Jeremy Perez-Cruz is currently the Director of Brand at Buzzfeed Media where he works with clients to create unique products and experiences for their audiences. Jeremy is also a passionate photographer and has developed a global community, #StreetWeekly, through social media focused on learning and sharing the art of street photography.
This is article is a continuation from a previous conversation with Jeremy where we focused on his design experience and his current role as the Director of Brand at Buzzfeed.
I really want to encourage people to slow down and look...
A big thank you to Jeremy for sitting with me for as long as he did and kindly sharing his experience.
As always feel free to email me if you have any suggestions or comments about the episode!
Jeremy: I get like three questions it's like what camera do you use like how do you edit your photos and then like how do you take pictures of people that without them getting mad at you. It's like the last part of that question I don't I'm not worried about them getting mad at me you know I'm worried about me being mad that I didn't take the photo. Most of the time people are pretty chill like you got to learn to read a scene and I don't I try not to put myself in danger. For the most part like the worst that's going to happen if someone's going to yell at you yeah and certainly like it's exploitative as a street photographer, I'm like taking photos of people without their permission. But for the most part I'd like to think I'm doing like no harm I'm not hopefully I'm not like getting someone deported or...
Jon: You’re not looking to capture like any embarrassing moments.
Jeremy: No, I just want to you know I just want to like frame a beautiful moment because they're all around us and everyone's looking at their phones these days and there's something special about like paying attention and just seeing like all this amazing stuff happening.
Jon: So, the other question I had that popped up was is there a message or you know kind of theme that you're looking to touch on when you go and take photos? Is there anything that like you're keeping mindful of?
Jeremy: Yes, I mean I think for me there's like two aspects and this is very specific to my photographs. There are two aspects one there every day seems like I think it's always fun when you stumble across like so I'm crazy parade or like you know a fashion shoot or a celebrity, but like that's not really what my photography is about. I really want to encourage people like slow down and look because again we're all looking down at our phones, we're all like on the subway with our headphones in and like no one's paying attention and sometimes you know there's people in need; but a lot of times are just like really beautiful moment. So, for me like I'm always looking for some everyday blue-collar life moment that I can then frame in a way that's like cinematic and beautiful and somehow like impossible; that's sort of like the other aspect of my photography. I want to take these things that are like essentially like boring everyday scenes and re-frame them in a way that makes them feel special because they are right like life is special. So that's sort of my approach if that's a good answer.
Jon: I think that makes sense I think I really like the thought about stopping and looking. When I travel with a camera I take that small one because I don't want to carry around a big one, I don't be looking at my phone and just walking around and looking at everything so curiously it's in a way very therapeutic and it just kind of breaks the you know the normal kind of habits of picking up your phone like doing all that all that extra stuff so I think that makes the complete sense.
Jeremy: The question is, oh my god how do you see these moments, I literally just look. Certainly those closest to me whether it be you know Ashley or my mom or whatever who aren't photographers you know they always say like oh like look at this thing that I saw today or like oh I saw that you would love this or this person and that's really encouraging to me. I get people who message me okay what do you think of this photo like I didn't take these types of photos until I saw your account and that's like the goal. I want to make something beautiful so of course I want it to feel like special or hyper real or however you want to describe it; but at the end like if I have a artists statement it's like yeah like if people see it and it forces them to just like look more I think that's like the battle won.
Jon: Sure. I want to switch over to some of the design questions because I got a ton of questions for you about your editing and you know how do you get these blacks and all that stuff. I would say go on YouTube go on Reddit. There's like there's a great sub-Reddit that's like post processing questions. I don't know I had to go through, I had all those same questions and that's where I learned and it's very much digging into it and learning from other photographers well this you know mess up your time with that.
Jeremy: Just to put a note there that with anything like I think this goes all the way back to the very start of our conversation just experiment. I took a job at a printing press they're like do you know how to use like at the time it was Quark Express and InDesign do you know how to use InDesign I'm like yeah totally. I had no idea and I bought a book. I figured it out I went to start the job and I've heard how to do it. It’s like oh like you know this gallery is looking for someone to manage they're like gee clay prints limited editions you know how to do that. You know Photoshop, right? Sure, I do. I had to figure it out. Then going to do it you know to build a website, I'm like I'll figure it out. It's the same thing with photography like I don't know how I'll watch documentaries if I'm curious how people move, I don't care as much about like oh how did you edit this thing or how did you like I just like futz around. People are like oh do you sell your like filters? It's just me like until it looks like I think it should look in my head.
Jon: That's just sort of what it ends up being like so in a way it because to kind of pull one of the pieces out of that it's like every photo is unique it's not like you're going through almost the same kind of. I'm sure you have a certain look and feel that is somewhat consistent, but it kind of sounds like every photo is there's a different intention so there's a different kind of approach to it that sometimes when it comes to like editing and stuff like that.
Jeremy: Yes and no I’ve kind of made a preset for myself just like save time because I’m taking thousands of photos a week and I would die if I have to hand out each one of them. Here's the thing that's a recipe I don't spend more than like two or three minutes of photo editing like if you have to then maybe it's not like a great photo.
