find to be the most crucial to your progress on Sonos?
Since I try to move away from software synthesizers I try to use all the gear I have. So it will be easier to say what synths I prefer to use less and that's the Virus Polar. It has some weird issues syncing with Live and those are the issues I can't find a way to solve, sadly. But it was still used in pretty much all of the album. For example, nearly all arps in Sonos were made with the Virus' arpeggiator. But speaking of the synth that was the most crucial for Sonos, I think that the most progress I made was when I acquired the Tempest. It is a very powerful and fun little machine that has its own character in how it sounds.

What’s the Russian electronic music scene like at the moment? Is it young and vibrant? Is it growing? Are people in general excited about electronic music in Russia?
I am not so much involved in the scene and that is for a number of reasons. First of all, this and last year were my final years at university and I was focused on graduating. Luckily, I succeeded. Secondly, I'm just a grumpy guy and I don't really like to get into things that other people do. The last part is where Nikita helps me a lot, because apart from him writing all the lyrics for the tracks, he is my manager, the guy who makes me do stuff. And he also takes on most of the stress of communicating with people. As for what I know about the scene... Yes, I think it's quite vibrant now. As an example I have my friend Anastasia Kamanina, who won the MTV's Casa Musica project. So yes, I guess people are starting to be active. And about the excitement I think that accidents like the cancellation of the Outline festival this summer displayed that pretty well. When people refuse to return their tickets to get back their money for the cancelled event in order to show support for the people who tried to make this event, I think you could say that yes, they are pretty excited about electronic music.

Are US or European influences dominating the club scene?
I think that Russia is influenced more by the European scene. At least when it comes to House and Techno. 

I feel like very few Russian producers have the same worldwide recognition as their American or European counterparts. Why is that? I think that we have amazing talent in Russia. What is keeping them away from major festivals and the biggest dance floors?
I think that that is where location comes into play. While we have some good labels here, they seem to operate exclusively in Russia. They always try to stick to the local scene, not the worldwide one.

Have you collaborated with any other Russian producers, and if yes, what was it like to work in tandem with someone else?
I have not collaborated with other producers, and to be honest I don't have much intent to do so. I'm not very good at teamwork.

What’s it like to play your music live to actual people standing in front of you? Must be a thrill!
It sure is a thrill! Especially when out of the 5 synths you have on the stage only 2 are working... But even with that I've managed to perform a 30-minute live set at the Sonos presentation.

Who or what are you main inspirations at the moment?
I'm currently in a search of a source of inspiration. I thought that it could be good craft beer, but how wrong I was...

Hahahahaha... That's a good idea! I should try it! Now, how much of your creative process is deliberate and how much is accidental? I am asking because, you know, for a long time I used to think that happy accidents while making art somehow devalued it, but I no longer think so and instead accept them as an integral part of the creative process. I am curious to hear your take on this.
I think that it should be both. You should start with the deliberate search of harmonies and melodies, but you should also let these happy mistakes to happen. That's how it is with analog gear - it is great because of its little imperfections. Speaking of happy accidents, sometimes you can get an awesome sound by mistakenly turning one knob, so I think that these accidents are a big part of the creative process.

How do you start composing a new track? Do you sit at the instrument and let your body do the work or do you start in your DAW? Is creativity more a physical or mental process to you?
That very much depends on my mood. Sometimes I sit at the piano and look for tonal combinations, sometimes I start by making a beat. There's really no set starting point for me.

Genres are ambiguous but if you had to define the genre of your music, what would you classify it as?
Hm... Deep techno?

In my attempts to make music, I found it extremely difficult to form musical ideas in my head, but I find it pretty easy to conceive of a photograph, for instance. Do you think in music? I guess this is a question about talent. Do you believe in talent?
Although it may sound commonplace, I really think that talent is a combination of dedication and practice. While you could have some kind of a head-start in a form of, let's say, perfect pitch, you still need to work hard to develop that into good music.

Okay, we’ve talked about creativity, now what about the business side? What's your team like? Who are some of the key individuals working with you and how are they helping you to achieve your goals?
Yes, we are a team of two -- me and Nikita. Sometimes we have some session-workers, but psypad is made mostly by the team of two.

What are your guys’ plans for the near future? How are you going to further promote the brand?
We have some plans. For example, while I will be in London studying at Point Blank, I will be making vlog videos about my days in there for our psypad Live channel.

I heard that you and your team are planning on starting an imprint. Can you tell us more? What’s your vision for this project?
Yes, we do have an idea to start our own imprint called - NØICE RECORDS. It’s all about the electronic music we love or enjoy. Initially this imprint was created only for psypad’s releases, but now we accept music from the outside. If we will like it, we will try to release it or give you some advice.

What’s the next step for you personally? Anything else you want to accomplish alongside music? Maybe some place that you want to visit? Some new food to try? A book you wanna read?
Yes, I plan to graduate from Point Blank's Music Production and Sound Engineering Master Diploma program.

That's a solid step forward. Ivan, thank you so much for taking the time to share your thoughts with us. I think a great way to wrap this up is to listen to "Way" - the beautifully composed outro of Sonos.

ASYA MITSKEVICH - ILLUSTRATOR


Age: 26
Years an illustrator: 2
Place of birth: Moscow, Russia
Current city: Moscow, Russia
Primary occupation: Full-time artist and illustrator
Facebook - InstagramEtsy Shop - Society6 - Portfolio


Hi, Asya, welcome to Pyll Mgzn. This is a very special interview considering that we had been out of touch for more than 10 years! I am really glad to have you here. You have been doing some amazing things with illustration. For those of you who don’t know you, could you briefly tell about yourself and your current creative pursuits?
Hi! Thank you for the opportunity and I am glad that we keep in touch now! I am an architect turned illustrator. About a year ago I understood that I needed to change my life because my occupation at the time didn't give me any inspiration and I was literally avoiding it, so in March 2015 I started my first challenge project called "50 Shades of Owls". It was an experiment where I challenged myself to draw owls each day for 50 days and it helped me to get some confidence about my drawing skills and was overall a good starting point for a new career.

Then I organized an exhibition in Moscow, started selling my miniature drawings online, created funny illustrations called "OwlyWednesdays" and launched one more shop with my illustrations.

I was very happy about the appreciation that my owls received throughout the year but my personal growth was always my priority and I was seeking for a new style of illustration that would define my style. I developed a technique that I use in my current 12-week project. This project is called "Wise Words On Ribbon" and it is a very personal one because each subject that I choose to make an illustration of had a great deal of impact on my life. So it is not only about interesting illustrations, compositions, and wise words, but also about the personality of the artist behind the works. I am approaching the middle of the project now and I am very happy that I found the courage to start it.

In 2 words what were the last ten years like for you?
Self discovery.

What were your first attempts at serious illustration? Do you have any examples of your very early work to show us? (Mwahahah!)
Here are some early works:

But until recently I never thought about becoming a serious artist or a professional illustrator, so art always remained my hobby and my extra source of income during my 6 years of university studies. I drew for myself and did custom orders for portraits since 2010 - pencil, charcoal drawings, water-colour, acrylic and oil paintings. I received my first serious illustration project just after graduation. One cool creative agency contacted me through Behance.net and asked me to make ink illustrations for 8 collages. It was a rush job and in 3 weeks time my illustrations became part of the beautiful 2014 Diageo calendar. It was a super cool experience!

You know, looking at these works, one can tell that you have reached a very high level of skill both in your technique and artistic vision. What was this process of artistic growth like for you? What were some of the biggest challenges and setbacks? What were the biggest leaps forward?
My art way was quite a winding road. At the age of 5 I discovered Monet albums that my mom brought from Paris. I loved to make copies of his great paintings and I guess this was the first time I felt inspired. But in school and then in art school I didn't feel this inspiration anymore. I studied art but there was no creativity in this process. In architecture school I did my best during the short art lessons that we had. I received good marks but, you know, I took it for granted. So, this was the greatest barrier in my artistic growth. I took my skills and talent for granted and everybody else did the same. Since I discovered Monet as a child there was nobody else who inspired me so much and nobody who made me believe I am an artist. At the age of 25 I became this person for myself. It was very challenging. Of course, there are other artists who inspire me to carry on but first and foremost I have to be my own source of motivation.

Did you experience any resistance from your family/friends when they found out that you want to go into illustration as a career? 
Of course I did. Many people knew that I drew stuff but they thought about it as a hobby. After I spent 8 years in architecture most of them thought I was crazy and naive to leave it all behind. 

How did you deal with that pushback? How did you preserve your personal and artistic integrity?
I guess the greatest gift I have is my introvert nature. I love to be alone and this helps me to preserve my personal and artistic integrity. I learned how to be patient with my failures or with other peoples’ opinions so I don’t really see it as pushback anymore. I try to perceive it as a new level of experience. Sometimes I strive for perfection in my work and at these moments I stop myself. Personal challenge projects help me to get rid of this nasty habit. Sometimes I feel like I evolve too slowly and that is hard to deal with. At these moments I go outside, to the park for example, and remind myself the Chinese proverb "The man who moves a mountain begins by carrying away small stones", and I start to calm down because there is no point in being afraid of growing slowly as long as you are not standing still. 

I noticed that what separates great artists from amateurs is consistency. Would you agree?
I guess it is so.

How do you maintain consistency in your practice?
To keep up the progress you need to work, constantly. I try to draw 5-6 days a week. I draw human figures, I make sketches for current and upcoming projects, I search for inspiration on the side, share my progress on social media, watch and read tutorials sometimes. My life experience taught me that it is not enough to be good at something and to take in for granted. You have to be excited about your work, you have to be your own best fan and your strictest critic. The one thing that really ruins everything is indifference. Laziness comes second.

I am sure you have experienced artistic plateaus. How did you break through them, and how did you tolerate them while you were stuck in them?
You know, art is limitless. I wasn’t acutely aware of that earlier but now I don't feel like I get stuck on plateaus. Slow progress is progress too. One cannot move constantly at the highest speed and sometimes we all need to slow down for a while. When I experience a plateau I eventually come out with wonderful new ideas, so I appreciate these moments.

How do you feel when you see amazing illustration? Inspired? Challenged?
Both. I guess the best thing for a creator is to know that he/she challenged others to try.

Okay, I have a little project for you. You have to illustrate “Earth in 150 years”. Go! How would you approach something like this? What would be your thinking process?
I would start by choosing to define Earth in 150 years as a better place than what we have now. I would then make some sketches and change everything I don't feel good about in the current structure of life. I would try to integrate more nature into what we have now. I would spend a lot of time on research and even inventing something by myself. I can envision the final piece as a big album or installation with transparent pages with ink or pencil drawings on them, symbolizing different layers of change, year by year till 2166.

