Voyager Journal
Spatial Tendencies: Taj Robinson

In our continuing effort to highlight the incredibly talented people who contribute their energy to Revolver and Voyager, we bring you an interview with our very own Taj Robinson. Taj is a world travelling lady who landed in San Francisco by way of Texas, New York and Thailand. Having resided here a few years now, she's made hay while the sun shines, creating and collaborating upon several venues for experiencing art while making art of her own and working on a soon to be released publication. She was super gracious to provide some information on her efforts and tell us about her voyaging and what she loves about SF.


How long have you been in SF? What originally attracted you here?

I first came to San Francisco in January of 2008. This is going to sound a bit corny, but I was looking for a new start. I visited one of my best friends who was living here at the time and just knew that I had found what I was looking for. I had just moved back to Texas from living abroad, and the city really spoke to the pace I was looking for. Not quite as calm at Thailand, not as familiar as Texas, and not as concentrated and busy as New York. It felt fresh and clean which excited me. I also found a schooling program that allowed me to focus my studies in a way that had been missing prior.

In truth there was one moment that happened when I knew that this was the place I wanted to be; we took the the scenic 49 mile drive and I fell in love with the climate here. The plants are so cool, straight out of Dr. Seuss.

What were you doing in Thailand prior to returning to the states and moving to SF? Were you able to connect with an artist community there? Has living abroad affected your own art making?

In Thailand I was studying in a small fishing town and going up to Bangkok on the weekends to visit my boyfriend and dj here and there. He was working on a project called Bangkok International Art Festival and through this I interacted with a bit of the art scene in Bangkok. Those interactions definitely had a lingering effect on both my personal work and collaborative projects. Personally, I learned how to take photos while walking around the streets by myself as a foreigner, and still try to look at things in that way, like everything is new. Then with Unmarked Exhibitions we hope to work with a collective in Bangkok called Be Our Friend in the coming year, as well as a few friends that are still working in the art scene there currently.

You came to the Bay Area as a student, but you've been prolific in your output in the art community in SF. Can you tell us about the kind of projects you've worked/are working on? Kitsch, your upcoming book, etc.?

eeee. Thanks, prolific is a very nice word. Let's see. During school I met two other women, Nikki Mirsaeid and Myrina Tunberg. We were living together in a two bedroom apartment, taking turns with who stayed in the living room, and we all had this aha moment, that what we were doing was silly and if we just tried a little bit more we could have a much better situation and be having much more fun. We started looking for warehouses and people who would help us build out the space and create a community to live in it. We met those two people in the form of Dave Huebner and Johnny Abrahams, found the space located at the corner of 17th and Capp, and gathered a group of five other friends and artist to live and work in the space. Kitsch lasted for two years, housed a total of 22 artists in its 5,000 square feet, showed the work of 70 artists, and had regular music performances and screenings. But as is the nature of spaces like this, it came to an end. We started to get more attention for the entertainment commission because of a lack of sound permits, the crowds became a little too big, and our landlord decided against renewing our lease. However, from this experience two other projects were spawned: ALTAR and Examined/Active. ALTAR is a non-stationary curitoral project between Nikki Misraeid, Liane Al-Ghusain, and me that will come to climax for the first time on January 4th, 2013, with our debut church show, and Examined/Active is documentary project focusing on the current realm of active art spaces and artists working in the field of investigative living as well as operational land art. For me, I feel that both are a reaction to Kitsch. Examined/Active stemmed from a desire to have our space documented along with the efforts of art spaces that were located on the same block (primarily The Lab, Secret Alley, and Engine Works.) I felt that there was a community that very few people were actually experiencing but that was creating pretty great thoughts and ideas on living, producing, and experiencing art. I also felt a need for it to be recognized as coming out of, but as separate from, the alternative space movement, for the ideals and ethos are not the same. Then there is ALTAR and the fact that it is not located in any one spot. This is part by choice and part by necessity. It is heartbreaking to see the space you create in only last two years, so for now being non-stationary is our current solution as to not be heartbroken again. 

