Frank151 Interview with Artist Jared Aufrichtig by Azaria Wassyihun
Jared Aufrichtig’s last name means “The Way of Truth” in German—an ideal Jared seems to wholeheartedly live by. It’s actually quite hard to put Jared in any sort of category; he’s a skater, a surfer, a photographer, an artist, an activist, and even an accomplished Skull Candy DJ, and fortunately for us, the list goes on and on. With such an eclectic list of talents, it’s hard to believe Jared committed six entire years to his most recent project, Expressions Book One South Africa, a 700 page behemoth of a coffee table book dealing with a wide variety of subjects pertaining to South African culture and especially its youth culture. In order to accomplish such a feat, Jared immersed himself into South African culture for six years, studying what they did differently from the rest of the world, as well as how they treated his several passions, hence the inclusion of skating, surfing, plants, animals, food, and others in the book. Jared’s works are labors of love. With this book, he hopes to educate people about the South African art scene by collaborating with 35 artists, from graffiti writers to graphic designers. Truly an original work, Expressions Book One is the first of a series of books Jared is working on, so expect to see many more editions in the years to come. You grew up in Long Beach, California but you've been going to South Africa since the early '80s. What is it about the "youth culture" that inspired you to move there full-time? At first I was inspired by the many fond memories of visiting there and a myriad of nostalgic surf stories of my father growing up with Shaun Tomson, coupled with the fact that the youth culture at the time was less exposed and raw. Also, I’m not living there as full-time now as when I was working on my book. For the past three years, I only spend about six to eight months a year in SA. You note on the book's website that you noticed a "major gap/problem for creative people" in South Africa, how do you hope this book and future books will help close said gap? I hope that some people get more from my book than just the beautiful and striking images. There is a deeper hidden narrative like in most of my work; in addition it exposed many innovators, places, and things that are now household names in South Africa. Although I’d also like to say that there is still a problem for creative people as well as solicited media content out there. The support for books, art, creativity, and these kinds of things is hardly even decent. It is Africa and there is an underlying constant struggle, so most people tend to spend money on necessities and not entertainment. While the more wealthy or able people who should and could support the arts and culture seem to mostly spend on Tec and hyped trendy items from the US or Europe. I think slowly things like my book and other publications coupled with increased media exposure will help build a strong support for local art and youth culture, as well as creativity and literary culture. You open the book with the quote, "What do we see in the world around us?" How does photography help you capture what you see as opposed to other forms of art? As an artist one takes things in and then represents the original perspective, thought, or idea in a new way. Celluloid photography and polaroid photography have a unique way of capturing a moment by allowing the photographer to use composition, knowledge, and their experience with light to manipulate and capture a short period of time. I’m not too sure about the 1’s and 0’s that make up a digital image, but plenty of people (including myself on the rare occasion) get good results and pretty pictures. Photography is also a very direct manipulation of what we see as opposed to trying to recreate something seen like other visual art. The range of categories covered for your book is insane, going from land to music and plants to skateboarding—did you find it necessary to cover all these areas in order to fully showcase South Africa? Yes, definitely. When I undergo a major creative project, most of the time the integrity and process hold the most importance. It was Expressions Book One, so for my 1st book I wanted it to show something prominent. South Africa is so rich and diverse; you need to look into many aspects in order to fully see the whole picture. Sometimes cats come here only looking to shark cage dive or see “the big five” and internationally all we’re represented by is violence, crime, celebrity adoptions, or Die Antwoord and Madiba (respect and blessings to the man!). Also, most of the stuff like art, music, surfing, and skateboarding are an integral part of my life and things I explore avidly. You seem to gravitate toward black and white photography—how has that influenced the subject matter you seek out? I wouldn’t really say I gravitate towards black and white photography, although I am a devoted addict. I’m fond of how the image can carry or express a different emotion lacking colours, and I also like the contrasts of light and dark with a vast range of grey area. In addition, sometimes the black and white can add a historic or timeless look. I do however gravitate towards celluloid and polaroid photography in my work, both of which I shoot regularly in black and white. You used celluloid film in Expressions Book One South Africa, what is it about that style of photography (as opposed to digital) that you believe captures the essence of South African youth culture? I shot the entire book using only celluloid film as a way to properly record and document the six-seven year period that I was exploring and studying, an important period of time in South Africa and youth culture that was also coincidentally leading up to a World Cup. A majority of my photography is shot with a plethora of old cameras. I also believe that the style and aesthetic of celluloid and polaroid photography is ideal for capturing the sprit and essence of the truest types of “being here and now” youth culture. What was the lithographic printing process like? How did you decide to use that method of printing? The lithographic print process is an amazing way to reproduce imagery. I was directly involved in every step, from start to finish. It was such an immense learning process and showed me numerous insights and experiences into printing and production. I decided to use that method of printing because I value and respect print and books, I wanted to offer a unique limited edition lithographic coffee table book about South Africa made in South Africa. As a bonus for being so involved in the books creation, the printer/publisher allowed me to utilize some of the original lithographic plates used to print my book. I cut up the massive sheets of metal with industrial guillotine into small pieces of art. I’ve given away an original litho plate to a majority of the cats with deluxe edition copies and then some. I had a big exhibition at Galleri Kalashnikov in Johannesburg during the SA Art Fair and Fashion Week in September/October, where I used some of the plates to make some new art pieces. A lady from the states who has a house in Florida bought the first Dumile Tribute Expressions African Mask. I’m busy making more and finding new ways to turn the litho plates into something really special. You've combined your photography with various graphic artists from South Africa for this book, how did you decide which artists to collaborate with? I always enjoy collaborating with other artist and love the way they’re all so different and have their own style and techniques. For my book, I worked with a wide variety of artist that I link up with while doing research and shooting the content around South Africa. Illustrators, tattoo and graffiti artists, painters, cartoonists, and even a few graphic designers who work with big ad agencies. Most of the artists I selected because of their work and presence in the SA scene, or maybe I thought they might work well with a particular subject or idea. A few of the artist designed layouts and were also featured in the book doing what they do best. How has working with South African artists (graphic, graffiti, illustrators, and tattoo) influenced your photography style? Working with other talented artists can be a good influence on perspective or style. I think a lot about bold colours and different lines due to my design and tattoo friends. I would also say that my art and graffiti background adds a certain grungy or edgy element to the way I try to shot some of my work. No everything is or needs to be so perfect or simple. I’d also like to think I picked up a bit of the African styles. What projects are you working on at the moment? Lately I’ve been so busy and blessed with wonderful projects, along with hitting different regions all over the globe. Surfing Butter On A Hot Plate is the title to my new surf film project; I was working on it in Jeffreys Bay for a few months earlier this year. Now I’m currently in Cape Town enjoying the beginning of the summer season and planning a mad states mission to LA/Miami/NYC. Soon I’ll be launching a Kickstarter for a book project with my dude from BK, Matt Dobbs aka Youth Waste. Also doing/curating a classic charity art auction with Paddle8 for some rad ocean/surf based NGOs during Art Basel. Definitely check that out, it launches on the third of December. And if you’re in Miami for Basel, maybe you’ll be a lucky one and get your hands on the Limited Edition Art Baseball Card Series I’m doing as promotion.