Jacob grew up in my hometown of North Tonawanda, New York so I had a fun time poking through his photo galleries. Of course, he’s left the area like a lot of us have and now he’s in NYC. His photography is unique at a time when most people rely on digital camera and post-processing techniques. Jacob mostly sticks with film – in a variety of cameras.
He’s taken a bit of time to explain that choice, shares a few collages of street signs he created that have been the centerpieces of two exhibitions and lets us in on his unusual collection.
LPO: Tell us a bit about your background.
JK: I was born in Buffalo, New York in 1976 and raised in North Tonawanda, New York. Lived there until 1997 then headed to Denver for school. Graduated in 1999 and roamed around for a few years until settling in New York City eight years ago.
LPO: Having been raised in the relatively small city of North Tonawanda, New York, studying in Denver, Colorado, and living in New York City now, in what ways does your approach to photography change according to your immediate environment?
JK: My approach doesn’t change that much other than maybe film speed. I thrive on new environments. If it looks interesting and inspires me, I’ll push the button.
LPO: Last year you held an exhibition called “The Streets of North Tonawanda” and another one called “The Streets of Manhattan”. Share a piece from each show that you feel best represents your vision of each city and tell us why.
JK: My vision of each is constantly evolving, but the street names stay the same. The collages were the center peice in each exhibit. Alongside, I showed 35mm prints of the city. The idea started as a joke, then I realized it was actually a cool, fun way to show the city. I like the interaction the collages have with people. It’s a puzzle to find your street. I hope the collages inspire people to explore their city and take a detour from their normal path.
LPO: Do you shoot mainly in film or digital? Explain your choice.
JK: I mainly shoot film with a Nikon FM10, Minox EL or GT (which ever one wants to work that day) and an Agat 18k. Once a year, I load up the holga and shoot a roll of that. My on-the-go camera is a Canon SX210 digital; it’s a great little camera. I like the patience behind shooting film, sometimes I’ll spend a month shooting one roll. Plus it’s always a good day when you pick up a roll from the printers. It’s also a good day when you upload photos from your digital camera. I have no experience with DSLRs but the compact point-and-shoots can take great photos. Overall, I’m always more impressed with film.
LPO: Which aspects of your photos make them stand out as yours, elements that have developed over time to become your creative “eye”?
JK: I feel my creative eye is still developing. It’s hard for me to judge my own work. A picture I think is great will go unnoticed while a shot I don’t like will get interest. I’ve been shooting for 14 years; I may have a better answer in 30 years.
LPO: Do you remember a certain moment when you fell in love with photography?
JK: Yes, while studying video and film production at the Art Institute of Colorado. Every day, I’d walk through the photography wing and look at the prints hanging. I was amazed by the work. My roommate had given me a camera, the first few rolls were smears of light and under exposed. I didn’t know about setting exposure and focus. The results were still exciting. My lighting teacher gave us a photo assignment to establish moods with lighting. I really had a good time working on that, especially now knowing how to operate the camera. My teacher was very encouraging with my photographs. I contemplated switching majors, but continued studying video/film production. I bought a camera shortly after and started shooting stills of all the films we made in and out of school. In some cases incorporating the stills into the film. I enjoy all aspects of filmmaking and being able to incorporate photography into it makes it that much better.
LPO: Favorite place to take your camera and why?
JK: Running errands; the best photos usually come when your not out shooting photos.
LPO:What’s your photography motto? What words of wisdom keep you motivated and inspired?
JK: My photo motto is never shoot the obvious and keep it simple. When shooting film, all effects are done in camera and with digital all effects are done in photoshop. I’ve always liked this quote from Cindy Sherman on photography, “If I knew what the picture was going to be like I wouldn’t make it. It was almost like it was made already… The challenge is more about trying to make what you can’t think of.”
LPO: What are your main objectives as a photographer? What do you hope to accomplish or communicate through your body of work?
JK: My main objective as a photographer is to capture original thought prokoking images. I’m not really trying to communicate anything other than I’d like people to spend more than a glance looking at my work. I’d like to shoot more street sign collages. Paris keeps popping into my head, though Denver is a more feasible city right now.
LPO: Share something about yourself that you haven’t mentioned in the rest of the interview.
JK: I collect paper napkins.
For more of Jacob’s work, have a look at his website.
For more interviews with photographers, have a look at the archives.