MEET TODD MAZER
I have a lot of respect for photographers who choose to document art. The way I see it, they extend the artist’s reach because by documenting an artist’s work more people become aware of their vision… their audience multiplies.
Here is a photographer who has documented countless street artists and has definitely helped them in spreading the ideas behind their art. One can look at the photographs he takes as his interpretations of how he sees the relationship between the artist, the art and its environment. In effect, his photos become a sort of conductor of concepts from the artist’s mind to the mind of his extended audience that transcend street art and graffiti’s impermanent nature. A true advocate of the art — THIS IS TODD MAZER.
What got you into documenting street art/graffiti?
Well, it’s a combination of a lot of indirect stories but one would be my friend Percee P introducing me to Ernesto Yerena. I think Ernesto’s foresight, view on community, and desire to take action led me to take photos before I was thinking about photography.
Have you dabbled in street art as well?
It’s funny you said Dabble, on Occasion B+ has been known to call me Bob Dablan… which I find ironic because him and his partner Coleman at Mochilla might have more hustles than anybody I know, but whether it’s Photography, Film, DJing, Promoting or Making Records those fellas always dive in deep so I guess I’d classify them more as having a diversified flow. As far as Street Art and me, sometimes I’ll give a hand and sometimes the hand leads me but I really don’t have too much to talk about.
Have you always been interested in art?
When I was growing up I use to draw all the time on everything, every post-it stack in sight became a flipbook. Early on in high school I had an art class where I had to paint fruit constantly and couldn’t pick my own subjects which led to my interest in drawing quickly declining at which point I started to fill the corners of my notebooks with lyrics and rhymes instead of sketches but now, I really dig what Patrick Martinez is doing with still life’s and the perspective he brings to it by changing it’s meaning. I guess time has taught me sometimes you have to master the art so you can show purpose when you tear it apart.
What fascinates you mostly about street art? Why do you think that it’s something that needs documentation?
Well something that has been on my mind lately is the idea of entry points, for example; if you subscribe to electronic communication in the “now” you forgo the idea of presenting an idea with letters that personally come from you… you also connect and update yourself in a way that requires the acceptance of a contract that takes too much time and is too convoluted for you to even consider reading… let alone, understand. One could argue by being a “writer” and exercising your “writes” you are declining a hereditary deficit and choosing a path that doesn’t require a line to signify an entrance. I feel what I witness and champion is an abstraction from a society that is in danger of being defined and eventually consumed by encoded language.
How do you go about shooting them? I mean, how do you choose the pieces that you want to shoot (I imagine there are tons out there)? How do you choose the artist that you want to shoot?
It’s just been a natural progression; opportunities continue to present themselves just enough that I never forget this is a key part of my creative process.
In your opinion, what aspect of street art is necessary to capture? (Difficulty of the spot where the piece was done, technique of the artist, the size of the piece, etc.)
I mean it’s always different because my surroundings inform my instincts but with the switched on ones I think I’m trying to find something in their work that ends up presenting itself outside of it. So essentially all I’m doing is connecting the gap between cause and effect.
Do you have a favorite street artist?
Augustine Kofie is definitely a favorite. He is like a classic concept album, caked with samples to jump-off and with the hisses and pops in all the right spots. Of course right when you think you’re starting to understand the record you realize that’s just one in his expanding catalog.
Do you have a favorite street art piece?
The Justice piece by El Mac, Retna and Kofie is definitely one that comes to mind. That’s three of the four elements right there: Kofie is Earth, Mac is Wind and Retna is Fire. It’s too bad that one didn’t ride longer but so the story goes. Any of Mac’s pieces in general always grab my attention; his work outside or on canvas is truly inspiring. He’s really found a way to make life pulsate through his subjects. He’s smooth in the same way his art is, if you don’t pay attention you’ll miss it but haiku’s stroll out of his mouth on the regular.
You have shot/filmed a lot of street artists in the past. Who was the most fun for you to shoot/film? Why?
