16 Jul 2020
“Feels great, haha. I work full time at Spotify and for a year or two, I’ve been doing more projects independently. At Spotify, I work on all the different brands that fall under the umbrella. From artist initiatives to brand work and everything in between."
“I enjoy the combination. Spotify is a huge brand with big budgets and a big influence, so the work I do there is very global and can be seen by millions. But because it’s such a huge company, it can also be more of a challenge. It’s a Swedish company, and there is a lot of corporate stuff you have to go through before you can get things done sometimes. In that sense, I prefer to work on my own, or with a small team. Nothing against Spotify, but at the end of the day it’s just more rewarding when you do it on your own. But I like the balance in my work life right now.”
“To be honest, most of the time I don’t even hear the music that I’m making the artwork for. Sometimes it’s a couple of tracks or snippets as a preview, but I never hear the full project. It’s less about music and more about bringing a concept to life. With Bon Iver for example, it wasn’t really the story in the music itself, but more about talking to the artists and hearing what this project is about for them. They have the music, then they have the artwork, and then the website—those are three separate things. The whole Bon Iver project was all about collaboration. i,i stands for a collaborative spirit. So I tried to recreate that idea of togetherness and connectivity on the website."
“The Bon Iver product was made with data, so that was cool. But music is something human. It’s so visceral and emotional. I try to look at those qualities rather than numbers when I make something. In the end, I hope my work just enhances the experience a little.”
“I worked together with Spike Jordan, and we talked about Gunna’s alter-ego WUNNA (which is the name of the album). Gunna is a Gemini, so the idea was to create a doll version of his alter-ego and have it float into space in front of his actual astrological chart that we had an astrologist made for him.”
“I didn’t know that haha. I think that’s a good sign though. A lot of brand campaigns are just skipped past because they feel impersonal or because people just don’t care. People are more invested in artists than in brands, and when you make artwork as we made for WUNNA, those reactions come with the work. It doesn’t really bother me. It’s actually a great reaction for me. It might be weird to them, but that’s kind of the point. You always want to make something that catches people off guard a little bit.”
“Absolutely. I’m very aware of not being boxed in. I don’t want to be just the Atlanta hip-hop guy. If I was just doing cover artworks or photography there would be more pressure to have a certain look. But for me, in terms of style, it’s more about ideas and the creative process of combining multiple things you haven’t seen before. I love trying different things.”
“As a white man, there is definitely an added responsibility that I’ve always felt, but now even more so. I’ve always tried to be on the right side of things. People of our generation grew up inspired by Black culture: music, fashion, art. The least I can do from my position, with my skill and energy, is to give back to a community that inspired me so much. One way that I hope to do so is through mentorship and investing in talent. Creating opportunities for young designers that may not have benefited from the chances and privilege that I’ve had. Having gone to one of the best art schools in the US and studying design from some of the greats was definitely a privilege. But we need to break that system and think about who’s getting the opportunities both in education and in the industry. You also don’t need to go to the best art school to do what I do.”
“It’s very important for me to engage. I’m not an activist, but I try to influence the people and brands around me to hopefully change something. I have so many white people around me who don’t have black friends and they still don’t understand. And all these brands that are “for the culture” should do better as well. Nike can make a nice commercial about this, but their whole board is white. It’s not just a police thing, it’s everywhere.”
“I think that COVID-19 will forever change how we live. But this, more importantly, will change how we as a society treat each other.”
“I read this book called Sensemaking, by Christian Madsbjerg. I finished it right when COVID-19 started, so it might not be super relevant now, but I still think it’s interesting. He divides data into thick data and thin data. Thin data is: “young people brush their teeth for 10 mins.” With thick data, you attach historical, socio-economic, or cultural connotations to that. Companies now are using big data without understanding histories or cultures. That’s how you get products or services that forget a little about humanity.”
12 Aug 2020
“The difference is that a photographer takes a picture of reality, while I try to create a new reality. In my work, I create new environments and sculptures. During my time at the visual academy in Madrid, I was not only focused on photography. It is a bit too narrow for me. Sometimes my work doesn’t even involve a camera."
“Chaotic, haha. I like to get out of my comfort zone and challenge myself as much as I can. both visually and conceptually.”
“Not as much as you might think. I never do any retouching, and when I do postproduction I usually work together with RGB Berlin and Studio Wolfram. They know how to make everything look exactly how I want it."
“To be honest, Madrid didn’t bring me that much. So when I was done, I was kind of stuck and didn’t know what to do with my life. I started traveling around and assisted some photographers in Paris and London before I had the idea to go back to school. That really changed me and the way I approach my work. The freedom of the Rietveld Academy as well as the city of Amsterdam made me fall in love with my work again.”
“I’m teaching at a couple of academies in Madrid and I do workshops abroad. Mostly about the boundaries between commercial work and art. I think that’s the most important discovery: if you look at recent developments, the distinction between art and commerce has pretty much evaporated. Beyond that, I try to make future generations aware of what’s going on in the world and the systems that lie behind it. Movements like feminism and antiracism are things I value and I think they are important for an artist to acknowledge. I’m not trying to impose my views on them, but the work you make reflects your ideas. A great picture is not just a pleasant thing to look at, it should have an impact.”
“Absolutely. The work is so much about who you are and where you position yourself. I think I create in an intuitive way so I can’t really have distance from my work. Because I’m in the middle, I can’t step out of it so far.”
“Somehow my work became quite object-oriented in the last few years. That grew organically. I shoot many still lifes because you don’t need a big budget to make them. But I wouldn’t say that I’m a still life photographer at all. Lately, I´ve been doing fashion and documentary as well. That variety is what I love most. If you look at the great artists in history, they don’t follow one straight path or genre at all. It also excites me to flip the anachronic hierarchy of genres. Still lifes are still being undervalued if you compare it to animal painting, landscapes, genre, portraits, and history paintings.”
“I live in one of those gentrified neighborhoods of Madrid, and I am lucky enough to have a place where I can both work and live. We chatted with Paolo and Olaf, and we tried to brainstorm about ideas. I tried to figure out what I could do in the limited space and time we had. I invited two friends who live nearby, we ordered some props, and had some fun. One of the things I love about my work is the collaborative process. That’s why I live in Madrid, I can work with the people I trust.”
“I was mostly at my studio and I rarely went out. I don’t follow the news that much either, so a lot of things went by me. Workwise it was an interesting time. Because I don’t need huge sets or teams, I was able to still do a lot of work. I did a story for the latest issue of Wallpaper magazine, which I haven’t seen yet because all the shops are still closed, and I just did a story for Amazing - Closing Ceremony, my favorite magazine from Shanghai.”
“My friends! We’ve gone on zooms and walks while having a lot of good conversations during the quarantine. Sometimes until deep in the night. Both stupid jokes and deep conceptual thinking. This is something we already did before quarantine, but during times like these, you come to realize how important these things are.”