This is one of my favourite photos for a number of reasons - the atmospherics created by the hanging smoke, the intimacy of such a close up shot and the other minor details, such as the name scrawled across the mic.
This was the second night of the inaugural Budland Festival in Downtown Los Angeles. I was invited to the festival by Kilo Kish, an LA-based whose performance art piece I volunteered for.
I'd watched Kilo with the other volunteers earlier in the evening and, because we stuck around by the stage, we ended up at the front for ScHoolboy's subsequent performance. He brought Tyler, The Creator and A$AP Rocky out for a song. It was the most incredible, exhilarating and violent mosh I've ever experienced.
Shuffy was a dog that belonged to the family I interned with in LA. He went through the wars whilst I was over, and he wore a few different kinds of cones during my ten-week tenure. This looked to be one of the more uncomfortable ones.
I encroached on a photo by a far more technically adept photographer, which explains the stray eyeline. The green is splash from an out-of-shot neon light. It gives the impression of green hair - a la Frank Ocean's Blonde - when in fact the subject is strikingly bald.
This was part of a larger image set which came about by chance. A group of rowdy celebrants were hanging in an abandoned brand booth when I walked by - my friend Rayne, another OneFourOne member, got us involved. I took photos of the group in that booth and the one pictured, which was the second environ we shot in. I later learnt that the group contained a rap clique, Atomic Farmhouse. It was a gathering of artistic, aesthetic hip hop fans, and one of the most interesting, unplanned and foreign scenarios I've photographed.
A front-on shot of the demonstrators at the 2017 March for Truth. The banner read: RESTORING FAITH IN DEMOCRACY, though it would be optimistic to consider the march's objectives reached. The Russia investigation continues to drag on under Special Counsel Robert Mueller.
This well-versed photographer was perched atop a bus stop at the March for Truth in Downtown LA. The event was a reasonable size, though nothing came close to the January Women's March that I missed by a matter of months. Inspired by the growing wave of anti-Trump sentiment - especially in the ever-progressive LA - I decided to scope out the event with Alex Vasquez, another OneFourOne member. It felt historic, as though it was the kind of happening I'd be stupid to miss. It seemed significant. I had to engage in and document one of the countless protests erupting across a divided America - to miss out would be to misrepresent the nation in my photography.
As for this character, he caught me catching him and seemed more than happy to pose for a snap - as you can no doubt tell.
C A L I F O R N I A
One interesting undercurrent at the March for Truth demonstration was that of state allegiance. There's no such fealty in Australia - at least, not that I've felt in my 21 years here.
The idea of America is seemingly distinct from the idea of California - the rally, which was critical of the Executive and its lack of transparency in regards to Russian meddling in the federal election, was a hotspot of state-aligned pride. California's voting record positions it firmly against Trump, as does Governor Brown's assurances in regards to sanctuary cities and climate policy.
Ice Ice Baby
One of the more heated political confrontations I witnessed, this photo shows an undocumented immigrant confronting a pro-Trump gathering from across an empty downtown intersection.
It was a vitriolic exchange - the pictured man waved a Mexican flag and proudly professed his heritage and status, daringly encouraging the pro-Trump assembly to call U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). In return, the Trump camp played 'Ice Ice Baby' over their speakers.
All the while, a small crowd of police officers stood guard, ready to defuse any potential conflict.
I'm unsure whether this poster is meant in jest. The California secession movement isn't taken particularly seriously, and Steve Bannon recently used it as a means of galvanising Californian Republicans into a fiercer political presence.
Regardless of the intent, it's an interesting reflection of growing frustration with the federal government in California, an atypically progressive pocket of the United States.
Living in Sawtelle, and commuting by bike, grocery shopping was limited to whatever I could carry home. Here, I've chosen a 6 pack of tiny Fanta cans and a 24 pack of instant ramen.
The only fall I had on my bike happened when I was carrying a pack of Corn Flakes home from the local Smart & Final. The stack was so huge that someone came out of their house to check if I was alright. That might have been the worst part.
