We are proud to announce the release of two new zines.
The first has been a long time in the making. I traveled with We Were Skeletons, all across America, as well as parts of Canada & Europe, & my new zine “I’m Alright To Drive” is the culmination of endless hours in a van. Photographs & stories from the past 5 years, 56 full color pages, 6×9 inches, & hand numbered & signed in edtion of 100.
We also excited to announce the release of Jani Zubkov’s zine “This Is Not A Dark Ride” I met Jani through band friends & we have interviewed him here before at Empty Stretch & now we would like to present his 24 page full color zine, documenting often forgotten pieces of America.
Maybe it’s because it hasn’t stopped snowing for almost a week, but I can’t stop looking at Ben Huff’s series “The Last Road North.” Started as most projects, as a one off trip, Huff became obsessed with the road tracing the Alaskan pipeline. I usually hate when people do this, but the photos that follow, speak for themselves.
Please see the rest of the series on Ben’s website.
Ricky Adam is one of those people that I love to find through the internet, because I knew him all along. I read a DIG BMX mag all thru my teens & even still today, the magazine Ricky has worked for a decade & a half. The photograph on the Refused album insert that is the photo I am trying to take any time I take pictures of a band, Ricky took that photo. The title of his new book “Destroying Everything… Seems Like The Only Option” is the title I’ve been trying to come up with for years.
After coming upon Ricky’s book at the ever amazing Quimbys in Chicago a few weeks ago & putting al these pieces together, I decided I had to know more about this person who already seemed like such a key piece to my life.
Empty Stretch: Age/ Location/ 3 favorite things in life.
Ricky Adams: Feeling pretty old & getting older – I grew up in a small costal town called Bangor in Northern Ireland which is about 10 miles outside of Belfast, but I’ve been living in Leeds U.K. On & off for the last 10+ years.
There’s no way I can narrow it down to just 3. Off the top of my head: good people, music, nice vegan food, photography, animals, coffee, fog, big trucks getting stuck in small streets, people sneezing in public.
ES: From my own experience & friends, it seems people involved in the bmx/ skate/ punk scene often just naturally find themselves behind a camera at some point. How did you find yourself start photographing?
RA: Photography for me is something that started out purely as a hobby. I rode bikes, skated & all my friends were into punk. The things I photographed were a direct response to that, and a catalyst for picking up a camera in the first place.
I’ve ridden BMX bikes since I was 12 years old. 26 years on and I still ride, and not in a midlife crisis sort of way either. It just feels right, it’s always felt right. Same goes for taking pictures.
I quickly realised that photography was something that I could do pretty well. It fitted in with my lifestyle. I liked the immediacy of it & it was fun, so I stuck at it. I’ve often felt a bit of a disconnect in social situations and having a camera helped with this.
After some time I began to take it more seriously and started to document certain aspects of the Northern Irish punk scene, as well as other things that I thought were worth documenting. At the time no one else was taking photos at gigs, so in a way I felt a sort of responsibility to do so.
ES: You recently had your book “Destroying Everything” released. What was that process like for you? Did you have any previous experience with books/ zines. How was the book design/ editing process overall?
RA: Putting together ‘Destroying Everything’ was a totally liberating experience.
About a year ago I was looking through my archive of photos and realised that I had lots of images that bore a resemblance to one another. It was a strange process. A lot of the photos were taken some time ago. As individual pictures they felt a bit disconnected, but when I edited them down and put them side by side they morphed into a really powerful set of images.
After that initial realisation I felt compelled to turn it into a book and put it out there.
Maybe it’s my own paranoia, but since the book’s come out I’ve noticed that certain people seem disappointed when they meet me in person. It’s happened a few times. It seems people expect me to be a loose canon, or something.
I was at a show recently and some kid asked me where Ricky Adam was. I told him it was me and he laughed. He said “ha ha, Ricky Adam’s a gnarly fucker!” He didn’t believe me! And that sort of thing has happened more than once…
I find it funny that a selection of pictures can alter a person’s perception of someone so radically.
As for previous experience with print: I have worked as a photographer & Co. editor at DIG BMX magazine for the last 16+ years so I did have experience with editing and print, which helped hugely. I also made a few punk zines in my teens as well.
I’ve always loved print: books, magazines, etc.
I’ve always been a collector of things which is another reason why I got into photography.
I did all of the design myself. It’s fairly basic but I wanted it to look ‘punk’, and I think I’ve achieved that. It works in context with the photos. As for editing, I started off with over 1000+ photos and ended up with 104. I had some help with this. You really need another perspective after looking at the same photos over and over. There were a few photos I really liked that got pulled. But that’s how it is with editing, you have to be ruthless.
ES:I’ve noticed a love for the midwestern United States in your photos, what is it that you like about that region? What’s your favorite place you’ve ever been too?
RA: Well, as often is the case it started out with a girl – About 10 years ago I dated a girl from Minneapolis and ended up going there a lot over the 5 years or so that we were together.
It was a great experience.
Coming from Ireland the Midwest was an exciting, frozen foreign land.