What are some of the spaces outside of SF that you visited for Examined/Active? Which was the most inspirational for you?

The first section of Examined/Active was a trip to the High Desert completed by Jean Yaste and myself. We went to Joshua Tree, Phoenix, Tucson, Bisbee, Santa Fe, Albuquerque, Marfa, and Terlingua. The first book will come out as a grouping and directory of these spaces in the High Desert. Some of them that really stood out to me are A-Z West and High Desert Test Sites in Joshua Tree, Marfa Book Company and Crowley Theater in Marfa, Texas, and the Central School in Bisbee, Arizona. When we were at each spot we met and talked with the stewards for a while, took photos of the space, and sometimes got to take part in an event. You can see all the spots that we visited on the website examinedactive.us and we will hopefully have the book available soon at Revolver and Voyager. 

It is interesting how you said that you felt a need for the spaces you've visited for Examined/Active to be recognized as coming out of, but separate from, the alternative space movement. Could you elaborate on this?

When we were working on Kitsch, I had a hard time when asked what it was that we were or what we did. The only name that seemed to fit was “alternative space”. But I didn't feel like that fit what we were doing, or what any of the other people I knew were doing. I had read about the alternative space movement in the 70's, seen videos of happenings, watched it evolve through documentation into what it was that we were doing, and understood why some of the titles created then still seemed appropriate. However, I feel that the concerns that these spaces face in contemporary culture, the roles they play, and the common subjects of the work are quite different. It feels like a bit of a brush under the rug to call it the same thing as something that happened forty years ago. They are similar, one is a continuation of the other, but one of the goals of the project is to talk to people who are living it now, around the country, and see what it is that they call their work. What is it that they think they are doing? Through doing this I think we can collectively redefine and reexamine what it means to be an “alternative art space” in the current art realm. 

What is your overall feeling about the San Francisco Art "scene"?  Is San Francisco a good place to make/see art? What is to be celebrated? Where is it lacking? What kind of things would you like to see happen here?

San Francisco is a good place to make and see art. However, there are things that seem to be stopping it from being a great place to make and see art.

To focus on the positive first: The Bay Area is very supportive of its artists. There are grant projects such as Alternative Exposure through Southern Exposure, you can find plenty of space and fiscal sponsorship through the efforts of places like Intersection for the Arts, there are great residencies such as The Headlands, MoMa SF does a wonderful job at including San Francisco based artists in its events and collection, and pretty much anyone is willing to work with you on anything. The city is full of people who want to being doing things, and are doing things. People who mix the genres of fine art, tech art, music, food, publications, design, retail, you name it, to create a hybrid art community. All of this creates a very supportive environment to create and view art in.

On the other side of that, there does seem to be a glass ceiling over the heads of San Francisco artists. I feel that this is a result of a few issues. There is a lack of documentation of the arts, a lack a critical discussion of shows and the accessibility of this information when it does happen, and a lack of international emerging representation. In short, San Francisco needs a new PR team. There are efforts of many here to connect with the outside art scene, to bring in internationally emerging artist, and to write about what is happening here so that it can be experienced by more than just the few that physically attend the events. However there needs to be more, much much more. I would highlight the efforts of Kadist and Art Practical.

How would you describe your role at Revolver/Voyager? What kind of skills are you bringing to the table? (I don't mean for that to sound as intense as it probably reads!)

As I mentioned in my rant above, San Francisco is a very hybrid community. I feel that Revolver and Voyager are as well. I first started at the store because of people that I had met while interacting with Kitsch. Then other people that I had worked with here and there on creative projects joined the family, and slowly more and more people from the community came to get involved. Revolver has become, in a way, its own little art space. I enjoy the fact that we carry jewelry and clothing lines in the store by people who I have had lasting friendships with and have collaborated with, people who I saw cutting their fabric patterns at Engine Works. I love that we host events like the Mission Night Market where other friends present their work and at which I had a great time creating an installation. While I was traveling for Examined/Active I was able to stay in touch through the blog and show people some of the cool projects we were finding on the road. And most recently I am excited about creating some photographs for a potential pop up under the theme Sex in the Woods. I've also been busy knitting scarf tubes under the name Let’s Talk About Gloves that are now available at Voyager and I can personally be found in the stores Monday through Thursday with the half chihuahua, half mini husky named pee wee. He’s becoming quite famous.