A poster that lasted a few days on a tree in Sawtelle. It reads:
June 19, 1982: In Detroit, Michigan, Vincent Chin was celebrating his bachelor party with friends. Walter Ebens, a laid off auto worker and his step-son Michael Nitz, began taunting Chin and his friends saying, "it's because of you motherfuckers that we're out of work." A fight ensued and didn't end until Ebens and Nitz were finished beating Vincent Chin with a baseball bat, and ultimately murdering him. Ebens and Nitz were not sent to jail, in fact, they were given 3 years probation and had to pay a fine of $3,000. The Asian-American community and other activist groups were beyond enraged. Vincent Chin sparked a movement in the Asian-American community that forced America to see how little Asian-American lives were valued. Has anything changed? Can this happen today?
Keep A Gold Chain
Shot at the Venice Beach Skate Plaza, this one finds a skater set against a clear California sky. Standing on the wave-shaped walls of the skate park, this skater was a regular presence during my stay. I never learnt his name, and I regret that. The photo is titled for my love of Brockhampton, which only intensified during my stay in LA.
I hope he'd appreciate this photo, but I guess I'll never know.
Venice Beach Skate Plaza
Venice Beach Skate Plaza is an incredible place.
I say this for two reasons - the talent on show, and the nature of the park itself. Whilst many neigbourhood skate parks play host to skaters honing their skills, Venice Beach is steeped in an aura of established exhibitionism. It's where confident skaters come to show off their skills to the ever-present tourist audience. In this way, it's not unlike the nearby Muscle Beach - it's more about established strongmen entertaining crowds than actual formative training.
At least one skater here - the incredible Isaiah Hilt - has agency representation, a testament to the park's focus on entertainment. I spent many afternoons by the bowls, snapping photos and making conversation with skaters and photographers.
Santa Monica Beach
A couple strolls off towards the Santa Monica Pier. The Pacific Coast Highway edges the hills in the distance, which leads to Malibu.
Khalid at Twilights
A photo I overlooked for months on end, this shot was taken shortly before Khalid's record-breaking Pier Twilights concert. Roughly 60,000 people attended the free concert, breaking the crowd record for the long-running concert series.
A mirror selfie taken in an Uber. I was going between Gunnerstahl's LA exhibition and Joey Badass' free 1999 show.
Gunnerstahl is a photographer with a specific hip hop inkling - his film photographs of famous rappers and producers are well known amongst fans. His show in LA promised interesting photography and a stylish young crowd, but the line was excessively long and I never made it in.
Instead, I set of to Joey Badass' 1999 show, celebrating the five-year anniversary of his debut mixtape. Joey's 1999 was - along with Chance the Rapper's Acid Rap - one of two mixtapes that propelled me into hip hop fandom.
In The Waiting Line
A snap I took in the line for the Joey show. I met a few interesting people in this line - including an aspiring producer and his manager. We bonded over an interest in Madlib, and he taught me a lot about The Game, a rapper with whom I'm largely unaccustomed.
At some point, whilst listening to his beats, I called one of them 'chipmunk soul.' He was shocked, and told me that I know my stuff. As self serving as it sounds, I look back on that with pride. I felt very self-assured in that moment.
Joey, No. 1
This first shot of Joey comes from the opening of the show - as it went on, he got progressively more undressed. The mosh was calm at this point, but it would later escalate to ridiculous levels.
Being my first real hip hop show, it was something to behold - an intimate show of back catalogue tracks, entirely for free. It's definitely impacted my opinion of Joey, who I know see as an incredible guy as well as a very talented artist.
The concert was held a few days after the passing of New York legend Prodigy who, along with Havoc, made up Mobb Deep. Joey asked us to raise out lighters for both Prodigy and STEEZ, the Pro Era founder who committed suicide in 2012.
I'd listened to 1995's The Infamous as a part of my 2017 listening log, expanding upon my love for Illmatic by chasing up other Queens-based acts.
I closed out my review with this:
This is an amazing album. Experiencing talent like this is one of life’s greatest blessings. One of the best rap albums I’ve listened to.
Rest in peace, Prodigy.
Rest in peace, Capital STEEZ.
Joey in Red
There's something visceral about the combination of the red light and the gleaming sweat. It's a dark, subtle and brooding palette, one which suggests intensity and intimidation.
ALL AMERIKKKAN BADA$$
In what might be the best photo I've ever taken, Joey reaches upward, the light spilling out onto his chain. It cuts beams through his bent mic hand and across his unblocked forehead, creating a sense of a split-second snapshot. It feels frozen in time, a distilled atmosphere.
I feel as though this photo says a lot - about Joey, about his method as a performer and his attitude as a whole.