Jon: That's a good point.
Jeremy: I mean the way that I got to that point though it was like just playing around like play with it like make it really extreme--
Jon: Harsh and contrast.
Jeremy: Yes, I mean just like I don't know like that's the joy right there's no right or wrong and if there's something you like try to emulate it. Maybe along the way you'll discover something you realize about your point of view and that only forces you to do something else. So, like I don't have like editing tips necessarily, but it's more like but get in it and like mess around with it until you see something that you like and then then move on to the next thing. I think that's really it like I think everyone should discover their own style. I see a lot of preset packs and a lot of Lutz packs and all this other stuff and I think the vsco stuff is really good particularly the Lightroom packs, but also like cool load of vsco filter and then like tweak it and see what you discover around it. I think there's a lot of joy in finding your own point of view and a lot of that first comes through I'm trying to like copy is not the right word but be influenced by another thing; but then like get past that and find your own thing. So that's like not to like belabor that editing thing I think that's I really want people to just like discover their own stuff.
Jon: I had them so a few design questions I think one of them I thought was really interesting for more of the younger designers. I’m sure you got a ton of applications every day and I've heard and some of my past guests that it was very much earlier on you get a portfolio across your desk and it had to be something like really fancy and almost disrupting your day. What are you finding in terms of people who apply or other designers that grab your eye or kind of get you to actually stop and look at their work? Is there anything that they're doing in particular?
Jeremy: Yes, it's hard to say. I think now more than ever there's great designers. I felt like when and maybe this is me not being modest I felt like when I graduated I was like a really good-- I wasn't at the time I was like man I'm like way better than everyone else in my class and sort of true like objectively I'm like I put in more effort like I worked harder, I learned different process, but I think more so now like I didn't have a computer until I was like 17 or 18. I did everything by hand and like now people like have iPhones and tablets when they're like toddlers. So, I think inherently like the tools are more accessible and easier and therefore there's like a greater number of like talented designers out there. There's always going to be the people who like work harder have more talent or whatever; but sometimes like these days I'm usually looking for something specific. I don't have a huge full-time staff so I use a lot of like freelance contract work so I might look at this project I need like a typographer or a letterer or I need like an illustrator or something. So, like I'm going with a very specific like intent to find a thing, but in that there's always something that like feels like I haven't seen it before is always like special and also when I'm looking for like a full-time like designer I know there's a lot of people who don't like-- I'm not looking for a jack-of-all-trades, but I think generalists are like highly underrated. I think if I have a designer who can do you know they can do an illustration okay or they know how to use illustrator and they can typeset really well and they can do a book, but they can also do a flyer and they can also do a logo like I find them so much more viable than someone who's just like a killer letterer or maybe they can do just this one thing really well.
So, I'm a fan of generalists and then ultimately like you'll see a lot of great portfolios but for me it's about like talking to the people. I think people and this is again underrated is like being able to write well. So, like if I can have like an email conversation with you or if you can like write a really good case study around a piece of work and I think you have an advantage; whereas in this day and age where everyone's like texting and using abbreviation and 140 characters. I think like designers who can like speak and write really well they have like an incredible advantage because so much of what we do these days is set like well throw a PDF over the fence be an email and like that's our opportunity to sell. We don't always get to stand in front of the client. So, if you can like write or really like well worded like convincing email, I think there's a lot of value in that. Then ultimately from like a team building structure like chemistry of a huge thing I'm a people who are modest and kind and are team players I'll hire them nine times out of ten over someone who's like the best designer I've ever seen or met like heart skills designer. I feel like you can teach people hard skills but it's like those soft skills are a lot harder to tell like imbue into like a personality not that it's impossible.
Jon: But it seems like those are easier to learn at an earlier stage yeah element verse like hard skills. I think that's very true where like when I first might jump into the like product design job it was easier to learn like something like command line sure first versus actually going and asking someone to do that and like teach me that. Some people find it really hard to actually go up to someone and say hey I don't know how to do this can you teach me in a way that's like really personable and that's usually harder to teach.
Jeremy: I think also like being able to even ask that question where I even like admitted to it like we've been taught like oh yeah like pretend like you know everything right.
Jon: Fake it until you make it.
Jeremy: I that there's like a fair amount of humility involved so like ask hey I don't know how to do this thing can you show me. I think people who are willing to like communicate well that's to me that's part of the great communication like even when it's like scary or it makes you look or feel stupid just do it. But being able to ask that question and take the time to really learn it versus like fake it and like maybe do a terrible job I think that there's a lot of value than that it's just I know good team players. I know that's--
Jon: No, I think that's true there because it's you know the whole team idea it's collectively. It's always unless you're working with one or two people in a situation like you're an independent studio when you have a team and you have one person that's just kind of like is always a thorn it hinders everyone else.
Jeremy: Yes, I mean I've seen it I've even negatively to having like a negative outlook on a situation right and I think it only takes one person to complain every day all day to get like yeah like this thing really sucks.
