30 minutes with Jake Stangel

& Mo Mfinanga

Jake Stangel's work embodies the purity and intimacy offered in natural moments. From capturing warm, inviting colours to injecting his personality in a scene, Stangel's work has been sought out by clients including Apple, Bloomberg Businessweek, Patagonia, and Monocle. Below, we talk about creative resistance, photographic preservation, and setting up the right type of moments.



Mo: Do you think that you would have become a photographer without a formal education in photography?

Jake: I didn't get much of a formal education in photography! I started in a photo program my freshman year of college at NYU. But when you move from the suburbs of Maryland to New York City at the age of 18, your world expands. Suddenly, there were a lot of things I wanted to learn about that were far outside the realms of photography. My sophomore to senior years were diversions away from photography, where I spent time studying economics, writing, marketing, and a little art history.

Jake: I took a couple technical photo classes here and there during that time, like lighting and large format, but I wouldn't say I got a formal education in any way. I'm thankful for that; during these formative years in college, I learned how to write and read and dissect information… express myself in more ways than just photography would allow. It's not only doable to come into photography without a formal photo education, but I think it's beneficial. Your understanding of the world benefits the way you visually interpret what’s around you.

Jake: When I look back on it, New York City was my college just as much as NYU was. There’s a certain amount of “growing up” that happens when you live there at such a young age. You become a lot more street smart and perceptive, because the city mandates it.

Mo: Where did you grow up?

Jake: I was born in Montreal, Canada. My dad was a professor at McGill university. When I was 6, I moved with my family to Bethesda, Maryland, a suburb just outside of DC. It's funny, when I go back to the area I grew up in now; I can't relate much to it. It's like putting on a really, really old t-shirt that you haven't worn in a long time.

Mo: From DC, didn't you move to New York?

Jake: Yeah. I went to NYU and started in a photo program there. But as I said, I left in my freshman year. I basically started in Tisch, the art school at NYU. From that point, I moved to another school called Gallatin, which is a sub school of NYU where you can create your own concentration. They don't even call it a major. It's really a program made for students that want to blend a lot of interdisciplinary studies. I was able to study this mix of economics, marketing, writing, and photography. With the help of an advisor we joined everything together into an actual diploma that made some sense, essentially. [laughing]

Mo: A diploma that didn't make you question what the hell you were doing for four years. [laughing]

Jake: Yeah, I know! The way I kind of packaged it, for the sake of my advisor, was called ‘visual communication’. I was ultimately looking at how you can visually communicate ideas from one group to another. So anything non-linguistic, whether it was an artist to a viewer or an advertising agency to a consumer. Showing how aesthetics derive definition and vice-versa; how font and color and aesthetic choices are interpreted internally and subconsciously without the aid of linguistics.

It’s not only doable to come into photography without a formal photo education, but I think it’s beneficial.
— Jake Stangel
Cover image of Airbnb's  Pineapple  magazine

Cover image of Airbnb's Pineapple magazine


Mo: During those years in New York, if I'm correct, you interned for Richard Renaldi?

Jake: I did, yeah.

Mo: What experience did you take from that?

Jake: That Richard is the sweetest man alive. [laughing] I haven't touched base with him for a while, but I did these two internships in my senior year when I was 20 or 21 years old. One was with Richard and the other was with an editorial photographer named Jeff Riedel. If you asked me in my sophomore or junior year [in college] if I would be a photographer or work in the photo industry, I would've totally shaken my head and say, 'Absolutely not.'

Jake: Working with those two really helped reignite my interest in turning a hobby into a career, very much so by seeing them work. I think it was really great that I interned in two very different kind of areas in photography. It wasn't that I was just only in fine art or only in editorial or only in commercial. I kind of got to see two extremes of the photo industry; each were equally captivating.

Jake: Working with Richard and also Jeff, too, it showed me what was possible: How a photographer conducts him or herself, and makes a living. It kind of erased any illusions I had about what a working photographers life would look like and replaced it with reality. Obviously it wasn't all rosy all the time. It totally engaged me and made me want to become a photographer myself. Had I not have those experiences, I wouldn't be doing what I'm doing. I would probably doing art direction somewhere. [laughing] 

Mo: By that giving you a perspective into the reality of a professional photographer, would you mind offering us an insight into that?

