Words Stefania tejada
What’s your perception towards today’s generation?
I think of today’s generation in two ways (unfortunately I am going to speak about technology and social media) - one, being the huge disadvantage today’s generation have had is they have grown up with the internet and two, the huge advantage that they have is that they have grown up with the internet - todays generation may or may not have spent a majority of their life in front of a computer screen, video game, TV, iPad, iPhone, etc… - and may or may not have spent a lot of time crafting an internet identity before they knew whom they/he/she really were through platforms like Tumblr, Twitter, and Instagram - taking social cues from todays media front runners and deciding which portion of these icons lives they wish to adopt as part of their own 'personal style’ or internet presence - nowadays more and more people classify themselves as creatives - all due to society’s current participation and cultural relationship with social media.
And not for one second am I knocking people finding their creativity and putting it out there - its just the amount of culture vulturing that is taking place that is disrupting and over saturating the creative fields as well as much as the criticism kids are taking over these channels for expressing themselves and trying to create something original.
The flip side to it is - it is a blessing that it exists to give a young generation more hope and aspiration to be great - to be creative - to express themselves - because when I was growing up we didn't have anyone to really look up to - role models seemed untouchable and the ones who were visible for me in place of my father were local neighborhood guys.
I think also the internet and technology in general has encouraged people’s behavior to be next best thing - they shop the internet weighing all the options that are out there for them - in my generation you showed up when you said you would - who you were was classified by what you did and what you said and how your actions and words matched up - not who you pretend to be on the internet - there were no contrived platforms to telegraph your life.
What do you see in the people you decide to photograph and what do you intend to capture?
I think its about soul I tend to gravitate towards authentic people more than model types personality speaks to me it inspires me to take better photographs - it makes it human - getting your photo taken can be such an inorganic and awkward thing so its connecting and communicating with your subject - nothing dead behind the eyes feels good to me - telling a story capturing emotion the in between moments this is what I feel is my job.
What do you intend to communicate through your work?
Again its about story - face control - I don’t think I am any better than anyone else at making photos but I do know that I have access and relationships that others don’t - this is what I feel will make my work stand out - the cast - the environments - the you weren’t there you couldn’t be here - but through this photo you might feel like you were.
You have this “From the hood” perspective in some of your work, where does this come from?
The from the hood thing huh - I grew up rough – skateboarding, graffiti and gangs had a huge impact on my life - being from LA and being a boy with no father you are pulled to the streets this is my culture - its artistic - there’s a bit of heroism in it - the most iconic figures of my life were neighborhood tough guys who showed me what it meant to be a man how to - to be punctual - have manners - respect women and children - be a man of your word - they also taught me tons of things they shouldn’t have but in terms of integrity I picked it up from them.
Nowadays I go back to different parts of LA - imperial courts housing and work with the kids - teach them about photography - skateboarding - sports - just tell them about life say things that I needed to hear at their age that I didn’t hear from the men I looked up to - they listen to me, they know I’ve been through it - they trust me - I’m more of anthropologist than anything when it comes to photography - I like sub cultures - I like documenting - it’s real - It’s not for fashion or music this just allows me to continue to shoot film and make books about subjects I am truly passionate about - What I want to say is that there is a bunch of kids being neglected out there that just need some direction and so much beauty comes from struggle.
How much of your work is intentional?
I try to shoot with no intention other than to be authentic, it’s everything I do and if I feel something is coming off sterile or feeling off ill just reset.
Most is for me now that I am getting bigger work I try to be selective about what I do and who I am shooting so I don’t lose my fingerprint on what I create.
Who influences you?
Vivian Maier is really interesting to me, she made photography a part of her everyday life and had a really unique perspective - I also really enjoy Dennis Hopper’s photos, his take on photography how it shaped and saved him - Peter Beste is also a favorite of mine for his documentarian style andportrayal of the dirty south - all of them share a line of continuity no matter how different and it’s that the photos feel honest.
What are you trying to document?
I’m just trying to document my life - I think my friends are some of the most interesting people and I just want to capture the people and the things I care about.
Where do your influences originate?
My influences originate from just being a seeker of truth I want to get to the bottom, I need to know, its almost sickening - I will not accept a lie or falsehoods - If you look at the photographers I mentioned none of them are in fashion they were all documentarians and I feel like this is so important - I want my kids and my grandkids to be like damn Daniel lived an amazing life and here is a portion of it through his eyes all caught on film.
What do you find so passionate about photography?
The passion for photography is this need to continue telling stories - I come from a long line of storytellers - I want to share - I think I have a unique point of view because of everything I've been through.
What is the concept of your work?
The concept of my work is more about doing things my way - it’s a complete and utter joke that a street kid like me can shoot for vogue and style.com - but as long as it has my thumbprint on it I’m fine with it - I just want to make iconic images, and turn them into art.
How would you describe your aesthetics?