Jeremy: It's always something that I push and pull against because we all get frustrated and there are bouts of time like long like months of time where things feel just really bad at any job and to like be able to like have the positive mental attitude and like push through that and see the good in the people around you in the work that you're doing I think it's hard. I don't want someone who's just like happy always all the time but real I like to be able to like endure the good and bad and a lot of that comes with team chemistry. Again at my time at Uber there was some like dark times where like there would be a scandal after scandal, the fact that you know my team was like good enough to each other and like worked hard and we had built all that positive equity that when we took a hit like we didn't bot about, everyone didn't quit, we had really high retention. I think that comes with like all the right people being in the right room like being good to each other and even when other things aren't going to what's within your control. You can't control everything but the stuff that you can is like how you feel going into the day and how do you treat the other people around you. If you can keep that good then I think like that's the person I want to hire.
Jon: The last question and I think I may have an idea of what the answer might be which is harder being a director of a global brand or photographing the streets every day.
Jeremy: Being a director of a global brand.
Jon: I got that one I just couldn't. I figured that would be a good one to end on the questions.
Jeremy: Yes, I mean there's no stakes in taking a photo. Hypothetically if I was doing photography full-time right and my livelihood was based on like gallery shows and commissions and print sales and if I was being hired by said New York Times like capture a travel thing like if I'm yeah can you capture the streets of Morocco for our like travel piece or go to Afghanistan and we'll try to capture what it's like after the war all of a sudden the stakes are much higher. For me today you know I take photos because I feel compelled to take photos, but like if I don't take a photo nothing bad is going to happen. Then frankly if I like I don't know I'll like fuck up a brand design or something like in the end like no one's going to die I'm a designer. People who lose money some people lose jobs like and for me like I want to protect those people around me particularly my employees so there's some stakes in it.
Jon: Totally before we end, I wanted to kind of talk a little bit about food.
Jeremy: Yes Wellfed.
Jon: Yes. I've looked at some of the talks that you did and it was correct me if I'm wrong if you're not talking about design or photography you rather talk about food.
Jon: Do you have a favorite food? Where do you kind of land there?
Jeremy: Oh man it's really tough so I mean I don't know it seems like I have a lot of interests, but really only there's only like four or five things that I care about.
Jon: You cook?
Jeremy: Yes I cook and like food is one of those things that I think it comes from again my parents they cooked at home a lot like we didn't get like a bunch of fast food and like I live in the Bahamas and Australia we traveled a bunch and my mom's like a good cook. So, like I don't know like we always sat down and had dinner. At the time when I was younger particularly, I was like “Why can't I go to McDonald's with the other kids?” I'm looking back on it now it's like cool we got to sit down and like have salads and friends would come over in middle school and they'd be like “Does your mom cook like this every day?” I’m like “What are you talking about?” Then it wasn't until I went to their house, we're like you know we would get like TV dinners or like canned corn or not that there's anything wrong with canned corn or TV dinners, but it would be like oh. I didn't quite understand like how different my home life was. So, I think that just inherently built this value of food to me. And as I've gotten older certainly, I was broke for a long time, as I've gotten older and traveled more I just feel like there's nothing better really than having a great meal with like a friend and having a good conversation. I think when in the same way that like photography is sort of like walking meditation, I think like having a glass of wine and like a dish and like having a conversation over it I don't think there's anything better on earth. There's nothing that will center me more than like food will.
Jon: So, like on any given day what are you most likely to eat if you could just choose anything?
Jeremy: I think there's two cuisines that pop up a lot for me and I think that's like rustic Italian food I think it's just because like growing up my mom cooked a lot of it and it's what I first taught myself to make. I just think like there's like a lot of variety in Italian cuisine and I think there's like a ton of incredible flavor and respect for fresh ingredients. I think like a chunk of aged Parmesan is maybe the best tasting thing on earth. On the flip side it's like Japanese food which you know I had really bad sushi for the first time ever when I was in like high school, but I was like I'll try this though this is cool this is great and I didn't really understand it, but certainly as I got older and better understood Japanese food and got to travel with Japan I think like with anything-- I don't mean to generalize here like Japanese culture I think they take a lot of great care with things that they do whether it's like I don't know putting together a flower arrangement or if it's like learning how to make an udon noodle. People spend sixty years of their life just learning how to pull this udon noodle. It's true for a lot of things but specifically, within food the like respect for like the process and the ingredients and that striving for perfection but never getting there I think it's created like a cuisine that's just like so incredible and it's always surprising and evolving in some way. You look at ramen which has so many different styles--
Jon: So glad you said that.
Jeremy: Yes, but if somebody saw something like ramen for whatever reason it's been very non-traditional in a traditional society. People started throwing corn in and doing this and then like tsukemen like Tokyo style ramen. It's just like I don't know and the food is so good and traveling to Japan is only like reaffirmed just how amazing that food is for me.
Jon: That's one of the next big trips I want to do so badly like Asia just Japan. With that said are you a ramen guy or big in the ramen game? I'm like obsessed with it as it’s one of my favorite things.
Jeremy: This is going to sound bad. I’m the worst but like since going to Japan I don’t enjoy ramen as much.
Jon: Because it was so good there.