Jake: Yeah, totally. I mean, the first shoot I ever worked with Jeff on was when I skipped class because that's when the shoot was—this was prior to the High Line in New York actually being the High Line. So, I met him at this random gate by the Javits Center, which a big convention centre in New York City. Jeff was there with his crew—I was there kind of to just witness, I wasn't really assisting at that point.

Jake: So Jeff was there with his crew and this woman from the parks department showed up and we were shooting Lou Reed that day. It was completely, completely overcast, just really shitty weather. Just as we were setting up lights it began to downpour. For me, it was really exciting. Every shoot I had done for myself as a college student revolved around waiting for the perfect weather for the perfect light for the perfect person and the perfect moment.

Jake: So, this was my first time witnessing photography as problem solving, in a way, with great pressure because you're shooting Lou Reed; he's a pretty exacting and demanding person. I found it extremely exciting to be presented with this situation where you're on this kind of New York City property, that at the time very few people had ever seen, with this amazing opportunity to shoot Lou Reed, yet it's raining. He's going to be here in half an hour and you know you have to make a really good photo.

Jake: You're at A and you need to figure out how you're gonna get to B. And not only how you're going to get there, but how you're going to make an amazing photograph in the process. I remember having to leave early to get to my next class, but being completely blown away that process. I've never been so much remotely close to that kind of experience before, shooting personal work. To see that first had, to see that upper echelon of professionalism—not that I'm obsessed with celebrities, I'm kind of the opposite—was a really wonderful experience.

Homes and spaces:  Dwell Magazine

Homes and spaces: Dwell Magazine

L.A Weekender: Mini Cooper; a road trip from Los Angeles to Palm Springs in a Mini Cooper Countryman S

L.A Weekender: Mini Cooper; a road trip from Los Angeles to Palm Springs in a Mini Cooper Countryman S


Mo: It's great that you had the opportunity to experience that with Jeff and Richard. How did you establish that opportunity?

Jake: It's funny. There was this big, fat binder in the photo department of NYU where you could see different photo studios fax their information over for internship requests. NYU had a one page questionnaire where a studio manager would fill out the form, usually looking for an intern to get coffee or to organize paper work. It was basically this extremely anonymous thing.

Jake: I remember flipping through this binder, which literally was like a four inches thick with hundreds of the most basic internship requests—most of them were really outdated too—that had all these really lackluster opportunities where you would not have much proximity to any of the exciting photoshoots going on; you would have no proximity to the photographer. It was almost more prestigious to say you were an intern for "blank", but you actually did nothing; you sat a desk and shuffling papers and got beverages for people.

Jake: To back up a second, I feel like a great deal of my life has been learning how to get around bureaucracy, and learning how to machete my own path if I'm finding the current one I'm on really disenfranchising. I did a lot of that in school and in the classes I took. It's not really [me] trying to be super cunning or crafty, but I remember very distinctly, even though it's six years ago, flipping through that binder and just being completely unsatisfied with the process I was witnessing. The opportunity to go work at someone like Mark Seliger's studio... You can be one of his 15 interns who doesn't do anything. Yes, you can put on your resume that you worked in Mark Seliger's studio, but in reality you didn't learn a thing. 

Jake: I really remember chafing at how “cookie cutter” the process was, it was like applying for retail jobs via LinkedIn. I was just like, ‘I have a group of photographers that I highly admire’ and I just started to write them emails, each and every person. It was basically going paragraph for paragraph about what I loved about their work, and just making these letters very detailed and personal. Both Jeff and Richard, independently, time-wise wrote back. With Jeff for example, he said, "I never had an intern before and this is really interesting and thank you for writing me. Come into my studio next week and we can talk.” That's how an email turned into a relationship and then turned into a career.

Jake: I highly encourage anyone, especially if you're in college or before or after, that working on your own accord and terms is absolutely essential to personal and career growth as well.

Mo: Definitely, because I think we've been taught in school about a linear path towards success. They tell you that success comes in the form of one, two, and three. But we should realize that you have to fight for something you want, and in ways that may not be conventional.