(All images here within courtesy of Taj Robinson and Examined/Active- all images copyright ©2012 / All Rights Reserved)
ONE NIGHT ONLY with Jack Halloway of The Garage Sale Project
There's this amazing thing that happens sometimes, especially in small cities, especially in a city as magically weird as San Francisco can be, where you stumble upon something or meet someone by chance and everything just opens up, wide open, right there. You realize how interconnected things can be, how your chance meeting in that place with that person has a greater significance, that you've known the same people, that you've drawn upon the same influences and shared the same subcultural secrets, that you and they are part of the same forever tangled web, the same karass, if you will. It was exactly this type of chance meeting that led me to Jack Halloway, Creator and Director of The Garage Sale Project. Here he tells us all about The Garage Sale Project and his San Francisco experience.

The Hydrodynamica Project show at The Garage Sale Project

How long have you lived in San Francisco?

This is my fourteenth year living in San Francisco.

What drew you here?

Budget rocknroll and burritos.

What keeps you here?

My community.

How does San Francisco inspire you?

Tough one…..
I'm going to put on this new record by SF band The Mallard, and think for a spell.
The record by the way, is entitled "Yes On Blood". It's been very inspiring.

What is your favorite thing to do in SF?

I like eating at diners and coffee shops where old people sit and read the paper over watery black coffee.
It's getting nearly impossible to find those in this town anymore... Diners and old people. It's pretty sad.

The Garage Sale Project in Juxtapoz Magazine

For uninformed readers, please tell us about The Garage Sale Project. How and when did it start? What was your inspiration?

In 2008 I found myself sitting on piles of photographs along with a heap of cool objects I'd gathered over the years but none of it was inspiring anymore. I wanted to get rid of it all and move on. My dilemma: I needed to show my work to achieve true catharsis, but where could I do this? White walled galleries were too serious and espresso bars were not serious enough. I wasn't trying to be an artist but I keep a strict style book…. I needed a space that would show the work well. I made solving this problem into something fun...an "installation" piece. A fake gallery and sale showcase…all behind my crumby little garage door. I'd call it The Garage Sale Project, have a photo show, invite a few friends over and serve them cheap drinks like other joints did. I'd sell off my junk, make a little dough and move on. That was the plan.. "ONE NIGHT ONLY." I told friends and promoted a little... People didn't get it. "A what? In your where? Huh??" My "show" opened to about twenty friends on a cold and rainy December night in 2009. I pulled out my portable record player and blasted scratchy records by The Zeros and The Kingsmen. I sold nearly all my junk and gave away the rest. As for my photos, I never even thought to price them. They just hung there and I was satisfied. I accomplished my goal and other people enjoyed the experience apparently. Word got around and a few other friends asked about doing shows… I said, "Why not?" And so two and a half years later I'm still here doing... "ONE NIGHT ONLY."

It's like a Medicine Show for art that rolls into town now and again….. ha...

Flyers from past Garage Sale Project exhibitions

How does the Garage Sale Project operate?

On a broken shoe string, strong will and childlike wonder.
I have no operating budget and the only overhead is what we create per event. Shows come together organically, when I have time and funds available.
I was encouraged by some friends to apply for a grant once early on and was disappointed I didn't get it. In the time it took me to complete the grant package I could have worked a week and made enough money to pay for several shows.
I decided then, I'd go my way. On my dime, my rules. I'm not interested in jumping through hoops for a few bucks. When I need to get things done now I just do it. Creativity and drive make up any short comings in funding. Where there is a will there is a way. 

Happy Customers

Is it an effort to showcase local or lesser known artists? 