Jeremy: Yes, it's just so different like and some of it isn't like I think Minka in Alphabet City--
Jon: Very popular on the podcast so far.
Jeremy: That place is so good and their spicy miso they do like a Tokyo tsukemen style which is delicious it's really good. I think Mr. Taka and Ivan Ramen is pretty good.
Jon: Ivan Ramen has a really good Japanese fried chicken.
Jeremy: Yes, I mean I think there is good ramen particularly like we're fortunate enough we live in New York City which is like such a food city in America. I think there's only a few of them that are as internationally renowned. I think there's amazing southern food and certain places. I was talking the other day about weird regional cuisine like garbage plates in Rochester and Coney dogs in Detroit and what else we're talking about like just weird hyper regional like American cuisine. Scrapple is another one we were talking about.
Jon: Scrapple I kind of like that.
Jeremy: So, there's like stuff like that which obviously food is important in every culture, but like in America there are very important food destinations that are like at a smaller scale. I don't know it's hard to beat like New York for like an international view of food. So, we're really fortunate to have good Japanese food and some good ramen. Man, it's one of those things like I've been so spoiled like eating.
Jon: I do the same thing I took a trip to Italy and had the pizza there and I was like this is like nothing I've ever tasted before because it's one it's super fresh and it's not like the pizza here at all. I'm so much more on the side of like I want it to be fresh, I want it to have ingredients that weren’t just like dropped and not sitting in a window all day. So, coming back here even though like I did have a pie to myself last night at the bar by me, but like it's just not the same. I very much kind of agree with that it's like you felt spoiled on that trip and now it's like you come back and there's not really an equivalent in the sense.
Jeremy: The balance is like I think there's like weird bastardized versions of cuisine that ends up being really good right.
Jeremy: So, I think New York Pizza is like amazing but it's like not the same as Neapolitan style pizza and you just have to be okay with that. I think the difference is like the New York ramen is like trying to be the same thing as like the Japanese ramen and like there's like this weird like apples to apples thing that now you're comparing. I think it's okay to have like New York Chinese food which isn't at all like you know the regional Chinese food and it's okay to have like New York style whatever because it's just a good different thing or Americanized whatever. Even looking at like a hamburger or a hot dog they aren't you know American cuisine but like now we view it as such, but it's okay it's not one-to-one. You get into that like weird gray area when it's like yes this is like a Japanese like style version of this thing that's just not quite as good as what you have there.
Jon: Totally I wanted to ask you...
Jeremy: Favorite spots.
Jeremy: It was in your emails so I assumed.
Jon: So, I'm curious what neighborhood are we technically in right now?
Jeremy: This is Carroll Gardens.
Jon: Carroll Gardens. Is there any place here that you go way too much?
Jeremy: Yes. There's so much. So like part of the reason I even moved like I first moved to Cobble Hill which is a little bit north and then into Carroll Gardens, but the Realtors call it like Bocoka or some stupid shit where it's like Boerum Hill Cobble Hill Carroll Gardens and now it's like Gowanus is right across the street and then like red hooks on the other side of the BQE. So, there's a lot around. We have a few spots that we go to regularly. So, speaking of Pizza, Pizza moto which is like we're right underneath the BQE here one of our favorite pizza places in the city and then they're like fork and knife dishes that aren't Pizza are really amazing so we go there. No one should eat pizza like once a week probably go there once every week or two.
Jon: I just destroyed a whole pie to myself last night.
Jeremy: They have a great wine selection it's all like biodynamic like unfiltered wines and it's super good like that's the spot we got to because we can walk there. Lately Claro which is an Oaxacan place that's over in Gowanus it's in the old pine space I think they just got a Michelin star that last week, but that place it's a little bit more expensive so we don't go like all the time sure but really incredible food like more traditional Oaxacan style Mexican cuisine. Then the other spot that we go to almost you know at least once a month is La Vara which is over on Clinton Street and it's a Basque style tapas place; so, it's like northern Spain cuisine. I think La Vara has they have a coccinia which is like a suckling roasted pig and then they have these deviled eggs and they have a ramekin which is like a salted cod salad and they're Coquette. I think they have things on the menu that last meal like what's if I'm dying, they definitely have a few things like menu there. So, I think between those three spots those are our like yes, we fantasize about those places. Then we're really lucky because we've got Frankie's and Prime Meats for sure right around the corner which is our go-to. We go to brunch at Prime Meats like every week at some point. Then some of the bars have good food here too. So, we've got Lamda and Clover Club which have the best cocktails maybe in the world like on that list right there are 50 best lists; but they also have like really great kitchens with like food. So, if you want like a great cocktail in this part of Brooklyn and you want to snack with it, you're afraid to drink I'm going to stomach or whatever it's like hard to lose when you go there.
Jon: It sounds like very well-put-together bar. I'm also a kind of more used to like the divey, the divey places which are nice.
Jeremy: There are good dive spots.
Jon: Are there any dives that you enjoy?
Jeremy: I mean we've got Boat which is like straight up dive, I think Brooklyn Inn obviously and then a Hank's just closed over on Atlantic and that was because they did live band karaoke in there.