Wow, that’s really cool! You know, I am fascinated by the way the things we are interested in with time become integrated into almost every aspect of our lives. A photographer sees light. A musician is thrilled by great sound. How do you see the world? I just wanna get an idea of what’s going on in your head. How do you link your art with your world and your world with your art? How does an illustrator think?
All artists are excited about the beauty that they suddenly discover. I can get inspiration from sound, from pictures, from nature and its eternal diversity of species, from texture I see or texture I feel, from strong emotion, from a phrase or someone's story. I am not sure that it is right to talk about imagination or fantasy because we all have one amazing world around us, but we perceive it differently. Imagination depends on the way you mix all the things you are aware of, all the ingredients in your head. I prefer to mix them in a way that yields to creating something positive and inspiring.

Asya, this was great. Thank you for such insightful answers. How can people connect with you and where can they see more of your work?
Thank you for such interesting and challenging questions. I have a Facebook page and Instagram where I post all my new works and works in progress. People can contact me by writing a comment, message or sending an email to asya.mitskevich[at]gmail.com.

I also have 2 online-shops: www.asyamitskevich.etsy.com with my original drawings and prints, and www.society6.com/asyamitskevich where you can print my illustrations on everything from paper to shower curtains :) My new Behance page is under construction.

And lastly, any book recommendations? :)
It is never too late to reread books you read as a child. I love to reread The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint Exupéry and Tove Jansson's books. They are full of love and wisdom that I hadn't fully understood back when I was little.

HÉLÈNE BEDEL - HEALING ENABLER

As I am riding the metro to meet Hélène at her workplace for an interview I try to imagine what it is going to be like. I picture a small office, fluorescent lights, her sitting behind a clean desk, with a thick black notebook open in front of her. Her patients sit in two chairs across the room, looking anxiously at the specialist in front of them who supposedly can help them resolve the issues that have been bothering them for years... I don’t know why, but my mind jumps to images of psychiatry and sterility, as if a sterile approach to mental health is necessary to suppress any mental disorder. 

When I finally arrive, Hélène greets me with a big smile and a warm presence. She gestures me to come in, and I am surprised to see that her space is nothing like I had imagined. I walk into a large, spacious room that feels comforting right away. A big plant takes up an entire corner with its branches. I notice a pleasant scent of incense in the air. Suddenly I feel like I can let my guard down. This place is alive and it doesn't mind me being there.

Hélène kindly offers me tea and water. Meanwhile, I glance around looking for the thick black notebook full of secrets about peoples’ weird problems, but there is no such notebook in sight. There are flowers, vibrant paintings, and… lots of empty space. As Hélène later explains to me, this space is there so people can move. By moving they can wiggle out of their tension. Via motion they can connect to their source of health and power. 

It all feels magical and almost mysterious. As if this is a room where extraordinary secret rituals take place, accessible only to a select few. But this is far from the truth. In fact, Helene’s goal is to share what she knows with as many people as possible. The so called "secret powers" are available to each and everyone. All that's necessary is some curiosity and the willingness to be at once still and fluid, at once vulnerable and strong.

So who is Hélène? We sit down and she tells me about her work.

Hélène Bedel: It is difficult to find an appropriate word to describe what I do. I don’t want to call it healing or coaching, I don’t like that word - coaching. What I do is I create a space into which I welcome people so they can go through their inner process, and I just help it to happen. So I guess you could say that my goal is to be present for people so they can connect to themselves and do whatever they need to do. 

Artem Barinov: We are so disconnected from ourselves in the modern world. As someone who understands connection on a deep level, do you have any tips that people can implement into their daily lives to instantly reconnect? Something simple that can be done anywhere and at any time of day?

HB: For me the key word is embodiment. Because nothing happens anywhere else but in the moment. And when you are present, you are present through the body; and what is connecting you to the reality of the here and now is the reality of the bodily sensations. So the way to connect is through embodiment. And you know what is interesting is that most people avoid pain, physical pain. They try to numb the pain, and for me in my space that’s a great gate to open because physical pain is something real and if you listen and say yes to that pain, then you can go deeper and connect. That’s the key. Whatever sensation you are having right now, even if it’s not a pleasant sensation, is a key to open the connection gate and begin the process.

AB: It sounds like there is a lot of emphasis on the process. Can you tell us more about that?

HB: Yes, when I dance for instance, I am not searching for what I should do, or how to look nice. I let myself be danced. Somehow when it’s beautiful it doesn’t have anything to do with me. I just allow it to happen. It’s magical, and my little ego hates it! It wants to control. “I am special, I am so special!” But no, I do what I do and if I am open enough then the magic will take place. My little self is not the source.

AB: Sometimes when I am dancing and I feel like I am doing pretty good I decide to look in the mirror to see how great my dancing is, and the second I see myself it falls apart because I begin to try to control and guide my body. 

HB: Yes! I think it’s the same in dance, in music, in writing, in healing. When you let something go through you, it’s easy. You don’t have to struggle. 

Sometimes people ask me what to do, how to create. I think the answer is about what not to do. I have no idea what the truth is, so I have no idea what to do. So, to respect the truth, what I can do is stop nourishing bullshit. I don’t know the truth, but I know what is not true. And what is not true are all the stuck ideas in my head, all my beliefs. Anything that is not in motion is bullshit. So what you can do is choose not to keep on doing things that you know, and to dare to open to the unknown and somehow the truth will be revealed. But you have to dare. 

When I started my practice 15 years ago, what was preventing me from working a lot were my ideas. I was thinking that it was all about me. I thought that to give myself the permission to be present for people I needed to be like a mixture between the Dalai Lama and Mother Theresa. I thought I needed to be perfect to guide people, and of course it was impossible because I was and I am still human, which means totally imperfect with many weaknesses and flaws. So the idea of needing to be someone special to do my work was preventing me from doing it. And what really helped me, and maybe this is something that can help other artists, what really helped me was to accept that it has nothing to do with me. My only responsibility is to be present, to dare to show up, and to be there.  

When I started I thought that I had to succeed in helping people, and I didn’t want to fail and blah blah. But now I don’t know what success means. And I don’t know what failure means. I just trust the process and I just accept that as long as something is moving and living, it can transform.

AB: But we want to be in control! We are all about control and controlling other people, controlling outcomes. If we get rid of control, how can we guide the outcomes in the direction that we want?

HB: When you try to control from the place of your mind with your ideas, you are not aligned. If you want to go in the direction that is appropriate, then you have to align yourself by choosing to be actively receptive. It’s not like “Oh I do nothing and I let god do the rest.” No no no no. It’s like you’re aware that you need to be open so that something can happen through you. So you really have to be available. When you are in this place of availability then you follow the proposal. But the proposal doesn’t come from your head because somehow the head is so small and narrow-minded. But if we listen to that life proposal, it’s infinite and then wheeew… But it’s scary. You cannot control. You can only choose to say yes to that proposal, or not. 

I remember a guru told me once that when you start saying “I don’t know” you start being in a good place. I remember when I was younger I was full of certainties. I had goals, I knew exactly where I was going, what I wanted to do. And I always had pain in my back, and my belly was uneasy. I had many certainties and my head was really clear but my body wasn’t in good shape. And now I have no idea. I don’t know. But I feel really good and my body is relaxed. So I agree, when you start saying I don’t know you start being in a good place.

AB: I… I don’t know what to say. *laughs*

HB: Thats the funny thing because when you start being in that place of truth, there’s not much to say. 

AB: Yeah…

HB: *laughs* Maybe it’s an invitation to stop talking and just do. And, you know, somehow I do believe it’s as simple as that. Just do. It’s funny, because it’s when you are not going through a difficult phase that you realize that you were going through a phase. When I was younger sometimes it was heavy to wake up in the morning. Whatever I had to do, it was heavy. And I realize now it was because I was searching for what to do. I was trying to find out what is the best thing to do today. Oh, “I should do something intelligent,” or “I should do something efficient,” or, you know… And because I was searching for what to do, somehow I was blocked. Because I had this illusion that there was something to do. And it was heavy because it was full of “I should” and “I must” and eh… Now I just do. It’s not a big deal if I go swimming or dancing. It doesn’t matter the shape. It doesn’t matter if you’re dancing or healing or writing. Just do it and somehow god doesn’t give a damn what shape it takes. Life is so much lighter. I can realize now that I am light, how heavy I was when I was struggling to find the right thing to do. I can move freely now. 

AB: How did you find the work that you do? Does it have something to do with you specifically? What makes one person more suitable than another to do certain work?

HB: I… I have no idea. You know, it’s like why a rose is a rose and an iris is an iris. We are all unique and I am sure each one has something special to bring to Earth. I am sure about that. There is no flower that is better than another one. But when you are a rose then the best thing you can do is be a rose…

AB: That’s very true. Because when you try to be something else you end up with the result that’s neither good nor true to yourself and you end up depressed and you feel like you didn’t accomplish anything. Or you feel like you accomplished something but you don’t need that accomplishment at all because it doesn’t mean anything to you anymore.

HB: I think it has a lot to do with ideas about what you should be, what people are expecting from you. When we go after an image, we cannot be the Sun that we are. We cannot shine. Nobody can be reduced to an image. It is too small. We are organic, we are changing all the time. We cannot reduce ourselves to an identity. 

AB: Yes, we shouldn’t over-identify. Do you find that a lot of your clients identify with their problems when they come to you? 

HB: Yeah. 

AB: It’s scary because once you put that label on yourself, once you say that you are depressed or sick, you have that label attached to you and that’s what you become. So it’s very important not to hold on to that label. 

HB: Yes, we are not a stuck identity locked in time. We are continuously evolving beings, and the reality of who we are always starts now. Who you are starts now. We are not the ideas, we are not the beliefs - we are the space that is continuous. If we identify, we are stuck. It’s a big temptation of the head. 

AB: It’s mirrored very closely in the way our society is structured. Because it wants us to know. It’s very difficult. It constrains us. 

HB: Society is the dealer of the little self. The little self that needs to grab onto stuff…

AB: Buy stuff… Eat stuff…

HB: Yeah. To fill the gap, to fill the empty space. Whereas being is empty space.

Somehow what is very painful is that we are in a condition that is not linked to our true nature. To put it differently, our condition is human, and we are limited, and we have our body, we are limited in time and space. But our nature is infinite. So it’s very difficult to live in a limited state with the inspiration that we are infinite. And I think the only way to cope with that pull between these polarities is to create. There is so much tension that if you look for the good one, being human or being divine, it’s impossible because we are human and somehow we are also divine. The only way is to dance in between and to create.


