6.10.2007

INTERVIEW - ATIBA JEFFERSON, SKATEBOARD PHOTOGRAPHER

I discovered a lot of things while interviewing Atiba Jefferson for forcesofgood. He went to see Nirvana! That's rad! I wanted to go see Nirvana but it didn't really work out. Atiba Jefferson is a photographer, skateboarder, musician, but not much of a painter. He's really mellow and calm, he seems to have this otherworldly calmness to him, I bet if a meteor came crashing towards him, he wouldn't stand there going "Oh shit!" he'd probably just...step out of the way. He's cool like that. One thing that really surprised me is his laugh, he laughs like Dr. Hibbert from The Simpsons. Amazing! His work has been featured in magazines, like Transworld, and The Skateboard Mag. He's in the Yeah Right! video when Paul Rodriguez busts his ass jumping down those steps, the part when you hear the gun shot and it changes songs. That was him then, this is him now. Check out his website http://www.atibaphoto.com

Garrett Faber: You've been doing photography for a really long time, how do you feel about other mediums like painting or writing?

Atiba Jefferson: I gotta be honest, I was never that good. I tagged back in the day, probably when I was about 14 or 15. It's not that I was trying to be the best but when you picture something in art and you try it and it comes out not nearly close to what you want, it's discouraging. It's definitely something I wish I could do. My mom's a painter but I never was.

GF: I looked through some of your basketball photography, D Mason did a windmill dunk and you shot it with the fisheye, 9 frames per second thing. That was pretty sick.

AT: Yeah, when you're shooting skating, you look at things differently, it helps with sports photography. That's the one good thing about shooting skating you never know your environment situation. There's different spots at different times of day, you never know when you're actually gonna be able to set up and shoot a skate photo. Once you take that into everything else, you're not used to always being able have all those circumstances under control, you're fine dealing with chaos because that's how skating was all the time. That's the one thing I really like about shooting skating early on was not being able to get used to anything.


GF: Out of skateboarding and sports photography,which one's easier?

AT: They're different, different types of pressure, skateboarding's probably more relaxed because when you're dealing with basketball shoots like, for Adidas or something. There's gonna be three or four art directors there, three or four people from Adidas. When I shoot skating it's going to be me, the skater, the filmer, and like the skaters friends, in that sense the skating is definitely the easiest scenario to deal with. Different things, in the skating scenario, I have to worry about if I'm about to be caught by the police, get a ticket, am I gonna have a crazy, psycho cop who's gonna try and impound all my equipment? Versus, with basketball, theres catering, music playing, and no ones trying to kick you out. It's two different kinds of pressures. If skating was legal and all good than hands down wouldn't be the stressful one. At the same time with skating, the dude's gotta make the trick, and shooting basketball, the dudes gonna make his portrait, make his trick. When I'm shooting a lot of skating, its nice for me to go out and shoot basketball stuff and vice-versa. It's nice to go skating and just relax and hang with my friends and push around. You see how the grass is greener on each side, it's nice living in both worlds. They compliment each other.

GF: After this next photography question, all the other questions are not gonna be about photography, I figured you get like a million photography questions, every time you do an interview. Lets talk about a bunch of different random stuff that nobody knew.

AT: Okay cool.

GF: Do you ever go to concerts and shoot bands?

AT: I definitely did, growing up. If theres a band that I'm into, I'll probably go film them more than I would shoot a photo of them just because I feel like a lot of stuff I'm into isn't filmed enough. I feel like people don't film a lot of good bands enough even in this day and age with this great, convenient technology. I think of a lot of bands, the old stuff that I listen to and I can't believe they didn't have filmers with them at all times. I like shooting bands photography, I did a lot of it growing up, I used to go to shows in my home town, whenever I could I would definitely shoot the shows. Nowadays, probably not a lot, I usually just got to enjoy the show. I shot photos of a friends band playing in late December, I just filmed the band on like New Years. I like to see live music, it's one of my favorite things.

GF: I was reading this other interview you did online, you said something about fate and destiny, do you believe in that, or do you believe in making your own fate, and forging your own destiny, or do you believe that everything is preordained?

AT: It's hard to say man, I definitely believe things are meant to be. I don't know if I follow that religiously, so to speak, I do believe things happen for a reason. I believe that the way I've come along in my life, is partly because everyone is in control of their own destiny, if you're a druggie, or you have a drug problem, you can fight that problem.

GF: The choices people make, some people just choose to go with it, other people choose to fight against it.

AT: Yeah, I choose to be a photographer, I don't know if that's fate or not. I think things happen for a reason, more than whether its fate or not. I don't look into it too much.

GF: I try not to dwell on it, did you see that movie The Number 23? It just came out.