Jake: Yeah, totally. Not really get what you want, but—especially in the realms of photography or most creative industries—that one, two, three is entirely jumbled. You could go three, one, two; or two, three, one. There are a lot of people who have taken massive forward steps and back steps. It's not some smooth straight line. It's a really jagged, curvy, uphill-downhill line. [laughing] You're trying to navigate this massive ship, but there's no map. [laughing]

Mo: The exciting part about it is that there's no map! While we talk about your experience in New York, let's transition towards you decision in moving to Portland and now San Francisco.

Jake: I was just sick of living in a little box of an apartment. I feel like in order to make New York work, you set aside a lot of basic human dignities [both laughing] to inhabit that city. For a lot of people, it's worth it. Four years of New York was plenty for me. I'm a really, really avid cyclist and the year I graduated, I rode my bicycle across America from the east coast to the west coast with a non profit group. There were 30 of us. I wasn't some intrepid cyclist doing it alone, but the first trip finished in Portland and the second one in Seattle. Having grown up exclusively on the east coast in Montreal, Maryland, and then New York, the Northwest was really enchanting. It was this mystical, magical land where the mountains dropped off into the oceans. Seattle and Portland had this novel and foreign feel to me that I was left craving for when I flew back home, and it made me even more curious to return.

Jake: When I graduated I just basically knew that I was going to immediately move out there. Portland was very affordable by comparison to Seattle, so that’s the main reason I chose to move there. My rent there was $300 a month when I first moved, which you can't really say about most major cities. I mean, it's $300 a month to live in a nice big room in a big house with a front and backyard, but you're also in Portland, too. So yeah, that's what precipitated Portland. [After] three years of living in the rain later, I was just craving some better weather! [laughing]

For me, life is so much more than just photography or art—it’s about the earth and the people I share time with and nature, essentially.
— Jake Stangel
Rapha's SS14 City Riding lookbook, photographed in Barcelona

Rapha's SS14 City Riding lookbook, photographed in Barcelona


Mo: How do you find creativity in a place like San Francisco?

Jake: Y'know, I find it everywhere. I guess it really depends on how you define creativity. If you define it as artistic inspiration via the form of actually looking at other artworks in person, then it's not quite as strong as a place like New York, London, or LA, however, as much as I feed off of that, I derive inspiration as more like life inspiration as opposed to creative inspiration.

Jake: For me, life is so much more than just photography or art—it's about the earth and the people I share time with and nature, essentially. That's become a more and more prominent role in my life, and I've actually talked to Geordie [Wood] about this a lot where a lot of my extra time is spent not so much shooting personal work, but getting back out into the outdoors and that refreshes me in ways where looking at artwork does not. I feel like it's a very complementary relationship, for me, being in the outdoors and looking at artwork.

Mo: It's great to have both sides. Trekking back into your start in photography, I would assume that the tangible process of shooting and processing film fueled your admiration for photography, yes?

Jake: 100-percent. One of the seemingly recurring conversations I have—whether if its at a holiday gathering with family or a party with other peers, whether they're in photography or not—revolves around the whole film or digital thing. As much as people kind of gone over that conversation many, many times it boils down to personal preference. One of the things I most love about shooting on film is the craft and process behind it.

Jake: People might roll their eyes at this, but I like having a travel shoot and not knowing what I’ve shot cause it’s on film. Not only do I not get the photos right away, but I have to fly home with it, treat it like it's a precious specimen that my life depends on, and then ride on my bike to my lab and wait for a couple of days to get it and look at it. I mean, that's what I've been doing for 15 years now, and there’s a comfort and excitement and tradition in that. I definitely get tired of people proclaiming digital as so much easier. At the end of the day, I take photos and shoot film because it’s more of a savory experience, in part, because of the process.

Editorial piece for  ESPN: The Magazine , photographed at High Cascade Snowboard Camp. Mount Hood, Oregon.

Editorial piece for ESPN: The Magazine, photographed at High Cascade Snowboard Camp. Mount Hood, Oregon.


