Maciek Jasik – Fine-Art & Commercial Photographer


– Hello and welcome to
the i3 Lecture Series, hosted by the Masters in
Digital Photography Program, at the School of Visual Arts. We are thrilled to have
photographer Maciek Jasik, as tonight’s guest speaker. Originally from Poland,
Maciek is currently based in New York City. His work is primarily focused
on society’s relationship with nature and questions
of identity, representation and the self. In 2012, his long term project,
Bypassing the Rational, was given a solo exhibition at Daniel Cooney Gallery in New York. Recent group shows
include, Image Nation 2017, Espace de Arts San Frontieres in Paris, Current 2013 at the
Contemporary Art Museum in Raleigh, North Carolina, and Under My Skin at the
Flowers Gallery in New York. Clients include Ideal, AT&T, Phillips, Adidas, Elysium
Health, Time, Vice, the New Yorker, GQ, the
New York Times, Wired, Adweek, New York magazine, Refinery 29 and FastCompany among many others. Please help me welcome Maciek
Jasik to our lecture series. (audience applauds) – I came to New York about 12 years ago. I came here not knowing
anything about photography, anything about lighting and I had to go on a
journey with photography that you guys might be on
yourselves at different stages. So mostly I’ll be talking about a lot of the painting I started, but as the talk goes on I’ll talk about why I
make images for myself, because each of you have your
own reasons for making images, and I’ll be very clear that I think anyone who does make images should think very clearly
about why they make images, what do the images mean to them and what do the images mean
to the rest of society. So I just want anyone
to look at these images to think about yourself,
what does this mean for me. So my journey with photography started with assisting a lot
of fashion photographers, and so when we would have some time off we would end up going to some museums in different cities that we were in. So when I was in London I went to the post-impressionist room and for whatever reason that day the experience was
really resounding to me. And I just started looking
at a lot of painting and thinking why is it this kind of painting is so powerful to me. And this is Cezanne, and why did these paintings mean so much more to me than other photographs. So I started thinking
about color and focus, and is it that if there
is less information does that sometimes make
an image more powerful? And why do certain colors
have an effect on people? Why do certain colors
have an effect on me? And I just started having that conversation with
myself and thinking, okay, if I like all these
things about painting, what can I do in photography
that might be the same, that might elicit a lot
of the same effects? And at the time I still didn’t
really know what I was doing. Which at the time I
thought was a negative, but it actually turned out to be positive. Because when you don’t
know what you’re doing, you’re not going to think,
well I shouldn’t do this. You’re just gonna do whatever
you think is possible, so you would just start doing things. And so for me it was okay, let’s look at all this painting
and see what it leads to. A lot of that was
post-impressionist painting. The person who became
a really huge influence on my work was Francis Bacon. He was a very troubled soul in the twentieth century for painting, and his paintings can be
very dark and foreboding. But what I notice about
his work is he would use, in a way to draw you in. So even if the subject matter
was very intense and dark he would find ways of using color, and shape and really interesting ways. Especially for this image in particular, all these beautiful bright
colors bring you in, and then you notice in the
center is this very gnarled mangled shapes in the center, and so he found a way to create a balance between those two things. And he kept on going back to this, so this is a painting of Pope Innocent X, which is his favorite
painter was Velasquez. So he would look to Velasquez just like I look to him as an inspiration. And he would do all these different things with focusing on teeth, he would focus on slabs
of meat and other things, so I just thought okay, I’m gonna use this
person as a kind of guide to be like okay, what are
the things I’m attracted to, and what can I use? So I started doing these portraits in my Bushwick loft over 10 years ago, and just started using color and putting colors in front of the lens. And using different kinds of motion, long exposures, shorter exposures. Just doing all sorts of things just to see what would happen. And I would just find friends,
or friends of friends, or people on Craigslist
who would just come in, and I would just see what would happen, and I would give myself an
hour an hour and a half. And it was a really great journey because I didn’t have any expectations. And that something else that
I would really recommend, is often times we are living in a society that demands immediate results. Where you feel like if I put in this work I want to have something to show somebody so I can get likes or get some approval. I really highly do not regard that highly. I think if you can create
work without expectations you free yourself of that burden of thinking that this has to be greater, this has to be something I can show. If you can create work where
you have no expectation, you will really free yourself. So I did these portraits
for several months and I didn’t expect anything of it, I really had no idea where this was going because I just thought that this had no application anywhere. Nothing would ever come of this. And I would just allow myself
to go into these weird terms where I would ask somebody, why don’t you try this,
why don’t you try this? And early on I had a
very strong dedication to doing everything on camera, because I felt like that
process of being with somebody, being in an environment, doing that in the moment was
just so much more creative because it forced you to think on the fly And to collaborate with someone else and ask them can you do this, and they ask you a question so it becomes a kind of a dialogue. And the resulting work is a
representation of this dialogue. And so I would ask people to go all out. And one of the other painters that I found was a more contemporary painter, his name is Odd Nerdrum. As his name implies, very strange painter, makes all his own paints, does really strange work, but what I liked about his work as he did these really
strange floating bodies in this alternate universe. So I thought why don’t I create
my own alternate universe? So I started doing nudes in my apartment that were based on the same
ideas as the portraits. And I would have people do