It's an effort to boost anyone on the fence over to the other side if that is where they want to be. The other side being the white walled side of things. This isn't a gallery. Galleries represent artists. I only present them. If I were to say I collect anything… it would be people, or… personalities really. I'm a personality collector. That's what I'm most interested in and The Garage Sale Project is just an outlet for whatever those personalities dream up.

An opening at The G$P

What have been your favorite shows to date?

I can't go picking favorites! 

Hey, look over there….. 


Work Hard Dream None; a video installation by Nicholas Torres

Any upcoming shows you'd like to tell Revolver blog readers about?

I'm working with SF artist and designer Jeff Canham to organize a giant garage sale of the past decades worth of his work… He is rad. It will be off the hook when it happens..…There is the first installment in my "Budget Adventure Series" called Moped to South America (yes, they did it. Six months… two mopeds... from SF to Tierra Del Fuego!) and coming up next…. I'm working with these crazy photographers who design photo booths…. and they are going to create a series of photo booth art experiences here in The Garage. Maybe the entire garage will be a photo booth and we will create the show over the course of the evening…. Yeah… I think that's what will happen. Sounds fun, right?

There is a strong aural/musical element that compliments the Garage Sale Project. How has this come to be incorporated into the G$P? How do you go about curating it? 

Every experience has sound associated with it…. even if it's silence. I love sounds that get in your bones and rattle around inside you. What hits my nerves the most are the rough and airy sounding recordings of old blues and Gospel records, the raucous, fuzzy, trebly and reverb soaked sounds of early garage bands, and loud, fast and raw sounds of 70's punk. Every one of these genres was born from what is commonly known as "Early Blues "… basically the sound of a person stomping their foot and singing their heart out. The music was simple because they were only working with what was inside themselves…. the power comes from the delivery. That is how I feel about The Garage Sale Project….. I'm only working with what I've got inside and I'm doing my best to bang out simple songs from the heart. Once I've expressed what I wanted to get across, I'll stop. 

Flyer for Jack Halloway's premier exhibition at G$P

Aside from running the Garage Sale Project, you are a photographer. What projects (personal and professional) have you been working on?

I like shooting people just living and doing everyday things. I try to capture an intangible essence of a situation and show the beauty or humor in the everyday. It doesn't always happen. Ha. Recently, I shot a series of portraits for this book on California art communities to be published this fall in Japan….should be cool… Currently I'm going through hundreds of images from three weeks on the road…. Milan, New York and Las Vegas. People are fascinating. Ok. I'm done… I need to flip the record and get some coffee.

Jack Halloway's premier photozine

Jack Halloway

(All photographs here within provided by Jack Halloway/The Garage Sale Project- all images copyright ©2012 Jack Halloway / All Rights Reserved)

All Encompassing: Revolver's very own Julia Lemke
We are incredibly lucky to have amongst us at Revolver and Voyager some supremely talented and inspiring individuals. One such person is the always lovely and hardworking Julia Lemke. Julia has recently launched her new website and both Voyager and Revolver carry her jewelry and plant wares under her imprint Auger + Ore. Swing by to check out the goods and read on to learn about what Julia does.

When did you realize that design was what you wanted to do? What lead you to this discovery?
I think I’ve always known I wanted to do some sort of design, and it became clear to me in high school that graphic design was probably the best route for me. My parents are both artists (an industrial designer and a glass artist), so growing up I had a lot of exposure to all different forms of art, and I think that sort of instilled in me the desire to absorb everything I possibly could.

What influences your design?
I’m extremely influenced by nature. I grew up in the mountains and by the ocean, and I’ve always had a deep connection with and respect for the environment. Auger + Ore in particular is inspired by the desert. I’m in love with the starkness of the landscape, the rich colors and textures, as well as the nostalgia of the gold rush era. I’m also inspired by simplicity, and hand craftsmanship. There’s somethings so romantic about working with your hands. It’s incredibly rewarding, and becoming increasingly rare in our society. 