About Helene:

After receiving her diploma from the Grande École de Commerce, Hélène Bedel embarked on an international career that allowed her to discover different ways people approach health and wellbeing in different parts of the world. Her initial curiosity later developed into a passion for exploring the depths of the human experience. Over the course of many years of research, Hélène developed and established her own healing practice based on the idea of creating open space for people in which everyone can connect to their own natural source of power.

For more than 15 years Hélène has been working with professional athletes (French sport dancing team, international tennis players), groups and individuals, to help them rediscover themselves and to find balance and establish optimal health. 

For Hélène, wellbeing is a question of space, not time. She wants to discourage people from thinking that “It will get better when the weekend comes” or that "It will get better once this project is finished,” “It’s going to be better when…” The best solution is to stop thinking in terms of time, and to start thinking in terms of here and now. 

Hélène recently published a book in which she gives practical tips and in-depth guidance on how to transform your life, achieve health, and find peace of mind. 

SUBURBAN SLEEP - FINE ART PHOTOGRAPHER


Age: 26
Years an artist: 5 years
Place of birth: Los Angeles, CA
Current City: Los Angeles, CA
Primary Occupation: Retail


I know your real name but you decided not to share it in this interview. Why the secrecy?
I don't want to materialise. I separated my artist entity from my ordinary identity to observe and create unburdened by my ordinary superstitions, predispositions, as well as social pressures and the like.

So is this second identity a part of your larger work of art?
I guess you could say that. 

This is very interesting. Tell us about your work. 
I’d say all my work is just observation driven by the dark themes within my psyche. I am drawn to the night, to the darkness, to the kind of stuff that’s underneath plastic fairings, glamour, chitchat. A drunken bum singing in front of a closing supermarket at 11pm is interesting to me. It’s so dark. 

I think that kind of darkness certainly translates through your work. So do you consider yourself a dark personality?
It depends. 

At every interview I make sure to ask: How do you make your work? How do you go from an idea to finished product? I think a lot of artists are struggling with that. 
You just gotta do it, man. It’s scary as fuck but you kinda have to not care. I think it’s scarier to see what happens if you don’t do it, if you never make what you feel you need to make, you know? 

I remember when we collaborated on a photo shoot in the past you had a very clear idea of the final image. Do you always have a strong visual/idea ready before you go out and do something?
Eh. Sometimes. Oftentimes it’s just following that initial curiosity. It kind of draws you in and then you focus on it, you hold onto it. If that makes sense. 

So a kind of creative impulse?
I’d not necessarily call it a creative impulse. Well, for me it isn’t anyway. Just an impulse, a drive to do or capture or make something. This strong wish to just dive a little deeper. For me it’s kind of like a life impulse. I can be doing the most boring routine shit and then something within me grows heavy. It’s heavy and I have to get it out.

And how do you get it out?
Hahaha that’s the difficult part. This is where you meet reality. 

Tell us more.
The only way to influence reality is by taking action.

Who or what are some of your inspirations?
I don’t really know. I am not sure I quite understand inspiration. I just love some photos, some songs, and I admire the artists who made them. I admire their ideas and their efforts. I look up to them. And also LA. This city gives me so many ideas. 

Do you have formal training in art?
Yeah, I have formal training in photography, but you know, the more I photograph or make art, the more I try to distance myself from that training. I think school teaches you to see everything with the same pair of eyes, teaches you what has worked in the past, what is working now. But at one point you have to develop your own vision. 

So are you advocating not going to school?
Go to school, but make it your own. Get what you need out of it. 

But in your case, do you think that formal training has been helpful in some way?
I am sure it has been in some way, but it can also be quite limiting. In school you get this idea that there are right artistic solutions and wrong ones. Say your friends didn’t think your idea was that great, or you got a lower grade on your project than you were expecting - if that makes you doubt yourself, you might be in trouble. I am not saying ignore feedback, but art is subjective meaning that every opinion is valid, but you are the artist so your opinion is final. 

What are your future projects? What’s in the works?
Haha shit, I dunno, man. But there is definitely more stuff coming. I am always observing, and things are starting to grow heavy inside once again. 

What are your commercial ambitions? Is there an audience for your work?
This is a good question. And an important one too. I don’t think it’s a large audience, but I am certain that it exists. Will that audience ever see my work? Who knows. But even if just one person looks at my work and truly feels the heavy power of the brooding undercurrents of life that I am trying to capture, then that is enough for me. Of course I want to be successful commercially and say fuck you to the 9-5, but as of right now I am trying my best to make my art as true to myself as possible. If I ever feel like I am faking it or like I am beginning to depart from my own vision in some way, I know it is time to readjust and refocus. After all, if I don’t make art that is mine, I might as well stop making it at all. 

Do you find it hard to make art that is true to yourself?
Yes, the difficult part is dealing with that paradox between what you need to make and what circumstances, society, social media, your friends, your family, and your fears are trying to make you make. In the end you just gotta not give a damn anymore and have some confidence in the validity of your ideas. That validity is questioned and put under fire all the time, so you better grow some balls because it ain’t going to be easy to protect and to grow your vision. And I mentioned circumstances, friends, family, etc. but the main obstacle is you. Your fear. Real artists are much braver than they seem. 

You mentioned LA as one of your major influences. Could you make art somewhere else?
Yes, of course. There are always things to become aware of. Always enough darkness. Always enough unknowns. My art is with me. Where I go, it goes. 

RICK TOBOJKA - FINE ART PHOTOGRAPHER


Age: 49
Years a photographer: 5
Place of Birth: MA
Current City: South of Boston
Primary Occupation: Property Manager
Website


Hello, Rick. It is a pleasure to be interviewing you today. Thanks for making the time. Please tell us very briefly who you are and what you do.
Hi Artem, thank you for this opportunity. In a nutshell, when I'm not obligated to work and taking care of other life priorities, I have a passion for photography, and enjoy exploring new venues and conceptualizing ideas for photo storytelling. I originally purchased my first DSLR for video purposes only. The more I fiddled with the camera the more I began to understand and start appreciating serious photography. Soon I was on my way.

Do you consider yourself an artist, a photographer, a writer, a storyteller? If you had to pick one, which of these words do you think describes you the best? 
Photographer.

You have a wide variety of photo essays on your website. Is that the format in which ideas tend to come to you? Or do you find that to be the most suitable format for what you are expressing? 
I utilize an essay style format (currently) because I feel it's the best way to convey my vision about a particular subject. Rather than just curating random photos of subject matter, for me, an essay style allows the inclusion of multiple images or sets to marinate with the viewer and engage the thought process. 

I really enjoyed your Decadenica Urbana series. Can't quite put a finger on what it makes me feel and I really like that. I like the missing clues, the tension. How did the idea for that series come about? And what was it like shooting that project? 
It's an area I have some familiarity with. It happens to be the epicenter of a very popular tourist destination as well. This particular area is dealing with all of the trappings that come with the growth of an emerging small city. I found the juxtaposition of this spatial inversion to be rather interesting, as it varies from season to season and different times of day. Usually hidden within the shrouds of tourism. 

When you work on a project like that, how much of it is previsualised and how much is accidental? I am not necessarily talking about the individual frames, but more so about the underlying emotional content of the work. 
It's funny because most of my work is previsualized. I like to get into "the zone" before I start a project so I can focus on the impetus that got me there. But for the Urbana series it was happenstance... I had no preconceived ideas that particular day. I just happened to be there and as I mentioned, the contrasting realities were paradoxically striking. 

What do you find more challenging, conceptualisation or execution? 
For me it's always execution. Execution is what makes or breaks the concept, it's what gives it life. Thoughts, ideas and subject matter are always there, but do my style, talent and execution allow those concepts to come to fruition? Execution is also both tangible and intangible from the equipment used, how its used, to the manipulation of those images to reach the desired effect. It's a process that entails many decisions along the way.

I noticed you barely have any images of people. Why is that? 
I barely have any posted images of people. Most of my opportunities are limited by time and location. As a result, I am at the mercy of my surroundings. My sphere of influence happens to be along rural coastline so... "when in Rome"... Having said that, my greatest photo-graphical passion would be street. It's what I constantly gravitate towards and believe it or not, it's where my inspiration comes from. Unfortunately I have to make that happen with much more purpose and it's hard for me to accomplish given my circumstances. So the lack of people is a statistical result of my readily accessible environment and not a direct result of my passion. It is something that is sure to change as my priorities shift.

I see the lack of opportunities to photograph people didn't deter you from making some amazing photographs of landscapes. Do you travel a lot and always look out for an amazing photo opportunity? How do you discover those places?
I'm very fortunate to live in a vast coastal region that provides tremendous opportunity for landscape photography. Although it isn't necessarily my most favourite genre ... you really can't help admiring the beauty that's present. For me, some of those venues and opportunities can't be ignored. Other opportunities are afforded through travel, which usually finds me in other beautifully scenic areas.

I know in landscape photography the angle is very important. How do you find one? Does it take you a long time? Do you walk around a lot and then settle on one? How many angles do you try before you find one? 
I try to capture a perspective that is fairly unique and will bring along visual interest. A lot of these places have likely been photographed many times before ... so I'm usually looking for something that will separate from the ordinary. I also shoot very wide so I'm not afraid to embrace a bit of visual distortion as long as it enhances the scene. The last thing I am is a technical shooter ... I will only use a tripod for long exposures, no filters. I like the freedom of movement and spontaneity so my gear is light and minimal.

I find your landscapes to be very emotionally charged? How do you find those strong emotions within a landscape? Or do you project yours onto it? 
It's the chicken and the egg theory. They are interchangeable and one plays off the other. Nature has the ability to stop us in our tracks. The most simple nuance of an object or scene can evoke a memory, yearning or fantasy within. When that happens you will usually project those feelings into and onto your subject matter. 

What do you feel when you are out in nature with your camera? Could you describe that experience?
I have had a lot of planned shoots where I have identified an area or specific location I want to capture. A lot of thinking goes into how, when, where ... Then there is the anticipation of the day...maybe it's perfect, maybe not. Once I'm on my way I'm gonna get something. I enjoy the whole process and when I reach my targeted area ...it's not just a spot. There is always something unanticipated...so much to absorb. I always focus on my intended goal but I'm usually surprised by more. Because it's for me, it's not just a hit and run. I always take time to absorb my surroundings and take in the immediate beauty. I'm usually alone on these excursions and they are typically remote so there is a lot of time for reflection and reverence about where I am and how I fit in to my immediate surroundings. 