different types of jumps, and I would tell them, I
don’t want you to be jumping I want you to be falling, falling into an abyss or a pool or whatever you wanted to think of. Because I noticed that
once you start shooting you realize that tends
to look like sculpture, or that looks like dance. And you realize when
something is familiar to you a lot of times you turn off because you realize
that looks like dancing or that looks like sculpture. I wanted to create things that
didn’t look like anything, that you really didn’t
know what was happening. So then I realized the power of mystery becomes really important. Because if you can
create a mysterious image that person will stay with
that image for much longer. So I kept on trying to experiment with okay, maybe I now know what I want to do, but how do I translate
this to someone else? Because someone like this person, this person was a dancer, so they could understand
what I was going for. But someone else may not know. So that became a really
interesting revolution. In photography what it was like I may know what I want, but how do I explain it to someone else? And that became interesting where some people I
could tell them directly, but other people I had to
go a very indirect route, where I had to tell them to do something like a physical action that by itself didn’t mean anything, but in a split second in a photograph it would end up being something. So I kept on going back and forth between the nudes and the portraits. And I got a little bit
better with the portraits, and that’s another thing
I like to come back to is that a lot of times if
you do something a few times you might feel like while this is as much as I’m
gonna get out of this. I highly recommend doing
something 100 to 200 times, because if there’s
something of value in it you will find it within doing something over and over and over again. And from that I was able
to learn so much more than if I had stopped after 10 or 20. I’ve done 165 of these portraits, and I still have to
continually push myself to find what am I gonna do this time that I didn’t do last time? Whether it’s the casting, or through color or through lighting. So that’s what I recommend
to anyone doing photography, is keep doing that same
thing over and over again because you will find more within that and more within yourself. And the more I did it, I did start promoting the work, and that’s where I started
getting commercial work. Some of you guys will know that this is Senator Chuck Schumer. And so this was a very good education in terms of doing commercial photography. I showed up on time, and I did some lighting
tests with the assistant, and afterwards waited three
hours for him to show up. And then once he did show up we got five minutes to shoot with him. and then once he was done he was done, he gets up and walks away
from you, and that’s it. If you don’t have the photograph
by then you’re screwed. So that was a really interesting
recommendation of okay, you have to be prepared
and you have to be ready that someone is gonna
show up whenever they want and they will leave whenever they want. And you have to be ready. Whereas when I did the
projects in my house somebody was just jumping
around in my apartment seemingly for hours, that didn’t matter, so I had to become much
better at understanding what am I doing and how am I doing it. So my next challenge was I
shot this for New York magazine maybe in 2013, 2014, and basically I had to do the same thing I did with full bodies, but this time with clothes. So I had to tell the model and the stylist and everyone else what I was trying to go for. And initially I didn’t really make it as weird as I could have, and it actually pushed back at me, and they were like, “Listen we want this to be as
weird as all your other work.” Which I really didn’t expect, and it kind of threw me for a loop, but that really taught me a lot about knowing what is it that they want from me. Because as an artist you
often might feel like I can’t do the thing that I
do in a commercial setting. So you have to figure out
can I do what I want here, or can I not. Because sometimes you will be able to and sometimes you won’t. So the more I did these portraits the more I learned about how to do this faster
and more efficiently. And I would come up with
templates where I would be like okay, these are the colors
that work really well here, so then I can apply them
to a commercial photograph. This was an assignment for Wired, this is photographer named Daniel Arnold. And this was a really nice assignment, because these people
just came to my apartment and then we had a couple of
hours to shoot with them. This woman, Mimi Goodwin, I had to go to her place in California, but that also taught me whatever you have in your comfortable space, you have to be able to
translate to another place, a place that’s maybe not familiar to you, that doesn’t have all the
resources that you need. So you have to figure out what do I need to be able to do what I
do anywhere in the world? This is an artist named Megan Signoli. And this was also interesting, because usually I’m very excited to show people the portrait, and I wanted to show her
the portrait I did of her. And she said to me, she’s like,
“Listen I’m not interested.” And I was like, “Oh why?” And she’s like, “Because
it will ruin my day.” And it wasn’t because she
would dislike the photo, she hated photos of herself. So you have to realize
that that might happen, and it’s not personal, it
has nothing to do with you. As I was doing this kind of work I realized the work that
I’m interested in is color, So what are all the different
things I can do with color. And I started working with color smokes, and they became pretty
trendy a few years ago. And whenever I would have an assignment in different places, this was shot in Minneapolis, I would try to find a way of using smoke in a different location, and trying to find different
ways of combining movement and color and other things. This was shot in Los Angeles. Me and my friend had been shooting in the Hills in Los Angeles and we saw this amazing seventies car, so we just threw a smoke
canister underneath it and he just rolled around
on the hood of the car, and then we drove away really fast. (audience laughs) I can’t say I highly recommend, I tend to do these types of things, but I really recommend that
you always ask for permission, but sometimes it’s not always possible. What you choose to do is
going to be your choice. So I had done some of this smoke stuff and I had done all of my color work, and that led to this
assignment for Adweek. They sent me to Facebook headquarters to photograph the head of
