June 27, 2011
Photography in NYC
When Brayden Olson is not on the road or posted up in the color darkroom, you can spot him skating all over New York without a care in sight. He’s constantly shooting, both spontaneously and for precisely-executed photo shoots. He’s curated one of the illest local photo shows in the Lower East Side (called Help Is on the Way), published photos in internationally-distributed magazines, and holds down a job at the day job at the non-profit Camera Club of New York. The other night he had a pretty awesome birthday party at his house in Brooklyn and we got to sit down and chat with him about moving across the country, printing his own color film, and the pains of putting together an art show.
You moved here from Seattle a few years ago, right? How do you like the city?
Well, I moved to New York around 2008 and lived with Pat Smith. I was helping him do sales for his skate company, Coda. I had met him back in Seattle at the screen printing shop I worked at, where he used to get all of his skate product printed and I had also shot some skate photos of him. We kept in touch and I visited Portland here and there where he lived at the time and we eventually got to talking about working for his company. I wasn’t a very good salesman [laughs] so that did not last too long.
I have met so many awesome people being in New York that have inspired me. I have been able to meet people whose artwork I’ve admired through a friend and then become friends with them. It’s just like skating, you can grow up watching people skate on VHS tapes and then years later you are drinking beers with them and skating around. The weirdest connections are always appearing in the art and skate scenes. It’s a small world.
How did you get into photography?
My grandfather gave me a camera when I was around age 16 and at the time I was skating everyday. All I would do was skate and film so I started taking photos of my friends and that’s pretty much where I learned to use a camera. I took some photography classes in high school but didn’t really learn too much—I kind of have to learn through trial and error with pretty much everything.
What do you like to shoot nowadays?
I guess I just like shooting my friends and what’s going on in my life. I also have really been consumed with fashion photography but nothing too high end or anything. I like to keep it fairly simple and real. I am pretty much really over shooting a legit photo lit properly with like a bunch of lights and all that. I just don’t have the patience for it.
How did you end up putting together the photo show Help Is on the Way?
There was this empty space on Ludlow and Rivington that was going to be occupied by a Coffee shop from Seattle. They were waiting on permits or something so I asked if we could use it for an art show and they said yes. I asked all my friends to be in the show. Curating a show is a pain in the ass though. Artists are some of the hardest people to deal with, so to try and get some of the hardest people to deal with who are your friends—it’s like a double edged sword. I had to move about 200 super fragile Italian bricks shipped straight from Mt.Vesuvias out of the space before we could set up and of course no one showed up to help that day. The night of the opening the place was packed and we eventually were forced to shut it down because of noise complaints from neighbors.
What are you up to these days?
I’m working at this spot called the Camera Club of New York that has color and black and white darkrooms. They have been around since 1886, it’s crazy. I have been putting a ton of hours scanning film learning how to print in color. When I am not there I am working on video projects, photo projects, photo assisting… a ton of stuff.
What do you like the most about analog printing as opposed to digital?
Going into the darkrooms and exposing the paper, handling it through the chemicals, and checking out the negatives on the light table—it’s all amazing. When you really nail it, it’s really exciting. At the same time, I will shoot with literally any camera that I can get my hands on because I don’t think the quality matters as much as the subject of the image.