AT: No, I wanted to see it though.

GF: I saw it, it was pretty good, the first half was better than the second half. After this one point in the movie it all goes down hill like "ahhhhh". The "23" thing was really intense in how he would just look for that number everywhere and keep finding it like "oh my god the number is haunting me". But if you look for anything, you'll find it somewhere.

AT: It's my favorite number by far.

GF: Why?

AT: It's like my good luck number, I'm a big Michael Jordan fan. It's pretty funny to see Jim Carrey playing serious roles.

GF: Did you see Eternal Sunshine of A Spotless Mind?

AT: No, I haven't.

GF: Oh dude, that movie is so good.

AT: I hear it's really good.

GF: It's a good movie to watch with a chick.

AT: The thing is, I actually have it.

GF: You have it?

AT: Yeah a friend of mine bought it, it's just really insanely hard for me to get around to watch it.

GF: Me too, I bought The Island. With Scarlet Johannsen and that one dude.

AT: Which movie is that?

GF: It's like this futuristic thing, it's got Ewan McGregor. Do you believe in ghosts?

AT: Yeah, I think it's possible, I believe in life after death stuff, so I have to believe in ghosts.

GF: Are you a really religious person? Spiritual person?

AT: I wouldn't say I'm religious, I would say I'm spiritual but I'm not religious at all.

GF: Me neither.

AT: I believe theres a lot of good in all religions. I've never chosen one way or another, there's a lot of religions and lifestyles that I believe are right ways to go. Take a little bit from all of them, and just...

GF: Live.

AT: Yeah, more than just one religion.

GF: What did you think of Kurt Cobain and Nirvana, were you into them? Pretty much everyone was, it's pretty interesting to hear what people have to say about them.

AT: It's funny, I'm 30 now, I actually listened to them before they got big.

GF: Like when "Bleach" came out?

AT: Yeah, I actually saw them play, I probably liked them less when they got big because that was the punk thing to do, not be into them because they're mainstream, lame but thats the way it was "we're not gonna like these dudes anymore". I'm stoked to say that I saw them play, I actually got to see them play.

GF: Have you ever seen Prince play?

AT: I've never seen Prince play. I've definitely wanted to. I grew up listening to Prince a lot, being an '80's child, you cannot not like Prince. You can see him now in Vegas.

GF: He can definitely wail, he's so good on guitar.

AT: Oh yeah, piano too.

GF: Did you see him on the Superbowl?

AT: No, I heard he killed it.

GF: Yeah he damn sure did.

AT: It's hard for me to watch the Superbowl, because it's such a good day to go skating. Because security here is less, and they're more distracted, it's pretty much more chill on that day.

GF: What were you doing in Colorado before you moved to California shooting photos?

AT: Before I moved to California I worked in a skateshop. It really taught me a lot about the skateboarding industry and how it works.

GF: How so?

AT: It's about the consumer. Which is the big reality of the skateboarding world that I think some people kinda forget about. It's a major part of our industry, these are the people that everyone's making the product for and everyone's trying to communicate to, the kid who's coming in the shop to buy something. Without that kid, no one in skating would have a job. It all really comes from that kid and those parents.

GF: My Mom definitely encouraged me to do whatever I want. A lot of my friends have asshole parents, I can honestly say that I have the coolest parents I know.

AT: A lot of kids can't say that about their parents.

GF: Yeah, they rebel, they rebel so hardcore. I didn't have anything to rebel against, for the most part. What were your parents like?

AT: My Dad was out of the picture when I was probably two years old. My Mom raised us, me and my identical twin brother Ako. I work at "The Skateboard Mag" with him, he's the art director. My Mom was great, she was a hippie, it wasn't easy, there were three of us, there was no money at all, we grew up food stamps and government cheese. I'm not saying it as a sob story, that's just the reality of the situation. It probably made me a better person.

GF: That's how it was with my Mom and I, my Dad definitely ducked out when I was like, born. Then he reappeared when I was 16 and it was hard for me to have any feelings for him at all. Kinda like that Tupac song.

AT: It's one of those things, he's in the picture now. I know he has reasons, for doing what he did, I'm not saying they're good reasons, but shit happens. Obviously the relationship isn't as tight as it is with my Mom because she sacrificed her life for me. I don't have any grudges, it's not cool to carry that. I'm cool with him but it's not like we're BFFs or I try to kick it with him 24/7. Mom was great, she's a hippie, she raised us listening to Jazz and Reggae. It wasn't until I got to my early twenties that I realized how much good music she was instilling in us. Like Peter Tosh and Bob Marley, she would take us to the shows when we were kids. She was a big Herbie Hancock, Weather Report and all this Jazz Fusion that I really like, it's funny how great her music taste was, I didn't realize it until later in my life. She was on her way to Woodstock when they had closed the street down, she definitely got to live her life really thoroughly early on, which is really a cool thing for me to be able to say about my Mom.

