Kia ora everyone! If you haven’t heard by now –I’ve relocated to New Zealand for the year! Before making the move I decided to go out with one more big personal project [Make Personal Work.] Over a weekend over 140 friends showed up outside of a loft in downtown Los Angeles and let me take their portrait. The project can speak for itself. “LA YEARBOOK” is linked below and broken into 3 parts (for bandwidth reasons): A-G, H-M, and N-Z. You can swipe through the pages within the blog post OR view in full screen on a desktop for an optimize experience.
The greatest gift of life is friendship, and I have received it
I’ve spent my entire life living around Los Angeles, CA. Aside from a few gigs that took me to other big American cities and personal time-off to travel on my own terms, I had yet to live anywhere else. It was time to shake things up. New Zealand is absolutely gorgeous and is a giant playground for someone like me who enjoys exploring and reconnecting with nature. Its largest city, Auckland, also has work opportunities in marketing, advertising, and entertainment. This meant that I could move out of the country and continue on my journey as an artist. The country also offers US citizens working holiday visas, which meant that I could work and frolic through the countryside for a year. Logically it made perfect sense to seize the chance to live abroad and after months of deliberating between taking a leap of faith by uprooting and missing out on my carefully, cultivated city life, I ultimately decided to drop everything and fly away to New Zealand! The only thing that remained was to say goodbye to the people that made Los Angeles feel like home.
In my mind, moving to a new environment and letting go of the people who grew up with you is very similar to moving up grade levels in school. At the end of each year, students walk away with a yearbook to commemorate and relive the good times. I was first introduced to photography while working on the school’s yearbook team in the third grade. As a shy kid armed with a camera, documenting moments served as the perfect avenue to connect with others. Years later my desire for human connection snowballed. I wanted to create tableau visuals that would emotionally resonate with viewers. To achieve that, it was mandatory for me to overcome any emotional barriers and vulnerability fears. As the photographer, I have to create a safe space where the photo subject can be open and 100% with me. Within this temporal space, a fleeting moment of connected intimacy manifests –this is when the resulting photograph is taken.
I attribute my growth and development within the genre of portraiture to the relationships forged in Los Angeles. Without the support of my peers I would not have been as comfortable or confident in my own voice. As a tribute to them and as a throwback to my humble beginnings I embarked on the ambitious personal project, “LA YEARBOOK,” of documenting 143 of my friends within three shoot days. I instructed each person to bring either a tangible item or abstract idea that summarizes our relationship. Each portrait is accompanied by a handwritten stream of consciousness to further give viewers a deeper window into each rapport.
I’m extraordinary grateful to these individuals and it’s with their continuous support that I can now jump on a plane with just a backpack of essentials and a camera. Kia ora!
Behind the Scenes:
Once I had decided that without a doubt I’d move to New Zealand by the start of 2017 I let everyone know on my personal Facebook. Then I created a Facebook event, clicked on every person that I felt that I shared a genuine moment or connection with, and followed up with blowing up their phones to ensure that they got the invite. I allocated a weekend and one extra makeup date to document as many friends as possible.
Given the immense number of people I would have coming through to be photographed, for my own sanity the setup has to be simple. Outside of my friend’s loft I constructed a giant lightbox. Using the sun as my only light source the box would diffuse and give shape to the light. When it came time to photograph one of my friend I’d have them step into the box and proceed to click my camera for 10-15 mins. Afterwards the friend would step out and the next person would step in. Simple and easy. With this setup I wouldn’t have to bother with coordinating lights and I could easily ensure an aesthetic consistency among the portraits. I used a Sony A7RII + Sony 24-70/2.8 GM to shoot 90% of the portraits. Because I’d had to knock out 140+ portraits in a relatively shot time span, it was imperative to use a lens that would allow me to be versatile while giving me precision. The other 10% of images were photographed using a Sony RX100V. That little camera is a serious beast. I used that one to photograph a few friends who I was traveling with at the time and couldn’t make the official shoot days.
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