Mo: Would you mind talking about a memorable experience from one of your shoots?

Jake: There's one that's recent that I won't name the magazine, because it's not going to be out for a little bit. I might not be able to name a few specifics because it's a proprietary story. [laughing] Anyways, I recently got to shoot a piece about a very prominent businessman that lives in Reno. He owns, amongst other things, a brothel… I believe Nevada is the only state that allows you to legally own a brothel?

Jake: But anyways, he's essentially a wild western cowboy businessman, but except for raising cattle he's a real estate developer and takes these massive risks in investing. He's easily 225 pounds and really a guy who's constantly wearing a bolo tie that's as big as your fist. He talks a mile a minute, his Chevy truck is lifted, and just the kind of the guy that you would be wrapped up in the tornado of his presence. We were basically shadowing him for two days out in the middle of eastern Reno. There was a point where he had to go into a meeting that I couldn’t shoot and I was still on the hunt for a really good location to make an environmental portrait of him, I couldn't really find one.

Jake: So, I was walking with my assistant down the street in this really, really small town called Virginia City, which is a former gold mining town turned Western tourist town. I was trying to basically solve this puzzle of finding a location that could match his larger-than-life personality. We were walking down the street kind of a lost about what to do when we walked past what I can only describe as this wild west photo saloon; the kind of place where you can go in, get dressed up, and take a photo that looks like its in the era of prohibition with rifles, fur hats, and they'd give you a sepia-tone photo for $16.95. It had a fake jail and a fake bar and everything had dust all over it, all of which is totally fictitious. 

Jake: So, this light went off in my head and I was like, 'This would be the perfect place to photograph this guy.' I originally thought it would even be more amazing if I actually paid this girl who is probably there just working weekends and had her take the photo and basically have that be the photo that ran. [laughing] Just because it would kind of be this Richard Prince idea of appropriation. But I figured that would be a little too deep for this magazine, so I basically gave her the whole back story and once they found out the magazine, which is a somewhat popular magazine for the state of Nevada, they let us do it for free. We got the subject on board, somehow, and photographed him. We didn't even have to dress him up, he just looked the part. That was pretty great.

Mo: It seemed like everything fell into place.

Jake: Yes, definitely. Even when I was shooting I couldn't believe any of this was occurring. It was too good to be true. I got these 4x5 photos of him with this shit-eating grin, holding rifles and fake bags of money, standing in front of a jail, all in this wild west photo saloon. 

Lance Gilman, Reno, Nevada, for  Maxim Magazine

Lance Gilman, Reno, Nevada, for Maxim Magazine


Mo: In contrast to having a shoot that was very harmonic, do you have any shoots that you found yourself working around to get the shoot right?

Jake: Yeah, it happens with a decent amount of regularity. It depends on what your definition of how bad is bad. I mean, most photography, whether it's editorial or commercial, there's a whole lot to overcome. I think that's kind of the definition of what, especially in the editorial context, makes a really good photographer. Meaning, how good of a logistical and creative problem solver are you? I often work with assistants who are just good friends, because I prefer their company, especially on travel shoots.

Jake: I think a lot of people who are not in photography have a very rosy image of what photography is like. I think they just think I'm drinking Mai Tai's on a beach all day and occasionally snapping a photograph, but travel photography is one of the more demanding genres out there. So, at the end of day two for this shoot, a friend of mine who I brought along to assist looked at me and she was like, "You know, photography is really just about problem solving." [laughing] I think this is definitely most true for on-location editorial photography. Studio and commercial work, not so much.

Jake: So, yeah, I think instead of telling a story, I would just relay that the definition of what editorial photography is: How quick can you think on your feet? How good of a conversationalist are you? Are you able to simultaneously snap a photo, talk to your subject, be thinking about the next situation, and dealing with some sort of adversity in some way? It could be that you thought you could shoot in one location, and five minutes before you're about to shoot it doesn't work out, or it could be that your subject is in a really bad mood that day. There are a lot of scenes like that.

Mo: For me, I give such a high regard to editorial photography, because you're placed in that situation of solving a problem and interpreting things around you in a very instantaneous manner. Corresponding to the core of creativity and photography, how do you overcome creative resistance?