The focus slips to the hands, creating a blurred background filled with friendly colour. Pinks, oranges, blues and purples cascade just beyond the sharp silhouettes. Joey's out-of-focus body is defined by clear-cut shadows instead of harsh edges.
This one's about the audience watching on. It's about the experience as opposed to the artist himself. The artist isn't the subject - the audience is. I'd like to think of this one as distilling the experience of seeing the show.
For My People
This is the calmest shot of Joey. It feels meditative. Two spotlights converge on the artist as he rhymes, his upper body awash in purple hue. The phone in the lower left corner is totally an accident, but it adds some depth to the snap. The fringes of silhouettes that edge across the bottom of the screen really give perspective, amping up the performative feel of the shot.
A snap taken in Hollywood during what I gleamed was some kind of carnival. It's testament to LA's progressive beliefs that this kind of attire is considered totally normal - at least to the point where hundreds of people felt comfortable enough to wear it on Hollywood Boulevard.
That's the kind of place I want to live.
I took this shot on Latigo Canyon Drive in Malibu. Mum and I had pulled over to get a good look at the scenery when this biker pulled past us. You can see the car behind the motorbike.
The road wound about the canyons, a long and enduringly beautiful drive. The hills looked out over Malibu, the Pacific Coast Highway and the beaches beyond it.
Huntington Beach Pier
Huntington Beach Pier is one of the longest piers on the West Coast.
This photo came about during a day trip down to through Orange County. My mother - who was coincidentally in San Diego for a few days - come to visit me in LA. Given that she could drive and I couldn't, we decided to venture down the coast to otherwise-inaccessible places. Huntington Beach was one of the stops - on other days, we also ventured into the Hollywood Hills and across to Malibu.
The 'Patriotic Pups' section of the Fourth of July Parade was equal parts cute and hilarious. This is one of the better shows I managed to get. What's to say - pictured is a very good boy, adorned in the American flag.
A role model. We can all aspire to be this wholesome.
A spectator reaches out to stroke a mounted horse during the Pacific Palisades Fourth of July Parade, 2017.
The Fourth of July, or Independence Day, is a cause for celebration across the United States. Free from their colonial subjugation, the newly-formed United States was shaped by a collection of now-mythological figures and thinkers known as the 'Founding Fathers.'
On the 241st anniversary of this independence, I ventured to the Pacific Palisades Fourth of July Parade to get a glimpse at the revelry.
I'm really proud of this shot. There's something very universal about the anonymous girl wrapped in an American shawl, wearing a crown of flowers atop her head. The anonymity makes for a very general, audience friendly image - the patriotism isn't specific to the subject, as the subject isn't the focus of the photo.
Perhaps it's a comment on American idealism - the tenets of liberty, autonomy and political and religious freedoms are applicable to any and all who wish to pursue them.
In my mind, this photo speaks tones. It's a comment on American identity, racism and the innocence of youth. I'm so glad that this managed to happen whilst I was nearby - so close, in fact, that I had to scoot backwards like a madman to get in the right position.
It's a very peaceful, harmonious shot.
It's about hope.
Washing // Drying
Drying some clothes in the shower.
The keyboardist for Odd Future alumni Syd, who performed at the opening night of Budland LA. The lighting is surreal and unbelievable, but I swear I've done nothing to enhance this photo. It glows like it did on the night.
LA-based artist Buddy was signed by Pharrell Williams' i am OTHER label at just 15 years old. His debut tape - Idle Time - featured Kendrick Lamar, Miley Cyrus and Freddie Gibbs, among others. Buddy released an EP, Ocean & Montana, in early 2017. It was produced by famed Canadian talent Kaytranada, this in itself a powerful affirmation of his talents.
This shot was taken at Budland. The audience was spotty, the turnout poor - it was an early set, despite the darkness in the image. Buddy was the first act I saw at the festival - one of the first acts who performed - and the first act I've seen light up on stage. Oh, California.
Kish, No. 2
Kilo Kish is an American artist. Her work spans performance and installation pieces, short films and studio albums. She's best known for her collaborations with artists such as Childish Gambino, Vince Staples and Gorillaz.
I was fortunate enough to participate in a performance art piece with Kish, who put out a casting call for a piece entitled Real//Safe. It was an incredible experience to work with someone I creatively respected, and the resulting invite to Budland was but an added extra atop an already-remarkable opportunity.
Here, Kish performs songs from her 2016 record, Reflections in Real Time.