What inspirations did you draw upon for your new website?
Auger + Ore is all about minimalism, and an appreciation of natural form.  A lot of the objects are made from salvaged material, contrasting texture, weight, and color. It represents the lifestyle that I strive for: an appreciation of simple pleasures. I wanted the website to reflect that organic quality with warmth, delicacy, and softness.

Do you have any design heroes?
About a million. Many of my heroes aren’t designers per se, but there are several graphic designers who have influenced me heavily. I’d say Jennifer Sterling is my biggest design crush, her attention to detail is phenomenal. I’m also incredibly inspired by Nicholas Felton, and his obsessive collections of data. 

You’re a multi talented lady and your design carries over into many projects including jewelry design, creating planters and other gardening vessels, harvesting and creating the packaging for your own honey (!), not to mention, making gorgeous photographs, etc. Can you elaborate on these projects for our readers? Do you see these projects as being mutually exclusive or is it a total cohesive effort that falls under Julia Lemke’s Design Masterplan™?

To me, design is all encompassing. It’s like this addiction, that seeps into every corner of your life. Graphic design translates to my fashion, interior design, product design, down to the minute details. Really what it is is just a love for everything aesthetic.

Any new projects on the horizon you'd like to tell us about?
I’ve been playing with the idea of hand-painting textiles, and that’s something I would love to explore more fully. Batik is such a beautiful art, (and I would love to use my own bees wax!)

What kinds of commercial/professional design work have you done? Does doing more commercial work interest you at this point in your education/career?
I’ve done a lot of freelance work for local clients, and also some larger ones like Pasta Pomodoro. At this point, I would like to find a solid internship while I’m still in school. I would love to work for someone like Eight Hour Day, Eleven Inc., Mucca, or The Official Manufacturing Co.

Who are your dream clients/what are your dream projects?
I don’t have any dream clients yet, but I really enjoy freelancing for small companies or start-ups, and especially love packaging. The great thing about graphic design is that there is so much variety in the work. Every project has new criteria and challenges, and you get to meet incredible people along the way. Ideally, I want to start my own firm someday, but that’s a long ways off. For now, I love working on little projects and learning new skills and I love collaborating with other creative and passionate people.

(All photographs and designs here within are copyright of Julia Lemke- all images copyright ©2012 Julia Lemke / All Rights Reserved)

Constant Observer: an interview with photographer Manuel Dominguez, Jr.

This entry has been a long time in the making, but I am happy to finally post this interview with photographer (and my dear friend) Manny Dominguez, Jr. Check out Manny's photography and read on to see what he has to say about his craft.

What sparked your interest in photography initially? When did you decide to pursue photography professionally?

I think I got my interest of photography from my parents. Growing up they always had a camera around, my dad and my mom both always took pictures of birthdays and trips, any kind of family get together. My mom would put together albums and I remember always sneaking away to look through them. There was always an interest in those photographs and the moments they captured. People frozen in time. Relatives that were either in Spain or long dead, came to life, and I think all those photographs and albums really sparked my interest in photography. And to this day I still look at those albums and they are a way of connecting to my family and the past and they still inspire my work today.

In high school I really got into movies and making videos, skate videos, taping hardcore shows, etc., It was really the only thing that could keep my attention at the time, so I decided I should just go to college for filmmaking. My first attempt at college didn't go so well. I didn't like my school or any of the classes really, but I did end up taking a black and white photography class, which was a prerequisite for the film program. The first time I saw a print develop in a tray, I was hooked. I ended up preferring the solitary quality of making photographs, over the group effort needed in making a movie. I could photograph what I wanted, and how I wanted. I didn't have to rely on anyone else but myself. I took the photo, developed the negatives, and printed them all how I wanted. I quit school though and decided to travel a bit and just take photographs on my own. This didn't last very long though.... my parents really urged me to get a degree so after about 2 years of floating around I decided to try to go to school for photography, and ended up going to the University of the Arts in Philadelphia. UArts really changed my perspective on photography and taught me so much about craft and the history of photography and about really thinking about the photographs I was taking. The teachers there were all amazing and inspirational and besides teaching me a lot about photography, they showed me that it was possible to  pursue it professionally. 

