The Power of Building Community
The power of building community with a sense of family. So, like, everything with me, it's- it's hard to separate the artist form the person, like, everything is intertwined with me. Like, so (mumbles) with everything that we projecting with Street Dreams is the same thing, that community, that family feeling, it's what we project into our magazine with Love. And that's we wanna project into all of our activations and all of our galleries as well, too, so. One of our- one of the biggest galleries that we've done was like issue three of Street Dreams. And this was a- this was the first time we did a show in New York. If anybody is familiar with, like, the streetwear culture, there's this store called "Reed Space," which is a really uh- store that sells like a bunch like uh- Jeff Staple is the co-founder of that space and Jeff Staple is like the legendary streetwear, like fashion guy of New York. Like if you get to cool with Jeff Staple, then like you're pretty much on the up and up. So,...
um, for us to throw a gallery for our first show in New York, was a huge deal to me. I used to hang out in this store like a little rugrat, like every single day. So it was really cool that we were able to throw a gallery in here. So, this is me in my bucket hat stage when I thought I was a fisherman. Um. (audience laughs) I've always been a very eclectic dude if you can't tell. (laughs) But this gallery was really crazy because Eric and Mike and before we really had found a really good printer to actually ship our magazines, they used to have to smuggle these magazines like across the border like there was narcos. So they literally shown like- they had to bring this in they duffle- in their duffle bags and they brought it to the store. Which is kind of- it was really raw. And then we put all this work- This is Eric and Mike, so now you can put some more faces to names to the faces. We've always had a low fire approach to our shows, because we don't wanna be like to empowering. We wanna make sure everybody feels welcome and it's not like you're gonna get into like these uh- Sometimes art galleries has the vibes of being kinda stuffy, like we wanna be like the exact opposite of that. So we um- We hung everything with thumbtacks in the store and stuff like that. And it took us like, you know, forever to even get to that point to do that. And then we got shut down by the police in 15 minutes. The line was- I swear to God- The line was wrapped three times around the block and they were doing construction at the same time. So we had about 600 people into a space about a 150 people. So, I mean, I'd never think anybody is gonna show up to anything. Maybe because, I don't go- I don't leave the house. So to see something like, and see the, you know, the whole kind of feed of the feedback to- from the community for our first magazine launch. It was incredible. I mean, it honestly brought tears to my eyes because I really never thought that anybody would really wanna come see like and you know, check out photos, but what we really started to know- understand and really start to get that uh- This photo community we really do feel like family. Like, a creative family is like we put a lot of, I mean- If you connect with somebody through photography, you connecting with them on a way deeper level (mumbles) with a lot of words you can put into sometimes. So with our photography community, all of us are really connected to our works and we're all fans of each others works. It was really cool to see, but also it was really messed up to get shut down like in 15 minutes. Um, and I guess leads to the point of like just going back into my photography style in the first place. I tried to be- I tried to be as honest as I can be and transparent as I can be with everyone. I don't like- I don't like to be- I don't like to be misconceived as anything. I push to be very direct with my photos and also be very empathetic with what I do as a person. So, I really try to translate and- translate that into my photography. So, we had the opportunity to go to Cuba. I went to Cuba. I'm a Sony Alpha Ambassador and I went to Cuba on a Sony trip maybe about last year. And you hear so many different things about Cuba growing up, I mean like, I can go on for days about all, you know, all the different stereotypes that I've heard. So, being able to go there and really experience like the community and the love and then also like the poverty that they go through at the same time like- The amount of like resourcefulness that they have and like perseverance that they have. I connected with that so much, that I didn't wanna misrepresent anything that was going on with these kids and what they were really trying to do so- We stumbled across this boxing gym and like these kids were all like 9 to 13 years old, but- and their gloves are all messed up and then some of their shoes are messed up. They were boxing on cardboard boxes, but then if you were to look at them, they were all having the time of their life. And they were so happy and they were so determined. They were focused. And I was like "Man, I really just wanna connect with these kids." This happened to be one of the wackest kids out of the whole group. (laughs) He couldn't box for anything. He was gettin' tagged up all over the place, but he was also- he was just having a good ol' time, you know. He's a really cool kid and then he really- I don't really like to pose for photos, but like when I just brought my camera up to him, he immediately started- immediately started to do that, so. Yeah, like I told you, he was getting beat- beat up the whole time. (laughs) This