Initially, what made you want to get into photography?
I went to skate camps in the summers of middle school, and that was when I started using disposable cameras to take pictures of my friends skating. It was there that I discovered taking pictures was my way of being a part of these groups of people in which I otherwise might have felt out of place. Since then I’ve used photography in a fly-on-the-wall kind of way, capturing people and lifestyles that intrigue me but that I wouldn’t necessarily be a part of.
What are some things that influenced your style growing up?
I actually didn’t know of many notable photographers until college. I was most influenced by the photography in the catalogs that were sent to my house. I took a lot of photos of my friends doing everyday things where we lived. I lived in a really beautiful place, so I’d go out and explore and definitely get influenced by organic, earthy terrain. It’s funny to me that the entire portfolio I used to apply to schools was mostly inspired by Patagonia and L.L. Bean imagery.
Your photos of the newer generation come across very authentic. Can you offer some insight to your creative approach?
Thank you. Normally in documentary youth photography you don’t want people to look overly put together or staged. You want them to look like real people as opposed to actors. In my more recent work, I approach my subjects in a different way because I focus on the fictive aspect. When I was in school for photography, I would have to make my subjects look good or I wouldn’t get an A. I’m trained to recognize all things dramatic like light and shadow. I want the quality of while something is actually happening to look set up or just the opposite.
Tell us about a time you visited a new place and were inspired.
A few years ago I visited a friend who was studying abroad in Grenoble, France. While I was there I saw some kids eating pâté on fresh baguettes at the local skate park. I quickly became fixated with every aspect of French culture. Since then, I have been to Paris multiple times to hang out with my friends who are musicians, actors, and skateboarders from the area. I think a reason why the culture interests me so much is that the boys have a softness to them that isn’t so prominent in American culture.
Can you tell us about a time that you first learned of an artist and were in awe
When I discovered Larry Clark’s work beyond his most well-known Kids, I was obsessed. I spent endless hours researching his work throughout college. I admired his ability to make still images look cinematic. All throughout Tulsa, not a single person looks in the camera but by the end of the book, the experience parallels that of watching a movie. Clark also subtitled Teenage Lust as an autobiography because a lot of his pictures are about him trying to be a teenager and to validate that period of growing up that he felt he missed. I connected with that a lot because of how isolating growing up queer had been for me. It prolonged a lot of “firsts” that most teenagers had already experienced in middle and high school. My work has also allowed me to become more aware of, and begin expressing, aspects of myself that I had suppressed in my hometown adolescence.
Who’s the most interesting brand or creative person you’ve met or worked with and what made them special?
Ryan McGinley is my art dad. Although I no longer work for him, I still use his studio to scan and print. Ryan is insightful to talk to as he has already experienced the stage that I am in with regards to my art and photography career. I can talk to him about any aspect of my photography, like the debate of commercial versus art photography, or the difficulty of tracking down an elusive subject to shoot. I am grateful to have him as a mentor and supporter of my work, and I look up to him a lot.
If an album could be played while someone was looking at your work what would it be?
Music and imagery has always been inspiring to me because it helps to create a narrative. My all-time favorite piece incorporating music with imagery is Nan Goldin’s The Ballad of Sexual Dependency slideshow. I was excited to find that the playlist is available for listening on Spotify. My music taste depends on how I’m feeling at the time, which is usually a blend of pop, punk, grunge, hip-hop and rock. But if I had to choose just one, I would want my work to have The Stones as the soundtrack. Since music has an effect on the emotion portrayed in the images I would want something upbeat. I recently watched Instrument, a collaboration between filmmaker Jem Cohen and the hardcore band Fugazi. What I found most interesting was the use of Fugazi instrumentals which gave the film a much more tender mood, which was out of character for the band.
What’s something you disliked at first, but now are into, and why?
I used to really dislike digital and would exclusively shoot film. Then, I decided I disliked film, and shot exclusively digital. Now, I’ve developed a middle ground between the two, where I use them to achieve different effects depending on what I’m envisioning as a result. I don’t want to photograph the same way, over and over again. I use different equipment to accommodate different attitudes, environments, feelings, and moods.
If anyone dead or alive could paint a portrait of you who would it be?
I would want Roy Lichtenstein to paint my portrait. I know it would be so stylized and unique to him that nobody else would be able to do it quite the same.