For photography as far as aesthetic I would say it’s so much about mood - color - lighting something pastel or something with grain - maybe there’s even a blurry bit or something out of focus - the film I use is a huge part of my aesthetic as well as camera and so much inspired by subject - the more connection I have with my subject the more I feel like the results and my aesthetic improve.
Tell us about your creative process.
Creative process for me is all about getting hyped before a job - my self talk - I tell myself let’s do this let’s make art and transmit it to my team; also, I’ll say it to the talent - it’s like I’m getting ready for a fight, I’m pumping myself up.
What are the most important elements when you are photographing a person?
The most important thing when photographing a person is just being relaxed and again the whole making it human - I don’t want them to be self conscious - I make mistakes I’m not a robot I kind of let them know that I’m flawed - this helps I think find a middle ground even when we may barely know each other.
What equipment do you use?
I’m a mix. I have a canon 5D Mark III with a 50 mm lens and a few different flashes.
For life/work and for which I prefer to shoot mostly film - 35 mm on a range of different point and shoots - Yashica T4 and the Contax GR1 for now are making my favorite pictures. My Leica recently died which also took some of my favorite photographs and I’m making efforts now to repair or replace that camera.
I’ll pretty much pick up anything to experiment - I recently purchased an Olympus PEN from Japan it has the hot trigger and shoots 72 frames a roll looking forward to what cool stuff I can make with it.
My next goal is to produce a series of work only across medium format cameras.
What are you working on right now?
Right now I am working on making some books of my work - one in collaboration with a jewelry designer who is more like a sister - we shot and directed an entire photo identity for her line - and the second one a bit more anthropology based - Just rapped up a project for Vogue online and I am in the middle of some content projects in the music space.
What is your perspective towards music?
Music to me is the most important - previously I pursued a career in A&R - to me musicians are the true tastemakers - style, art, fashion, and so much more. Music is the highest form of communication for the visual arts - prior to appearing to have a focus on fashion I spent a majority of my time directing and producing music videos.
With so much emphasis on image nowadays - we live with the musicians of our time there is no escaping them, they are completely intertwined in our lives.
After anthropology I have always had an affinity towards music - musicians are relatable and the creative process around them and energy can renew itself it’s a space with nonstop motion.
The impact of these musicians is sometimes unmeasurable - just like when I’m casting I like to find the young musicians to work with and to grow with visually.
How would you describe the art and music scene in LA?
As far as the art and music scene in LA I would say the music scene has a stronger more visible pulse - Los Angeles has all the amenities to incubate raw talent - with art I would say it’s less kinetic - there are only so many galleries and spaces to show - and in terms of public and living art the viewership is rather low - You look at London and New York and their respective art cultures, there is much more vibrance in these places because of the way people of those cities travel.
However I do feel the paradigm shift as more artists from New York and around the world are making the move to Los Angeles - with the opening of the Broad Museum and spaces like MOCA and Hammer continuing to put energy towards curation that appeals to youth culture and smaller more boutique galleries producing exhibits with deserving and emerging artists like Slow Culture, New Image, HVW8 gallery. I feel like the art landscape in LA is on its way to improve dramatically over the next few years.
What is your perspective towards sex these days? And nudity?
My perspective towards sex these days is that there’s a bigger level of responsibility on all of us because of how much awareness we have created in regards to the abuse of sex - Although as a filmmaker, as a photographer, as an artist, I think passion and sex are such an important part of storytelling, of reality of life, of being human - I wish for the art to resemble actuality -Influenced by promiscuity as a teen and a young adult and that I can speak to it naturally through my art - That is what I feel is true to me and what I saw growing up and I feel the need to express despite it not the example I wish to set.
The nudity to me has gone a little bit over board - I am for the classy nude photography and people who make it soft and tasteful - and I am also for the punk, bondage, back page, fetish visual space that is living references to Robert Maplethorpe if you will in the correct dosages.
The downside about the usage of nudity is the level of desperateness and attention people are using it for and that they think they’re are getting ahead by showing their body and than there are audiences validating it making it seem like its acceptable.
What is the most significant experience you have had recently?
The most significant experience I have had recently is hard to say. I still feel like I am awaiting that moment in a way and as if its always not far off - but being the person that I am - I am never satisfied I want to continue to raise the bar for my work and quality of life.
Would you name 3 street photographers we should know about?
The three photographers to know about one I would say Lea Colombo in a fashion space - she is a dear friend and I have watched her grow and consistently produce amazing work - Joshua Woods is another one young photographer from Harlem that I also have had the pleasure of watching grow working in a fashion space - third I would say Hart + Leskina a really interesting creative duo that to me are making some unique work and have a strong sense of vision and how to execute it, a full package of imagery and art direction.
Who is Dan Regan away from the camera?
Away from the camera I’m just me - I try to live in the moment and stay pure in the company I keep and my surroundings.