Minneapolis, or if you prefer ‘Ice City’ has a nice atmosphere about it. I haven’t been back for years but I sometimes get quite nostalgic about the place: Harsh winters, Extreme Noise records, Seward cafe, thrift stores, quirky Midwest things.
ES: What is your photographic process? Digital/ film?
RA: The way I work is kinda haphazard and often out of compulsion. I tend to only photograph things that genuinely interest me. I’ve found that’s the way to get the best results – from photographing things that I find inspiring.
There are some projects I have done that are solely focused on one particular subject/theme. But usually I’ll take photos here & there, which over time I eventually edit down into different sets.
I like how projects organically form out of the tangle of images. This fermenting over time approach works for me.
I shoot both film & digital. I shot film for years (pre digital) – A lot of my favourite photos were shot on film. I find myself using a lot more digital these days. It’s more cost effective, faster and better for the environment.
Ultimately, as long as I get the pictures that I want it doesn’t matter to me what format they were shot on.
ES: What is your favorite subject to photograph?
RA: Over the last lot of years I have focused a lot on youth sub-culture. I also particularly love documentary/street photography. I’d say that over 90% of my photos have people in them.
ES: Who are your photographic/ life influences?
RA: For the first few years taking photos I knew nothing about other photographers. What prompted me to pick up a camera were the bands & creative people who I hung out with. But as I got more & more into photography I started discovering amazing photographers such as Eugene Richards, Robert Frank, and Larry Clark.
The D.I.Y. punk scene influenced me in a big way. When I was around 17 I started going to gigs in Belfast. I’d see people playing in bands, and running & organising gigs, without the help of promoters or any other outside help.
Bands from all over the world would show up, play a gig, then stay at someone’s house.
Being around this sort of environment was inspiring and pushed me to be creative in ways that I hadn’t thought possible before. It was a turning point for me.
I learned to play drums and ended up in a few bands which over time led me to photography.
ES: What keeps you photographing?
RA: I’m an obsessively curious person, and out of that curiosity comes a desire and appreciation to look, listen and absorb.
ES: Any current projects you’re working on or we should keep an eye out for?
RA: There will be a 2nd (extended) edition of ‘Destroying Everything’ coming out some time in 2013. So, I’ll be busy with that and more than likely doing shows here & there to tie in with the book.
Over the last few years I’ve been documenting a bunch of punker friends who have been squatting in random houses. It’s not completely finished yet, but it’s getting there. I’m really excited about it, but I won’t be showing it until it’s 100% finished. Please find more of Ricky Adam’s photographs on his website & do yourself a favor & get a copy of “Destroy Everything… Seems Like The Only Option.”
Empty Stretch: Age, Location, 3 favorite things in life?
Jeff Luker: 27. New York. Beauty, truth, adventures.
ES: How did you start photographing/ What keeps you photographing?
JL: I started just as a kid messing around taking snapshots and just always loved it. I keep photographing because the feeling of getting a roll of film back from the lab and not knowing what will be on it and the surprise of what you find is still one of my favorite feelings in the world.
ES: You capture intimacy between your subjects & often them with you, do you see your photographs as mementos for yourself or the one’s around you?
JL: I have always had a real obsession with nostalgia and trying to remember certain people and points in time. A lot of my photos have a significance to me for personal reasons, to me they serve as snapshots and reminders from my life and travels.
ES: What is your working method? Film/ digital?
JL: I still shoot 35mm film all the time. Pretty much all commercial work these days is digital, so I shoot that for jobs but I always try to shoot film as well if I can.
ES: What is the biggest difference between shooting for yourself & a company, which do you prefer?
JL: I think it depends on who you are shooting for. On some jobs they let you go wild and that is tons of fun because you have a large budget to use to make all these amazing images. But there are time constraints and parameters to be met. When you make your own work, it is just for you and it is at your own pace and whatever you want. They are so different I can’t really compare the two, both have their pros and cons.
ES: What photographers have had a the biggest influence on you?
JL: There are so many greats, its hard to narrow it down, but I really love William Gedney’s work. His photos are so raw and visceral but so beautiful and intimate. Really amazing stuff.
JL: I can’t quite remember how it all came about, I just remember talking with Claudio at POGO and we were both really excited about making it happen, sending edits back and forth, I was really happy with how it all came out. They make such nice zines over there.
ES: Are there any plans or a larger book in the future?
JL: Yes, definitely. I want to make a larger hard bound book soon. I just keep putting it off because there is always more stuff I want to shoot for it, so my date to do it keeps getting pushed along.
ES: How do you like your photographs to be viewed? Gallery, Zine, 40 foot billboards?
JL: You know I really think my work works best in book or zine form, but seeing it on a billboard in Times Square is probably one of the most surreal experiences of my life.
ES: What’s your favorite place you’ve ever been?
JL: Oh man, so many places its hard to say, off the top of my head one that comes to mind is Big Sur in northern California, such a great energy to that place.
ES: What’s one place you want to go?
JL: Alaska. That’s next on the list.
ES: Any projects in the works?
JL: Just going to keep shooting for the book. And hopefully put together a show soon.
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.
