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From the City of Zooport, Tasty Freeze

The Photography of Dan Griffiths by Mike H.

Mike’s Introduction
It’s really cool to watch someones photography grow from the time you’ve been following them on IG. This is the case with @Tasty_Freeze aka Dan Griffiths, who over the past few months I’ve gotten to know his work pretty well. So it felt only fitting to sit down and ask him a few questions to share with y’all. The scenes he displays of his local dwelling perfectly show his love for the city he refers to as Zooport, and his shots of urban exploration are always on point. I hope y’all enjoy getting to know a little bit more about this great up and coming artist.

M: So dude, tell us a little bit about yourself and the area you hail from.

D: My name is Dan Griffiths, and I live in Newport, South Wales. I’m from a small town called Blackwood, which is in an area dubbed ‘The Valleys’. Wales is a pretty small country, and our cities, aside from Cardiff, are no more than large towns. Newport is one of these ‘large towns’. For those not familiar with the geography, On the southern coast line is where most of these large towns are located, and stretching upwards from these are valleys filled with smaller towns that once housed the coal miners. That is all a bit of an over-simplification, but in order to keep this short, it will do.

I’m 32 years old. Growing up in the valleys in the early 90′s was a very different prospect to what it is today. It’s cool to be a punk, a skater, or listen to hip-hop now. Back then, if you had a mohawk, listened to metal, or dressed in a way that distinguished yourself as anything other than the stereotypical football, happy hardcore rave music and ‘car cruising’ valley lads, you were an outsider. There would be a few peeps in each little valley town, but you were very much in the minority. I went to a Welsh language high school, at the time there was only one in the local county. It had a wide catchment area, so I started meeting a wider variety of people than a lot of the guys I grew up with, but there was still that stereotype at play.

Even in the nearest city to me, Newport (it actually was still a town back then, it was in the mid 00′s that it gained city status), there was still a lot of that mentality, but there was also a thriving underground music scene, centering around a few local venues like V3, Le Pub, and especially TJ’s. These were the few places you could go for a drink and a night out without hassle for being a ‘sweaty’ or a whatever. You’d have skaters, and artist types, goths, punks, hip hop heads and basically everybody else that didn’t fit the stereotype. It created a very close scene because people who didn’t fit anywhere else banded together. A few close friends and myself would regularly travel down to Newport at weekends to see gigs, we met a lot of great people here so I moved here as soon as I could. Things have changed massively over the years, some things for the better, some things for the worse, but I still love Zooport, even with it’s faults.

M: Yea man, that seems to be the way it is everywhere, which is both cool and lame at the same time. So what made you want to get behind the camera?

D: I did a photography and digital design course in my early 20′s, I wanted to be a designer, so I concentrated on that aspect of it over the photography. I learnt photoshop and quark express, but, without putting too fine a point on it, I’m a lazy guy, so I never really did anything creative with it. It did however lead to a job working for a ‘specialist’ publishing company for a few years. I designed adult magazine layouts, and range of dvd covers for a very niché market, which was a rather amusing job. I think I did around 30 / 40 dvd covers for them, I occasionally wonder if anybody actually bought all of them, and has a shelf-full of those sketchy dvd cases I designed, hahaha.

Photography was always something I wanted to do more of, if only just to get snaps of mates and myself on nights out etc. The size of a dslr always put me off, so this never really happened. I can remember a conversation with a friend at some point while I was at college, I had one of those old iMacs at the time, the ones that were like an old portable tv set. This was when digital photography was just kicking off and I remember us saying then how awesome it would be to have the kind of processing power of the mac, in a small unit along with a decent digital camera. ‘pick up and play’ photo editing basically, as even a laptop only really allowed you freedom to roam around the house. So around the time of the iPhone 3gs coming out, I overheard some of my mates talking about IG and was blown away when I saw it. I then got involved when I got my first iPhone, the 4, just a few weeks before the launch of the 4S. I consider myself a novice at photography. Through the publishing job and editing shots of my mates into movie posters and shit, I’d kept up my photoshop skills, but I’d not taken any pictures aside from the occasional holiday snap since college, so as for the shooting side of things, I’m most definitely a novice. I’m just enjoying learning new tricks as I’m going along.

M: And so that lead you to mobile photography? I think that’s the route most people take, without the “niché” movie covers, haha that’s pretty funny.

D: Yea as I mentioned earlier, I can be pretty lazy, and being a massive movie obsessive, it can be real easy for me to lose whole weekends in dreamland. Mobile photography and editing has given me the perfect portable tool set to pick up whenever I have the time to edit, and the camera being my mobile phone means I am never without it when a shot appears in front of me. I found all this real exciting, and really found myself getting into taking photos and it started taking up a big chunk of my time. The more time I spent on IG the more great artists I found on there, the more inspired I became and the more time I was spending doing things relating to photography.

M:  Nice, is there anyone or anything specific you look to for inspiration?

D: I’m a massive music and movie obsessive, so If we’re talking inspirations, most of mine will stem from that, or comics or old cartoons. Musically I listen to a bit of everything, I grew up on hip hop so that will always be my first love but I like old punk, metal, drum n bass, reggae.. anything with balls. Movie-wise I’d say my favorite films are Akira, The Thing, La Haine… maybe Fight Club, just because of how ballsy that film is for a big studio flick. I love Alan Moore comics, Watchmen (the comic) is my favorite piece of media by far.