Oculus Rift at the time, this guy named Palmer Lucky. And so we did the portrait, and then I had shipped to
the Facebook headquarters smoke balls in a FedEx envelope. Technically you’re not
supposed to do that, but they got there safely. So while we were doing the
shoot I approached them, I was like “Listen, “I want to shoot the smoke
stuff, would you be interested?” He said, “Hell yeah, I love
fireworks, let’s do this.” And the good part was that you can see the tube that was there, they actually do a lot of soldering there so that was meant to soak
up a lot of the smoke, so it was actually the perfect
environment to do the shoot. And so I was able to do something that would seemingly be
impossible, but I asked. And the person was totally into it. So I always recommend asking
you may not always get a yes, but I got to do something that probably no one
else will ever get to do. To do so it feels pretty
great to be able to do that. While I was doing all
the portraits and nudes I started doing stuff in landscape, so I started going to Las Vegas and to Death Valley in California and trying to find ways of
reinventing both places, because both places are really iconic and I want to find ways of showing Las Vegas in a different light. And one of the things I
found is that Las Vegas has all these strange trees that are just in the
middle of these empty lots. So I was like okay, this is gonna be like how I do this, so I found a way just by
doing the same thing I did, just putting colors in front of the lens and reinventing this place. And that’s what the whole series is about. But what I learned about that was I could take all those
same technical concepts Of putting colors in front of a lens and also reinventing interiors. So this was an assignment
for The New Republic magazine shooting with Ruth Bader
Ginsberg at the Supreme Court. This was another interesting lesson in working commercial photography. The Amtrak train was over two hours late. I had an assistant set up
everything beforehand thankfully, but once I got there we
only had a few minutes. And I talked to her staff and I said, “Listen, my train was two hours late, “can we postpone this by a few minutes?” They said, “Absolutely not, “her schedule is absolutely
rigid you have to shoot now.” So I had to should both this shot and the cover in 15 minutes. And you realize that you have to know exactly what you’re doing and how to do it and
also not be stressed out, not look like you’re stressed out and be able to shoot somebody who is ostensibly very
famous in their environment, your way, the best of your ability. So that was a really big challenge and a very difficult shoot. So I kept doing these types
of shoots and Death Valley, and going out to Death Valley and finding ways of
reinventing this landscape. And again, all on camera. And dealing with all of
the conditions of weather. I had to shoot this shot in
the car through the window, because it’s so windy in
that part of Death Valley that it would rip the colors
from in front of the lens. So I was like, okay, I can’t do what I usually do I have to find a new way of doing this. So I used those same techniques. And this was a commission for Wired UK and it was shooting a company that did artificial intelligence that had just been
recently bought by Google. So they wanted me to shoot these guys and reinvent their environment, because it was just a
really boring office. And also this was the
founder of the company, and reinvent and make him look futuristic. So it turned out something
I had developed on my own had all these different uses that I never really imagined it would. Because for me, I was just
interested in painting, and trying to make photography
look like painting. And it turned out that this whole other world
was opening up to me. This was an assignment for fast company, shooting a scientist that was working on fighting Ebola with tobacco. Thankfully, right outside his house there was basically a desert, so he was able to drive me
around in his pickup truck and we were able to shoot in
the desert, which was amazing. So a lot of times you
get these assignments where you get to go in a new environment and then you get to decide
right then and there, okay, what can I do with this environment. And there is that pressure off
you have to make a decision like right away, but you also get to make
pictures spontaneously, which is a really cool thing and it really teaches
you a lot about yourself and what’s important to you. So I had worked a little bit With smoke. But I had an idea that I wanted to put smoke into different arenas. So I tried a couple of
times with fruit outside, and it was a total failure. And so I said let me try it
indoors and see what happens. And it became this
really huge long project that I’m still working on. And its a really interesting project of realizing okay, how many different ways
can I do the same thing. Where if I’m interested
in reinventing faces or bodies or landscapes, what other tricks and tools can I use. So I started applying this
to these different fruits and figuring out what
does this fruit look like? What can it look like? What colors work with it, and I would have to shoot these fruits sometimes 10 or 15 times in a row. And often times the smoke is
going in the wrong direction, it completely invades the lens, or it barely goes anywhere because these were made
in a factory somewhere, there is no quality control. So it really taught me about how to not give up, to figure out what colors
work well with each other. Because I’ve never been to art school, I’ve never taken a color theory class, I don’t really know anything about color, so I had to figure these
things out on my own. That project did really well online, people really liked it. So I got a job with a
company called Ideal. And they just liked the
creativity of my work, so they said, “Well, just come and work
with us on this project, “it’s about the future of food, “and we’ll figure it out.” And we did all these really cool shots, I mean we did a lot of stuff that week, that this was my favorite aspect of that of combining different types
of parts of the food world and creating these really
strange combinations. That’s a chicken foot and
something called Buddha’s fingers, which are not actually edible, but they are really cool looking. And that was a really great assignment, because I was finally
able to work with people who were just purely creative. And I’ll never forget what
the art director said to me when I was working on the first day and I was a little
nervous about the shoot. And I said, “Is the client
gonna like what we’re doing?” And he said, “Listen, the client will like “whatever I tell them to like.” Which was incredible, because this guy was so