Once I graduated from UArts, I started assisting commercial photographers in Philadelphia and New York and met a lot of really amazing people, and through those connections, I was able to support myself as a freelance photographer. All these connections started at UArts, and without them, I would definitely not be in the situation I am in today. 

Also I was lucky to have pursued an internship with a local photographer named Zoe Strauss. I saw some of her work hanging at a coffee shop on South Street and decided to contact her in hopes that she might need an intern. She was super into it. And I have been her "intern" ever since! She's taught me so much over the years, and has been a true inspiration. I feel as though if I had never met and worked with Zoe, I would have left Philadelphia soon after graduation. She really helped me to see Philadelphia in a new way, and a helped make this city my 2nd home.

You've worked as a professional photographer both assisting other well established photographers and shooting products for web-based catalogs AND you have a thriving personal photography practice. Do you feel like there are two different modes of working that you adopt in order to fulfill both your commercial and personal work or does each way of working inform or influence the other?

It is very much two different modes of working. Shooting product is a grind, it is a 9-5 corporate job. It is shooting hundreds of products a week, in a very structured and pre-determined way. There are a lot of challenges though which keeps things interesting and enjoyable but really, I do one in order to be able to do the other. My personal work doesn't pay, so my full time job helps to "fund", if you will, my personal projects. It allows me to take time to travel, to buy film and equipment, which can be very expensive. I don't think one necessarily influences or informs the other. I try to keep them as separate as possible. I don't have the personality to be some big time commercial photographer, so I enjoy having this low key kind of job that lets me be able to create whatever I want to create on my personal time. Being a successful commercial photographer usually entails having a pretty big ego, and having the ability to sell yourself and your craft to others. (I guess the art world can be similar. Haha!) But for me, I'm perfectly fine living under the radar and just making art for myself and for people I am close to. It is great to get noticed and for people to see my work, but promoting myself full time is something I just can't see myself doing. 

The two series available for viewing on your website (OLVIDADO and GONE, WEST) both seem deeply personal and to tell stories, but without the presence of many people. More often we see landscapes and objects, or perhaps animals, in the place of people. Was this a conscious choice? And why?  

There isn't much available on my site currently to look at. I have those 2 projects, and am slowly putting together another more current project. Olvidado was done in 2008 on a trip I took to see my family in Spain and Gone, West was done in 2009 on a trip to see some close friends that had recently moved to California.

I guess the best way of describing my photography is observant. I am constantly looking at things and places and how people interact and live with-in those spaces. So landscapes and objects are a big part of that, pets too. Everything that makes up the world in which my family or friend's live is really exciting to me. Maybe it is just a way of recording things, like my mom's photo albums, taking a small history of the lives of those around me, or the places around me. And of course within all that is just the constant beauty of every day life that really inspires my work. I am always looking, looking at light hitting something, or someone, making photographs in my mind, recording the world around me... it's almost obsessive... I don't think there is a second in a day that I am not visualizing a photograph in my mind. While I can't photograph everything around me, I can, in a sense, photograph a sort of narrative of those worlds with my camera. (Jeez, I hope I don't sound like a maniac!) 

I wish I had the eloquence to write more about how and why I photograph, what I photograph. As you can see by the lack of words and photographs on my website, that I really struggle, not only with describing my work, but also placing my work in a digital world. 

I feel like the internet is such a poor place to put and showcase art. There is no dialogue there. If I could talk with people face to face, it might be easier to talk about my work, but putting it someplace where all anyone can really do is look at it, seems unfair to me. Maybe the culture now is more about looking and "liking" and just tumbling or tweeting something you think is awesome, but why is that awesome? Why does that picture or design, or work of art, why is it awesome to you? I don't think any one cares about that. Most tumblrs or blogs are just images with no meaning, no explanation, and that irks me a little. I am interested in both the surface of something, but also the story behind it. Right?

I know you have a penchant for older, analog technologies as opposed to newer digital methods as evidenced by both your photography and record collecting. What are your "go to" cameras? Do you feel very political about shooting film over digital? 

