I had a chance to catch up with Jakob Heid at Exit Skateshop following the opening of a group photo show “TIMEFRAME” featuring the work of 8 photographers with ties to Philadelphia. Jakob and I spoke about his history with photography, and how his exposure to skateboarding influenced his creative process of deconstructing images and putting them back together with different sets tools. Below is a portion of that interview.
How did you get into photography?
I took darkroom classes in my junior and senior year of high school and loved it.
During my portfolio review for Tyler I was pretty undecided and followed the advice of the reviewer that said she could see me as a designer. After the foundation year I spent the next two in the design program where I really struggled coming to terms with that kind of work. I had lots of problems in design because I forced myself into something that I actually didn’t belong in. Maybe I had skills for it, or an eye for design, but it wasn’t the kind of stuff I wanted to do everyday. I took a step back and realized there was something missing. It was something that I stopped doing when I graduated high school and that was photography. I decided if I was going to go to school and finish out, I should be productive, making work that represents me. I wanted to enjoy the stuff that I was doing, learn new things, and get back to my roots as an image maker. As a photographer you’re still designing, so I feel that some of the things I learned in the [design] program have really improved my photography. The best part is that I am having so much more fun doing this new type of work. I’ve got a lot more peace with myself creatively, which is really important if you’re in art school.
What about your portfolio do you think lead the reviewer to believe you would be a good fit for the design program?
For Tyler you needed certain requirements – most of which had to be drawn from what you saw in front of you – landscapes, portraiture, still life, etc. and I didn’t draw very well. I went about making these drawings systematically, so they seemed more procedure based rather than instinctual, so she saw the way that I digested what was in front of me. I guess she attributed these skills to that of a graphic designer.
Was it almost like you were doing layouts?
Yeah, exactly. Visual layouts - shapes and forms on a flat surface that when combined would create certain illusions of life. But I had a lot of different things, more than the required amount. Making the portfolio was my first time attempting a lot of projects at once because I didn’t take my first art class until I was a junior in high school, around the same time I starting taking photos. I was still growing up and recognizing things that I had seen outside of school, particularly in skateboarding. One time I even took a blank deck and cut out a stencil of the Chocolate logo then spray-painted it red onto the bottom so I could have a cool board for cheap. It was one of my earlier memories of a DIY attitude. I guess this is an example of that process of using and reusing that my portfolio reviewer must have seen in my works.
How has your structured approach to creating work affected your photography?
I’ve always been interested in breaking down the barrier between what you see and how you see it. A lot of people see photography as an indolent art form, not knowing the difference between “taking” and “making” a photo. What I try to do is highlight that difference. Photography essentially uses a tool to burn an image of something onto a plane – whether it’s a 4x5 film negative or fabric coated chemicals. These are some methods that people are familiar with; however, I try to bring in many methods and ideas into my work. I’d say that I’m more of an image-maker, or an image-collector rather than simply a photographer.
While moving around your images I noticed that they change, depending on where you put it in a room, with reflections off the glass and the gray in the floor adapting to whatever environment its in, almost like a chameleon. Was that something you had thought about in your work?
I didn’t really anticipate that sort of reaction, but I’m always interested in the ways people view photography – not just my own work. I’ve played with illusions in my work, specifically with 3D photography, where you combine multiple perspectives into one to create depth. It started for me with two large 3.5’ x 4’ photos in school. I loved how people started moving around and noticed that the visual aspects of the work began to move from left to right. At that point it was no longer a flat thing on the wall, and realized that the image was alive, this is why I’m really into creating these stereoscopic photos.
Yeah. What I like about the photogram is that things change even though traditionally photograms are used to capture something still. I’ve noticed that in my Terminal series the composition changes when you move around, the shadows change, and that’s representing life in general. It’s interactive with the world. You’re not just sitting there digesting it, but allowing the work to simultaneously reflect things that are going on outside of the frames.
TIMEFRAME is up at Exit, located at 825 N. 2nd St. Philadelphia, PA 19123, until 9/12/14.