What is the ultimate destination for your art? Is it yourself? Random strangers who stumble upon your work? Galleries? 
For now I shoot for me. I upload content to my curated website for others as a sharing reference and portfolio for future collaboration.

What has been your most potent artistic drive that keeps you going? 
Nothing profound here. I enjoy the whole process. From the research, scouting, setup, anticipation, to the processing, formatting and tech involved in reaching the desired effect. It's a creative passion that encompasses all of it together. 

Who or what are your inspirations? 
I enjoy the immersion process that takes place before, during and after any creative shoot where there is a specific goal in mind. It's a great escape and allows for thinking well below the surface. It's a feel good state that I like to be in as well as the anticipation of the end result. I also enjoy and admire the works of others and I'm inspired by that talent, the emotion it produces, and the inspiration derived as a result. Sultan, Hido, Moriyama, to Josh White, Daniel Arnold, Jon Levitt to name a few...

What would you say are your biggest obstacles when it comes to making art? 
Time, logistics and self doubt. The first two are pretty self explanatory. The self doubt is variable and I think probably evident to some degree in the minds of any artist throughout the process. Depending on the project it could be from anything technical, to idea execution, to processing choices. It's certainly not a constant but something everyone struggles with along the way. 

Thanks for sharing with us so much about yourself and your process, Rick. Now, I have some more general questions to start a little bit of a discussion on some topics that have been bothering me lately. You up for it?  
Sure.

Just recently I was looking to post some photographs online and got to reading the Terms of Service of the platform I was using. It stated that uploading any content  would imply giving the service a royalty-free, worldwide, perpetual license to use that content in any way. While this isn't news and most of such services require similar licenses, I became extremely hesitant while reading further into the document. A big part of it was confusion. It was very unclear to me just what that kind of agreement implied. Are the services just protecting themselves from any potential lawsuits, or do they indeed have intentions to use the content? I do not have the answer to that question. Overall I was left with a bad taste in my mouth, and didn't post the images. What is your take on all this? 
I, along with many others share your confusion. As you stated, a lot of the T.O.S. agreements are standard protocol and similar. They are redundant and extremely cumbersome to read so I think a lot of people waive rights they don't understand. I do believe and agree with your thoughts about protection and use ... for sure the onus is on the participant. And it's likely the intent of the platform to protect and optionally use the content as desired. I have no personal first hand experience. It's based on nothing other than observation and opinion.

Do you post your work directly to social media or do you take precautions and only post links to your work that resides elsewhere (like your website)? 
I have no formal social media affiliations. I like to be in control of my destiny and anything else I create as much as I can.  I prefer to curate my work on a website I can control in both content, format and access. From there I have a better ability to control any potential misrepresentations about me or my work. 

Do you think artists need to be worried about such Terms of Service agreements being more and more common?  
We live in a more and more litigious society (at least in the States) and everyone is out to cover their asses. I'm not sure I would worry too much about it though. If there is an effect on rights and publishing I think everyone in that position should do their due diligence and understand what it means for them if it's that important. Particularly anyone who derives their livelihood from their artwork.  

Do you think that artists need social media at all? What are the risks of not using it? 
As referenced in your previous question I think it depends on the destination of your work. If you're a commercial photographer or work for pay...I think it's pretty likely you're tuned into social media regardless of any personal position on it. It's a necessary evil you have to employ to stay recognized and competitive with those in your field vying for the same dollars. However, I don't think it's true across the board. There are a lot of photographers I admire and follow who do just fine with a minimal footprint on social media. That doesn't mean they don't have a strong online presence, they just don't engage in the perpetual volley of all the social media machinations that can become a distraction and sideshow ... and if not properly managed can cheapen the image. Sometimes just enough scarcity of information regarding particular art or artists can be equally valuable.

Thanks so much, Rick. It was a pleasure. So what are your plans for the near future? Any projects in the works?
I'm just going to follow the path I'm on and looking forward to several urban projects I'm planning now... Thanks a lot Artem. Keep up your great work!

See more of Rick's work on his website.

ZORAN MILOSAVLJEVIC - STREET PHOTOGRAPHER


Age: 45
POB: Los Angeles, California
Current city: Los Angeles, California
Primary occupation: Film and Television
Website - Blog - Facebook


Hello, Zoran. It is a great honor to be interviewing you today for the magazine. Tell us briefly about yourself and what you do. 
I live, and grew up in Los Angeles. I’m 45 years old and I work in lighting in film and television, as well as doing some small photography jobs, mostly portraiture. I sort of fell into lighting after attending grad school at AFI for cinematography. I had an ambition to be a Director of Photography but while shooting shorts and building a reel, I realized that Directors that are truly collaborative are few and far between. 

I realized that I am only really interested in the photographs that I want to make. I studied photography in undergrad at the San Francisco Art Institute and I think that your initial education informs who you are and how you go about how you approach any project. My initial education was at a place that let you do what you want, and what I wanted to do was shoot documentary and street photography.

DSCF2627-Edit.jpg
DSCF2961-Edit.jpg
Cuba

Cuba

In the bio on your website you mention that photography freed your power of expression. Could you tell us more about that discovery?
To answer your question (if you don’t already realize it, I’m not that eloquent with the written word), I don’t know how clear my photographs are but I’d like to think that they convey something about the place I am photographing while at the same time providing some proof that every place in the world shares certain commonalities. I can’t do this in any other form of communication. Some people are verbally gifted and some are visually gifted. It’s important for you to recognize your strengths and exploit them (note to the verbally gifted - just because you can operate a camera doesn't make you a photographer).  

Serbia

Serbia

How did you arrive at street photography? What made you choose it over other genres?
I started in street photography almost immediately after I started shooting in high school, I was interested in documenting the world around me, but the unnoticed world. Posing or asking people if I can take their picture isn’t me. I didn’t really choose street photography over other genres, I shoot night landscape and portrait documentaries. Street is where I always come back to because it requires little or no planning, just walk out the door and look.

One could argue that street photography is the most authentic form of art photography. Would you agree?
I don’t know if street photography is the most authentic form of photography but with the death of magazines and newspapers it is definitely one of the most important since we are the documentarians of our world at this time. I will say that I find it quite disturbing that in the art world today it seems more important that you have a polished artist statement and project statement to have your work taken seriously (I’ve seen some really shitty photographs that were part of a project supported by great writing. If the photos aren’t good I don’t care about your ideas or reasons for taking the photos. In fact I think having an idea while taking street photos is counterproductive). 

Los Angeles

Los Angeles

The streets can be pretty overwhelming. What qualifies for you as a moment worth capturing? Why do you point your camera at some things, but not others?
I really don’t know what qualifies as a photographable moment. I know it when I see it. I like the mundane. I will point my camera at anything that will not get me hauled into jail or get my ass kicked (both have happened to me). Generally I like to go unnoticed.

You snap a photograph of someone and their eyes widen, they are shocked, surprised. As a photographer you walk away with a photograph, good or bad, but nonetheless. What do your subjects walk away with? Is street photography a fair exchange?
Street photography is not a fair exchange, but when I look at the work of the greats from the past you can see that it provides a visual record of the time, and that’s more important than what someone may think for that brief moment when they realize they have been photographed (to quote Diane Arbus “One of the risks of appearing in public is the likelihood of being photographed”). If you don’t want to be photographed turn your head. With the amount of surveillance cameras in the cities of the world, does it really matter?

I was once walking in downtown LA and saw a crying boy on a busy street. I did not photograph him out of worry that taking his picture could be considered in some way exploitative of his suffering. Some time later I stumbled on a photograph of a crying girl by Vivian Maier and instantly regretted not taking a picture of the boy. In some ways, I now feel like I had a responsibility to document his crying, his pain. I think this is what distinguishes a seasoned street photographer from an amateur - a seasoned photographer would have taken that picture. Any thoughts on this? What is our responsibility as street photographers to the people we are surrounded by?

Vivian Maier 1959, Grenoble, France

Vivian Maier
1959, Grenoble, France

In my photo Boy With Gun, Hong Kong, that kid was crying and looking for his mother. I didn’t think for a minute. I took the picture. All kids cry, it’s what they do. There is really no reason to not photograph people doing what they naturally do. 

Hong Kong

Hong Kong

How has the genre of street photography progressed in the last decade? Do you think viewers still have the same appreciation for the images, and the shooters the same drive to capture them?
I think street photography has progressed in the last decade greatly. Because of the internet there are now more places to view it and more outlets to show it, and slowly the general public are beginning to understand it more. That and more people are trying it and finding that it’s not that easy and not anyone can do it bringing more understanding and hopefully sales. 

Many beginner photographers focus a lot on the tools and techniques versus content. Any advice you can give them about finding the right pictures, instead of finding the right tools?
I am not immune to collecting gear but my advice to a young photographer is - use what you have and change equipment as you can. Once you find what suits you, stick with it. Who cares whats new at that point. There is one piece of advice to young photographers that have the infrastructure in their city and the money to do it, start with film (I still shoot both). It will teach you discipline that you can never learn with digital (for example, unless I’m out of town I will never fill a 4 or 8 gig card on one of my 12 or 16mp digital cameras in an outing on the streets).

Japan

Japan

How did you develop your photographic vision? How did you learn to see as a photographer?
What would you say has been your most remarkable discovery via photography?

My photographic vision, I don’t know how to answer that question, I would say that my vision is informed by my environment. Where I grew up Los Angeles makes you look at the world in a different way. It’s spread out and you don’t shoot it the way as you shoot any other city. That transfers to the way I shoot any other place. 

Do you have any advice for people who want to create meaningful art, but find themselves stuck and unable to do so? 
Just do what you want and power through it. It will eventually work itself out, or not.

DEE ANN GOMEZ - FINE ART PHOTOGRAPHER


Age: 21
Years been an artist: 1+
POB: Cebu City, Philippines 
Current city: General Santos City
Primary occupation: Student
Tumblr - Instagram


Hey, Dee, how are you? Is Dee your real name?
Hi, Artem! Actually, my first name is Dee Ann. People who call me ‘Dee’ are my type of people though.
 
So, I’ve been following you on Instagram for quite a while now and I am very excited to be doing this interview because I am very intrigued by your work. How did you get into making art? Have you always had a craving to express yourself or is that a relatively new discovery?
Before anything else, thank you for being so appreciative, Artem! Ever since I was 15, I have always loved writing poems. When I went to college, poetry mended me and significantly helped me recover from a death of a loved one who died of cancer. I remember the nights I bled in words in futile attempts of putting my heart unto paper. I formally started photography a year ago and it made a huge difference in my life. I take photos to please myself and for the exhilaration of creating art. My photographs are my poetry. 

