Skateboarding as an art more than as a sport and his philosophy to the order of the skate. Much more to create and investigate being helped for his camera. Jaka Babnik is eslovenian, 32 years old, degree in social studies in sociology and, above all, a non stop photographer.
Well known in Balcans, Germany, even in Malasya, and soon, it will give a lot to talk in the south of Europe. We have tried to know him closer and discovering the soul of his pictures.
Rocket Magazine: Unexpected scenarios where skating, impossible linear and could sense even a search of the absolute perfection of the image. Is that Jaka Babnik’s style? How would you define your work?
Jaka Babnik: This is a hard one. It would be a lot easier that somebody looking from the outside would give that kind of evaluation. Fellow photographers often say, that I often complicate too much and that I should make life easier for myself. I don’t believe in shortcuts and I do things the best way I know how. I am a trial and error photographer, completely self-thought.
You have been working on the world of photography since the nineties, but, when was the moment when you decided that this would be your profession, or rather, your lifestyle?
I think the first photograph I took, and I am not talking about some point and shoot birthday photo, was in 1996. My uncle let me borrow his Canon AE-1 and my father took me and my friend to the world cup of skateboarding in Muenster, Germany.
But it is hard to pinpoint exactly when that happened. Probably the first time it felt that I was on the right way, was when I got my first cover in a local action sports magazine in 1998 and than that same year when I had a few photos published in British Sidewalk Surfer. Photographs and skateboarding, I thought that this is what I will be doing for many years to come. Then in 2006 with a group of friends we started our own magazine called «Kontejner». A «randomly incoherent magazine for randomly coherent people», as we liked to call it, that focused on the urban scene in the Balkan region. With all the editorial work new things started to come in the frame and through time I felt in love with photography because of photography and not because of skateboarding or some other content that would fill my frame. So if I say that it happened some 2 years ago I would not be far off.
From the beginning, you have been focused in the skateboarding, but now I can see that you are more open to other subjects. Temathic exhausted ,or simply evolution?
A bit of both I guess.
What is more important, spontaneity or technical?
In a long run I would have to say that it should be a mix of both. That is my perception, but I totally understand people that would claim the opposite, or even go to the extremes of spontaneity or technical aspect of it. Different cameras have different pros and cons, different films give different results and the same goes for different lenses. I can compere it to skateboarding. Skateboard is a tool. A mean of transport in a way, but once you have mastered it in a way that you go above it’s basic use, once the board becomes the part of you, only than there is a potential for your appropriation of urban landscape. And the same goes for the camera. When it becomes the extension of your body or better your «inner eye», than spontaneity can be pushed to the next level.
Nowadays, everything is constantly changing, a picture can be changed in a computer and being completly different than the original. How much are the technologies influence in your work?
In general the photography is a mechanical practice, so technology is ever present. I still have trouble adapting to digital and for my personal projects I still use only film cameras. And for that I don’t really have a lot of rational arguments. The amount of information you get from a high-end DSLR is overwhelming, but even that can be one of the reason, why I still turn to film. With digital, everything is there, where as with film, there is that room for viewers interpretation. With film I also like that anxiety till the very end when you see what you really got. When with digital you can instantly see what you have, but in my eyes that can in the process of photo shoot take the necessary edge away. Even I catch myself going: «OK, we got it!», instead of trying to get closer to the matter. Than there are topic of making a good scan and than print. About the papers, analogue and digital darkroom, etc. Photography can sometimes make you fell like you are in a never ending chase.
Lots of colaborations, cine, photography…but above, claim of the street art. Do you think is still an underappreciate art?
If you look at guys like Banksy or The Associated Press lawsuit against Shepard Fairey and his companies Obey Giant Art, Inc., Obey Giant LLC, and Studio Number One, Inc., because he used an AP portrait photograph of Obama in making the Hope poster it is hard to see it as under appreciated. One could claim that it is even overrated.
I’ve heard that probably we’ll see you soon in Spain. What’s your opinion about the street art in Spain?
You guys have for sure a lot of talented artists and a big thriving scene. Hats down! As far as my appearance, we are working on it and I really hope that something will go down in the near future. I have a ground support of Adonay Bermúdez and I think there will be a Spanish venue for the project we did in Malaysia last year. Together with on of Malaysia’s most renowned photographers Ismail Hashim we photographed ancient pagan rituals and there is a group exhibition in a making with over 30 venues around the world and I think PUSAKA, the institution that is working on preserving this rituals, was in talks with some galleries in Spain, but for now, nothing is 100 per cent sure.
Who are your referents? Any heroe?
If you have asked me this question 6 months ago, I would probably give you a few names, but the way I see things today, it would not be appropriate to name just a few, since there are so many things that have influence on me. And I am not just talking about photographers. I take in the impulses around me and what than comes out is just my reaction to it all.
Have you got any picture of yours which you could say »This is my favorite
Favourite/perfect photo. This is an illusive thing. I am still after them and will hopefully not get them till the end. This is one of the photos from the «We are dogs!» series. It is not so much because of the photo itself, but the whole experience I had with the series while I was making it and putting it on display.
F: Jaka Babnik
T: Guacimara Martín
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