Jeremy: They were moving, but Hanks was pretty good. So those are three good dive spots and then Red Hook's not too far from here you know ten-minute walk. Theres Sunny's which is amazing also gets beautiful light at the end of the day.
Jon: There you go.
Jeremy: Taking some photos it's really great. I think Bait-and-Tackle ice house one of them closed recently and I don't know may have been Bait-and-Tackle, but those are three dive bars in Red Hook that are great and then of course Montero's on Atlantic. More karaoke I think is like a theme of dive bars; but Montero's is yes, like shots and beers and well liquor. There was a time in my life when I was living in Cobble Hill and a lot of my friends from Etsy we all lived kind of in the neighborhood and Montero’s was like our end of nights we're like oh one more drink and like Aaron Shapiro who's a mutual friend of ours “One more drink.” In the Montero’s of ours we have like a bunch of bad beer and some shots of Jameson and he would sing like Limp Biscuit. It was like our end-of-night spot and no one needs to go there as a last stop of Jameson.
Jeremy: Yes, but it was our end of the night spot for a while and I was like a bunch of us who are just like single live in the neighborhood all work together and we were totally irresponsible. We were too old to be acting that way, but it was fun.
Jon: So, we're coming to a close in 2018 and 2019 is on the horizon and I’m hoping I get this episode out before that happens. Is there anything that you're looking to do before the close of the year and then is there anything that you're looking to really get ahead of in 2019?
Jeremy: I mean there are a few things. I wanted to get prints launch limited edition prints so I just actually did that this week so we'll see how that goes. I'm treating that like my experience and working at you know fine art publishing.
Jon: I was going to say it comes back around right.
Jeremy: Comes back around so I've treated them as like editioned prints that are like signed numbered fixed number per size and all of that. In turn I'm also working with master printers in Manhattan to get them the highest quality so they're like expensive so I think the Instagram audience will probably have a little bit of sticker shock. For me like it's long game it's like not about like cool can I sell some $25 prints on Instagram. I want to have them accrue value over time and hopefully one day someone will care about my photography and then these prints will be worth something.
Jon: So, they have it framed and this is a Perez Cruz.
Jeremy: Yes, this is an original one number 2 of 25.
Jon: That's cool.
Jeremy: So, that's something I've been looking forward to I'm working on a photo book of my past few years in New York City and then I'm also working on a series of like oversized zines that I'm feeling around different categories that are going to be like short run large format like printed pieces that are just like less precious they're going to change all the time and it's just a way to get some printed stuff out there if people are interested. That's sort of like what I'm looking towards for the next couple months. Then next year I'm looking to put on a street photography conference. So, I've been working on the branding for that and bought the URL and all that stuff and been talking to photographers who I admire and trying to get that all together. I was originally trying to do it in the spring which is a crazy compressed timeline, but it's probably going to be late summer now early fall of next year 2019 but that's going to take a bunch of energy yeah but it's something I'm excited about. It's sort of the extension of Street weekly brought to life so it's going to be you know photo walks slash workshops you know more of a design conference where people are going to talk about the process and share their work. Then we’re going to do a gallery show with it and then hopefully do some screenings of some photography documentaries. So. it's going to be all street photography focus which I don't think there's ever been a conference dedicated to street photography.
Jon: I have no clue.
Jeremy: So, it's kind of like a first I think and its sort of like a bunch of like different ideas okay I'm going to do a gallery show, I want to do this that. I just kind of put them all together after going to the brand-new conference here for design yeah and just seeing that was like yeah like I want this for photography and there's like photo shows and photo talks, but isn't theirs. I feel like in that world people haven't treated it with the same sort of respect as like design in business conferences they always seem like a sales event so I'm really looking to make it a really great learning experience and sharing work and hearing from some modern masters. Then the final pieces and I'm trying it sponsorship to gift like scholarships to the conference to people who maybe can't afford to go. Again, like trying to give back and give the opportunity to different people to come.
Jon: That's awesome.
Jeremy: See the problem is like you come to interview me and I'm so old at this point none so much stupid stuff that you get me talking about music and then like my 20 jobs over 17 years.
Jon: It’s perfect.
Jeremy: Now I’ve got to talk about photography I'm so sorry.
Jon: Kind of as I said at the beginning you know when I originally came into contact with your Instagram, I was like yes this is a photographer dude, he does only this stuff and come to find out you had all this design background. Where did the passion for photography come into play? You're a design director and you also are consistent and, in some ways, just like exhaustingly taking pictures all the time. I say exhaustingly in a good way.