“Sometimes I think everyone is just pretending to be brave, and none of us really are. Maybe pretending is how you get brave.” - George R. R. Martin, A Storm of Swords

“Sometimes I think everyone is just pretending to be brave, and none of us really are. Maybe pretending is how you get brave.”
- George R. R. Martin, A Storm of Swords

What is the source of your work? What drives you to make art?
After quitting from my first job, I was feeling more lost than I have ever felt in my life. I felt like I had lost my purpose. I distanced myself from my friends for months. It was then that I started shooting self-portraits and dedicated my time solely for the purpose of curing my depression. Photography did more than that; it allowed me to see the world in different perspectives, thus making me dedicate myself to seeking out photographs that tell stories. 

"My heart full of petals  Every single one begging  Love me,  Love me,  Love me, Whoever I am, Whoever I become." - Andrea Gibson

"My heart full of petals 
Every single one begging 
Love me, 
Love me, 
Love me,
Whoever I am,
Whoever I become."
- Andrea Gibson

You mix text with visuals in a very powerful way. Which comes first, the text or the visuals?
Either. I sometimes think of a concept and then find the right caption. Or whenever I read something that hits me, I base my ideas on that. 
 
Where do you find the texts for your photos - do you just read a lot? Are any of them original writings of yours? 
I love to read, some of them are from my favourite books. Some are from tumblr, and from my favourite poets. And yes, I write some of them too. 

"I left parts of myself everywhere The way absent-minded people leave Gloves and umbrellas." - Koreyan

"I left parts of myself everywhere
The way absent-minded people leave
Gloves and umbrellas."
- Koreyan

How do you come up with ideas for your images and how do you turn those ideas into reality? What is your workflow?
We can all take photographs easily but not everyone can tell stories. When something interests me or an idea comes up, like from a book that I’ve just read, from a poem, or from an experience, I assess myself if the photo is worth sharing, do I feel good about it? Does my photo make others feel something? Is it relevant? And, is it possible? After the assessment, I then work on creating the photo, gathering the props and resources that could support the composition. 

Do you have a background in photography?
I unfortunately do not have any professional background in Photography.

"she was a girl who talked about jumping off bridges, and loaded guns pointed backwards. he was a boy who talked her off the ledge, and pointed the gun toward the ground. each time she put the razor to her wrist she saw his eyes. she heard his voice. she felt his fingertips along her veins. each time he held her in his arms he made sure to do it gently, she had cracks and bruises. he knew he couldn’t be the one to break her. she knew, she knew that no one could save her, but goddamn he was the closest thing to a hero…” - i.c. // ”..and he never let her down.”

"she was a girl who talked about jumping off bridges, and loaded guns pointed backwards.
he was a boy who talked her off the ledge, and pointed the gun toward the ground.
each time she put the razor to her wrist she saw his eyes. she heard his voice. she felt his fingertips along her veins.
each time he held her in his arms he made sure to do it gently, she had cracks and bruises. he knew he couldn’t be the one to break her.
she knew, she knew that no one could save her, but goddamn he was the closest thing to a hero…”
- i.c. // ”..and he never let her down.”

I discovered your work by chance on Instagram and that speaks for itself about how useful Instagram is for finding and following talent. What has your experience with Instagram been like? Do you have a website or a blog as well, or is Instagram your main platform?
Instagram is home. Instagram has the best community ever. If you follow the right people, especially those who have the same passion as yours, everyday you feel inspired to do your craft. I follow a bunch of amazing and talented Instagrammers and they inspire me in different ways to keep improving. I do post some of my stuff on tumblr at deeanngomez.tumblr.com.

"I count my ribs before I go to sleep." - Bone, Warsan Shire

"I count my ribs before I go to sleep."
- Bone, Warsan Shire

Has Instagram and sharing your work on social media affected your art? Positively, negatively, both?
Instagram has affected me positively. It gave me a platform for self-expression. It also allows me to develop and create relationships with people who appreciate and inspire me.

"I sit before flowers  hoping they will train me in the art of opening up." - Shane Koyczan

"I sit before flowers 
hoping they will train me
in the art of opening up."
- Shane Koyczan

Do you use Photoshop for your composite work? Did you learn to do compositing yourself?
I use Lightroom and Photoshop to edit my works. I graduated BSIT, but I learned basic photo manipulation just last year. 

One thing that I really enjoy about your composites is a certain “artificiality” to them, so to speak. They aren’t polished in the same way, say, a photograph coming out of a retouching studio would be, and in my opinion that gives your work a sort of naive innocence and an additional surreal dimension that make it stronger and more profound. Is this something that you do intentionally or is it more of a happy accident kind of thing?
I am a natural light shooter and I just maximize my resources. We know that it is a rule in photography to avoid noise at all cost, but most of my photos are intentionally pixelated or grainy because I think it dramatically helps the composition look natural and interesting. 

“To photograph people is to violate them, by seeing them as they never see themselves, by having knowledge of them that they can never have; it turns people into objects that can be symbolically possessed. Just as a camera is a sublimation of the gun, to photograph someone is a subliminal murder - a soft murder, appropriate to a sad, frightened time.” - Susan Sontag 

“To photograph people is to violate them, by seeing them as they never see themselves, by having knowledge of them that they can never have; it turns people into objects that can be symbolically possessed. Just as a camera is a sublimation of the gun, to photograph someone is a subliminal murder - a soft murder, appropriate to a sad, frightened time.”
- Susan Sontag 

I noticed you use yourself as the subject in most of your photos. How does it feel to be on both sides of the camera? What are the challenges of that?
I do not use a camera remote control, so whenever I shoot self-portraits, I have to manually set the camera timer and do my thing in 10 seconds. It is really quite challenging, I have put my camera to risk many times.  Despite the challenges, taking creative self-portraits is fun! I have the vision of how I want my photograph to look and to simultaneously turn that vision into reality is just fulfilling. 
 
What are some of your biggest creative obstacles? Are there times when you find it difficult to make new work, and how do you deal with those times?
I think the biggest challenge is to come up with fresh ideas everyday. There are times when I find it difficult to make new work, especially when you have the concept but you lack the resources. Oftentimes I just motivate myself to come up with something that could maximize what’s available around me. 
 

"I thought she was sleeping until I heard her call out from across the room, “Will you bring me a glass of water?” I did. Then in her always-sleepy tone and drawl she said, “Do you remember when you were a little boy and you would ask your mama to bring you a glass of water?” Yeah. “You know how half the time you weren’t even thirsty. You just wanted that hand that was attached to that glass that was attached to that person you just wanted to stay there until you fell asleep.” She took the glass of water that I brought her and just sat it down full on the table next to her. Wow, I thought. What am I gonna do with love like this." - Dito Montiel, “One Night,”

"I thought she was sleeping until I heard her call out from across the room, “Will you bring me a glass of water?” I did. Then in her always-sleepy tone and drawl she said, “Do you remember when you were a little boy and you would ask your mama to bring you a glass of water?” Yeah. “You know how half the time you weren’t even thirsty. You just wanted that hand that was attached to that glass that was attached to that person you just wanted to stay there until you fell asleep.” She took the glass of water that I brought her and just sat it down full on the table next to her. Wow, I thought. What am I gonna do with love like this."
- Dito Montiel, “One Night,”

It's encouraging to see that you use very ordinary props and locations, and yet you manage to tell interesting stories. This shows that art doesn't require much in terms of physical things and tools. What are your thoughts on that? If you could choose "less" or "more" which one would you pick?
Your vision is what makes your art, YOUR art. As long as you love what you do and you’re passionate about it, nothing can stop you. Less is more. I don’t really use a lot of props in creating a composition, as said, I just maximize my available resources. 

“His eyes were the same color as the sea in a postcard someone sends you when they love you, but not enough to stay.” - Warsan Shiress

“His eyes were the same color as the sea in a postcard someone sends you when they love you, but not enough to stay.”
- Warsan Shiress

Any advice for people who want to create, but find themselves unable to do so?
My advice is to always try. I am not really good at creating poems but I always try because I want to and I feel like it. Doing things for yourself is a big step in creating because what other people say is the least of your concerns. You don’t need approval, you do not expect other people to appreciate your efforts. Value yourself and create for yourself.
 
What is the next step for you and your art?
I am not really sure but I am certain that I will take the next small, realistic step forward. 

“We’re all kind of weird and twisted and drowning.” - Haruki Murakami

“We’re all kind of weird and twisted and drowning.”
- Haruki Murakami

How can people connect with you and where can they see more of your work?
I am on instagram @heyitsdeee and my Tumblr is deeanngomez.tumblr.com. Thank you so much!

CRISTINA VANE - MUSICIAN


Photo by Francesca Perruccio

Photo by Francesca Perruccio

Age: 23
Years a musician: Unofficially 15, Officially 4
POB: Torino, Italy
Current city: Los Angeles, CA
Primary occupation: Musician
Website - Facebook - Instagram - Souncloud


Photo by Chelsea Moore

Photo by Chelsea Moore

Hey, Cristina. Tell us briefly about who you are and what you do.
Hi! I am a musician currently living in Los Angeles, and I work part time at a concert venue aside from playing shows both solo and with my band. I just graduated University on the East Coast about a year ago and have spent the last year pursuing my musical career out here. I sing and play guitar, specifically I play slide guitar and make blues style rock with folk influences.

You moved to LA fairly recently. How are you liking it so far?
I am surprised that I actually really really like it here. I grew up in Europe and the idea of a sprawling city where a car is pretty much vital (didnt' have my license until I moved here! or a car!) as well as one where the nightlife by and large closes pretty early had me skeptical. But I knew this was the right place for me strategically so I did it anyway. And I have to say I am so glad I did - I love these things about LA now that I have been here. It's like a huge playground, each neighborhood seems like its own city. I love getting to know the new areas, and driving around in my new car. Not to mention people are far more relaxed and friendly than they are on the east coast. Not trying to make a sweeping generalization here but the daily interactions are far more pleasant on average.

Was your move inspired by your desire to pursue music?
Absolutely. I knew that this city harbors creative talent and energy, as well as physical resources and networks that would be that much more helpful in pursuing my dreams. It wasn't all strategic though; I also wanted a breath of fresh (sunny) air, to get away from the staleness of the Tri-State area after 4 years there, but also to continue my stay in the United States before returning to Europe just yet.