confident in his position, and you felt like wow, if he’s so confident that I can really feel comfortable shooting with this person. So I shot with him again a year later, and we’ll talk about that soon. I started working also with
different kind of light, so I had been using the same
lighting setup for years, and based on a recommendation
from some people I had started using these
different kind of hot lights, so that opened up a
whole other world to me of using different lights and different colors on these lights and using colors in front
of the lens, on the lights, and just overlapping everything. And it really gave me so
much more opportunity. So I just realized
something that I thought would probably not even be still going, this is five or six years after I had already started doing this project. This project kept going, and
it was really incredible, how does this keep going? This led to an assignment shooting for this small
magazine called Open Lab, and shooting Aesop Burke. And he was cool to work with, because I had worked with a lot of politicians and other people, but it’s fun to work with musicians, because they are a lot more open to doing different things visually. And he was just a really
cool person to work with. And this led to another musician, her name is Arianna Rose, and she was very open about
how she wanted to use color in the photography for her work. So we had done a music
video out in California, and I also did some of the stills for it. And we just used this really
beautiful environment, and we found a way to put
her and the other person who was in music video
with her into these stills. And I also did a color portrait of her. So she brought her own aesthetic, and we merged our aesthetics. So that became an interesting thing of finding different ways of
merging what someone else wants with something that you
yourself are creating. This was an EP cover for
a guy named Young Paris. This was a fun shoot to do, but the interesting
story behind this is that I had shot a band called Lady Moon and the Eclipse years before, and they had almost no money, and I had met them through
a friend of a friend. And I had shot with them, and then I had shot with one
of the members of the band, I had shot her album cover. And then Young Paris is her brother, they are from this huge
Congolese French family, they are all musicians and they are all really
interesting creative people. And so it showed me, even if you meet somebody who you might not think
that they are anybody that this shoot will not lead to anything, you never know actually
where things will end up. So it’s always really important to be open to opportunities and to be open to what
can happen in the future. After doing all of that I started working with
different kinds of fireworks, because I thought that might
be an interesting angle. So this is a super simple shoot, this is just a sparkler
that’s in her mouth. And we lit the sparkler and as it was coming down toward the end, you couldn’t see the sparkler any more, so it’s just this light in her mouth. It seems really strange and surreal, but it’s incredibly simple. So I started finding different
ways of using these fireworks in ways that were in camera but also would reinvent this reality. And I would shoot in a
lot of abandoned spaces, because it turns out
shooting fireworks indoors nobody really wants you to do that. And its dangerous, and people
have all these problems, and it’s a real drag. So I started going to a lot of
abandoned spaces to do this, or going to industrial areas at night. But when I was in Los
Angeles several years ago I ended up going, excuse me. I’ll open this on a different player, I found an abandoned mall. I did a lot of research about Los Angeles, different places in Los
Angeles that I could shoot in, and I went there and I shot with a model, and it only turned out because we actually had to break in, and as we were breaking in
a security guard caught us and he was escorting
us out of the building, and he asked us, “What
are you guys doing here?” And we told him, listen we
want to do a shoot with smoke. And he’s like, “Wow, really, smoke? “Do you have any of these
smoke canisters with you?” And I said, “Yeah I do.” He’s like, “Light one off right now.” So I lit one off and there
were these beautiful, as you’ll see in the video,
these beautiful skylights, and you could see those beams of light. And he’s like, “Wow, that looks awesome.” (audience laughs) And I was like, this is unreal. And he’s like listen,
just give me a donation and you can shoot in the
mall anytime you want. So I shot there with a model, and then I came back two more
times and we shot this video. And it was incredible, because we had a gigantic mall, this is a mall that’s been
used in a Beyonce video, it’s been used in “Gone
Girl” and lots of movies, and I was able to use it because basically I just was able to form a relationship with this guy on the fly. So I’m gonna show you the video right now. And this was the first video I ever did. I didn’t go to film school. It was me, the actor and cameraman. I edited it myself, I color graded myself, I had no idea what I was doing, but I just learned on the fly. So I emphasize anyone who says, hey I don’t know what I’m
doing, that’s not an excuse. (light rock music) So that entire thing
was shot in four hours. So it can definitely be done. So learning from that I learned how even if I don’t really know the technical aspects, it’s not really an obstacle. There’s always a way to do things if you don’t know exactly
what you’re doing, just do it and then you’ll
figure it out later. Once I made that video, then I became friends with a band in Brooklyn named Girly Boy, and I was able to convince them to make a couple of music videos, and we made two music videos in one day, and then we have to come back and shoot more footage for this one. This time I didn’t have
to edit it any more, I didn’t have to color grade any more, and I had a friend who I’d known for years who actually became my DP and he helped me out
a lot with this shoot. So this one combines some
of the firework stuff, I’ll show you this one as well. (upbeat indie music) ♪ Lately baby I’ve been losing sleep ♪ ♪ I try to fight the