Jeremy: I think it is exhausting sometimes. I mean there's no like short answers to it like again like my dad has a lot to do that like you know he took photos and he gave me like a Canon 8E1 film camera when I was in high school when I played with it a little bit. When I started to design like covers for bands, I was like I need photos and at the time it wasn't much of an Internet. There wasn't really like a great source was talking as I would go out and take my own photos for album covers and then scan them and use them and that was sort of my relationship with photography. Then when I started touring it was like a way to document my life on the road and capture bands that I really loved. It taught me how to use the camera and then I kind of fell out of it for a long time. I always had like a camera around but I wasn't taking photos all the time. Then I moved into a building in Florida called “China Glass” and it was mostly businesses and it was like three floors, one of them was a garage and then the other two were like condos apartments or businesses and it was mostly businesses and I think there was like five or six people who lived there. Within that there's a couple photographers John Deeb, who is like incredible, he owns Deeb Studios in Florida and then Jonpaul Douglas who's like now and considering sensation who's since moved to LA. Those two guys spending time with them and just seeing what they did they just took photos all the time. We have done a road trip to Chicago and along the way we just like stopped along the side of the road and we went like swimming and did all this stuff. They’re like always taking the photos. We would get a hotel and at the end of the night and I'm like “Oh what do you guys doing?” “We’re editing our photos cuz we want to post a photo a day onto Tumblr.” I was like “Oh that's cool like I want to do that.” So, I had like a Canon g10 or something or g9 at the time and I was like cool. So, it really like made me look around because I was like man, I have to have a photo each day and if I'm not like taking in a photo like one will ever get the photo.
So those guys were a huge inspiration and entire and that trip specifically really got me thinking about taking photos every day. I started a Tumblr and I worked on that for a little bit and I felt in and out of it, but I really love taking photos. Then it wasn't until I moved to New York it was around the time Instagram came out and I had just gotten to my first iPhone and I would just like document my walks to work and I worked in DUMBO cinematic and beautiful. So, I started taking photos and I post in real time and take photos of the food at the office. I just found a real joy and like capturing New York City and that's sort of what got me started on the like hardcore stuff. I had always taken photos, but like I think that trip to Chicago with those two guys and then moving to New York and the Instagram iPhone combo was like oh like this is fun and it's enjoyable and--
Jeremy: Super accessible. Then as I moved out of design pushing pixels and more into management photography really became my like creative outlet and I still like write and play guitar or write and play music and guitar and all that stuff, but photography was that thing that it was just for me and I could do whatever I want and it was just what I wanted to do and it became really valuable as I moved you know 75 to 90 percent of my day is like management. Then I do like critiques, creative direction and some other stuff, but like most of my time is like answering the amount of sitting in meetings having one-on-ones and it's something I really enjoy, but it's not necessarily creative work.
Jon: You're not like making you kind of like stepped away from that a little bit.
Jon: I was going to ask how do you balance it. I think you kind of mentioned a little bit about having that urge to make something because most of your day is managing and doing more high-level stuff. In terms of time as well you know like going to a nine-to-five I'm sure late hours where is the time to shoot and you know really kind of dig into your focus your medium?
Jeremy: I mean it's gotten more intense I think over the years. I've been shooting mostly with my phone and then I had a little Lumix that I would take with when I travel for work and then eventually, I bought my Sony which is still my main camera today I think it was like four years ago. When I got that I was like alright well this is an investment like I've never bought a camera this expensive. Do I really need it I'm a hobbyist? So, for it to be worth my time I started like I would leave work and I would walk home from like Hudson Square or whatever and that's not a short walk and that was sort of my encouragement to like alright if I'm going to make an investment I'm like a minimalist I really don’t own a lot of things. I don't want to own a lot of things and I put a lot of my own experiences so if I was going to own this thing or they wanted it to be worthwhile. It's kind of supercharged my passion for photography because all of a sudden stuff that I could see in my mind, but I couldn't get the photo I could like get those photos and then that plus the like value inherent value of like the object and then the value of the experience I just like started doing it a lot more. The first few years it was like that ago like walk around on the weekend and I'll walk from my apartment in Cobble Hill up to like Harlem and take photos along the way on a weekend or like a wake-up like holidays were always the best because I'd be like wake up in the morning on that Christmas Day and like walk over the Brooklyn Bridge and like it would be like snowing or raining wander around and it was like my tradition to take photos on these holidays.
In the past few years I think it became like an obsession. I would say the past like two years I think I really started to figure it out and I started have a real point of view with my photography. I think having that made it more important in a way; whereas if I didn't take photos that day or that week I would feel like really bad about it because I wasn't creating that goes back to again like my input-output philosophy like well you know taking photos I'm like learning like how does the camera work, how do I predict the scene like how does light work, how do I follow this light, how do I see patterns in like the city and when to anticipate a certain area will be better than other areas. So, I'm learning all of that and then also just like putting photography out into the world. Yes, I just I'm a passionate curious person and I just want to like figure stuff out over that's like traveling and cooking or photography or whatever I get a lot out of it. It helps me not feel anxious because I have a focus of my energy and in a world where there's a lot of noise going around I'm like at work like I work at BuzzFeed it's like a social company there's like Twitter and then there's Slack and then people posting from Twitter to Slack and there's the BuzzFeed news channel and everything's on fire and then I'm worrying about my job. There's just like so many things that we're paying attention to. When I'm out taking photographs all I have to do is like look through the viewfinder and find a beautiful frame and it's almost like walking meditation like Buddhist walking meditation. It's like a singular act where I'm just walking down the street and I have one goal and like that is really calming to me. I think that's why the past couple years I've like taken photography so much more seriously is because it gives back so much to me in a way that like I don't know what I would do if I wasn't taking photographs. I got really like I don't think bad and I got like overly obsessed with it for a little while. So now I set like time limits for myself and I think the girlfriends happy about that. So, now I wake up in the morning so you know I can go out catch the morning light as the sun sets--
Jon: What time are you waking up?