Why music? What makes it special for you?
Part of me doesn't even know, and that's how I know, if you know what I mean. Ha! What I mean by that is part of how I feel making music is so unconscious, so instinctual, I do not even know "why music". It just has to be so. And that is how I know that it is very special to me. I have many hobbies and interests (photography, poetry, languages, literature, etc.) but music has never seemed like a pass-time. When I was a baby I would sing myself to sleep, as I (inexplicably) threw everything out of my crib and proceeded to undress until I was in my diaper, humming, and finally asleep. My parents figured I was going to be a singer as they watched on in confusion...

What made you decide that you want to take music seriously? What was the tipping point?
I was already in college when I decided that I didn't want to be scared away from trying this. I had just spent a summer in London, where my father lives, playing small gigs for several months, and I knew this is what I wanted to do. Many people seemed surprised or even skeptical that I might seriously consider pursuing music; after all, there's no internship for that, there's no roadmap, there's no easy 1-2-3 formula. What about all the other people trying to become successful? How do you go about it? Basically, when I was on those stages, sometimes to rooms full of people, sometimes to empty ones, I knew that this was what I wanted to do. And that I could. I decided it was now or never, I have the rest of my life to find another way to live. Why not try the one that would make me happiest now?

Photo by Artem Barinov

Photo by Artem Barinov

With that said, how has your life changed once music became something more than just a hobby? Do you find that you encounter more resistance?
Absolutely. I felt a lot more free, after the initial doubts that this was just a nebulous dream. In LA, I didn't feel much resistance, because it seems like everyone you meet is a creative trying to make it. People seem to understand. But back in school people would meet me with raised eyebrows, insinuating that it wasn't a "real" job, pressing about what I was "actually going to do" after graduation. Fuck that.

Resistance can be internal like writer’s block, but it can also be external like lack of time or resources. Do you work to support yourself and how much time, realistically do you have left to dedicate to music? 
I do work to support myself, and I work pretty infrequently part time. I am lucky enough to have a supportive family and a boyfriend whom I live with and therefore split costs with. This makes finances easier, but the tension of making funds last the month is definitely there. Working for a concert venue means sometimes shifts are frequent, other times, they are not. I am looking into getting another part time job, however as you mention, the more one works, the less one has time for their real passion. So I am looking at this as an investment. Right now, I have little money for extra things I might like to have later in life. But soon I will be getting paid for gigs and for my work, hopefully, if all goes to plan. Right now, luckily, I have enough time to practice with the band, book gigs, and find time during some days to write.

A lot of artists prefer not to think about this, but it is kind of a serious topic - I am talking about making money. You started fairly recently, but do you already see any money-making opportunities in the near future for yourself as a musician?
Yes, and no. Sadly, musicians don't get PAID for many things. Session work and lessons are usually the go to for musicians who need to have some sort of income. Unless you gain popularity and can attract a large crowd, it seems that many of us are doomed to play poorly paying gigs where we are asked to bring an audience and we get some of the cut. It's kind of absurd really, LA has this whole crazy "industry" side of the music touring area that I didn't encounter so much in London or in New York. These promoters and bookers who have the power to offer gigs but also the power to demand you bring, like, 20 people or else you don't get paid or in some cases you have to PAY the difference (pay to play). It's bullshit! Most of them don't really promote the shows (which is supposed to be their job) and rely on the artists to draw big crowds, and end up booking people who can bring audience, not good musicians.

With music and other creative industries being so extremely competitive these days you must have had moments of doubt, moments where you fear that you might not make it. How do you push through? 
I push through by reminding myself it takes a long time. It really does. Not a single act happens overnight - even in the quick rising pop stars, there are years of training and work behind most of them. I remind myself that the greatest of the greats were once playing to tiny rooms, and that this is all part of the journey. And then this idea of "making it", for me, is reformulated and easier to digest when I assess what "making it" means to me. I don't consider being filthy rich and famous "making it", I like to think that I would love to be an artist who has the ability to live off of my passion, play to decent sized venues with people who are there to enjoy my music. That's basically it. I also try and surround myself with supportive and visionary people who say the same thing. Believing in yourself is step #1!

If there is one thing that stands between you now and your most ambitious goal as a musician, what do you think it is and how are you going to beat it?
I really think it is just time. I plan to work with it, not beat it. You need to put the work in to get results, and that is what I plan to do. You don't expect people to pay you after a day of sitting around right? Why would anyone expect to get where they are just because they have some talent? You have to work, physically get to places, support other people, be organized and produce great music and things will fall into place.

How about the creative aspect. What do you find inspires you the most? What’s your fuel?
Most of my fuel are my recent emotions. I am not one to write about political themes and rarely do I sit and think back to a specific memory. I usually go off something that recently happened or happening in my life, concentrate on those feelings, and often articulate them towards a figure in my life or an imaginary person I am talking to. Many of my lyrics involve relationships; family, friends, boyfriends. Humans.

How do you go about writing a new song? Do you have any rituals that make it easier to focus and get work done?
I definitely have my little ritual: make some tea, burn some incense, sit down with my laptop and recording microphone, and my guitar. I play out riffs first, sometimes I go through riffs I have already recorded and choose one to work on. I develop the backbone of the song in chords and then I start humming my melody over, and last of all I fill in words. Then I sit down and "really" write, write lyrics that mean something to me. Then I tweak it and record the demo! Ta-da.

What does the word “passion” mean to you? Is passion overrated? 
Passion for me doesn't have the usual connotations of chaos, unbridled emotions, and all that jazz. It can definitely be that, but to me it means laser-beam focus. When you want to do something more than you want to hang out with friends, go to a party, eat some food, take a nap, BREATHE, that's passion. I don't think it's overrated at all. I think passion is forgotten cause everyone is so busy following steps to make money. I don't want to be a hypocrite - we all need money and we do what we need to do, but I am saddened to think many people have passions they never pursue because we are not taught that those are "real" interests. 

Do you think today’s audiences expect a certain kind of music? 
Yes and no. That would be supposing we have a "today's audience". In this time period, we have dominant genres as any time period did, and my music is not one of them (electro, rap, pop). But the audience isn't a monolith. So many people love and appreciate blues, folk, rock, and roots music and actively seek it out. That being said, it is definitely harder to play live music and sell out a show than it is to be a DJ and sell out a show. So yes and no.

Music is transcending other art forms like photography, art, and video because of how easy it is to appreciate. It sort of works according to the instant-gratification principle. People hit play to relax and fine tune their moods. Music seems to be directly connected to peoples’ emotions. No other art form has such immense reach and impact. You don’t see people nodding their heads and singing along to a photograph for three minutes. Any thoughts on this? Is music the ultimate art form and the most direct way to get to the heart of a person?
Music is universal, and sometimes it even crosses the boundaries of species! I don't think it is the ultimate art form, per se, because that implies superiority. I think it is perhaps one of the most basically instinctual art forms. Some more processes are usually necessary to understand visual art, and even photography, than happen when you push play on a track and close your eyes to listen. Of course, if you're critically listening to music, and in some genres specifically, it's not so simple - but on a basic level, you have a drum beat around a camp fire and it touches people. People feel it, people dance, people clap along, people identify. I think it is definitely one of the most direct ways to reach people's hearts because you don't need a language to explain it, and you don't need to know the process behind it to appreciate it.

Cristina, thank you so much for this wonderful interview. How can people connect with you and where can they hear more of your music?
Thank you for your great questions! People can find me on Facebook, and if they just want to listen they can go to my Soundcloud. Feel free to email me if you just want to chat! cristinavanemusic@gmail.com

And last question: Can you imagine your life without art?
Fuck no. Well, yes, I can, and I imagine it would be extremely dull and short.

ALVERAZ RICARDEZ - STREET PHOTOGRAPHER


977076_315498105251938_1499783884_o.jpg

Age: 41
Years Behind Camera: 2
POB: Richmond, CA
Current City: Los Angeles, CA
Primary Occupation: Student
WebsiteTwitterTumblrBlogFlickr


Tell us a little bit about how you got started in street photography. What made you decide that that is the genre you wanted to explore?
I moved to Los Angeles several years back to pursue screenwriting, so storytelling has always been a passion of mine. I picked up street photography as another way to explore narrative expression, using a different medium. Photography seemed like a natural progression for me. A couple years ago when I first started shooting on the streets I had no idea it was an actual thing. It wasn’t until a friend mentioned I was shooting “street photography” that I began to research the craft, realized what I was doing and of course, fell in love with the whole culture and history of the process. I spent an entire Summer, almost daily, shooting downtown. I then stopped for a year to pursue other endeavors. I recently began shooting again, and have rediscovered my passion for it.

Is photography your primary occupation or do you have a 9 to 5?
Photography is just a hobby. I spent twelve years in Asset Protection in San Diego, then moved to L.A. to pursue writing. I’ve had some modest success, but it never turned into anything substantial. Eventually I decided to return to college to finish my undergrad, after taking the last 20 years off to work. So now, going to school full time gives me an opportunity to shoot again for fun.

When you do street photography do you photograph casually while walking around or do you step outside with only your camera and the goal to be entirely focused on finding photographs?
As much as I’d like to claim I shoot casually and without scheduling, I don’t. I have a wife, two kids and a really tight schedule, so when I book time to go shoot the streets, it’s a focused, time sensitive endeavor. In fact, I’m not one of those street shooters you see casually meandering along the sidewalks, smiling and taking it all in. When I start, I’m on a mission and completely focused. It’s strange, because I never wanted to be that kind of personality when I’m in a creative space. I see so many other shooters taking their time, slowing down, chatting with people, taking in the sun. For me it’s like, get the fuck out of my way! I never intended to be that guy, but when I’m shooting, I’m there to work. Don’t get me wrong, I’m having an insane amount of fun while I shoot, and I don’t take myself or my work too seriously, but when I’m shooting I’m shooting. I’m not there to do anything else.

Are there days when you just do not feel like photographing?
As a writer and creative person in general, of course there are days when I don’t want to create. It’s the curse of all creative people -- making the time to get it done. So yeah, there are days when I don’t want to shoot, but the writing cliche applies to photography too; I don’t shoot because I want to, I shoot because I have to. I’m always on the lookout for my “white whale” when shooting, it’s part of an internal game I play with myself. It keeps me inspired to move forward. Every time I’m out there I stumble across a new story, a memorable moment, or unique person that inspires me to keep shooting. So despite the days I don’t want to hit the streets, I know I can’t live without it anymore. It’s a cathartic, cleansing experience for me now and shooting the street is always on my mind, no matter what I’m doing.

