EV: My parents are from New York, my Mom from Brownsville and my Dad, Coney Island. They met in California and I arrived a few years later. My Mom was an Actress and was pretty successful at it until she had me and decided she wanted to be a full time Mother. That went fine for a while until my folks split up and she was left without a real income. Somewhere, sometime after she got a camera and started taking pics of me in our garage which eventually led to other work. Specializing in Children’s Photography she became quite the buzz being hired and welcomed into a lot of notable people’s homes due to her ability to connect with children. A few that ring bells are Denzel Washington’s family, Kevin Costner’s and Tracey Ullman’s families. She made something out of nothing which is what I did with my music years after studying that model. I ended up with and still have my music studio in the garage of my Venice home exactly the same way she set up shop. When she passed away in 2004 I was a mess, but I came across all of her negatives and camera’s and thought about eventually picking them up and keep it going, which gave me a sense of purpose and peace. The many Nikon’s she left me however are all film cams and I just never found the time or motivation to get my first wind. Years before I did do a year of Photography class at Santa Monica College where I learned my F Stops, App Settings, Depth Of Field and Slow Exposure night shots. I was doing it more for her than it interested me, but now looking back, that was key.
I am part of Dilated Peoples – an LA based trio and we are an active touring group. I also have a solo career I’ve been building since 2007 and needless to say, I travel a lot. Dilated hasn’t put out an album since 2006 although we have been very active touring and nurturing our solo records as a collective, we landed on the title,“Directors Of Photography” about 2 years ago as our next record after a 6 year break. Shortly after my Dj @djbabuforeal showed me this app called Instagram and what he was doing on it, taking pics and networking with a lot of people in random places like Japan & Turkey – all based around images. A lot of people didn’t even know he did music, they followed because they liked his photos… I loved that idea. I’m a graffiti artist and it was never about what the person looked like doing it, it’s about the result of your work. I had the iPhone 3 at the time so I slowly got into it and liked the platform of IG.
I am from Venice Beach, California and it is one of the most unique places on Planet Earth. I found I had so much to shoot in my immediate surroundings that it became quite habit forming, especially coming from a phone, people seemed to really like what I was capturing and would always say, “that was taken with a phone?” I continued with minimal apps until Aug of 2011 when I got the iPhone 4 before leaving for tour with Atmosphere and this was the game changer. I got the apps that I saw certain people talking about and starting snapping pics with a phone like a madman. I realized I had an angle, “Venice Beach & Worldwide” most of the people I liked on IG were showcasing their environment primarily, but I was and am traveling constantly AND have a great city to shoot at home. I created the hashtag #iphonEVerything and it is currently over 70k strong.
M: Yea I feel ya with the “that was taken with a phone?” I get that one a lot too, like they just can’t believe it wasn’t done using a DSLR and Photoshop. That’s one of the things I dig about your gallery, also the diversity of places you go and the photos you take there, do you have a particular favorite spot to shoot in while touring?
EV: I love shooting in various places in Europe because of the light. It seems so much softer than the sun that we have shinning in Cali. Ominous is a word that comes to mind when I think of the European clouds. I have seen similar in the Midwest before… Detroit comes mind.
M: Your style has a consistent nice crisp, clean look to it. Do you have a usual process that you can describe to us?
EV: I’m constantly trying new things. If I was to look back at all my pics – the one thing they have in common is the Filterstorm app. It always starts there. I can do more with that one app than I can most. I’m into the gradient feature a lot. I also like to overkill the color so it can be dummed down with an IG filter at the end. If all goes well, this is the main process. My favorite “trick” is loading the pic into Ig – turning on the lux button, but turning off the wifi. I hit “send” like it’s going to IG, but it doesn’t because of no connection. It saves it to my camera roll and then I can noise reduce etc… Similar to the “clarity” button on Camera plus, but way better to fit with my style. I have been using VSCO cam to shoot and do light editing as well. I love what the natural eye sees and I try to mix that with a graffiti background in which I come from. Fluorescent color has a place in my heart.
If I’m not going for the “pop” and am trying to do something more “mature” I will use snapseed, cross process, and noir if b&w. So many options, most of which are good. Other notables to me are Dynamic Light (if used subtlety), Pic Fx, Photoshop Express, & Image Blender. Apps are all great, but if you catch desirable light and focus on the subject, the less after fx need to be added.
Lastly, I like to shoot very under exposed so that I can do the editing to brighten up something dark and have a mysterious feel.
M: I’m gonna have to try that out. What or who are some of your artistic influences, be it photography, musical, etc.? Like someone who’s work you see or hear that keeps you on your toes?
EV: So many different types of art inspire me. Musically it’s The Alchemist mostly. He’s my good friend, but his determination is second to none. It’s very inspiring to be around him. The people I meet though his environment are inspiring as well. Photography wise – My Mom is the best children’s photographer I ever saw. Anyone who worked with her knows that for sure. @13thWitness & @FuturaDosMilare real big influences on and off the IG feed. @JasonGoldwatchis a major influence with the visuals. He will be a notable Film Maker soon – mark my words. @TonyDetroit (Juxt \ Interview) is the edit master. I hear a drum roll in my head while his pics are loading sometimes.
M: You mentioned before about being a graf artist, which is one of my personal favorite art forms. Tell us a little bit about that and your history in the art…
EV: Graffiti has played an important role in my life and has affected all other creative areas inadvertently. It taught me balance, symmetry, color combinations, sketch, fill in, outline, and highlights. At a certain point taking your creative energy and applying to other things became better than getting arrested, even though the work I was doing wasn’t chicken scratch, it was illegal. When I found music in 1993 & 1994 that became my main focus. I did have a few,”runs” since then, but my musical career eventually became more important to me. I am a Graff cat for life though.
M: Well said. I’ve noticed that lot of traditional photographers hate on mobile photography, and it as an art form is beginning to cross in to a more “mainstream” area lately. Do you see this as a threat to the traditional photographer, or what people think of when they hear photography? Will they/should they merge?
EV: In music people don’t care how music got made, they just want to like it. I think the same applies to photos. You see something and immediately you know whether or not it appeals to your eyes. After that people can start questioning the method, but the first reaction was very simple, yes or no. I don’t think it’s a threat to any real photographer who is confident in what he/she does. Most photographers I know who are great at their craft seem to embrace it, the ones who are still getting their footing seem to be a little more iffy about it. A friend I have who is doing great in the industry, who will remain nameless at this time, says that his iPhone shots taken in between his DSLR shots are the ones that his client picked without knowing any better. This very much proves my point.
M: I noticed the same when I still had my DSLR, which I’ve gotten rid of since I started using my iphone. I think we’re at a big turning point in the game with photography, I wonder what’s next, Ya know? Some of your work can have a dark, kinda ominous look to it - like in your photo Cali Dreamin’ above - is this something that’s planned from the start? Or does it just kinda end up that way?
EV: It’s weird. I’m just inspired by low light, so much that if it’s 12 Noon and I see something worth shooting, I will probably pass on it or take note of the location and come back at sun rise or sun set. I’m a little Koo Koo like that.
M: HAHA fair enough! So in closing, is there anything else you’d like to say?
EV: Yea. Thanks for taking the time to read this. Getting interviewed about photos is new to me and I am enjoying the innocence of it. Hopefully this is just the beginning on a personal evolution, I hope to cross paths with you in the future.
M.Thanks again man, it’s been cool getting to know Michael Perretta the photographer.