It seems more & more these days, people are referring me people to feature & interview, & I love it. Otherwise, I may never have been introduced to Jani Zubkovs. His work is crisp & structured, yet often made under drastically different circumstances. There’s a voice to his photos that I still have yet to identify, & I like that wondering, because it makes me keep coming back. Thus, I present Jani.
Empty Stretch: Age/ Location/ 3 favorite things in life?
Jani Zubkovs: 27 Years/ Brooklyn, NY 1. A strong cup of coffee. 2. Vintage t-shirts. 3. Some crackling vinyl.
Empty Stretch: How did you get into photography? What photographer’s were important to your early work?
Jani Zubkovs: My parents are not exactly “artistic types”, but my father did have a decent eye for composition and an older Minolta 35mm. I was fortunate enough to have photography classes available to me in high school, and I enrolled in as many as I could. In the beginning, I mostly shot images of friends and loved ones, but the images I took while traveling always resonated the most with me.
Early on, a photographer that was important to me was Chris Strong. He’s an artist based in Chicago, IL, and his work very much revolved around the bands of the late 90’s. He did the album art for a couple of seminal records for me, including American Football’s “American Football” & Hey Mercedes’ “Everynight Fire Works.” Those types of images really inspired me to continue creating work that could possibly inspire someone else in the same way.
Another huge influence for me was photographer Richard Renaldi, whose work inspired me to explore the portrait. When I first picked up his book, “Figure & Ground,” I was blown away by the sincerity and aesthetic of his images and spent much of my formative years trying to capture that same magic. Later on I was photographed by him for a project he was working on, and I got to experience his method firsthand.
Empty Stretch: The photographs in your series “This Is Not A Dark Ride” are of generic landscapes & places, yet have titles. At first this didn’t strike me as anything out of the ordinary, but then I learned you are in a band & it changed my perspective. From doing a lot of travel with bands myself, everything becomes a blur. Are the city titles for yourself or the viewer & how important is that to be known?
Jani Zubkovs: You know, I try not to do things solely with myself in mind, but at the end of the day, I am the person who needs to live with the work. For me, giving these nondescript places an abstract title didn’t seem to make much sense, but giving them geographical recognition did; not only does it help me remember where I’ve been, but it also puts a name to something that’s otherwise nameless.
Many people who tour are solely interested in getting from Point A to Point B, but there is so much more to it than that. All of these in-between spots are what I’m really interested in… the points that are skipped over by tour routings and travelers in general. Now, I’m not saying that I’d ever live in one of these places, but in taking a photograph and recognizing it’s place, I get to take a piece with me.
Empty Stretch: For the photos of your father, where there images you have pre visualized or specific things you want to convey, or did you more see a moment & want it?
Jani Zubkovs: The series on my father was a rather consuming process; I honestly concentrated solely on photographing him and the things that somehow revolved around him for well over a year. Hundreds of photos were taken in this time period in an attempt to create a character study on his past and present, as well as my own present, and perhaps even my future. Many of the ideas for images I had during my initial brainstorming were fulfilled, but some of my favorite images were created spontaneously and in instances where I tried to push his comfort level a bit.
Empty Stretch: The photos from your series “Occurrences” are mostly semi-formal portraits & straight forward still lives. Is that the direction your work is moving in?
Jani Zubkovs: “Occurrences” is a collection of photographs from numerous projects I’ve worked on in the past or continue to work on to this day. I don’t want to say these images are orphans per say, but if I did, they are some of my favorite orphans! There is some new work in “Occurrences”, but the majority of it is older projects that have either been put on hiatus, or are still in the works.
Empty Stretch: How do you like your work to be viewed? Any projects on the horizon?
Jani Zubkovs: I try not to overbear the viewer with too many images at the same time, so the work that I keep on my website is a curated version of the larger project. I try to limit the number of images included, and by doing this hope to create a continuity from image to image. Eventually, I’d love to create a book or ‘zine for “This Is Not A Dark Ride” of many more images, but I’m just not sure if I’ll ever be done creating for it!
At the moment, that is my only current project, but I have some other interesting ideas in the works. I’ve been enjoying the process of discovering new places to photograph, and have plenty of places left to visit.
Empty Stretch: What’s your favorite place you’ve ever been?
Jani Zubkovs: I can’t pick an absolute favorite, but I love Seattle, any sort of mountainous area, and Arnold’s Country Kitchen in Nashville, TN.