Jeremy: Like 6:45/7:00 and so I get out and I shoot for like two hours before I go to the office I'm going to walk around. I walk probably 7 – 10 miles a day and try to reserve like a couple nights a week where I go out and shoot after work. But now the Sun sets and it's colder I'm not doing it as much which is a good thing. It lets me focus on other things like my relationship and working on StreetWeekly with stuff and I just launched prints. There's other stuff that like I don't have to only be out on the street taking photos that's the thing that feels the most rewarding, but finding a little bit of balance helps everyone.
Jon: I don't want to say since starting but you've gained a lot of eyes on Instagram. You're over like 24,000 followers now and as you mentioned you started kind of building this community, StreetWeekly. Where did it just pop in your head that you want to kind of start curating and seeing what other people were doing?
Jeremy: I didn't. So, I think there's too many feature sites or feature accounts which is why I own StreetWeekly, but I don't post anything to it because I'm saving it for some other stuff that I think is more important. It came from like when I would travel I actually my girlfriend and we would like go to Barcelona and would take a vacation and I would take so many photos on my page because you're in a new spot and you're inspired and you want to like capture it that at the end of each day I would just do like hey here's what I shot today. I think if anyone was interested in and that stuff was like really rewarding for me because it forced me to just like do it and get it out. Then when I went to Japan on my last trip right before starting at Buzzfeed the reaction to that stuff was like people were thrilled. They’re like “Oh when you get home are you going to keep doing this?’ I was like "I can't I don't have the time. I'm on vacation I don't have the time to post like 30 photos a day.” So, thing all right well let me think about it and then I decided well you know if I post at the end of the week have to show like my favorite like 20 photos that I took that'll work. I started doing that and I don't know for whatever reason that really took off when people really enjoyed seeing not everything I would post to my feed so it gave him some insight and like maybe other frames to a scene. I think it really resonated with photographers yeah because it's interesting to see what other people see and how they discover things and people will recognize location and different stuff. So, based on that I started tagging it StreetWeekly just so people knew and then other people started tagging StreetWeekly and that wasn't my intention.
Jon: It just kind of grew organically.
Jeremy: Yes, so I was like well all these people are tagging and some of these photos are really great so that's when I started the like Sundays, I post my stuff. Usually that Wednesday or Thursday I'll post like stuff from the tag and now the tags like a hundred and ten thousand people.
Jon: There's a lot of engagement going on that stuff which is kind of nuts. I mean like from my just kind of outside perspective on it is I would say one of the beautiful moments through social media where it's just like people just kind resonated with it, they gravitated towards it because they're like feeling like they're getting some kind of like lesson or they're learning from it and kind of has how you said that people just started using it and it's now grown into this big thing.
Jeremy: Yes big-ish. It's not big in comparison to other stuff. I mean for me um it's like multifaceted so I think the one thing is like again I just like positivity all right there's nothing. I just share stuff that I think is cool and I keep like a spreadsheet to make sure I don't feature too many people. I want to keep fresh photographers out there. I try not to feature too many people make too many followers because like a lot of people already see that, but occasionally I'll do it because it's like a beautiful photo I think everyone should see it. For me it's just like a purely positive generous thing. That's not to give myself credit just like it feels good to me to be like hey like check out this photograph from this person who has 200 followers and all of a sudden like all these people see the work and follow this person or like or leave a comment and it hopefully it makes them feel good and it just spreads beauty and positivity in the world that desperately needs it.
Jon: Yes, I think like there's never really a day when you're going through social media and you find like this beautiful picture and you go to the person and they have like no followers. It's weird that we're talking like about like this right it's like that matters, but like you're in some way like this person should have eyes, this person's work is really good.
Jeremy: Yes, I mean look like I say this and you know some people give me flack for it, but like I'm not the most talented person inherently. I work really hard to be good at the things that I'm good at. There are people who are just like gifted they just like can see a photo--
Jon: And push a button and it's good.
Jeremy: Yes, it's like that can be really frustrating. For people um but you know for me like I work really hard of this stuff to like be better at it to like hopefully share my vision of what is possible and that's why I encourage some other people. I wouldn't say every photo I feature is like the best photo but I see something in it as a again this comes from me being a manager creative director I see like oh there's like this someone who assess talent when you hire people go, oh like they may not be like the best designer and they got this thing and I really want to like bring them in and like encourage them to do that and grow. With StreetWeekly like there's some photos like that where I'm like it's not perfect, but man there's like this little thing and I think if they get that little like bump and it forces them to be like oh someone recognizes and encourages them to like get better then there's a ton of value in that and I love seeing that. That comes to like the second aspect of StreetWeekly is that street photography it's such like a democratized like art form.