What kinds of things/events/people are you attracted to in the street? What makes you think: “okay, this is the photograph I want to get”?
I try not to get caught up in expectations or defining what makes me think “this is the right shot”. I feel once I start defining the parameters or ingredients for a photo, I’ve stifled my creativity. It’s important for me to maintain a complete openness to the moment, which is something I work on in life, not just shooting. I think being open to the impermanence of life is the hardest thing I’ve ever done. It’s the experience of being open to constant change that has given me my ability to capture it when I see it on the streets.

Though I only started shooting a couple years back, I’ve spent over a decade working on being present to life, and available to the people and moments around me. So when I stumbled into street photography, it was easier for me to notice the spontaneity of life at any given moment. I think having already worked so hard at being present gave me a better sense of how things transpire on the streets. I can see a moment about to unfold just in time to capture it. It’s part of why I’m not the guy, as explained earlier, who can just meander, chat and “maybe” get a shot if it comes along. When I shoot, I quickly try to immerse myself into my surroundings, from shot to shot.

AlverazRicardez9.jpg

Do you think that street photography that is not in some way confrontational stands a chance at being interesting?
I think what a street photographer considers immersion and being present in the moment is thought by many to be “confrontational”. So we need to first step back and reassess the words we use when discussing the craft. I would never use the word “confrontation” as it obviously implies negative aggression. I’m not trying to put lipstick on a pig, but it’s important that people new to this form of photography understand that getting close to our subjects and capturing the narrative is paramount to the creative process. Whenever someone uses confrontation when describing street photography, or begins the personal space rhetoric, I point out the historical, artistic significance of work we see in our local museums. It was the same so-called confrontations that gave us work by Gilden, Winogrand, Meyerowitz, etc. To deny their ability and freedom to insert themselves into the moment, denies humanity of the very art we covet. It’s a misunderstood craft in that aspect. We don’t want our space invaded in public, but we want to admire and cherish the work created from that same so-called “confrontation”. With that said, no, you don’t have to be close to get amazing shots. I’ve seen countless images by amazing photographers who shoot from a distance and capture the same brilliant images as those I just mentioned.

Would you ever use a telephoto lens in the street?
I don’t personally use telephoto lenses for street, and I know it’s an age old debate. For me, it’s another parameter people like to insert into the craft. I have no idea why photographers debate over shit like this to be honest. Who cares what anyone uses to capture street photography? I certainly don’t. With that said, I’ve never seen a street shot taken with a telephoto lens that I liked. It’s just not appealing to me, but that’s personal taste and we all differ in that respect.

When it comes down to it, the camera itself is just a tool I use to capture and share a moment with others. If there was a way to do this without a camera at all, I’d sign up for that technology. Some photographers worship their cameras, lenses and other equipment, but that’s just not an important part of the process for me. I’m only intrigued by capturing unique moments I can share with people. If I can capture a moment using a toilet paper roll and saran wrap, then I’m ok with that.

How do you push yourself to get closer, to get the shot? How do overcome hesitation?
I think it comes back to being available for unique moments. I’m in the Bruce Gilden camp when it comes to getting close. I have no inhibitions in that sense. I’m also 6’3 and 250 pounds, so there’s no way my subject misses me. There are some photographers who can be a fly-on-the-wall, like Bresson. They can just float around and capture from a distance. I’m not that guy, you see me coming, so I just roll with it and shoot. I do try to get close, but only as close as I need to in order to capture the moment or subject the way I think will best tell the story. If that means from across the street, or up in your nose, then so be it.

However, I’m not a dick about it. I mean, I’m going to get close, but if a subject loses his shit, I’m going to do my very best to defuse the situation. I’ll discuss the shot, who I am and what I’m doing. I never want to walk away leaving a subject angry, that’s just not cool. But I’m not going to stand there and be abused, or spend 30 minutes explaining myself either. I’m generally very nice about the whole thing, but sometimes a subject just refuses to listen to reason, or has no interest in the rights the law provides me as a street photographer. That’s when I just walk away.

With that said, is photography introspective and meditative for you or is it energy filled and intense?
I don’t think these are mutually exclusive emotions when I work. When I’m out there, I might be in a meditative space for sure, it’s the only way I can stay present to capture anything that comes up. However I do it with energy and focus. I move pretty quickly and don’t stand anywhere for too long. The energy in any one spot seems to ebb and flow, so I like to move forward whenever a spot on the street loses momentum. I like to be in thick of it, the hustle of the street. I think I accomplish it with a mix of those things, not one or the other.

Walk us briefly through your mental process as you are working in the street. What thoughts are running through your mind?
Man, I’m not sure anyone wants to know what’s going through my mind when I shoot. I would equate it to a Jackson Pollack painting, in the sense it’s totally erratic and moving. My eyes are everywhere, my pulse is off the hook and I’m in a really creative, explosive space. Sounds weird when I say it that way, but it’s true. Every street photographer understands the split second. It’s that split second that makes the difference between a brilliant shot, and complete shit. Sometimes, the best shots come when you can see the moment before it happens. So for me, this requires being quick and meditative at the same time.

There’s a shot I recently grabbed of a man walking by another man in a wheelchair. They were only yards apart and I had to sprint across the street, line up my shot and capture it just as these two people came together. I need to be sharp and ready, so my mind is constantly searching, hunting for the next shot when I’m out there. This is part of the excitement for me, as I’m sure it is for most street photographers.

You offer prints for sale on your website. Do people seem to be inclined to buy your work? Do you think that there is a viable market for street photography?
My first solo show was at Blackstone Gallery, in downtown Los Angeles. I was lucky enough to sell several pieces from that show. I’ve also sold some work from my website, but it’s rare. Selling street photography is difficult, unless you’re one of the big daddies I suppose. But I’ve never met a street photographer who’s in this to sell their work. I mean, it happens, but most of us do this because it’s a lot of fun. If we can sell a shot here and there, awesome, but I don’t put much effort into that part of the process.

I do plan to start printing a lot of work at the end of this Summer. I have a lot of new images I’m going to share, print and have for sale. But again, it’s really a bonus and not something anyone should expect. I don’t remember who it was, but someone once said street photography doesn’t sell because no one wants a picture of some stranger hanging on their wall. I thought that was an interesting perspective. I do a lot of street portrait work, close ups of strangers, so I get that. I know others who do a lot of HCB type work, where it has a very artistic, wide use of shadows, distant subject appeal that resonates more with buyers. They seem to sell pretty well, and even though that style does not appeal to me, maybe it pays for that photographer to keep shooting, and that’s always cool.

The last century produced some legendary street photographers. How come contemporary shooters are not celebrated? Do they not have the same dedication to the craft of street photography? Do they not yet have substantial bodies of work? Is street photography not considered a serious art form anymore?
I would argue there are more amazing street photographers now than any time in its history. However, I think the congestion of images being shared, and the availability to view images in a growing market of image-sharing websites has saturated the market. As a result of this, maybe we’re just overwhelmed by the constant stream of images pushed in our face on a daily basis.

I think as a society maybe we’ve become desensitized to art in general from this phenomenon. In the decades prior, we had to work a little to find the exceptional artists, we had to go buy a book, or drive to a gallery to see our favorite author, shooter or painter. Now, we can find him in the time it takes to click on Google, and, living in a society where speed trumps patience, many will click through a series of Moriyama images like they’re slamming down a Big Mac.  

I also think there’s such an influx of camera phones now, everyone is essentially a photographer, or thinks they are anyway. It’s difficult now to push through all the garbage online to find that gem. But, those gems exist, and when you take the time to search through a thousand so-called photographers on sites like Flickr, you’ll find that one guy who just blows your mind, the real deal. I’ll spend hours on these sites sometimes, just to find those photographers, and they’re out there. You just have to find them, and that’s difficult in a world where we expect everything immediately. So we can’t say the best photographers existed years ago. The best photographers are here and now, but you need to go find them and take the time to enjoy their work. I guess what I’m saying is, slow the fuck down.

There’s also the argument of editing. Too many photographers who are good, share way too much online. It’s important to edit your work down to the very best and only share that. But again, the access and ease of sharing has become second nature to us as a society, so we just share at will, losing those special gems in our batch of images. I think too many good shooters surround their best work with crap. I’m guilty of it too, but I’m actively working on slowing down the images I share, and it’s really helped.

As for street photography being an art form or not, I’m not going to answer that because it’s not my place to judge what is, or what is not art to someone else. There are some shots by Koudelka I think are more artistic than any Picasso, but art is subjective and the “art or not” discussion is a trap no street photographer should ever get caught answering. You’ll always get it wrong.

Why is street photography important, if at all? Is it just about pretty images or is there more to it? What is, in your opinion, its value? Is it documenting the state of humanity at a certain place at a particular time? Is it to elicit emotion?
I think this falls into subjectivity again, but personally, it’s all in the process for me, not the result. It’s nice that some people enjoy my work, but in all honesty, when I’m done taking the image and editing it, I’m moving on to the next moment. I guess what I’m trying to say is, the importance of street photography to me is the experience of being there, and capturing the moments and people that intrigue me. As I mentioned earlier, I’m also a writer, so I might have a different objective when I’m out there. I’m looking for the story, where shit gets nuts and people do the unexpected. There’s art in that moment when I capture it in my camera. After that, who knows? The image just becomes a record of an experience I had, and the experience of the subject or moment I captured. It all happened there, and you missed out on the good stuff as an observer of the image after editing. But at least, as an observer of the image, you get a taste of what really transpired, and that makes me happy.

What are your plans for the future? In what direction are you going to take your street photography?
This is a hobby for me, so I have no expectations. I don’t want to corner myself into a certain way of doing things. I’ve done that before with other endeavors and it became stale and tiresome. So to keep it exciting, I don’t set limitations or expectations on my street photography. I’m currently working with another photographer on starting a collective. I’m also planning another show for the end of the year. I might also have a deal with a publisher in Europe, if they can find the dough to make it work, but I’m keeping it all in perspective. For now I’m just enjoying the ride and having a blast wherever my camera takes me.

SKYLER REID - STREET PHOTOGRAPHER


SkylerReid-Headshot.jpg

Age: 27
Years Behind Camera: 14
POB: Los Angeles, CA
Current City:  Astoria, New York
Primary occupation: Journalist
Website: skyreid.com
Tumblr: skyreid.tumblr.com
Instagram: @skyler_reid
Twitter: @skyreid


Tell us a little bit about how you got started in photography. If I understand correctly, photojournalism is your bread and butter, but when you shoot for yourself do you become a street photographer?
You could say that. I'm usually just carrying my phone when I'm out (not on assignment), and most of the shooting I'm doing is more focused on candid moments… so “yes” would be the short answer. I'm not so much interested in telling deep stories as I am in finding neat lighting and interesting scenes. I'm a lot more focused on aesthetic, which is a big part of street photography (in my opinion).

