The Inspiration Blog - Part 1

August 17, 2018

Even after I draft an outline of things I want to talk about or mention, starting is always the hardest part. I’m not even talking about the physical act of writing, it’s more like, where the fuck do I begin? I want to get into a topic that I feel gets glossed over or one that is simply not addressed. In what follows in this 2 part series I will first go into some detail about the what and who that inspires my work. In the second half I want to talk a little more about the why I do it, and why I choose to Iive my life the way I do. I think there could be some take aways for you the reader, but also for me, the artist. I feel a process like this will force me to be introspective and actually dissect my work to the point where I can learn something about it and maybe about myself as well. 

 

 21 stair 180 attempt Chicago, IL at Windy City Riot circa maybe 2002-06

Photographer - Unknown

 

 Ao soul St Louis Park, MN - 2009?

Photographer - Andrew Murray

 

Top soul triple transfer St Paul, MN 2008 maybe?

Photographer - Andrew Murray

 

 Full true mizue rewind 360 out - i4i contest St Paul, MN 2001?

Photographer - Unknown

 

Sporting a broken wrist for a Nimh skates promo/cover photo for an interview I did - 2009?

Photographer - Andrew Murray

 

To start things off at the absolute beginning, growing up I was actually heavily on the other side of the camera. I would be filmed for skate video sections, online edits, at contests, and having photos taken of me for potential magazines and promo. Perhaps some of that influenced me, but at minimum it exposed me to the craft. Nearly 6 years ago I picked up my first DSLR at age 25. To be honest the reason I got the camera was actually for video. I was moving to Vail, Colorado and I wanted to be able to film myself and friends snowboarding. I started off with a Nikon d3100 with a fisheye and kit lens. I remember I had spent hours studying and writing out the exposure triangle so I could shoot manual mode as soon as the camera arrived. I’m kind of a nerd like that. I had a few weeks before the move so I decided to take my camera along on some exploring missions. Pretty soon I realized I was completely enamored by photographs, the act of taking them regardless of the subject matter. It was all I could think about, I literally thought everything was a potential picture back then. 

 

First photo I ever took after getting my Nikon d3100.

 

Side note: I realize the 2 photos above are still subjects I enjoy shooting, however I’ve deleted all other photographs from around the VERY beginning.

 

Fast forward those nearly 6 years and I can definitely see my style and subject matter have changed, as would anyone’s, I hope. No longer do I see everything as a picture, and I certainly don’t skate because my knees would explode. I’ve spent hundreds of hours in the name of photography either shooting, studying the technical side and composition, reading esoteric photo philosophy, and listening to podcasts. I’ve also traveled tens of thousands of miles around America and have connected with hundreds of photographers. While all that I’m sure has influenced me in ways I’m probably unaware of, I do know there are some key factors that I believe really helped to shape the artist I am today. 

 

For almost as long as I can remember hip hop has always been my favorite genre. Until middle school I didn’t really have any friends my own age, they were all 3-5 years older than I was. In 6th grade I was introduced to graffiti by a close older friend of mine. I believe that introduction was instrumental in my life. Along with skating every day, Aaron and I would go check out graffiti spots around Minneapolis. We would go into abandoned mills, climb onto roofs, and hangout under bridges and in train yards. Who knew 20 years later these activities would still be some of my favorite things to do. It was the graf culture that really introduced me to exploring. Now graffiti culture has a different effect on me. It motivates me to hit spots! No one else is going to write their name up, just like no one else is going to make my photographs for me. Within the urban exploration realm, I’ve come to view my photos as my tag. Much like graffiti, in photography and exploring, the action of doing is paramount to the outcome. For some it’s a release, it’s therapy, it’s a stand against following the rules set forth by society and it’s for a rush. For me, truthfully it’s all of the above. 

 

 Chicago, IL

 

New York City

 

 Miami, FL

 

 KCMO

 

Tacoma, WA

 

Now that I’m starting to get a little skin in the game, my subject matter has evolved to not just exploring. The more I study photography the more my eyes open. Nowadays one of my biggest influences are old photographs. I am now seeing and understanding the true power of photography. Photographs allow for the opportunity to travel back in time to a different era that we will never know. To bear witness to some incredibly moving and important moments frozen in time. I think it’s my obsession with old photographs that now drives me to want to create work that will have a lasting effect 30 or 40 years from now. When I shoot, it’s not for today or tomorrow, it’s for decades from now. To touch on a little bit more about my subject matter, aside from the urban exploration, I tend to shoot the more depressing and controversial sides of life. I naturally gravitate towards it. I feel that the darker side of life needs not to be swept under the rug, but to be shown and embraced. Not everybody’s life is puppies and rainbows regardless of what their well crafted social media accounts may suggest. 

 

 

 

 

 

Less than a year into photography I reached out to a friend of mine, an incredibly talented and successful commercial photographer named John Haynes (www.johnhayesphoto.com). I wanted his opinion on what I had been doing because I was so excited about it. He basically told me that everything I was doing was useless garbage (not in those words, but not too far off either) and he was totally right. John then told me something I will never forget: “If you want me to look at your stuff, make me want to look at your stuff. What I mean is, make photographs that mean and say something”. BOOM! That has opened my eyes and put me on the path that I’m still on to this day. A path I will continue on until I cease to pick up a camera. Does this mean he is going to feel all the photos I make now, or that I’m making meaningful work for all mankind? Not at all, but they all mean and say something to me. If I were to throw out a humble brag, it’s becoming increasingly obvious that some of my work does resonate with others and for that I’m truly thankful.

 

 

 

 

The next reality check I received was right after looking through Mike Brodies photo book - A Period of Juvenile Prosperity. For those in the train community, if you’re reading this and you want to scoff, I sincerely don’t give a fuck. The level of execution in that book is unmatched by anything I’ve seen within that avenue of photography. The grime, rawness, and emotion of the images took me by storm. It seriously made me question what I was doing with my work. More recently I found Bruce Davidsons photo book, East 100th St. If I’m being honest I’m in love with everything Bruce has ever done. He’s a true master of the craft. Its because of this book that I now think in terms of the true weight of photographs over time. If you aren’t familiar, I highly suggest you check both Mike and Bruce out. Lastly, I’d be doing a disservice to my friends if they weren’t mentioned here as well. All the people I keep around me in real life, or follow on social media inspire me in one way or another. I truly believe that who you surround yourself with the most is who you will become. 

 

 Mike Brodie - A Period of Juvenile Prosperity

 

 Mike Brodie - A Period of Juvenile Prosperity

 

 Mike Brodie - A Period of Juvenile Prosperity

 

Bruce Davidson - E100th Street

 

Bruce Davidson - E100th Street

 

Bruce Davidson - E100th Street

 

Stay tuned for part 2! 

 

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