Jake: From a client side or more of a creative slump side?

Mo: From the creative slump side.

Jake: I think everyone obviously approaches it differently. For me, I spend a lot of time away from photography. [laughing] Photography has a very special place; I don't want to say in my heart, but I hold a very special place for it in my life. I think more than anything, one of the most important things I can do—and I'm a fairly laid back person—is that I maintain a very pure relationship with photography, so that every time I do pick up a camera it feels like a special occasion. That’s not to say that the moment needs to be perfect, nor do I shoot sparingly. And I'm learning more and more everyday about what works for me—what makes me everlastingly excited. I definitely have become deliberate about when and why I pick up a camera in recent years. 

Jake: Everyone, as I said, is different. Some people need that camera on their shoulder. There are people that need that—this is a total stereotype—Leica on their left shoulder the second they leave the door; they need that ability to photograph and to capture things. But for me, it's kind of a on and off switch, in a way.

Jake: In order to really feel motivated and to not feel like I'm hitting those creative ruts, I spend large chunks of time not shooting just to preserve how special it feels when I do pick up a camera. There are times where I definitely am witnessing a moment that I'd love to have to camera with me, but I'm also very cognizant, aware, and content to just have witnessed it in my mind as a person. And I don't feel that need to consumptively capture every single beautiful moment that passes my eyes every day of the week. That's how I try to stay fresh.

Jake: I'm rolling my own eyes as I say this, but it's like having a sacred relationship with photography. That's a very idealistic thing to say, because there are shoots that I do where that does not occur, but that is also a part of being able to compartmentalize those experiences and know that, that is ultimately not who you are as a photographer.

How do you join a partnership where I’m delivering how I see, but within the bounds of what they need?
— Jake Stangel

Mo: I think that pertains to not shooting something that's you at its core or even just aesthetically. There's a balance of integrity and preservation. What's the most important detail in fabricating your work?

Jake: Setting up good situations. I've started to do more and more long shoots, anywhere between two days to two weeks. There's a lot of work that goes into it. Really, it's about setting up the right types of moments. I'm thinking more specifically on the commercial side. I'm getting hired more and more to shoot commercial work that feels not commercial. I’m pretty sure everyone is. [laughing] Shooting work that feels personal, that feels real. I'm trying to avoid the word 'authentic'. That's the buzzword of 2014 and surely 2015. You can definitely put that in the interview. For every time I hear the word authentic, you don't even know...

Jake: So yeah, in those types of situations it's really about curating a situation so that it can roll out on its own, but you're setting the right foundation. Especially commercially, having a really, really active role in casting and locations and knowing what works for me as photographer and knowing how to deliver a consistency in some sort of way, but also at the same time knowing what works for me and how to obtain that. Like, how to let a natural moment unfold really necessitates having a good moment to begin with. Does that answer the question or did I veer off a little bit?

Mo: Not exactly. I want you to expand on that because when you're doing a lot of commercial work, it's really fabricated by the clients view, but with your perspective on it. Is it more so you advocating a certain narrative? How do you and the client meet in the middle?

Jake: I think that's a really, really excellent question. I think a lot of commercial work can easily go wrong and to make something that's very not special. But going back to what I was saying earlier about having photography remaining sacred and enjoyable for me, I've had too many of those shoots where I get discouraged. But as opposed to not taking them in the future, I've turned around and really thoughtfully and analytically ask myself how do I make these situations work? When I get hired for taking a certain style, how do I parlay that into a situation that a client needs? How do you join a partnership where I'm delivering how I see, but within the bounds of what they need?

Jake: So, it's definitely a collaboration and I find myself kind of happily educating the client on how I approach shoots and what my take is. Often they're quite receptive, which is the best situation. Sometimes they're not, so in those cases before anything progresses too far, I clearly say that this may not be the right partnership.

Jake: The last thing you want on day two of a 60 day shoot is to realize that you both made a mistake. [laughing] And that the collaboration is not seeing eye to eye. Primarily, I feel like if you come at it in a very clear and pragmatic view and you really explain what you know best while still taking into accord what they need, then you can achieve good results. I get to shoot in a way that I most love and make work that's true to how I see, and also the client gets photos that they really love, but also suites what their needs are.