uh, you can start seeing some of their gloves and like seeing the condition that they're in. I also gravitate towards black and white photography a lot because I feel like, you know, especially with the feelings of like nostalgia that I love with family photos. I try to really convey them with black and white, so I don't have my subjects- The colors are kind distracting sometimes. I want you to focus more on the subject- on what's actually happening, so. I think black and white makes it feel more timeless and way less distracting. This kid was really goo- He was really good. He didn't even focus on me, like, the whole time. He didn't look at me once. But the determination he had in his eyes, like, even like the little cuts on his elbows and like the way that his shirt is kind of wrangled. Like, the whole vibe was- this kid was usually boxing- These other kids were having fun, but he was there for real, like he wanted to be something. You felt that kind of intensity in his face as well too. This is one of my photos- favorite photos that I got- I kinda did set this one up also. This kid was also really good too. You could tell that he thought he was like kinda swagged out. And he was just always walking around the camera. Walking around, like, the guys with the cameras. So I um, I don't even know how I managed to even get him over here. I kinda like, you know, just told him just like, "Post up by this window really quick." So, I'm really big on eye contact with photography. I mean, I think eyes tell you everything, so. Making sure to have it- Making sure to keep it a little ambiguous, but still have his eyes locked in on me and having the black and white photo, I feel just gives it so much more. Kinda, conveys a lot of drama. And it also gives you a real perspective, like you can the texture on the wall, like you can tell that like this place is- is dilapidated, but you know, these guys are still here doing their thing, so. I mean, I love Cuba and if anybody gets a chance to go, you should definitely go. The moments that make me go Super Saiyan mode. So if anybody knows Dragon Ball Z- Dragon Ball Z is practically one of the best shows of all time. And then what's really cool about Dragon Ball Z is that fact that they level up and they feel like they can do anything. And I feel like with photography, I run the same kind of parallel with myself as well, too. I don't feel like there's anything that I don't need to shoot. I feel like I could shoot everything. I don't like putting myself in a box because I feel like "Why put yourself- "Why put yourself in a box for photography when life is just so vast in general anyways?" So I just like to take photos of everything, so. The moments that made me go Super Saiyan mode are like- See, something like this during Thailand. Me and Jess went there about last year during Songkran, which is a Thai fe- Thai new year. And seeing kids run around with super soakers and like it's a big water fight for basically three days. So, it was absolutely insane. Seeing this kid run around- running around with a super soaker, I've already envisioned that this was gonna be a black and white photo in my head, because I knew that if making it black and white it would look like this is like, the color- the cover of Call of Duty or something like that. It's just like (mumbles) and her shirt says "Fight for the motherland" too at the bottom which is really tight. (audience laughs) So like this kid is really looks like she's straight out of the video game, but this is during literally a Thai new year water festival. So. Thailand in- Thailand in general is a really cool place to take photos and being aro- being around the same thing like, all those same kind of themes like representing like representing it the right way and, you know, add your own kind of twist to it. Everything about like Thailand was like that for me for photographywise. So like, I don't need to shoot- I shoot the same way in New York as I would shoot anywhere. From the shoot photography styles or shooting in the shoots over there, I would literally apply that same kind of motto and vision everywhere. This is just a cousin that actually- who became a monk and he allowed us to take photos of him while he was doing- I don't even know what it's properly called- What is it called? Is it (mumbles)? Yeah, he became a monk. (laughs) But, being able to- I never like, I never- For full transparency, I grew up a Jehovah's Witness. My parents, my parents are Jehovah's Witnesses, so like, I grew up in a very religious household where like, you know, you just have this- You focus on that kind of religion, so. I was the black sheep of the family, I didn't really make it turn out to be that way, but I still ha- am a very spiritual person and I really hold that in high regards. So, being able to document somebody in a very- in a very vulnerable time like this was a really cool opportunity. I mean, they even shaved his eyebrows off and I think that's nuts. I would never shave my eyebrows off. (laughs) This goes back to like one of the kids we saw randomly in the village that like, you know, it kinda reminded me of like me- me and my sister hanging out. You know, just running around doing like, you know, hoodrat things with our friends. So seeing like, you know, being able to capture these moments and being able to really, you know, represent them well. Like, I hope that one day I would be able to like send them this photo or, you know. I mean, I know that's like a pipe dream kind of stuff, but it would be really tight if one day they could see this and they could have the same kind of feeling that I felt when- when I was taking this.