night I do all right ♪ ♪ But baby I’ve been weak ♪ ♪ And when my heart starts making it out ♪ ♪ And I find that it’s yours ♪ ♪ Wherever you are ♪ ♪ Wherever you are ♪ ♪ Baby you’ve been talking in your sleep ♪ ♪ You are whispering now becoming loud ♪ ♪ It sounds so deafening ♪ ♪ And when my head starts making it out ♪ ♪ And I’m fine in the summer ♪ ♪ I can hear the words a playing over ♪ ♪ And over and over and over ♪ ♪ Wherever you are ♪ ♪ Wherever you are ♪ ♪ Wherever you are ♪ ♪ Wherever you are ♪ ♪ Wherever you are ♪ ♪ Wherever you are ♪ ♪ Wherever you are ♪ ♪ Wherever you are ♪ ♪ And all the noise it seems so loud ♪ ♪ They’ll point the things right at you ♪ ♪ And they’ll shoot you in the ground ♪ ♪ And you’ve been growing awfully proud ♪ ♪ I don’t know where you come from ♪ ♪ So I’m forced to scream it out ♪ ♪ Wherever you are ♪ ♪ Wherever you are ♪ ♪ Wherever you are ♪ ♪ Wherever you are ♪ ♪ Wherever you are ♪ ♪ Wherever you are ♪ ♪ Wherever you are ♪ ♪ Wherever you are ♪ ♪ Wherever you are ♪ ♪ Wherever you are ♪ ♪ Wherever you are ♪ ♪ Wherever you are ♪ ♪ Wherever you are ♪ ♪ Wherever you are ♪ ♪ Wherever you are ♪ ♪ Wherever you are ♪ ♪ Wherever you are ♪ ♪ Wherever you are ♪ – So if you ever ask somebody
if you can strap fireworks to them and they say yes
you should definitely do it. That was a real education, because when you are collaborating with someone who is
ostensibly your friend, as a creative person, be ready for a lot of conflict. There was a lot of conflict between myself and the singer and the editor, and it was very difficult
to put everything together, especially since I had
paid for everything, and they hadn’t paid for anything. So it was a lot of conflict
that we had to work out, and even now they still don’t
like the end of that video And we had to tack it
on against their wishes. So there is a beautiful
sight to collaboration and there is also the ugly side, so you have to realize that both of those things are gonna happen, and in the end your gonna have to find a way to make it work. So I use the fireworks because it was a way to reinvent reality. And that did have a
commercial application, I was able to do a good deal
later which I’ll show you guys, but that wasn’t happening at. I had continued doing these fruits, and I had to find more and more different ways of doing fruits, because this would lead
to more stuff for Ideal. And this was a really project for Ideal, because we would have any of the amount of vegetables
and fruits that we wanted, but we had to find new and
different ways of reinventing how fruits and vegetables will look. And amazingly the way
this company Ideal works is that really I couldn’t
even tell who’s the boss, who’s in charge, everybody just seems like they’re totally cool creative people, it’s like this unbelievable place. And so we would just
shoot in this photo studio and people would just
come downstairs and ask, “Hey what are you guys doing?” And we would go, “We’re doing this.” And they’re like, “Have you
thought about doing this?” So this guy he was like and intern came down and he was like,
“I have these LED lights, “do you want me to bring them down?” I was like, “Yeah definitely.” And we found ways of putting
these little LED lights inside of these fruits and vegetables. And lighting them up, and we basically put them through the paper underneath the table, so it was this incredible
creative collaboration that happened on a whim. So I just loved working with them and I loved working in that environment. And that led to, this is the last video. This led to, they did this program called Food Future, and they wanted to promote Food Future, so we did all of these images. It was a program sponsored
by Target and MIT, and so we ended up doing this video in Vermont in the middle of winter. (upbeat music) So what started as just
a skateboarding video I made with my friend two years before became this video for
this company’s campaign for these two companies to do together. So we just taught me if
you have an idea go for it, because you never know
where it’s gonna end up. And conversely when I did the fruits, I never imagined that I
would have to very carefully blow up these smoke balls
right behind a $10,000 handbag, and that was its own challenge, because before I would
just destroy these fruits, but this time I really couldn’t. So that was just another interesting challenge that happened. And I just really began to appreciate how many different directions
this kind of work can go in. So I kept on, at the same time as doing all these fruits I kept on doing my nudes and other things, and amazingly the same magazine, it’s called “Fashionable
Lampoon” from Italy, I was able to do the nudes, there was also a fashion component, but I was able to do a set of nudes, and the great thing was, I
was able to hire who I wanted, so the best model I knew was my girlfriend and creative partner Erica, who is in the audience at the back, and it was great to
basically do in our project what I had always been doing
with my favorite person and do it exactly like I
wanted and have it published, which was great. And we were able to basically
do whatever we wanted. The art director was there, any time we did anything he’s
like, “Yeah, looks great.” So that was really nice. Of course that was basically
a shoot done for free, but it showed me if I want there are those abilities that
I can do exactly what I want and get it published out in the world. So at the same time I kept on doing more of these color portraits, and as I kept on doing them I had a hard time finding new
ways of reinventing things, so I started working with prisms. Again, due to the same person, Erica, introducing me to prisms, and I was trying to figure out
different ways of using them. Because at first it
seemed almost impossible, like what can I possibly
do with this thing. And I kept on doing it, and that led to getting, I had done portraits for GQ before, but this was a really interesting project for a guy named T. La Rock who was an MC in the eighties who suffered a brain injury
in the early nineties and completely lost his memory. So my assignment was
held to characterize him in these pictures to show this kind of two identities that he had, one where he had no knowledge of himself, and the other one is this
famous MC that was basically one of the first rappers to
work with Rick Rubin in 1985. So that meant that I had to use all these tools at my disposal to find a way to create the story. And this is one of my
favorite color portraits, it’s for “The New Yorker”, which is one of my favorite magazines. And just being able to do this assignment and kind of do whatever I wanted, I feel very lucky to be able to do that. So this is, I’m gonna go back to painting for a little while, because I keep looking at painting, because the whole process
of how you do things is a never ending story. Your life as an artist is never ending. Who you are continually
continues to evolve, so you have to continually
think about who you are as you keep doing the work. And so for me I kept looking at painting as a kind of direction
from where I could go, because for me I looked
at these paintings, this is an Italian painter