That’s hard to say there have been a lot of laughs. I’m not going to name names but I do recall a friend painting a wall and having to spell check his ass before it dried. I really had a good time in New York with Lee Quinones. He was painting outside of a Subway, which was very fitting. He has such an instigative spark to him and way with people, that the whole time was very natural, reflexive and surreal at the same time. I remember having to roll out on a frigid winter day to get back to sunny LA and thinking it’s too bad I had to head back so soon. Recently, I got to kick it with Jaybo Monk. Jaybo is such a colorful human being and an artist in everything he does that you can be sharing a conversation and feel like you’re painting with him.
I’m sure you have tagged along with street artists during illegal bombing sessions. How do you adapt to that kind of situation? I’m sure its intense because there’s always this chance of getting caught and being harassed by the cops. Or does a situation like that not affect you at all?
I guess for me it’s all about capturing honest and real moments and I find those types of situations have a propensity for offering just that. Early on I used to have a pretty involved dialog running through my head in those situations but at some point the calm of the artist starts to rub off on you. I can distinctly remember trying to alert Shepard about a cop car parked across the street while he was doing his thing, he just looked back at me with a smirk and said “Now Todd, just because there is a cop car doesn’t mean there is a cop in it”. I guess you just have to remind yourself when you ride a bull you don’t do it to get bucked off you do it to try to get 8 seconds.
In the future, who would you like to shoot in action while doing a piece?
Chaz Bojorquez, Marco Pho Grassi, Mare 139, Revok, David Ellis, Jurne and Ewok AWR would all be a trip. I’d also like to continue to shoot some more of the anonymous ones. I hope I’ve reached a point that the “crisp” understands I want to protect their identity as much as they do and that I would be damned before I’m the one who gets their gate crashed.
What else would you like to shoot besides art related stuff?
Music is always a driving force for me; As far as video goes I’ve shot hundreds of concerts and a handful of music documentaries. I’ve always had a soft spot for those kinds of projects but also for anytime that I find a genuine underdog or an independent mind standing up for something that positively affects and sparks others.
Jerry A. Henry is an extremely creative and complete D.P. that I’m hoping I get to do a project like that with soon. I have also discussed a project involving hammers with Mark Dudzinski but I really shouldn’t go into any more detail at this juncture or maybe ever.
Any advice for young upcoming photographers?
Sure, only time makes you timeless, so… if you get to caught up in the moment you will end up weighing down your future self. The access I have gotten has always given me a lot of momentum, but with motion comes responsibility… moving towards fame alone is factious, the camera is a machine but we are not. I think I’m in the position I’m in for what I let go as much as for what I capture… this art form is about finding a balance that is unique to yourself.
Do have any upcoming projects that you’d like to share with our viewers?
It’s all wide open. I got plenty of notebooks collecting dust and documentary projects that need to be flipped on the B-side but right now my focus is on making a couple music videos, shooting in television and getting a few episodic projects off the ground with my producing partner Ira Stone. I’m also hoping I get a chance to brainstorm with Spike Jonze, get Bob Dylan a mixtape I made him and share a meal with Majora Carter. If that can all work out, maybe after that I’ll just have a water.
What keeps you inspired? What keeps you pushing forward?
Those moments of weightlessness when everything clicks and it feels like you and time have a mutual agreement. But I love the struggle too, you have to, you have to find the beauty in it because it’s always on your shoulders or just around the corner or getting at someone close to you. So I’ve learned to take that in stride and to always remember being good to those around you is the best way to be good to yourself.
What do you think of DOZE?
Uh, It’s alright… I’m kidding. I feel many of us find ourselves tied up in a time where there is such an abundance of information that it can become easy to just throw it all in a sack for later in an attempt to keep up. I think DOZE is about taking a deep breath, realizing what is around you and collectively building from there.
Follow Crist Espiritu on Twitter @crist_espiritu