How did you get your start?
I think I always liked the idea of taking pictures but I never acted on it until later in life. I first got the bug working as a recording engineer in a major Los Angeles studio. After working with famed recording engineer, Eddie Kramer (Zeppelin, Hendrix, Rolling Stones) and seeing his photographs documenting recording sessions, it inspired me to do the same with the bands I was working with. A little later on, as I was getting burned out recording, I was given the opportunity to handle all the social media and in-house creative direction for a small indie label. This included creating all the online and print content for the handful of bands we were working with. I was doing everything from behind-the-scenes photos and video of recording sessions, doing press photos, and shooting live gigs. From there it just spiraled into me shooting other bands and contributing to several music blogs, eventually taking over almost all my life.
Who are your biggest influences?
Glen Friedman – He was right there during the beginning of so many important cultural moments, shooting classic album covers and documenting the early days of hip hop in NYC, the punk and hardcore scenes of D.C, and the whole Dog Town movement in Venice, CA. What’s inspiring about Glen is that he was able to recognize that these movements were important and that they needed to be recorded.
Storm Thorgerson – A legend. The range of work that he’s produced for so many memorable albums is astounding. Every idea and every image is so well balanced and thought out, they suck the viewer in. It’s that level of engagement that I really strive for, creating an image that you can’t look away from.
Brian Cross aka B+ – Brian shot so many classic images from the ‘90s and ’00s underground hip hop scene. The story telling and use of natural light are second to none. While some shots may be setup, there’s a certain in-the-moment rawness that really brings out the subject’s personality.
Marc Seliger – Another legend and a huge favorite. Marc’s work can be clean and classic to conceptual and raw, all the while maintaining a certain “signature” look. I can look at any of his work and tell that it’s him and while some people think that this a bad thing, I think that as an artist, you should leave your ‘signature’ on your work, that’s why people want to work with you!
Anton Corbjin – The black and white king. Anton is always on point with his composition and moodiness, capturing the essence of the people he’s worked with. My dream is to one day create a photo that FEELS like an Anton Corbjin photo.
Dennis Hopper – Incredible and prolific photographer. From his images of Ike & Tina to Martin Luther King Jr., to his behind-the-scenes photos from movie sets, Dennis really captured a specific time and moment. As much as I like to experience the life around me, it’s his photos that remind me that everything is worth documenting.
You can take three things to a desert island that aren’t your phone. What do you choose?
EASY. My wife, some kind of music player, and a camera.
How do you find inspiration or is it something that has to come naturally?
Inspiration definitely needs to come naturally and when it does, I always make note of it in my notebook or my phone. For those times when I am feeling uninspired, I do like to lock my self in a room, play a bunch of music, and look through photo books, trying to figure out WHY the photographer did something as opposed to how.
Cage the Elephant
What is your favorite overtly Californian activity?
Having been born and raised in California, I don’t know any other way of living. That being said, I am currently enjoying an organic vegan lunch with a cruelty free craft beer while overlooking the beach on a sunny 90 degree day in mid February.
What was your first tape or CD?
When I was 7 years old I got my first cassette player and along with them, my aunt gave me 3 cassettes, Madonna’s Like a Virgin, Bruce Springsteen’s Born in the USA, and The Cars Greatest Hits.
Biggie or Tupac?
Tupac hands down. Gridlock’d AND Poetic Justice?!
Kevin Bacon or Patrick Swayze?
Kevin Bacon hands down. Footloose AND Tremors?!
How has art influenced your world view?
Taking pictures has taught me to slow down, pay attention to the details, and to live in the moment.
What’s your favorite documentary?
It’s a 2 way tie:
“Instrument” – Fugazi documentary by Jem Cohen. This is just about a near perfect documentary with some incredible footage of classic Fugazi shows. This is a film I can watch over and over and over.
“Dark Days” – documentary about the homeless people that were living in abandoned NYC subway tunnels by Marc Singer. Amazing soundtrack provided by DJ Shadow and when you realize that Marc Singer was living in the tunnels months before even thinking about making the documentary, it just adds a whole other dimension to the film.
What do you think was the biggest turning point in your career?
I’d hardly call it a career but looking back, I think things really starting picking up for me after I started shooting for the L.A. music blog, Grimy Goods. I covered a ton of local shows which lead to more and more bands reaching out for press photos. It was also my work with Grimy Goods that caught the attention of a few photo editors which lead me to shooting for iHeart Radio and Red Bull.
Puppy dogs or kitty cats?
Cats are filthy animals. Puppy dogs ALL DAY EVERY DAY.
What’s coming up next for you?
I’m taking it one day at a time. I’m just super grateful and humbled to have people want me photograph them. I’m working on getting into more publications, and working with more bands and labels. Really, I’m just focusing on getting better at what I do.
See more of ceethreedom’s work here.