named Niccolo Simori, and his ability to create these very weird and surreal and strange
and morbid portraits that borrow from another time but feel very contemporary
at the same time. And I would look at these
paintings and think, what is powerful about these paintings? How to they obscure identity? How much can you obscure someone’s face when we still have an
emotional connection to them. This is a guy named Dario Maglianico, and he does an interesting
thing where he’s combining time over time he’ll show
somebody in an environment, and it really makes me think about, okay, what is possible in photography. Because if you just look at photography, there is a kind of limited
world that you are drawing from, but for me to look at painting or for film you are opening yourself
up to a whole other world. This is a contemporary
painter Anthony Cudahi this is Daniel Pitkin. And they create these
worlds onto themselves, and it just makes me think about. This is a guy named Adrian Jenny. The different things that
you can do with color and by obscuring things. This is a British painter
named Ian Francis. And he creates these totally amazing semi-abstract semi-realistic worlds, and so it makes me think can I create a world that’s semi-abstract and also real at the same time? This is a British painter
named Brian Hewitt he does such an amazing thing of just using different
shapes to make faces, and so he just breaks everything down to these very simple basics. And this is back to Francis Bacon, one of his later paintings
in the seventies, and again it’s so simple, it just uses a few colors, a few lines, but somehow it’s so interesting and beautiful and strange and alluring. So this is a project I
started a couple of years ago called “Deeply Ordered Chaos”. And this uses all of the stuff
that I used to do with color, but also with prisms. So it’s my way of doing
the same thing as all these paintings that I
have loved for years. Could I create photography that is very much like
the paintings that I love? And it’s grounded in reality, but there is these other elements that pushed beyond those realms. So that’s what I started to push, how much can I push, how much can I pull? How much of a person should I show? How much can I obscure them? And it’s an interesting challenge, because you have to build a black box, because prisms reflect everywhere, and it’s a very particular exercise, but it’s been very satisfying to me to do something that’s as close to all
the work that I love. And it’s also pushed me to try to find new ways of representing people, and finding new ways of combining people which I normally haven’t done before. And so when I would get an
assignment I would say well, let me work with a prism
and see what I can do here. This is for FastCompany. And again it’s a more conservative
approach to what I do, but it gives me an extra tool to use because when you’re in a commercial space you have a certain amount of time to do something interesting. So you have to think okay, what can I do in this
space with this amount of time that’s interesting and different. And that’s a challenge, and
it’s an interesting challenge. So for me over the years, it’s been about how many
different tools can I gain that I can pull out whenever I need to. And that gives you so much of an edge in commercial photography. This was an assignment for a
company called Yummy Colors, they’re a design company
and they just wanted really interesting
portraits of themselves. And so they just came to the studio and they were just very open to doing different
interpretations of themselves. This entire effect that you see is just lip balm, that’s it. That’s all you’re looking at. It’s so incredibly simple. I won’t go into how incredibly
frustrating it is to use, but it shows you that you can just use different types of emulsion, different types of materials
and put them in front of the lens and completely
reinvent something. So I did this for them. And then I also did this for a cover of the financial magazine called Barnes, which was about the use of
AI in financial matters. So it’s something that you go on a lark, you try it out, you see where it goes, and then it ends up being
this whole other tool that you never even thought possible. And this was just a few months apart. So it was really interesting
development for me, and I felt really lucky
to have stumbled upon it. Another thing that I’ve
thought about is okay, if everything I do is about color how many different ways can I use color, and this is another in
camera technique that I use, and I’ve used it, this is all natural light. There’s no lights
involved here whatsoever. There is no Photoshop, there is nothing, this is just natural light, this is how it looks
straight out of the camera. And it was a really
cool thing for me to do, if it’s a sunny day I can just do this, really quickly really easily. And this is Erica again, this is when we were in Portugal. So we would find this abandoned place and then I could basically match the color of this place onto her. And it became just another
fantastic tool to have. And you realize it’s
just such a simple thing of just putting a few
colors on someone’s body and someone’s face but it reinvents the whole feel of something. So you have to really think
about what are small things that you can do to an image
that just tweak it one degree, so I think a lot of people
want to tweak it 100 degrees, or 180 degrees, but just think about really
tiny things that you can do that will make a really big impact. So this is a subject I’ve
done it several times this is a scientist named George Church. The same friend that
worked for The New Republic now works for this company called Elysium. They are an antiaging company, and they do portraits
of different scientists so I only have a couple of hours and I have to do several portraits. So we use the same techniques
that I used before. Thankfully that day was sunny, and this day was also sunny. But if it’s not I have all my lights and I have everything
else but if it is sunny that I have this whole other thing to use. And it does extraordinary things. This we actually shot
while we were in Portugal. I had shot an assignment
for the magazine in London, and ostensibly Erica and I were
supposed to be on vacation, but the magazine said well, we have this idea it
would be really wonderful if you could just do this
hand with these colors, and so we would. And they would say well
that’s really nice, we really like it, but do you think you could do it again. And then we’d shoot it again, and they’d say, well
that’s really fantastic, but do you think we could do it again? And it became another lesson of oh my God, I really want to make this client happy, but Jesus Christ, they really