"I spent two days visiting auctions, parties, and auto exhibits, equally captivated by the cars and the ostentatious culture of wealth that surrounds them." — Jake Stangel

"I spent two days visiting auctions, parties, and auto exhibits, equally captivated by the cars and the ostentatious culture of wealth that surrounds them." — Jake Stangel


Mo: What I'm so fascinated by in your work is how you obtain your approach towards a shoot regardless of it's personal or commercial use. It seems like your clients respect that.

Jake: Yeah, I think, in large parts, those things happen when you have a very open and reasonable conversation with the creative's that you're working with; you're basically coming at them saying, 'Tell me what you need and I'll reinterpret it as I know how, and get you something that's true to what I know how to shoot,' because these are all conversations that happen before I pick up my camera. Everyone has to be on the same page before the shoot begins so that once I start shooting, I can still approach it like it's personal work. The second I'm picking up the camera, I'm shooting for me, whether its actually just for me or for editorial or commercial purposes. There's no differentiation between those categories.

Mo: I remember Geordie touching base on his work being a little bit selfish, but in the end your work is still a gift to the client and viewers. You have to be a little bit selfish.

Jake: Yeah, I guess selfish is one way to put it, but if you don't make work that's true to yourself then you're not going to make good work.

There is a lot of perseverance that you need to have in this industry. I think you need that faith in yourself that you are going to make it.
— Jake Stangel

Mo: And by making work true to yourself, how do you grow out of your comfort zone?

Jake: That's also a really good question. For me, any time I feel like I'm proverbially resting on my laurels or reverting back to an angle I've done before, or any time I feel like it's déjà vu with the camera is when I feel dissatisfaction. [both laughing] I really crave wanting to switch things up. It's at those points where I feel this personal prodding, essentially, that makes me want to challenge myself. I feel like challenging yourself is intrinsically linked to a certain element of the unknown. 

Jake: Every time you need to step out of your comfort zone, its not like you have a system of doing that, you just have to start experimenting with new aesthetics and new tactics. Progress how you see, think, and just push further and dive deeper into whatever is in front of you, so you're not just taking a photo that you've taken before.

Mo: Yeah, because I feel that if you don't rely on that internal force then sooner or later it's going to be advocated from an external force. What's something you constantly focus on when shooting?

Jake: If I am doing the moment justice. If what I'm seeing is what I'm putting into the camera.

Mo: How do you aim for that?

Jake: This sounds a little eye-rolling but it's one of those things in photography or any visual art where you can't quite put into words, no matter how academic you are or how much of a gift you have for words. It's just as much as it being emotional, tactile, and sensory as it is a mental, linguistic process in your mind. Tactile sensation, for example, it's harder to write about it than it is to feel it. Photography for me is that same way on a visual level. How a photograph makes you react.

Mo: With photography you're injecting your own personality into an image that's non replicable.

Jake: Everyone talks about having “a perspective” in photography in the visual sense, but what I'm attracted to is as much sensory as it is visual. I mean, obviously they're kind of one of the same, in the sense that you’re taking a photo in your only eyes. But a lot of what I want to capture and focus on lies beyond what your eyes can see… It’s attempting to record the smells and sensations on your skin and the warmth of the sun; I try to pull in as much as I can atmospherically.

Mo: A lot of times I feel like I talk about the creative process within the work, but readers are curious about the financial background in art. With that, what have you learned in the process of substantially living off of your work?

Jake: Hmm, good question as well. Let's see. Where to start here? I guess one thing is to always be frugal. That's more of it being motherly advice [both laughing] than anything else. I have a lot of people, especially family and friends that are still amazed that you can make a living off of photography. Tell me a little bit more of what you want to know?

Mo: We find ourselves so focused on the work that we forget how to make a living off of our work. Within your personal experience, how have you found to make a living off of your work?

