INTERVIEW: JAY BEX (PHOTOGRAPHER + SKATEBOARDER)

FFO: POLITICALLY MOTIVATED FINE ART/DOCUMENTARY STYLE IMAGERY WITH A PARTICULAR EMPHASIS ON SKATE PHOTOGRAPHY (IN A WAY YOU’VE NEVER SEEN IT DONE BEFORE!)

 

Who are you?

I am Jay Bex

Where are you currently based?

Yorkshire – Mainly Sheffield & Leeds

 

Identity in the city - Hillsborough disaster 12
Image taken from the series ‘Identity in the city – Hillsborough disaster’.

 

What is your current photographic work about?

It varies – I am quite involved with politically/socially driven work, but if I was generalising myself in the traditional categorisations: documentary and fine art. I attempt as best as I can to be avant-garde in my approaches and execution. As it stands, I am working a lot in personally driven projects for final year modules which are heavily sports photography and documentary inspired and categorised. Both my written research module, and my final project are in the context of skateboarding photography.

Crust Tour - 30
Image taken from the series ‘Crust Tour’.

What specific themes are you currently exploring within sports photography and documentary?

I have been exposed to skateboarding media alongside documentary photography for quite some time, experimenting with notions of truth, objectivity, and evidence within the photographic disciplines. Interestingly, skateboarding photography is a form of image production highly insistent, and dependent, on corporate intentions. Meaning, the primary functionalities are to accommodate to corporations to rake capital. This incentive, devalues imagery to me as a photographer, and a skateboarder. The images are merely interpretations to real events of tricks that are considered ground-breaking. As long as moving image of the events is provided, it is customarily viewed that skateboarding photography is valued on an illustrative basis, rather than an evidential source credible to events. So, I personally tackled this using my connections to skateboarding culture, and poured it into my research for my thesis statement, and supporting practical. Using my credibility as a street skateboarder, who tends to skate rails.

 

What is your intended purpose for the images from this project? How do you plan to be ‘avant-garde’ in your execution?

Essentially it is a taboo subject, very few photographers or skateboarders have approached, or challenged this – despite the spanning of 40+ years of skateboarding media. So, using my attributes and accolades as a photographer and a skateboarder. I decided to personally tackle this by posing skate photographs online to mislead a target audience into believing I had performed NBD (Never Been Done) tricks at world famous street skateboarding spots located in Sheffield. Grasping attention, sparking visual and textual responses from peers, as well as figures in the industry reaching out to express their support/disgust. All of which to rebel, and contest against the misuses of skateboarding still imagery. I do not feel comfortable having a publisher proclaiming that an image was a land or a make, when it clearly was not. Yet, they can be pardoned due to the skateboarder/publisher being accredited. As well as the notion of ‘well everyone does it’ attitude I grasped from my primary research supplement throughout the project.

 

a4 8
‘FS SMITH’
a4 3
‘FS FEEBLE’
a4 6
‘FS 50-50 FS 180’

 

How do you plan to be ‘avant-garde’ in your approach within skateboarding photography?

In terms of technicalities I cannot really suggest that I approached this in an avant-garde manner. Instead, I would express that the meaning of the imagery was to portray the universal values, and techniques used in skateboarding photography. Almost mocking its seemingly outdated, unrefined approach to creativity, and usages as tangible pieces of evidence. Accompanied with my writings, the work is intended to broaden the ideals of skateboarding medias consumers. Which, one could argue is an avant-garde approach. However, I am not that cocky, nor self-involved.

 

What got you interested in photography and taking images?

This may sound extremely cliché, but honestly skateboarding magazines. I’m a skateboarder, I used to find it fascinatingly exciting taking images of my friends skateboarding. I got into image production mainly through photography, but once I started studying photographic history and theory in general; I began to question the notion of photography and the entailment/entitlement of a photographer. Exploring and experimenting with what I could, when I could. But I truly fell in love with photography due to obsessive dark room practices during my A levels (shout out Hillsborough coll).

 

Scopophobia - 645 finding
‘Scopophobia – 645 finding’

 

Who are you inspired by?

My inspirations are: Skin Phillips, J Grant Brittain, Leo Sharp, Reece Leung, Sam Ashley, Alexander Rodchenko, Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, Paul Graham, Peter Mitchell, Broomberg & Chanarin, Marcel Duchamp, Richard Prince, Mark Neville, Lewis Baltz, Errol Morris, Walter Benjamin, Roland Barthes, Erik Kessels, Matthieu Venot, Stefan Go, Alec Soth, and my peers at LAU inspire me astronomically too (thanks guys xo).

 

 

Crust Tour - 38
Image taken from the series ‘Crust Tour’.

 

What are your future aspirations?

I want to venture into the academic mediums of photographic practice and theory. I am studying a masters next year, and then working in industry until I have enough experience to lecture/teach. To do this, I intend on returning to education – at PhD level, or PGCE/PGDE to lecture at HE or FE level.

 

What do you plan to study a master’s degree in? What’s influenced you to do this?

MSc Biological Photography and Imaging at The University of Nottingham. I have always been passionate about academia, being the youngest of five children who have all been to university I want to one up them and obtain a master’s degree (just kidding). I want to expand research and technical knowledge applicable to industry and academia in both the science, and artistic disciplines of photographic practice and research. Hence the Crust Tour - 30BA and MSc combination. I also wish to go into lecturing later on in life – which a masters, and experience are essential for.

 

What motivates you to want to go into teaching, particularly at a HE or FE level?

Experimentation, and constant waves of creativity and expressionism essentially. I also thrive on helping other (as cheesy as it sounds), I like to to inform, instruct, and contest in debates on theory – especially philosophically, so it just kind of all fits in nicely under one professional title.

Chaffinch
‘Chaffinch’

 

What advice would you recommend to young photographers today?

Specialise, explore, attempt, dabble etc. in many and all (if available). Gain vast quantities of knowledge, read into fields and explore the techniques and attributes of all – find your passion(s). Develop strong imagery – in what ever specialism(s); you never know what opportunities may arise. Also, DO NOT ONLY SHOOT FILM. It is amazing, yes, but seriously; you may miss opportunities because of this. Just something to consider. If you are a stubborn purist, that is cool too.

Specialise if necessary, but do not be overly snobby if possible. Art is subjective, but business in the creative sector is less so, and some could argue it is more stable – sometimes you have to do commercial work to survive and finance personal work.

Also, develop and hone your technical skills. They are essential. Ask questions, challenge the work you see. Be cynical (when/if necessary), be adaptable, and do not be dismissive of work that does not follow your preferences – be open.

 

Crust Tour - 33
Image taken from the series ‘Crust Tour’.

 

YOU CAN KEEP UP JAY BEX’S WORK VIA HIS PROFESSIONAL OR PERSONAL INSTAGRAM!

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