need to stop pushing me, because this is getting out of hand. I’m supposed to be on vacation, and I can’t keep shooting
this over and over again. In a sense I still haven’t
learned this lesson, because we just shot the covers of this Spanish band’s EP four times, because once again, they didn’t really know what they wanted. But it also teaches you sometimes you want to shoot things multiple times. And sometimes you have to say, this is it, I’m not gonna do this any more. One of the last things I’ve done in this last year was to use the prism
outdoors in a landscape. This was shot in Utah in March. And it just involved a lot
of things I’ve done before. The only thing that I’m doing is I’m reflecting another part of the landscape into this landscape. So it’s very simple in camera technique that has allowed me to find a
new way of doing landscapes, because in a sense just
putting colors over the lens just became very rote, and became something that
I just kept on doing, and it was really no
longer interesting to me. So I had to think of what else could I do to reinvent landscapes. And this became a new thing. Again really challenging, really difficult because you can hardly
see what you’re doing, but it gave me a whole new outlet. This is something I just shot in Iceland using the same technique. And this was an interesting thing, because usually when
you’re shooting a landscape you’re just seeing the landscape this way. You see it and you can
imagine the framing of it. But when you’re shooting this landscape, you’re not shooting this,
you’re shooting what’s over here planted over here, so you have to completely
rethink how you’re seeing this, because you’re not
seeing it for what it is, you’re seeing it for
what this is over and it. So it’s a really interesting challenge. And then if you want to
make it more challenging you put somebody into that landscape, so you put somebody over here and then you have to meld
them into this landscape, this is Erica again. So this became a new challenge, so the interesting thing is the journey that
you are on photography, just enjoy the journey, because it’s an endless journey. If you’re really relentless
and really consistent you will find new doors
will open up to you the more you work and the
more you try different things so no matter how many
years you’ve been doing it, I would always say try something new, try something different
because maybe it’s a dead end, or maybe it’s a dead end and there is a door that opens up underneath, and then you fall down into it. Again, this is another shot from Iceland we did in September. And all that prism work led to this assignment for The Atlantic magazine, I had to do an assignment
doing portraits of trans youth. And for me a lot is being
trans involves identity and being stuck between two identities. So when I told them I do this project and I shoot two different people they were totally fine with it. So I was able to do basically something that I thought was a
really wild art project and was able to get it into
a pretty mainstream magazine. And to do a nude that I
would never have thought it was in a magazine and was able to get into this magazine. And I wanted to be as
respectful as I could for people who are very
delicate about being shocked, because their identity
becomes very important, so it becomes very important
for you as a photographer to know when you’re shooting somebody that you have to be really aware of how you are presenting them, especially for somebody who is very sensitive about how they look and how they are perceived. The difficulty with this assignment was not on the photo
end, which was fantastic. The difficulty was that the article was very much disliked
by the trans community, so I actually became
associated with the article, and it became a very
interesting difficult process of trying to separate
myself from the article. Because as a photographer
you might unnecessarily get drawn in to being held
responsible for the article or for the person you are photographing. Because in today’s day and age if you photograph
somebody like Donald Trump you will be held responsible for deciding to photograph that person, which I think in the past you wouldn’t be. So it’s another thing you have to be aware of when you are a photographer, it’s not only what you’re shooting but who you’re shooting and how
you’re representing them. The last work that I’ve been doing I’ve started studio space with Erica, and we have a lot of plants. So that’s the newest thing, we are using a lot of plants and trees and tropical elements with all the colors and other things that we’ve been doing to add another element to our work. So that’s just the latest thing. It’s been a strange thing to show people 10 years of my life. I hope you enjoyed it, I look
forward to your questions. I just want to let you guys
know that I was where you are, if you are at the beginning of
your journey in photography. I just want you to know that you don’t have to worry about whether
something is gonna be great, just do what you want to do and just really think
about what you’re doing and really feel it. And if you do all those things
amazing things will happen. Thank you. (audience applauds) – [Man] Hi, thank you that was terrific. I guess the question I have is that you do a lot of your work in, and I think you talk about it like a proud thing about doing it in camera, and I look at a lot of
your work and say well he could have done that in
Photoshop if you wanted to. And so I think there is
this debate that goes around about is doing a camera more artistic than doing it in Photoshop, actually I have my point of view on it, but I’m curious what you
think about that whole thing and how your work relates to it? – For me, I just like
doing things in camera, it’s a personal preference for me. But I think there are really just things that can be done in post. Do you know the artist Asghar Carlson? He’s an artist who basically would take photographs that look like
black and white snapshots and he would use Photoshop to completely change the photograph. In a sense it would be almost
really obvious Photoshop, but someone would have four eyes, but because it was a
black and white snapshot you’d be like, I guess this is real. And so he used our ideas of
what we expect from Photoshop, and what we expect from fake things. And he did super obvious things in a world where we didn’t
expect it to be fake. So I think there’s a lot of
room to do interesting things. It’s just for me I don’t
want ever to be like, this is art, this isn’t art. That’s kind of like a pointless
question I think in a sense, because then you just end up having artists fight over what’s real, and that’s not what it’s about. – [Woman] You mentioned in
