Manual’s senior photographer, Jake Mein, steps up to this week’s Decent Exposure. Any seasoned Manual reader will have seen Jake’s work go from strength to strength over the past decade, today he lays it all on the table along with some sound advice for any keen shooters out there.
How did you get started?
Being pretty shit at most other things, taking photography in high school to get some easy NCEA credits. Never thought it would become a career.
How did you find your style? Has it changed since you started?
I think it’s something that changes/evolves right up until you cark it, so yeah, it’s definitely changed since I started. I think you’re made up of what you interests you, it should show in your imagery.
What photographers do you look up to, skate and non skate?
The ever expanding list. Within skate O’Meally, Gaberman, Reados, Caleb Smith, Barber, Darwen, Chami, Sam Ashely, Sam Rubio, all those dudes produce amazing non skate work too, Dave Read and O’Meally have taken some of my favourite portraits ever. Outside of skateboarding Rene Vaile, Roman Vishniac, Derek Henderson, Albrecht Fuchs, Trent Parke, Wolfgang Tillmans, Garry Winnogrand, Alec Soth. My mates Harry Culy and Sam Montgomery take a mean photo.
How do you go finding people to shoot with?
Be up front, hit them up. If you’re easy to get along with and can shoot a half decent photo people will most likely seek you out.
Among your work, do you have a favourite photo or series and why?
Shooting the Last Light & Working in Pairs Diptych series was pretty fun. Image wise the portrait I shot of the Wilson twins (Josh & Ollie) stood out for me.
Did you study in your field and do you think it’s necessary?
Yeah, I did the bachelor of design degree majoring in photography at Massey in Wellington. I got told by the tutor taking the intro to photography course in first year that I should think about a different path because I wasn’t cut out for photography, I stuck with it mainly because there was nothing else I could do. I think study is up to the person. There were parts I loved and parts I hated, you have to make it work for you, use the projects and tasks set to learn a new technique or research into a photographer you didn’t know about. It isn’t for everyone though, if you’re going just because it’s something to do when you finish high school then remember you’re gonna walk out the door at the end with at least $40K of debt, but hey if Mummy and Daddy are footing the bill then go for it.
What is the one thing you wish you knew when you started?
That I was going to spend more time infront of a computer than a camera.
What’s the best part about your job?
Aside from the actual act of shooting photos it would be remembering that you’re living off what you enjoy doing.
What is your working environment like?
Unless I’m on a commercial shoot or out shooting skating I’m at the studio staring at a screen.
How do you deal with creative slumps?
Good question, I tend to get anxious, stress a bit and try and get through it. Getting away from the computer/social media will probably do a load of good.
What other types of jobs have you had?
Cleaned rental cars, washed dishes, waited tables, vineyard work – by far the worst. Assisted a few photographers too which gave a great insight into the commercial world.
What was the first skate photo you shot?
A photo of my friend Al Kerr dressed in his finest Tom Penny ensemble ollieing off a block over a gap. Not that you can tell any of that is happening in the photo I took.
What do you like to shoot outside of skateboarding?
Portraits, they’re so hard to get right, you might only shoot one decent portrait in your lifetime. Mike O’Meally summed it up well when he talked about shooting portraits and it giving him the same feeling as shooting a good skate photo, a good portrait should communicate to the audience something about the person in the photo.
Advice for someone starting out?
Harass people for advice, take criticism, make yourself available all the time. Try not to rush.
Digital or film? Why? Does it matter?
I like the look of film, I still think it’s something that can’t be emulated no matter how many different filters you chuck over a digital image. However I don’t think it matters. A good photo is a good photo whatever you take it on.
Do you see any trends in skate photography good/bad?
It’s no different to fashion, we might all like it now but will probably look back in a few years and cringe.