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Work Sux : An interview with Olivia Jaffe

Oliva Jaffe is a Los Angeles based photographer who in the digital age still shoots primarily on film. She is regularly touring with metal shredders The Shrine documenting the band and life on the road. We recently got a chance to catch up with her and ask how she got into photography and what it’s like to be a girl on the road with a bunch of smelly dudes.

How did you first get into photography?

It happened probably around the same time music really started to mean something to me. It was probably Barry Feinstein’s photos of Bob Dylan in the mid ‘60s and Annie Leibovitz’s photos of the Rolling Stones in ‘75 that first stuck it to me. Black and white images of people I thought of as gods passed out in green rooms or feeding pigeons in a town square – just doing strange, normal, human things – were and still are so special. Rare glimpses into parts of life you wouldn’t normally have access to, that’s the kind of photography I still think is the coolest.

In a digital age, what makes you continue to shoot film?

I’m a sucker for physical processes, keeping things rooted in the physical world. When you process a roll of black and white film, particles of metallic silver make up the negative. That is magic to me. That’s as much part of the beauty of the medium as the nature of capturing a fleeting fragment of a second in time is. Every single photograph I’ve ever fallen in love with was shot on film. There’s a tangible sweetness there that digital just can’t touch.

What’s the best thing the internet has done for you?…and the worst?

For one thing, it’s made it very easy to connect and work with amazing, badass, people I probably never would’ve met otherwise. It’s also provided a weird sense of competition through that whole internet popularity thing. I don’t know. Shit’s better IRL.

Who inspires you?

My dad. The Sex Pistols. Lauren Dukoff, who mentored me for a while. People who’ve squeezed success out of what makes life worth living to them.

If you could photograph one person dead or alive, who would it be?

Fred Sonic Smith (or Dolly Parton).

What advice would you give to a photographer just starting out?

DON’T GIVE UP. PAY NO MIND TO THE BULLSHIT, but learn how to take constructive criticism. Stay true to your own weirdness, don’t be afraid to get in touch with people who can help you, and eventually you’ll start climbing the right tree. Eat your vitamins.

How did you start touring with the Shrine?

To be honest, it was a bit of a do or die situation. That said though, I’d almost always rather be on the road meeting weird people and being at shows than sitting at home.

What does your touring beauty routine consist of?

Ratty old t-shirts, a leather jacket, Dentyne Fire, and yesterday’s makeup.

What’s the deal with the Playboy obsession?

I love Hugh Hefner. He was a huge civil rights activist during the 50’s and 60’s – Playboy’s chief interviewer in the 60’s was this guy named Alex Haley who led some of the most controversial discussions in print at that time (he interviewed the leader of the American Nazi Party, MLK, and Malcom X for Playboy) – Hef was a radical free-thinker who was totally unafraid to push boundaries other people were scared shitless by. And he obviously paved the way for the tasty smut we all know and love today. What’s not to like?

You were at SXSW this past week, who were you most stoked to see?

The Spits are always killer. I’ve seen the Shrine every day of my life for the past 4 years and I’m not sick of them yet. Hadn’t seen Charles Bradley until last week, so he was definitely a highlight for me. That guy, at almost 70 years old, out-performed pretty much every other band I saw there. It was also 700 degrees during his set, and he still kicked ass AND did an outfit change. Also, watching Dirty Fences play is the best thing you could do for your mental health. They’re just so fucking good.

You made a post on Instagram that you’re lookin’ for ladies who skate for an upcoming project you’re working on. Can you tell us more about that?

Well, I was asked to shoot a typical pool skating story (dude tearing it up while babe lounges nearby), but that’s something everyone’s seen countless times. So I wanted to do a little role reversal. Unfortunately my search for lady rippers yielded pretty bleak results, and the deadline for that specific shoot came and went. But I won’t give up hope. If anyone knows any babes who shred pools, tell them to get at me!!! I shoot for Thrasher!!

What do you do when you’re not busy touring with the guys?

I eat a lot of sushi and watch a lot of Sergio Leone movies.

Where can we see more of your work?

April 3rd at the Paper Agency in Downtown LA. I’ll be showing photos I shot on tour through Europe at the end of last year, and my best friends (The Shrine & Dirty Fences) will be playing. I’d love to see you there!!!

Click here for more details.

All images courtesy of Olivia Jaffe — and make sure to follow her on the ‘gram.

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