I don't feel very political about shooting film over digital. Shooting film is just a personal choice for me. I was lucky enough to get into photography when film was still the industry standard. So I am just more comfortable shooting film. 

Digital photography makes everything instant, it sort of diminishes that craft of photography, which is something I am still very interested in. Keeping that craft alive. I mix my own chemicals, develop my film by hand, print my own prints, and matte and frame my prints. Just like how I was taught in school. My website is pretty bare because I still struggle with presenting my work in a digital world.

RIght now I am shooting with an old 8x10 view camera. (Her name is Mildred.)  It is a camera that really makes you slow down, she is heavy, takes time to set up, and each sheet of film costs about $5 (plus the cost of processing and printing those negatives), so you really have to think about what you are shooting and how you are shooting. It is quite different than digital or smaller format cameras that have instantaneous results, with those cameras you are able to shoot a lot and edit on the spot....delete what you don't like, adjust if the exposure is wrong, etc., but with large format, you need to think before you shoot. You slow yourself down and really look at the world differently. You have to really see light and take time to compose the photograph before you make the exposure. Which is really perfect for me. I think my pace in this world is much slower than everyone else's, where I'm not in a rush to shoot and get things seen on the internet. I'm not trying to make a living from my art work so that intense drive to be seen or get noticed doesn't really matter to me. Right now I have the ability to shoot when I want, and how I want, and work on things in my own time. 

A few years ago the big question that seemed to divide the photography community was film or digital, but now the hot topic seems to be how technologies like the iPhone has made the possibility of taking a "cool" photograph so much easier and faster than analog photography and film. As an iPhone user, where does your opinion fall on this matter? Do you think iPhone photography will have serious ramifications on the photography industry as a whole?

I do have an iPhone, and am really amazed with the quality of the camera and the ease with which you can take a photograph in any situation. And with Instagram now, it even puts photography in the realm of social networking, so people are communicating and connecting with photographs which I think is awesome. It emphasizes, for the most part, all  the important aspects of photography. People now take time to compose photographs and look at light and how it effects what they are photographing, instead of just pointing at something and taking its picture without much thought. I think in the long run it will really help elevate photography even further because it brings more people into photography, and the language of photography. 

Changes in technology in photography, whether it was the Kodak Brownie camera, or Polaroid, or the simplicity of digital cameras and iPhones, and photo apps, really democratizes photography. These advances take what was really an expensive and time consuming hobby for the well off, and makes it so that anybody can take a picture and make something really beautiful. 

Who or what inspires your photography? If you could travel to your dream destination or photograph your dream subject tomorrow, where/who/what would that be?

I think if I could be any where in the world photographing anything I wanted to, I would be in Spain.... specifically Galicia, where my family is from. There is something so magical about that place and the people that [it] constantly inspires me. 

(All photographs here within are copyright of Manuel Dominguez, Jr.- all images copyright ©2012 M. Dominguez Jr. / All Rights Reserved)
1950 Plymouths and a life spent living: An Interview with photographer Eric Kvatek

Recently I had the honor of interviewing the supremely talented photographer Eric Kvatek for Revolver and he was ever so gracious to answer some questions about his career, motivations, and the way he goes about crafting his arresting and beautiful photos. Eric has worked for such prominent brands as Kapital, 45rpm, and Free People, amongst many more illustrious labels, while also cultivating a body of personal work that is dynamic and evidence of a life of adventure.

How did you get into photography and what has been the trajectory of your career? When did you decide that you were going to pursue photography professionally?

My grandfather Kvatek was an avid amateur photographer. He took photos all through his service in World War II and I discovered his war photos when I was in High School. I saved up $200 and ran out and bought an SLR camera. 

I moved to Albuquerque, New Mexico when I was 19 years old. I taught myself photography by just walking up and down Central Avenue. It was chock full of drifters, prostitutes and gang members. For some reason they were mostly fine with me shooting them. Back then only sailors, bikers and criminals had tattoos. I had tattoos and they probably just figured I was one of their own?

