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Mikel

16 Jul 2020

Text by Mikel

ØLÅF Citizens: Tal Midyan

16 Jul 2020

You probably have seen his work, but maybe you just don’t know it yet. Tal Midyan has made artworks for some of your favorite artists such as Travis Scott, Gunna, Bon Iver, 21 Savage, and Justin Timberlake, while also being the Associate Creative Director of the global brand and design team at Spotify. That recognizable design of Spotify’s Rap Caviar playlists? Yeah, that too.


Hi Tal, how does it feel to make visuals that are pretty much seen everywhere in the world?

“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."

 

How is that balance of working independently next to your full-time job?

“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.”

 

How do you translate music into visuals?

“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."

 

A website for Bon Iver’s fourth album, “i,i”.

 

Spotify is also very data-driven, does that influence your work as well?

“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.”

 

Recently, you worked together with Gunna, making his album artwork, promo, and merchandise. What was that like for you?

“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.”

 

The artwork received some mixed reactions. Does that influence you?

“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.”

 

Official album cover for Gunna’s 2nd studio album, “WUNNA”.

 

Is your style applicable to any artist?

“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.”

 

A lot of your work involves Black artists and Black culture. In light of recent developments, that must feel ambivalent sometimes.

“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.”

 

A personal website for Pharrell that houses over 20 years of his work.

 

How have you personally taken responsibility?

“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.”

 

On Instagram, you posted about not going back to normal. How do you hope that we get out of this?

“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.”

 

Rapcaviar, PANTHEON.

 

We always finish with a question about what has inspired you. Despite the turmoil going on in New York and the world at large, have you seen, read, met, or listened to anything interesting lately?

“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.”

Tiffany Chung

15 Jun 2021

Text by Tiffany Chung

CITIZENS: TYLER ADAMS

15 Jun 2021

Tyler Adams is a multidisciplinary artist specializing in photography, art direction, and casting with a wide array of clients such as Def Jam Records Opening Ceremony, Beyoncé x Adidas. In this edition of Citizens, the LA native tells us about his early creative beginnings and shows us that there is more than one way into the industry.

 

Hey Tyler, you wear several hats. Put these three things in order of importance to you: photography, creative directing, casting.

“Oh wow, okay so photography is definitely the most important because it's what led me into the other avenues of my creativity. After that would be casting and then creative directing. Uh, wait, no. But that's hard to be honest because when I first started shooting, I was doing all these things in my personal work. I wanted to create images, but I wasn’t seeing the type of people that I wanted to shoot, so I started casting for myself. I didn’t have budgets to go to a showroom and pull clothes, so I was either putting together things that friends or the talent were bringing or even pulling out of my closet and putting that together. So, all of it is kind of important to a degree in order to make art. But I guess photography is the most important because that’s how I got into all the other things."

 

Why did you gravitate to photography in the first place?

“It was kind of an innate thing. I say that I've been shooting since I was 5. Growing up, my grandma had an old school Polaroid 600, and I would just run around with it, create, and shoot things. It's always been something that was there and that just started my fascination with it. I've always been a visual kid."

 

Tyler in Mexico.

 

What would you say makes a great photograph?

“Great’ I feel can be subjective. I think perspective is very important, not so much composition, but I mean like my personal chase. Like what I may think is a great image may not be a great image to you. You may be into colors or compositions or location, but all of that has to do with your perspective and what makes the most sense to you or what you move to personally."

 

Do you have a favorite photograph?

“Yes. Actually, I do. My favorite photograph of all time – I get so excited thinking about it – is Richard Avedon’s portrait of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar before he was Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. In New York, it's a picture of him on the basketball court. He's tall and lanky. His posture and everything is so elegant and beautiful. It's the freshest thing. I've tried to recreate the essence of it in my own work a couple times."

 

So, do you prefer to photograph people?

“Professionally, I do shoot a lot of people, like fashion portraiture. But I still have some weird tether to wanting to photograph cityscapes, different vignettes of buildings, or graphics and shapes. I usually try to make them both kind of work together in my work – people, spaces, and architecture."

 

Drake Jazz by Tyler Adams.

 

You've worked with a lot of brands. Any favorites?

“That’s a tricky one. I don't want to play favorites but if I had to choose...Opening Ceremony was one of my first big fashion clients. Just being a fan of the brand, that was like one that I really wanted to work with. I shot with them for a while, I did some social and editorial stuff. Then, they let me shoot fashion weeks and I worked on a couple of their shows. So, that may be my favorite one because that got me to where I am today."