GF: Did you ever see that movie Lady Sings The Blues where Diana Ross plays Billie Holiday?

AT: No I haven't.

GF: It's a damn good movie, she dies at the end. Do you ever get the ideas to film a movie yourself?

AT: I wish I had that eye, I would probably go for it if I did. To me everything is in a frozen moment, versus moving moments, that's my experience as far as filming and all that goes. Most guys kinda graduate into that field but I'm still here shooting photos, trudging along. [laughs]

GF: How does the general public view skateboarders now as opposed to how they did years ago, because now there's a lot more skateboarding on TV like Viva La Bam and Rob and Big.

AT: When I was younger it was more like me against the world being a skateboarder. No one liked it at all. You weren't cool in school, you didn't get chicks, it was a very antisocial thing. Skateboarders didn't kick it with hip-hoppers or jocks, and now that's the thing. Jocks love Viva La Bam and Jackass. Who am I to say "Jocks"? I'm a sports photographer. [laughs] I grew up in a weird little town in Colorado where jocks were just kooks, they'd start some shit and we'd fight the jocks. But now it's like, jocks and skaters are friends and it's like "yeah dude!" It's only gonna solidify skating and help skating grow into something. Of course I don't want a bunch of kooks involved in skating, but it's gonna enable skaters to live life at a level higher than bums, I don't think that's a bad thing.

GF: Me neither. What's Jamie Thomas like in person?

AT: Jamie's an intense dude, that's the best way to put. Really intense and focused, he's always in the mood, he's an insane hard worker, without a doubt. He's a great dude, he was the first person to give me a Hasselblad as a gift. I think I would of bought one at some point, but that definitely sped up me and my photography career a lot. I owe a lot to Jamie.

GF: Do you ever have that thing someones skating and the board just shoots out and hits you? That happened to me once and I actually have a sweet picture of the board flying at my face.

AT: Yeah, all the time, I still have scars from that. A pretty gnarly one was from Greg Lutzka. I remember just playing it off like "didn't even hurt", because you wouldn't wanna be that dude.

GF: The dude laying there, crying on the steps?

AT: I got home and I was like "ugh that sucks" and it bruised, it was pretty gross actually. All part of the job.

GF: How do you feel about the myspace movement? Are you into that? I added you as a friend last night by the way.

AT: Oh cool, I'll check it. I was anti-myspace, because I'm married, and it seems like a hookup thing, then I realized how good it is for music. It's a great outlet to have people hear new music. I was on Friendster, virtually the same thing, when I was single and young. I don't consider it a bad thing at all. I know some people who seriously have their lives revolving around myspace, and that's kinda funny.

GF: Can you play any instruments yourself?

AT: I play keyboard, I take Jazz Piano lessons. I have an electronic drumset that I try to learn songs on, I wouldn't really call myself a drummer, I'm not that good. I have a bass guitar, I have a lot of instruments at my house, because I like to jam a lot. That way you have stuff that everyone can jam on. If I was any good at it would probably be a musician, but the cards have been dealt to me in other ways. I play music all the time, I really like it. I regret not doing it earlier in life.

GF: Do you sing at all?

AT: No, that's the one thing I don't. I'll sing in the car by myself.

GF: Did you ever record yourself singing and then listen to it? I did that once and it was so bad.

AT: No, I know from hearing my voice talking, that it'll only sound bad if I sing.

GF: Do you dream a lot?

AT: I dream all the time, it's hard for me to remember the next day. I definitely get my dream on.

GF: Do you have a any parting words for the readers of Forces Of Good?

AT: Just have fun with whatever you do. Everyone's always like "whats the best advice you could give?" Really it's just have fun and not stress on being THAT dude. Everyone worries about being the number one dude, in such a rush to get printed and make a career out of it. I think it's more important to have fun with it. That's the best thing I could say. That applies to everything, skating, music, if you're good enough at what you do and you're in a situation where people can witness it everything will come to you.




7 comments:

Ashley said...

first comment arent I lucky one?

This is a really awesome interview Garrett, lots of a great questions, and not all revolving around photography and/or skateboarding. Its always nice to get to see into a person's personality and life beyond just their job. Cant wait to read more stuff from you!

Jay Williams said...

Great interview. Welcome aboard.

Anonymous said...

word on michael jordan.
nice, gf.

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Anonymous said...

AYO DIS INTERVIEW IS WHAK SON MY NGA ATEEBA SOUNDS LIKE A FUKMIN GRONK BRA

Sonica said...

What an exciting experience!/Hilarious! Delightful! True!
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