After seeing Full Metal Jacket I wanted to be a photojournalist. I started going to places I thought were gritty. Mexico, Cambodia and Indonesia etc… places that I could afford to go on my own.

My university degree is in drawing. But I realized photography would allow me to travel and have adventures. That's the reason I have pursued it as a career.


Men in Joshua Tree 

You're famous for working with several amazing, prominent Japanese brands. How did you get involved with Kapital and 45rpm?

Eventually a good friend of mine showed Mr. Takahashi, the president of 45rpm, my Indonesia photos. He asked me to shoot 45rpm fashion photos in my reportage style. They assigned a young designer to work with me on the shoots. That designer was Kiro Hirata who is now the designer for Kapital. So one thing leads to another… sometimes. 


Left: Masai men, Africa, Right: Thai Boxer


Your lookbooks for Kapital have been hugely influential on the way we've styled some of our past lookbooks for Revolver. Can you describe your creative process or what influences you when you are deciding upon the theme or feel for a shoot?

I'm happy that my photos influence or inspire people. I have heard similar stories from people that work at some big brands... 

I grew up with stories from Depression era grandfathers. My father was a kind of rebel and a drag racer. My mother rode motorcycles. I worked on farms as a kid and I worked in Alaska in the fishing industry. I have ridden motorcycles since I was 9 years old. I bought my first car, a 1950 Plymouth, when I was 12 years old. 

So I consider myself lucky to have the stories from my family to inspire me and my own personal experiences for ideas. 

I can't believe you bought a car when you were 12!!! That is WILD!

I lived in Georgia on a dirt road in. So driving it was not a problem. It cost $150. My brother and I sold aluminum cans we collected to pay for it.


Right: Ohio Boy, German Girl, Left: Masai Man

A nerdy, gear type question: what are you working with these days? What are your favorite tools?

I use Canon digital cameras and old Nikon and Contax film cameras. But there are new cameras from Sony and Fujifilm that look interesting.  

I hope this question isn't too played out, but what do you think about the iPhone and the ease and accessibility of making a "cool" photo now? Do you think it's hurt the field of photography any? Or, conversely, has it advanced any ideas or agendas of photography as an art form or livelihood? 

If the iPhone allows people constant access to a camera and the apps and social sites help to excite people about their photos (and their lives) then that's obviously a good thing. Like all machines and tools, it has advantages and limitations. But I would never want it to be the only camera I have with me.

However, if people are standing around messing with their iPhones instead of actually doing their jobs or interacting with their friends… well obviously, that's bad.

Found models, Morocco

One of the things we find intriguing about your work is that you've used nontraditional models in many shoots; older or younger models, or non-model-ly (is that a word??) models. Do you decide upon the models you work with for a particular shoot? Was this a conscious or political choice and what has been the response to this? 

Well that started with the idea to shoot fashion photos in a reportage style for 45rpm and then later for Kapital. So we needed to use people that were really fishermen or were really ranch hands. 

I personally spend a lot of time finding these characters. Finding the right people is very difficult. Like casting for a film. The individual people have to be interesting but then the entire cast has to make sense as a whole. I like to think that I have some talent in this regards.

I see a lot of stuff now that uses found people, store staff, etc. as models and well, it's not always so good. Just because a guy has a beard doesn't make him a lumberjack or a good fake lumberjack. 

But basically, I like shooting people. Many of them are found and some are experienced models and I am interested in the ways they interact and can be portrayed as an interesting cohesive ensemble.


Left: Photographer's father, Right: Found man, Australia

I have one last question. Since the theme of this blog is inspiration and who and what keeps us motivated, who or what inspires or motivates you? 

My favorite photographers are Dorthea Lange and Larry Burrows. I am inspired by the films of Terrence Malick and the novels of Cormac McCarthy. But all of that's probably fairly obvious. 

100 year old woman, Iceland

(All photographs here within are copyright of Eric Kvatek- © Eric Kvatek. All rights reserved.)