Jake: I think it was incidental at first. I started out, like most people, assisting. I was able to keep art and commerce separate because I was making a living assisting, but also shooting on the side. Initially when I began seriously doing photography, there wasn't any dollar signs attached to it. Things started really, really small financially. I feel like a lot of people are definitely struggling to make a living doing photography, but there's just as many people able to make a healthy living doing photography.

Jake: There's a thousand little steps you have to walk, you know. I never caught one massive break. There was never one blow-out thing that happened, there was never one person I met that opened up the world of making a living shooting photos. It was literally just putting one foot in front of the other for a long time.

Mo: Many think that there's a sudden switch that turns on and now their bank accounts have more zeros attached.

Jake: Yeah, it's the opposite. [both laughing] One thing I will add to what you just said is that with every single one of my peers, no matter where they're at success wise, it all took us a long time to get here. For me, I would say it took me on average six to ten times longer than I had expected for anything to happen. Whether it’s getting my first meeting or first kind of national magazine assignment. It's not because I was cocky, it was just because I had a disoriented timeline, essentially. There is a lot of perseverance that you need to have in this industry. I think you need that faith in yourself that you are going to make it.

Mo: Alright, I have two last questions for you. How crucial is depth and intensity to you in an image?

Jake: Death and intensity?

Mo: Oh, no. Depth and intensity!

Jake: Ok, I was like, wow, I've never heard that about my work before!

Jake: You know, it really just depends on the moment, I would say. Some moments aren't that deep. [laughing] Some things just hit you over the head in a way. It could be beauty, simplicity, a stark white wall with someone sitting next to it. For me, part of what I love about photography is that it's totally mirrored in day-to-day life. I don't have set times when I photograph, I don't have a set place; I don't shoot in studio. A lot of what I do is naturally occurring.

Mo: Concluding our interview, what is the purpose of your work?

Jake: I've been in my house for a couple of hours and I just wanted to get some fresh air. So, I'm looking over San Francisco right now just taking it all in. The sun is starting to go down and there's all these telephone poles that are silhouetted. You can see some of the cars on the highway and there's this kind of nice moment of tranquillity, and I'm struggling to find the answer to your question. I'm just taking this all in and wanting to take a photograph of it, ironically. [both laughing]

Jake: I think the purpose of why I shoot is to just go out in the world and try to experience as much as I can, meet people and form very deep relationships, and understand the topography, culture, and shapes in the earth and put it in a camera. Not only for myself, but for other people to look at as maybe a portal.

Jake: A lot of what I love about photography and what I've always been attracted to is essentially moving through life. Not falsifying a situation or constructing one, but really just moving through the world and documenting what I find interesting about it. As I said before, it's kind of on a sensory level so you can feel like you're here next to me.

Mo: I lied about that being the last question. [both laughing] The actual last question is if you think that photography is the only form of expressing that purpose?

Jake: No, I definitely don't. I'm not going to turn into a painter, but what I love so much about most artistic mediums is that if I were here with a sculptor to my right and a writer to my left, we'd all be approaching the same scene I'm looking at on our terms. I'm not going to be a sculptor any time soon, but I'm just as excited by what they're creating and how they're interpreting as I am with photography.


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  • Website, Instagram, and Tumblr
  • Favorite food?

  • Fuckin' kale, man.

  • Favorite music?

  • D’Angelo, Waxahatchee, Nicki Minaj, No Age, Kurt Vile, Nicolas Jaar, Barrington Levy, Mac Demarco, Tornado Wallace, Missy Elliott, Beats In Space, Savages, Sleater-Kinney, PJ Harvey, Modest Maus, Sun-Ra, Connan Mockasin, Smashing Pumpkins, Phyllis Dillon, Mount Kimbie, and Outkast.

  • What are your hotspots?

  • Hotspots: The top of Hawk Hill in the Marin Headlands for a quick getaway. The Presidio in San Francisco for an even quicker getaway. Pt. Reyes Station for a long getaway. Ocean Beach for clarity. Plow Cafe for breakfasts. Just For You cafe for lunch. Mission Chinese for dinner. Freewheel Bike Shop for bikes.

  • What do you like to read?

  • New Yorker and The New York Times.

  • What's your setup like?

  • Mamiya 7, Mamiya RZ, Leica M, Phase Onesies.

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