In some ways photojournalism is very similar to street photography. What would you say are the main differences between the two?
The best photojournalists these days are all about going deeper: they make strong connections with their subjects and create images that really show that. Even daily news photography and breaking news is best when the photographer takes time to really understand and portray the nuances of a subject.

Street photography, as lovely as it is and as much as people can talk about “capturing moments” comes up short there. It can be gorgeous and telling and even revealing of deeper truths, but the basis for street photography is more on the side of art photography: it's about creating the photograph as an object to be inspected, whereas photojournalism is more immediately concerned with the subject itself. When they're done well the two can be remarkably similar, but they come from different angles.

Then again… some of my favorite “classic” photojournalists (Elliott Erwitt, Gordon Parks, of course Cartier-Bresson) could all be called street photographers today. Matt Black, Sebastiano Tomada, Finbarr O'Reilly; they all do work with an aesthetic quality that reflects art photography. I suppose it's an easy distinction to make, but it's hard to define.

With that said, do you think that street photographers have the responsibility of journalistic honesty?
For photojournalism, honesty is inseparable. It's the foundation. It's the second half of the damn word. In street photography it's more of a byproduct than it is a purpose – if you're capturing a moment, it should actually be a moment. One of the critical aspects of street photography is a certain candid, unposed aspect. Of course (and this may sound childish) I think everyone should be honest. So of course I think there's some responsibility, but I think it's more of an affect in street photography, whereas honesty is (ideally) the basis in photojournalism.

The camera, in my opinion, is objective. But can a photograph be objective?
I studied philosophy in undergrad, so the words “objective” and “subjective” can send me into incredibly convoluted rants. I'll try to not make this one of those.

Simply put: the camera is inherently objective. It's an object that captures reflected light through a lens against emulsion or a sensor or whatever (or something like that). Even the photograph itself is objective: it's an object that comes from the camera. But the way we interpret images, or how we use photographs to represent an event or a person or a situation are incredibly subjective.

It's hard as hell (frankly it's outright impossible) to be objective, but we can be honest. But even photos that are honest can be repurposed or misused or misinterpreted. All we can do is try and make the most accurate records of a situation possible and try to make sure they're presented as such.

Some say that the authenticity of a scene can be compromised by a simple crop? Would you agree?
I think I answer this above. Yes, of course it can. The photograph is only a representation of the photograph, and if it's changed it may not represent the scene in the same way.

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Photojournalism is considered a disappearing profession yet communication online seems to be becoming predominantly visual, probably because a picture is worth a thousand words and nobody wants to read a thousand words. What is your take on that? Do you think that photojournalism is just in a stage of transformation and we will see a resurgence?
People don't mind reading a thousand words, they just hate reading a thousand boring words. Photojournalism, just like the rest of journalism, is less and less about just being there and is more about knowing how to tell the story in a coherent, relatable way.

I doubt we'll ever regain all the photojournalism jobs we've lost, and that kinda sucks. But there'll always be a need for people who know how to take more meaningful photographs than just the “I was there” shot. I don't know exactly what the industry is going to look like in the next 5 years, but the people who keep working are going to be the ones who know how to go deeper, not just click the shutter at the right time.

(And as an aside: if an editor ever contacts you because he wants your “I was there” shot that you posted on social media, ASK FOR MONEY. They have it. And if you don't, it just means more photojournalists not being paid. We're all pretty poor as it is.)

Valid point. Okay, a little bit about field skills - how do you approach shooting in sketchy areas? How do you know when not to point your camera at someone?
If they say “Don't take my picture,” that's usually a hint.

I'm not a particularly big guy or anything, but I do have the advantage of being tall and serious looking. I'm not the first guy that most people will fuck with, so I usually feel a lot more comfortable in “sketchy” areas than others.

That said: if it seems like a potentially dangerous place, I won't immediately take out my camera. I'll get a feel for the situation, and in some situations – I've shot during riots, in gang areas and while people have openly threatened my safety – I'll keep the camera out but only shoot sporadically. And if I take a picture of someone who gets pissed off … well, you'd be amazed just how far a wide, shit-eating grin and an earnest sounding, “Oh, hey, sorry about that,” can get you.

Do you ever feel resistance to getting good images? Are there times where you have to push yourself to get a shot?
Constantly. I had to learn the importance of “shoot first, ask questions later,” for photojournalism, but in street photography there's a good chance that you're not asking that many questions. You're just getting the picture, and you may not be able to explain yourself. All you might get is a pissed off stare. “That shadow on your face just looked really interesting,” is kind of weird to say out loud, and most people won't understand that nearly as well as “I'm doing a story for the local paper about this pertinent local issue.”

When it's happened enough times, you start to feel that pissed off stare even before raising the camera. One of the hardest things for me with street photography is getting over that bump and just taking the damn picture. And, as I mentioned above, it's amazing how far a shit-eating grin can get you.

Why is the camera so powerful? Why do people react so strongly when you take a photo of them?
Photographs of people can capture a lot of details that may go unnoticed in the passing context of daily life. Slightly off-kilter expressions, rumpled clothes, that acne scar that just won't go away: they're all a lot more obvious when they're frozen for eternity. Most people are self conscious, and it's unsettling to not have control over those little details. And that happens with candid photography and street photography.

I've been lucky enough to travel a lot with the work I do, and people react very differently to the camera depending on where you are. Without getting into it too deeply, the impression I have is that the more conscious a person is about his public image, the more unhappy he'll be with truly candid photos. A New York hipster who carefully curates his Facebook photos and makes sure no one photographs him under fluorescent lights is going to be a lot more pissed off about an unexpected candid snap than a kid out in the sticks who isn't old enough to be worried about wrinkles. In both cases the reaction – pissed off hipster or joyous kid – is to the affirmation that they exist in the world. But candid photography means that the person isn't controlling how they appear in that world, and that can be really awkward.

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Are there any personal projects that you are currently working on?
I have a bad habit of starting up new project ideas on Instagram that I don't necessarily stick to. I started a “Close to Strangers” project (#closetostrangers) a month or so ago which I'm still interested in, but it's proven surprisingly difficult. The idea is to take pictures at an awkwardly close distance through windows, when people don't realize they're susceptible to being photographed. The point, however, is to get people really engaged on the other side of the window, so I can take time with the shot. It's winter now and not that many people are dawdling outside of windows in New York.

Where can people see more of your work?
I tend to post things to my blog (skyreid.tumblr.com) that aren't directly related to work. Otherwise, I work all over: The Village Voice, The Guardian, Vice, wire services (AFP, Reuters, the AP), GlobalPost… it's freelance. Somehow the bills get paid. My Instagram is the best stream for street photography-type stuff (and I need more followers!): instagram.com/skyler_reid.

Or, you know, Google me.

JOSEPH PAREDES - STREET PHOTOGRAPHER


Age: 29
Years Behind Camera: 14
POB: Montreal, Canada
Current City: Toronto, Canada
Primary Occupation: Shipping Services
Instagram: @josephwall85


Tell us briefly about yourself. How did you get started in street photography?
I started developing an interest in photography when I was 16 years old. I took a course in high school on black and white photography. In the beginning my interest level was really low, however, after I began developing my own pictures I realized the creative potential I had with a camera and I haven’t looked back since.

How much time do you dedicate to it?
I always had a slight interest in photography, however, I would be the first to admit I wasn’t committed in the early stages. All that changed when a previous girlfriend, who also shared an interest in photography, purchased a Nikon for me as a gift. She encouraged me to pursue my goals and to express myself in a creative way. At the present time I can’t picture myself leaving the house without my camera.

Do you snap pictures as you see them or do you carve out time to dedicate entirely to making photos when you are 100% focused?
I try to not make time for photography. I believe once you dedicate a specific time to anything it becomes a task and feels forced. I try to see the world through the lens of a camera. I might get inspired in a grocery store, walking the streets, or even at home. If there’s anything that kills creativity it’s forcing yourself to do it, that’s why I always carry my camera for whenever the moment is right. Photography can be an art form and art should never be forced.

Ok, so you step outside with your camera, what's the first thing you do? How do you get the first shot off?
I don’t necessarily have a checklist when I step outside. I try to capture life as it happens, uninterrupted and true.

What do you primarily chase outside - composition, light, subject? What draws your eye?
I’m intrigued by shadows and lighting. I like to combine shadows/lighting with moments in life that depict pain. Rarely are those moments ever shared with the world. My objective is not to glorify pain but rather to tell its side of the story.

Share with us some fears that you confront. Are there moments when the camera just feels too heavy to lift?
I like to put myself in situations that create discomfort. For example I once stayed the night at a homeless shelter and shared a room that had two beds with four men. I took pictures throughout the night until one of the men became agitated and chased me out.

How do you deal with that discomfort?
I try to blend in with the environment as much as possible. Whether it’s my choice of attire or how I conduct myself.

The streets can get overwhelming at times. What qualifies for you as a moment worth capturing? Why do you point your camera at certain things and not others?
Moments that are worth capturing for me are moments of pain. I like to capture the harsh realities of life in a picture. Perhaps it’s my personality but I enjoy taking pictures that most would consider taboo or unconventional.

What do you think is the difference between a great street photographer and a mediocre one?
I believe the biggest difference between a great and a mediocre photographer is a great one will be able to draw emotion or interest from pictures that capture moments that go unnoticed on the streets. Anybody can take pictures of moments that life has to offer however great ones combine it with creativity to draw an emotional reaction from the viewer.

Do you work exclusively in black and white? How did you arrive at that choice?
I believe black and white compliments my style of photography. As I stated previously I like to capture pain and shadows. Black and white matches with those elements perfectly.

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Why is street photography important to you, and why should it be important to the rest of the world? Should people care?
Photography is important to me because it’s a means of expressing myself in a creative way. I believe it’s important to share it with the world because there’s a side to every story. There’s happiness and then there’s pain. I compare street photography to early hip-hop. People were appalled by the lyrics but rappers were only speaking of realities from their environment and how they saw the world through their experiences.

Street photography is challenging. What is the risk of not pushing yourself every time you make a picture? 
I rarely push myself when it comes to photography. Photography is something I enjoy and I never want it to become a task. I always believe if I ever feel like I’m forcing myself or if it starts to feel like a job then I will quit doing photography all together.

If you could go to any location in the world for a week for free just to take photos, where would you go?
I would go back home to Lima, Peru where my parents were born. It’s where my family came from and I would love to take pictures of the area where my mother grew up. I also want to take pictures of an area called El Jade in Lime. It’s an area filled with graffiti and art.