London-based photographer Jonnie Craig (born July 13th,1988) started shooting photographs at age nineteen. He has produced three volumes of personal work since his career as a photographer. His last published book: “I’ll Kick You In The Head With My Energy Legs” documented the comradery between skateboarders, and contributed editorial content to Dazed & Confused, Vice, Bad Day Magazine and exhibited in multiple shows. Relying almost entirely on the quickness and versatility of the Nikon F5, the thematic trend in his work is an intimate study of how the reactions of light on film capture humanistic moments.
Michael Cook: Your skateboard photography seems totally spontaneous… You’re not trying to capture tricks.
Jonnie Craig: It’s definitely more about the lifestyle and in-between moments that interest me. I think skateboarding and various other subjects like this can be alienating to most people. I think the interesting part is what being involved with skateboarding enables a lucky few; travelling the world and doing what you love. It breeds a very particular type of person.
People don’t want to be hassled all the time to get tricks on film.
Yeah, it’s a fucking nightmare trying to shoot tricks.
And then I guess it really helps if you have a side job. Like photography, right? Is that why there are so many skateboarders who are also photographers?
Yeah, I think a lot of skateboarders think about their escape route from skateboarding. It’s very rare that they’ll go further than mid to late twenties, so a lot of them will pick up a camera and start shooting.
Are you still shooting on film?
Yeah, I’ve had these Nikon F5s that I’ve used for everything. I used to mess around with snapshot cameras and stuff, but they just break, and you can’t really control them. I have two F5 bodies. One is a 50mm, and the other is the 85mm. Ultimately it’s just one set up I use for everything. I’d been through maybe ten different sorts of cameras before. And that one as soon as I used it I knew that everything about it was exactly what I wanted. You can see the picture. It’s a really quick camera. The quality is excellent. The metering is amazing. It’s one of the best cameras I’ve ever used, and they’re cheap. They’re maybe two hundred quid. But they stopped making them a long time ago.
I read this editorial in the Guardian a little while ago. This terrible art writer talking about how you shouldn’t put photography on a gallery wall.
He really had no argument.
There is no argument. There’s no reason to say that. It’s a stupid thing to say.
He said it was because it was so much easier than a painting. That argument didn’t make sense a hundred years ago.
Something being easy is completely irrelevant. It’s the finished product and how that communicates to people. That’s the complication. Something physically being difficult or easy is irrelevant. Art is about complex thoughts, not having the ability to necessarily make something that’s technically complicated.
I mean that’s completely obvious. I feel silly even explaining.
I’m also asking because I wonder how interested you are in exhibiting in galleries. Or have you done?
Yeah, I have done in the past. I am interested in it. But I get quite a bit more excited about the books. I have a massive collection of photo books and I’m obsessed with flipping through books. The experience of flipping through a book and the gallery are similar. They’re both good environments for looking at a series of photographs. I love looking at photos in galleries, as well as paintings and sculptures. I don’t see any reason to say any of them shouldn’t be there.
No. I was surprised at that level of quality in art writing from a publication as big as the Guardian… You and some of the other Vice photographers. The subject matter of some of your photographs and some of your peers’ is sort of coincidentally reminiscent of Larry Clark.
I think most of the photographers who have come up through Vice would cite Larry as an influence but I think it’s got more to do with the way we have grown up and how we’ve experienced culture. It’s more the DIY aspect, observing the world around us and shooting it as it is. I think ultimately we’re all interested in various aspects of youth and are all, in a sense, contributing to one big pool of work. This obsession with ownership of styles and subjects seems strange to me. It’s not the way I think at all. Why would one person be responsible for shooting and communicating one idea and everyone else’s viewpoint be irrelevant or plagiarized? People need to chill out.
How far in the future are you looking with your photography? Do you think you’re going to keep shooting youth and skateboarding?
I think so.
Into your old age? Or are you not thinking that far?
I never thought about photography as a long career path. I had small goals like getting a cover, shooting for this magazine or that. I really don’t know what I’ll be doing. Maybe I’ll run out of ideas.
But your portrait photography seems like something that will always be a good idea. Just shoot someone with good ideas.
I’ve been fortunate with that. Obviously that style is completely different. It’s very formal. I’ve always liked formal portraiture like that. There’s three things I like to capture: their face, a three-quarter length, and them doing something. The magazines I buy are more Fantastic Man and Man of the World, formally shot menswear sort of things. But there’s other influences I take from it. The way those photographers work with light is incredible.
Your focus on light, the way it works. It’s more tangible with film. The light is physically interacting with your medium.
It makes me a lot more specific with my intentions.
Jonnie is currently working on a portrait project with fellow photographer Kimi Hammerstroem called ‘That Face’
See our selection of Jonnie’s personal, commercial and portraiture here.