one of the desert photos that the color would literally
come off of the camera. Are you putting gels
directly onto the lens? – I don’t recommend doing that. I did it on a filter in front of the lens. – [Woman] But most of the other times you’re doing it on the lighting itself? – A little bit from column
A, little bit from column B. Don’t worry, I’m also
afraid of making color work that’s way too garish, so quite often I have a lot of qualms about my own work too,
so it’s not just you. – [Man] When you were talking
about strapping fireworks on your friends and collaborators
were you also taking on insurance for yourself
and the people involved, or just roughing it? – That’s a great question. (audience laughs) – I’m curious, you mentioned time and incorporating the
element of time into it, and the smoke that you
have been working with is the perfect thing to use over time. Have you considered doing
things like cinemagraphs, or playing with the notion of
part of the image being still, part of it being in motion, letting that smoke envelope the scene by keeping the model still,
or doing the opposite, or slowing things down
are speeding things up, time lapses, hyper lapses? – I’ve actually I’ve done a little bit with cinemagraphs for a client and then I have had people
actually take my still images and animate the smoke aspect of it. So I’ve seen that in action. I’m not opposed to it, it’s just for me I don’t know, I can’t accept it. And I think for someone else
I would be like go for it, but for me it just doesn’t feel, almost for me it’s either
a photograph or a film, and I get weirded out when
something is in between. Even some of those fruits I thought about making gifs out of them, but then I was like I don’t want to take away from the photographs. I love the photographs
and I love photography because it’s catching that moment. And when you give away too much time, I feel like some of
that mystery goes away. Especially with the fruits, where like when you see it it looks funny, but it ends up looking
like the fruit is vomiting. Which is funny, but it ends
up cheapening these images, which are like I want these fruits to be these weird monsters. And if I give motion to it
it takes away from that. So I’ve seen it done and I think there’s ways of doing it well, I just haven’t found a
way to do it for myself. – [Man] Can you talk a little bit about getting your work out in the world, like prospective clients and what are some of your strategies? – So it’s a really
interesting world out there. 10 years ago when I started
it was so simple what people, especially a lot of photo
agencies work this way, okay, we’ll printed
book of all your stuff, we’ll send out a ton of these
books to different agencies and magazines and then
we’ll get some work. And that’s not really the
way it works any more, because a lot of creative people find work in so many different ways. So it tends to be if you
contact someone directly it can be a negative, because they have a stack of books, or they have a stack of flyers. So then you are lost amongst that shuffle. It doesn’t mean your work is not any good, but it may not really be the best avenue. So what actually has worked out for me is that I have developed relationships or I know people are different websites. This website called Boom, or this website called Itsnicethat. There’s tons of these sites that basically show cool projects that are being done all the time. So if you submit to them, there’s a chance that your
work will get picked up, because they constantly need new content. I highly recommend waiting until you are absolutely
ready to show something. Because if you’re showing
something that’s not that great, they may be like, this
person sent his work, it’s not that great, and then they are not
going to be as likely to send work to you. The guy I know, Jeff at Boom, I’ve only sent him work when I’m really ready to send it to him, and he almost always posts it, because it fits with
what their aesthetic is. So what I would recommend is whoever you look up to, find out where they have been published. And then submit to those people. And submit to smaller people, because the world is so huge now, there are so many
different small magazines, that getting published in a small magazine can lead to something much bigger. But it’s just a frustrating thing, because you basically
feel like you’re throwing a little pebble into the Grand Canyon, like you have no idea
is anyone seeing this, is anyone reading this,
does anyone even care. So you just have to be
patient with yourself and just not expect things right away because it can be very stressful on yourself to be like well, it’s been a week I haven’t heard anything, am I not a good artist, and
my not doing cool things? And you just have to be patient and just keep doing good work and know that things
will work out in the end, but it just takes time. And I do recommend developing as many positive relationships
out in the world as possible. Meeting people who are
curators, and art directors, all the people through all types of work. Not because you’re trying
to get work all the time, because then you’re gross and thirsty, but because you’re just genuinely looking for interesting people that
you want to collaborate with where it makes sense
for you to collaborate, not because you just want to be famous or you want to make money, which are the wrong reasons to do things. – [Woman] When you submit your work do you submit as well a statement or something
written about that work, or you just submit the photos? – It depends on where
you’re submitting it to. If you see that other people
where you’re submitting they’ve had statements from people, you should tailor your submission to them. Say if this website just
writes a short paragraph, you may just want to
write a short paragraph. So go based on what they are doing, so just make it as familiar
to them as possible. Because I think also just want to submit their work to as
many people as possible, and I would say be more selective and fit in a little bit more with what people have done already
on whatever the platform is. – [Man] Will thank you so
much for a stellar lecture. (audience applauds)

3 Replies to “Maciek Jasik – Fine-Art & Commercial Photographer”

  1. Great work! I am re-inspired to make my own art photos watching this. It's easy to get caught up with trying to make money especially when you got bills piling up. You may have to take jobs that you don't like or get a job to satisfy your bills while you make art that you love and means something to you in your free time.

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