Aside from the shots by Terry Richardson in our Knuckle Sandwich issue, if you've seen pictures of Tyler The Creator and his Odd Future cronies, chances are they were taken by a guy called Julian Berman. Julian is a super-young first year college student from LA and the owner of this blog. We caught up with him to ask, among other things, how he came to be OFWGKTA's pretty-much-full-time historian.
VICE: So Julian, you’re LA born & bred, right?
Julian Berman: DUH! Born and raised in West Hollywood, this is my domain. I'll never leave it.
Tell me about ‘Julian Berman's LA’.
Ah Julian's LA.. Basically, my crew and I will shoot or hang out along Fairfax practically all day. We have a good family going within that neck of the woods. Otherwise, I am usually at school, (I am a freshman in college) in Santa Monica ready to blow my brains out.... and of course, at Taco Bell, whenever there is free time in-between.
The Fairfax strip, I've noticed Supreme - the physical store and the clothing, in a lot of your shots, it seems like there is a certain camaraderie there...
Yeah, the entire Fairfax scene is starting to make a comeback. The dudes over at Supreme, Hall of Fame, and Diamond Supply are all holding it down. The block is definitely hot.
And with all the attention that is starting to stir and surge around Odd Future & the ‘wolf pack’ does it seem even 'hotter'? i.e are you getting any spectators/voyeurs coming down that way or is it still the same cast & crew?
We've had a pretty solid crew for a while now, but there are definitely newcomers and fans starting to circulate. For us, it is just the stomping grounds, literally just loitering in the streets causing a ruckus from noon until the shops close.
Right & that definitely translates in your photographs, there is an immediate intimacy. When did you first pick up the camera & start 'documenting' your friends?
I started shooting around three years ago, after lurking Flickr and skate photography websites forever. I just bit the bullet and said, ‘I want to give this a try.’ I took photography classes in High School and was instantly hooked. I started by just bringing the camera along when we went skateboarding or on little adventures, but as time passed, I grew more and more serious about it.
And how did you start shooting the 'Odd' crew to begin with? Did you cross paths during school?
I had come in contact with Tyler via the Hypebeast forums ages ago, and went to school with Travis (Taco). We had shot a bit for fun, but nothing ever serious. After a few hangout sessions, I realized that these dudes were something else, real character. I became intrigued with documenting just about everything that went down on the block.
I feel like part of the attraction to your photographs and to their (OFWGKTA) music is that you bring us into an entire world. You all seem very sure of what you like & what you dislike, and that is a rare thing....does that make any sense?!
Of course it does. I will shoot, develop, and then scan. If there are shots I do not like, or they did not turn out how I was hoping they would, they will never surface. Same goes for the Odd Future dudes, they will not release a single track that they do not think is up to their standards. It will always be quality over quantity. I'd rather have a single absolutely perfect shot out of a twelve shot roll rather then throw up some shots almost to act as a filler.
I imagine you are beginning to get serious offers/commissions, do you want to try & apply your ethos thus far to that work too? Or do you think that only works when it's you & friends and no other parties are involved?
I still love to shoot with my friends, but I've been trying to pick up some paid gigs recently. I would like to venture into new clientele. It is a bit awkward, as shooting with all of my friends is very casual and realistic, while some photo shoots, especially with a client, can, and will get very stiff. In all reality though, I will ALWAYS prefer shooting with friends/people that I know.
Can you give me an account of sorts, of a recent shoot? I don't imagine orchestrating that kind of a group shot is a straight forward task!
Trying to get all of these dudes to coordinate together and fit within the frame can be an absolute death-wish at times. With Tyler running around, either making fun of Mike G, or noting how Clancy's old ass should probably be at home making himself some soup, Hodgy skating whenever he gets the chance can be a tiny bit annoying when I’m getting my light and settings correct. Obviously it requires time and patience to get these guys to settle down and get a few solid shots, but it works out in the end. Most of my shots are very natural and casual, so an organized shoot like the one we just did for Billboard on Rosewood the other night, can be difficult. In the end though, everybody was very satisfied with the selection of shots. It was definitely a good time though, especially after having the cops called on us for being obnoxiously loud, or Tyler nearly puking his brains out after we let off a bunch of smoke bombs. Regardless, it was an incredibly fun shoot.
But hey Courtney, I actually have some chores and homework that I have to finish before my deadline at midnight, so i'm going to have to dip in like two seconds.
We are totally done!!