Outside Influences: JAG interview
“I got handcuffed to a fence before for trespassing.”
We cannot escape the history of our art without mention to its photographers, our sacred kin who help our craft reach universal acclaim. Photography is as attached to graffiti as letter form is, but its importance is oft overlooked, the problem existing in the way that it is used as a vessel for something else. For a lot of us it is simply something we use to concretize other things, but not for all.
Martha Cooper, who has surely already gone down in history for her work, Will Robson Scott whose Crack & Shine videos helped portray the personalities of famous writers, city styles and the innumerable others, whose photography acts simply to document a lifestyle lived past the borders of legality. These photographers have provided us with documentation of works and the actions of those at the forefront of such a beautiful crime.
JAG is one of them.
I’m JAG from Los Angeles. I was 16 when I started shooting and took me a few years before I considered starting a career in it, I was entering high school around that time. I’d roam around la with my homie Able going back to back day and night cruising around Los Angeles looking for spots(rooftops, yards, viewpoints.) Lot’s of heads I knew were starting to get into graff/gang banging around that time and I had a good amount of homies who had been painting for a while too. I’d practice around them to get a feel of photography and getting rid of that nervousness when out taking pictures around public areas. I’m close to 9 years of taking pictures. It’s early in the year, but I have a few projects coming up.
What were your primary influences back then and have they changed?
I didn’t really have a set of influential photographers at the time when I started. I slowly developed those over the years. I’d have to say a lot of them were on flickr when I started using that website. (mr. bokeh, tommy oshima, two cute dogs and a bunch of local cats) list goes on. Some of my current favs, estevan oriol, james nachtwey and tim hetherington(rip).
What first attracted you to photography / roaming around? were those two connected and did they inspire each other? or did they just come together over time.
Family photos, surroundings, media and people. I’d see pictures everywhere. Even if I didn’t want to it was all there in my face walking down the street. Roaming came together with photography. That’s how I got started, I’d venture out and look for new stuff to flick.
What keeps you interested in this kind of lifestyle?
Always something new to capture each time. Even if you’ve been going to the same spot for years. Always something new going on.
How would you describe your style of work?
It would probably have to be street/life style.
Any memorable stories to tell us regarding your adventures?
I got handcuffed to a fence before for trespassing, I got let go by lapd after with a warning. The best ones are the when I’m being chased at night and get away. I have a couple of those. Some didn’t end too well for me in the end, but they serve as good reminders not to be too reckless.
What excites you most about the whole process of urban exploration / taking photographs etc.
Meeting up with friends and finding new stuff to creep on. Of course the outcome of the trip too. What I shot and what I learned from it. Each time I go out its a learning process for me. Always something new and what I could of done better for next time.
Do you have a favourite thing to shoot in particular?
I like shooting people/street life. People would say I only shoot “graffiti” but I consider it shooting a persons lifestyle. I don’t just shoot the act. I shoot what goes on before. These people getting ready, leaving their house, listening to music, etc.
Film or digital? Why?
I don’t understand the war between film and digital. Digital doesn’t do justice for some pictures as goes for film. I enjoy both, but I’d rather keep my digi closer.
What do you occupy your time with outside of photography and what do you think you’d be doing if it wasn’t in it?
Hanging out with friends, part time work and graphic design. I’d probably be working a 9-5 and having extra cash on hand to travel. Photography is expensive.
Care to give any advice to up & comers? (I’m an amateur photographer myself, so its always cool to hear what others have to say)
Learn how to use your camera. Shoot a lot. Carry your camera everywhere and don’t be shy to take pictures in public. Avoid long exposures. Not saying don’t do them, but avoid going in that direction.
Why do you enjoy shooting those pre- moments so much? instead of just the after event. I guess there’s a lot more risk involved? And it’s way more fun.
Is there anything that influences your style outside of photography? the graff artists you come into contact with for instance, music, anything else etc.
Movies. I’m really into the whole cinema thing, but not to a point where someone becomes snobby about it. You can learn a lot from how directors work by watching their movies. Coming up with newer ideas to capture certain things. Different perspectives than the ones you currently have.
What cameras are you using at the moment?
I’ve been shooting with a 5dmarkii and 5dmarkiii.
Do you have a favourite photograph? why?
A lot james nachtwey stuff is a definite fav. He’s one of the reasons I wanted to get into conflict journalism. The stuff he covered in Rwanda during the genocide are some of my favorite photographs.
Going on what has been said about it being a learning process, Is there anything you would say shooting photographs and being involved in this lifestyle has taught you?
Don’t be afraid to take a photograph. Taking the walk of shame and thinking in the back of your head, “I should’ve snapped that!” is the worst.
We’re early on into the new year, anything youre specifically planning on progressing this year?
Shooting a lot more portraits and shooting in more countries.
Any photographers / writers / others that people should be paying more attention to?
Look out for a lot of the local east la cats on tumblr. They have a bunch of good stuff. I’m really digging a lot of the stuff that’s been coming out of Japan too.
Any final shout outs?
Shout out to all the homies who have rolled with me to go shooting and anyone who has supported me throughout the years.
‘OUTSIDE INFLUENCES’ is an exclusive 12ozprophet franchise designed to target artists across different disciplines who take strong influence from graffiti & street culture but are dedicated to progressing their craft in an individual, progressive or interesting way. Think you match the part? Let us know!