There is a scene in the movie High Fidelity where Rob explains how there was a girl who was the type of girl he wanted to date, before he knew he wanted to date. Well Chad Moore, Ben Pier, & Tod Seelie are those photographers. I don’t want to use the word intimacy, but in the work of all of these photographers, there is a certain closeness to subject & openness given by those being photographed. Tiny moments become nostalgic memories & places we’ve never been become postcards of future destinations. These photographers give a certain sense of entry into an ongoing narrative.
I don’t know when it hit me, but I am glad it did. Somewhere in southern Ohio a plan was hatched to make it to Chicago & hitch a ride back east & luckily for me I had time to think about this plan & how much I hated it. It may have been the drunk text that read “Goonies Never Say Die,” the whiskey conversations, or the thought of friends on the left coast, but I am doing this. I’m all in at this point, eyes toward the westward sky, legs pumping away. I want you to be able to follow me, so I am offering a postcard sale. Roughly every 3 days I will be sending out a batch of postcards of photos of my trip so far, with stories or poems on the reverse. They will be 2 dollars each & are available here in the Empty Stretch store. If you would like more than one, please just change the quantity. Below are the first two postcards that will be going out.
Alex McTigue had this way of just popping up. Scrolling through page after pages of photos & one catches my eye, Alex’s. A link from from someone’s website, Alex’s. A small brown covered zine on the bookshelf of one of my best friend’s, Alex’s series Anywhere But Here. Every time I saw some of these photos or held his zine, I found something new. In Empty Stretch style I forced some questions upon & thankfully, he pleasantly answered them. Do enjoy.
Empty Stretch: Age/ Location/ Favorite things in life?
Alex McTigue: I live in Brooklyn NY, and my favorite things in life are reading and throwing fireworks at people.
ES: How did you get into photography?
AM: I think at some point every hardcore kid or skateboarder tries photography. Some just make it out a little sooner.
ES: Your portraits come across as informal but not stolen moment, while also using the space to inform the viewer of the subject’s personality. How much of your work is set up, so to speak, or directed?
AM: They are all set up in terms of the person is aware that I am photographing them. But otherwise they’re pretty much your usual youth exploitation photographs. Especially with these photographs, not much is directed, not by me at least.
ES: Your series/ zine “Anywhere But Here” if not only by the title, seems to very much be about anonymity, yet the photos are very intimate. Were these planned situations & people or just photos that seemed to work together & convey a sense of nowhere?
AM: All of these pictures were taken on a trip a few years ago between NYC, Chicago, and Austin. I think this was the easiest collection of pictures to think of as finished because there was a very finite amount of time to choose from, and didn’t leave the option to keep going. The trip was planned, more or less, but the situations… who knows. When you spend that much time with a few people, intimate situations are bound to happen. At the time a lot of friends started traveling or running from/for whatever reason, and listening to prodigy I finally realized you can run but you can’t hide forever.
ES: Most of your work is black & white, but there are a few color images through out, do you prefer one over the other?
AM: I think black and white photographs are truly beautiful. But as with everything, certain times dictate certain decisions. If I had my choice I would just be able to write and call it a day.
ES: Do you photograph & then group them & form a series that way, or do you plan ahead what you are looking to photograph?
AM: I guess when I take pictures, they just pile up until something gets done with them. There is no real order, except like I was talking about earlier with a clear beginning and end of something.
ES: I have seen your zine all over the place, friends bookshelves & stores all over the country, is that the way you like your work to be viewed & if so, why? If not, do you prefer galleries or web viewing, etc.
AM: I would much rather a lot of like minded people be able to see and relate to the things I make than a few art world people. I have always been interested in zines and DIY outside of art, I don’t see why it should be any different when relating to art. Thats the beauty of self-publishing, you can do whatever you want whenever you want. Make as many as possible and give them away. Nobody is worried about cost effectiveness when nobody is making money. Plus, looking at something tangible like a book or zine is much more intimate and physical than looking at someone’s tumblr or flickr. I get so much more out of the experience that way, so I assume the same goes for others as well.
ES: Finals words?
AM: These are some great photographers to check out.
Somewhere after mile 30 it really hit me. Not quickly but more so in waves. My bike tires smoothed to a stop as I rested against a chaine link fence on an overpass & looked out over a highway. Was I really doing this? Did I really think I could bike across the country? Why was I doing this & how come no one turned to me & said “you’re absolutely nuts, what are you thinking?” But none of that matters right now because, I am sitting in an old friend’s apartment in Morgantown, West Virginia & mapping tomorrows ride, 73 miles & then another 70 the day after that, & on & on, til the pacific.
After mile 30 I climbed & pushed thru Purcellville, got a locals directions & headed south & pretty soon west again through a sunset & up hills til my legs couldn’t push anymore. I veered off & laid out in a circle of trees, damp grass & little specks of stars hinting above. & I lost it. I laid there thru the night wrapped in my sweatshirt counting the seconds I could keep my eyelids open with the hopes of tiring myself out. But, soon it was sunrise & I was back at it.
I don’t know why I am doing this or even that I will make my eventual goal but there’s that old quote “a ship in harbor is safe, but that’s not why ships are made.” Well this ships sails are ragged, but they’re still catching wind.