 

Was it hard breaking into the industry?

“Oh my god, yes. My friend and I laugh about it now. Photography has changed. It's mind-blowing how different photography and the whole industry is now versus what it was like 6 to 10 years ago. At the time when I was in college, the mindset was that you went to school, you built your book, you took your book and you moved to New York. It wasn't until you worked in New York that you would pop off and actually get to work. But out of college it was like you assisted somebody for years and then at some point you move from being 30th assistant to 1st assistant before having your break or whoever you are assisting being like, ‘I have a job that I don't want to do, you can do it’, and then that's you’re beginning. I didn’t go that route because I was like if this is what it's going to take for me to put food on the table, it’s going to take a while. But I didn't want to move outside of my creativity.

SO I started helping a really close friend of mine who was an upcoming stylist. She occasionally needed help and I feel like that’s what changed it for me because being on set in that capacity is different from being a photographer's assistant. When you assist a photographer, they don't want you to speak to the client. But everybody else has a different relationship, when you're with the stylist and those people for 8 hours on set, you actually get to know people by name. It allowed me to build relationships and be like, ‘oh you know I'm helping the stylist, but I actually shoot.’ Photography assistants can’t do that. They can’t say, ‘yeah check out my work’ because it feels like he's trying to take the photographer’s clients."

 

Opening Ceremony by Tyler Adams 1/2.

Opening Ceremony by Tyler Adams 2/2.

 

 

What’s your most memorable shoot?

“My second time in Paris was pretty memorable and cool for me because the first time I went to Paris I didn't shoot which I was bummed out about. I always try making an effort when I go somewhere new or somewhere different to actually create work in those spaces. So, I was with Kendall, and we shot in the Tuileries Garden. There was a carnival, and he just grabbed his skateboard, and we were just chilling. It was an evening in June, so the light was amazing, the weather was nice, it was a good time."

 

When you cast people for a shoot, do you keep diversity and representation in mind?

“Always. That's the first thing. When I was starting out there wasn’t any. Even now, if clients ask for diversity, there aren't a lot of options of people who look like me or people who come from the areas I come from. In general, I'm usually trying to extend opportunities and bring more people in, to experience being on set and working, or being in front of the camera. The cool thing about today is that you don’t have to look like a runway model to book a campaign or to get work."

 

TStyling for Highsnobiety Magazine.

Styling for Exit Magazine.

 

 

What do you do when you're not working?

“Not working? I don't know what that is. Ha. I don't know if this is a good or bad thing, but I feel like my work isn't necessarily work all the time. I'm usually at home or I go to the beach, I go for drives and look at architecture, I see my friends every now and then."

 

Instagram filters. Like ’em, hate ’em, or no opinion?

“I don't use them in my work, but for stories and selfies they’re super fun. I don't get tripped up by that shit, they’re fun. Also, Instagram is a tool. If you have a business or if you’re an artist, it’s a quick way to get going."

 

Complexcon photo with Pharrell.

Maison jumpman. paris, 2019.

 

 

Do you see things in black and white or shades of grey?

“Wow, that's deep. Definitely shades of grey. I think that two things can be true at the same time, it's never as cut and dry as things may appear."

 

What's the last song you listened to?

“Introverted Intuition by Lance Skiiiwalker."

 

Name one thing in your closet you can't live without.

“Damn, I can't live without any of it. I'm not a hoarder and I don't have a crazy amount of things, so none of them can go. I do have this pair of cargo pants that are always in the rotation, and I wear a lot of shoes. I’m a shoe person.">

 

Young Tyler.

 

Can you name a person, a place, and a thing that inspires you?

“My mom is really inspirational. She encouraged my creativity and to do the things that I wanted to do. She wasn’t trying to get me to be the person that she wanted me to be. Instead, she gave me the tools to be who I am and to develop the things that make me happy. I haven't been to Tokyo. Tokyo inspires me from a distance. I feel like they live in the future. It's 2021 here, but it's like 2025 there: technology-wise, lifestyle, and how they lay out their space. Being a digital kid, it just always felt like that was the future and everything is cooler there. It’s just a city that looks cool, there's a different light there. It just feels cool, clean, peaceful, and modern. The thing that inspires me is architecture. That's where I get most of my inspiration from now. It makes me happy. I like how people think about the allocation of space, how people interact with space, and how cities are laid out. All that stuff is super inspiring and drives me crazy. I go through a rabbit hole of architecture and design and when my day is over that's usually where I'm at. "