BRAINER SOUNDS: 23RD JULY
A playlist of good music to set you up for the week
Can you remember the moment you decided you wanted to pursue photography as a career, having studied Anthropology at university?
Not really. I was working at a photo agency that syndicated celebrity photos, and I thought it’d be fun to go to shows, take pictures and make money doing it. So I did.
How did you go about teaching yourself how to shoot?
Lots of trial and error! The main thing for me was figuring out what I liked and how I liked to work. I’m not a studio/lighting type person. I really just don’t have the patience for all that, so my style came naturally from that. I naturally approach things in a curious way, so I’m much more comfortable with a more documentary-type style.
What was the first camera you shot with?
A Pentax K-1000.
What was your first paid job as a photographer?
I shot a band called Shelter for Swing Magazine.
Who are your influences?
Elliott Erwitt, Sebastiao Salgado, Bruce Davidson, Peter Beard, Danny Clinch.
What makes your pictures stand out?
Someone else could probably answer that question better than I can.
What was being immersed in the New York hip-hop scene in the ’90s like? How does today’s scene compare?
Well, I didn’t start until the late ’90s, so I wasn’t there for most of it, but what I was a part of was fun. It seemed very organic and exciting and fresh. I’m not involved with the hip-hop scene now, so it’d be impossible for me to compare, but the whole world (hip-hop included) is so much different now because of the internet. There are no more editors. Everybody’s just putting stuff out without much regard for quality.
From Black Star, to Nas, to Wu-Tang and more – who’s been the most interesting artist to shoot?
Hmmm… I’ve met a lot of very interesting people (and a lot of incredibly boring people). Some of my favourites have been M.I.A., Biz, David Banner. Lots of interesting people. I think M.I.A. is probably my favourite because she comes with a visual background. And she’s much better looking than Biz.
What’s the craziest thing that’s happened to you as a photographer?
Well, my story from shooting Pimp C in Texas is pretty good. That was kinda crazy. It doesn’t translate on paper though, so you’ll have to ask me about it in person! There are lots of stories in the book though – I think the Method Man story is probably my favourite.
Tell us about the TRUE Hip-Hop exhibition.
The exhibition is to support my book, which is a collection of photos I’ve taken over the past twelve years, along with some personal stories to go with a few of them. A lot of people know my work, but don’t necessarily know my name. I was presented with the opportunity to put the two together. I’m excited to do a show in London because the UK and European audience seems to really appreciate the music and photography of hip-hop culture. When I was starting out I actually shot for Hip-Hop Connection, so it’s kinda cool to be coming here with these photos now.
Plans for the future?
More shows. Not necessarily of my music work, but more of my travels. I’d like to shoot more personal stories, do more books, and have more shows to support them.
TRUE Hip-Hop is showing until 26th May at 18 Hewett Street, London EC2A 3NN.
For more on Mike, head over to his website.