As for my photography inspirations, to be honest, as far as photography itself goes, B+ and Glen E. Friedman would be the main ones. B+ has shot just about every hip hop artist I’ve ever listened to, and Glen E. Friedman is just a legend, all those classic album covers for Public Enemy, LL and the rest, just classic stuff. As for more recent inspirations, since discovering IG there are quite a few. I’d have to say that yourself, @Tonydetroit, @MrEvidence (See Ev’s Article), @Alozor and @El_Bartho come into this category. All the work you guys post keeps me inspired on the daily. One of my favorite things about IG is being able to get involved with hashtags, I feel honored to be able to add to galleries such as #urbancages, where my shots will nestle in between work by heavy hitters such as Ev and yourself. Also, the mates of mine who got me into IG, Walton (@RichardPWalton on IG) and Woz ( @WarrenPeacePitt on IG), both of these guys are just kick ass photographers and being around them helps to keep me motivated.

M:  All good names, and Fight Club is one of my direct inspirations also, just for the look of it. Movies are always what inspire me too, not other photography. It’s easier for me to relate to films then still photography, but I hate making films haha. So as for processing, do you have a usual editing process or do you just kind of make it up as you go along?

D:  Well, as far as my processes, I am 100% iPhone. I use quite a lot of different apps, Camera+, Snapseed, PicFX, Juxtaposer, Picblender, Photoforge2, Dynamic Light, QBro, Filterstorm, Photoshop Express, and occasionally things like Dramatic BnW, Simply HDR, Lenslight. I wouldn’t really say I stick to any particular style, I try and cater to whatever I’m shooting, although I do really love anything that messes with the D.o.F.

Discovering the Juxtaposer app was the game changer for me. I’d had it for a week or so before I kinda stumbled across the ‘align images’ feature, with that I realized I could paint any effect in the same way as color splash. One of my favorite things to do of late is to paint details back in over a blurred image to add to the depth of field. I always get more satisfaction from editing if I’ve had to zoom in and paint bits in. There is usually an element of this in anything I do, either I’ve blurred some clouds and cut through them to get the sharper elements in the foreground, or something similar.

M: I’ve seen your photography evolve nicely over the time I’ve known you, do you have any new things you’re wanting to look more into doing? Where do you see yourself with this in the future?

D: Thank you dude, I really appreciate that. Well, I really enjoy the documentary aspect of photography, just capturing what’s going on around me and exploring abandoned buildings, which I guess is what I’ve concentrated on up until now. I’m definitely going to carry on doing this, locally and anywhere I happen to find myself. I try and figure in enough time to take as many photos as possible when I’m away from home, so you’ll definitely continue seeing this aspect in my work.

Something I would like to do is work with some models, and make-up artists. I’d love to do some horror shots that would ideally be 75% practical effects with 25% digital enhancement. It’s not something I’m going to rush into though, because if I’m going to do it I don’t want it to be just for the sake of it, I’d like it to be a kinda satirical take or some other angle to it. It’s a very loose idea at the moment but it’s something I am going to seriously look into over the next year.

Mixed media is something else I’m interested in, maybe working with an artist to mix photographic and drawn elements together. I definitely have a few friends I’d like to work with in this respect. Photography has definitely opened up a creative streak in me, and while I’m not 100% sure where I see myself in this regard in a few years time, I am looking forward to making the journey.

M: Yea dude, mixed media is a very cool medium that I messed around with some time ago, I’d like to get back into that. Lately IG seems to be taking a turn for the worse with the spam, Bieber fans everywhere, ghost followers, etc. Do you feel that a mobile photography community is important? Is there anywhere else you post your work?

D:  I definitely enjoy the community aspect of mobile photography, and I would say it is a key factor in the rise of it’s popularity in general. I think most of us get inspiration from this group element, and being able to interact directly with the artist is a great thing. IG has definitely taken a turn for the worse, although in all honesty, it was kind of inevitable. It has all the same problems as any other social network, the bigger the numbers get, the more flab it develops.

I can deal with most of the annoyances, the tweens duck-facing into mirrors and the ghosts. What I really don’t like is the spam. I think I’ve been kinda lucky in this regard, I have not had to deal with the level of it that I see on other peoples feeds, but it’s still a huge problem that is going to end up losing them a lot of users. I heard about the flag-bots also. The fact that there are people out there so lame that they feel the need to ‘cheat’ to get IG cred astounds me. With regard to that, I do not care in the least about IG’s popular page, I think I’ve clicked on it no more than 10 times since I started using it. I’m not in this for the props, the only ‘likes’ and ‘follows’ I care about are from people that actually like my work and want to see more.

All the fuss over the IG terms of service really did open my eyes to the other sharing apps. I have accounts on both Eye’Em and Starmatic, and I shall be posting on those along with IG. I do hope IG can overcome its problems, I believe that most of them are fixable, it’s just going to take some time. The silver lining to all the fuss regarding the t.o.s is that the other apps have become a lot more active and fun to use.

M:  Yea, and in a way you’re right, especially about it being inevitable. It’s always nice to have alternatives, though. So in closing, is there anything else you’d like to add?

D: Only that I’m really honored to have been given this opportunity to showcase some of my work, so a massive thank you to yourself for taking the time to do this interview. Big props to the guys at Juxt for helping to further our community, and a big big shout out to everybody I’ve met during my time on IG, Eye’Em & Starmatic.

Dan Griffiths

Instagram / Eye’Em / Starmatic: Tasty_Freeze