Literally anyone if you have a phone or a camera or anything disposable camera you can walk outside you don't need to hire a model, you don't need lighting, you don't need a set, you don't need anything you just like take a frame of anything it could be a flower it could be a person it could be anything and there it is you've made art. So, I think encouraging that idea like I don't know it just feels like why not. A lot of photographers like “Oh digital photography is ruining photography now anyone calls themselves a photographer great like more people out there making things. To me that's like not a bad thing and sure like there's a lot more noise but who cares right. There's like a lot of people who would never who be making art. There's a lot of people who maybe would have gone in to do I don't know accounting which we need accountants, but instead they discovered again they're one of those people have that like just inherent gift that they would never have known if they didn't like walk outside with like a camera or a phone and make an image. I don't know like I think the more people that do that the better. Then street photography on the flip side is also like anyone can do it with a barrier to like greatness is like really high. It's a really hard to get a really great photo in variable conditions. You're moving, the subjects moving, the light is moving, the scene is changing like it's unpredictable and so it's really hard to be good at it. So, I think that encourages the people who go out there just make a mission of like oh well like they have something to aspire to and it takes a lot of time and effort to like figure that thing out. I think it's like both sides of like a positive thing where like something to aspire to and then like easy access.
Jon: I think this is kind of a good segue to open up some of the questions that we got an Instagram.
Jeremy: Did you get a lot of questions?
Jon: Yes, we got a couple a mix of like design and photography which is nice. I didn't want to do all photography knowing that we'd be talking about this and then getting into the questions. Some of them I thought were really good and I usually reach out on Instagram for the people who follow the account at @Wellfed.us and they can submit questions. I'll do the photography works first. The first one was and I think you kind of mentioned earlier “Were there any photographers that you admired that you may think have contributed to your like your style of photography now?”
Jeremy: Yes, I mean I think it you know it's always changing. I think certainly for me people that was close to whether it's my father or like my friends who like lived across the hall from me or how to studio in the same building like those are always people to influence you to do the thing, I think a lot of people have a story about like hello a neighbor or like a thing or something. I think without those people probably maybe I would have gotten into it through like design. I never probably would have really focused on it. So, I think Jonpaul Douglas, John Deeb, my dad are really the people who like got me going. I think related to that are people and at the New York Instagram community I think like Dave Krugman he's just like the guy. I think he's that's like a really good example of like lifting others around you. He is always sharing other people's work, encouraging people and anyone would like two or three hundred thousand followers I think he gets a lot of flak. Everyone's anxious to like tear people down, but I think Dave is just doing some of the best work around like donating his time to charities and like you know he's helped me like he's shared my work. I think you know I'm really like thankful to him for that. Then just other people I've met on the street like Aundre Larrow he's doing amazing stuff. He was part of the Adobe residency and now he's and he's working with all sorts of people and he's like a young a he's like a young African American photographer and he just did a voting rights campaign in Florida to her store voting rights to ex-convicts which was like really beautiful work. He did the stories from here thing where he went around the country and photographed people. I think it's just inspiring to see someone like that just like doing his thing and he has a change and he's really focused on the stuff that he's always done. I appreciate the people closest to me like that. I think like there's always as I've gotten more into photography, I've learned more you know about different photographers and so Hertzog and Salt Lighter and Willing Climb and Vivian Mayer just saw her exhibit of color photography at Howard Greenberg gallery which is like incredible. There's just like too many like I just saw the Winogrand Doc. There's just so many great people in street photography and then not. Gregory Crewdson.
Jon: I love Crewdson's work so good.
Jeremy: I mean even non like quote-unquote street photography is like hugely influential to me.
Jeremy: I don't know I mean there's like way too many of those people to name, but I prefer to focus on I think the people closest to me you know inspire me and who encouraged me. I think it's good to I don't know I just feel like that is almost more valuable because it feels more like present and real than-- the greats anyone can find the greats. You see like Gray Yard or Ox Web and this stuff seems like impossible and it's super good and you're like always striving towards it. Just having some people around, you to like encourage you and people who are at like your level or don't have any followers or whatever and you see them doing great work. Dom Marker is another one, another New York photographer who's super talented. Those people I think I get a lot more value from them some of the quote unquote greats. I mean look we're in my apartment right now you can look around just see like stacks of photography.
Jon: I saw the Phaidon book over there. So, before we end where can people find more of you and maybe stay up to date with all these new things coming in the new year?
Jeremy: There's a few spots I think Instagram is probably the easiest which is @sleepingplanes. You can see some featured work and buy prints at www.Sleepingplanes.com Then you can always find me at www.Jeremyperezcruz.com. If you want to learn a little bit more about design. I'm SleepingPlanes on all social media if you want to like search me up. On the SleepingPlanes website there's an email sign-up and stuff but I don't that's going to be necessary just yet. I think Instagram is usually your best bet.
Jon: Yes, I think that's like now the new calling business card.
Jeremy: I mean it's fine for now we'll see what we grow it into.
Jon: Thank you Jeremy.
Jeremy: I appreciate it thanks for the invitation.