A big component of what makes street photography so appealing to me is the punk rock feel of the genre. Punk was a big part of my life and creative development. But it wasn’t just the rebellious and communal nature that was alluring. It was the DIY (do it yourself) methodology. Recording and putting out your own records. Writing and printing your own zines.
That being said, I was anxious for the arrival of Day & Night, a joint DIY photo book from the two Minneapolis photographers, Kevin Horn and Kevin “Shakes” O’Meara. Very anxious. I was already turned on to Shakes’ work via the Elephant Gun collective and found out about this project from keeping an eye on his feed. And from a few “teaser” shots I saw, his work in this project was going to be in color. I was excited about this, because I was only familiar with O’Meara’s monochrome work. Work that was the visual equivalent of rough nights that would lead to the most glorious hangovers. And after hearing about Horn, I began following him as well. I took to Horn’s work immediately. Being both a street photographer and a cinematographer, his work demonstrated fantastic storytelling abilities. Wider, dramatic shots that looked like they could be stills from a movie. In a wonderful coincidence, both Horn and O’Meara were voted by www.streethunters.net readers as two of the top 20 Most Influential Street Photographers of 2015!
I jumped on the pre-order of Day & Night because the idea of the book was terribly intriguing. These two shooters, with different styles, working in two different cities, photographing fifty “subjects” from a pre-determined list. Horn, with his cinematographer’s eye would shoot during the day in New Orleans, and O’Meara, with his raw and up-close style would shoot at night in San Francisco.
Kevin Horn and Kevin “SHAKES” O’Meara’s “DAY & NIGHT”
Day & Night arrived and smashed the expectations I had for the project. The double right-handed 10”x8” book, printed on quality 80lb paper, was deceptive with its stark black and white covers. The interior was filled with absolutely gorgeous, explosive color images. But the book itself was a challenge, and what you could call a “fun” one at that. Each page, each “subject” almost competes with the opposing page which is upside down, especially when each photographer is tackling a color “subject”. For example, your eyes see a purple house from Horn on one page, but O’Meara’s purple chairs a trying to pull you to his side of the book. How to view the book? Is there a proper way? The first time through, I flipped the book with each subject/page, so I could see how each photographer attacked the subject of choice. With subsequent views, I found this is the best way to experience the project and to get the real “feel” for it. I did try to just go through “Day” in its entirety and then go back through “Night”, but that approach just didn’t feel right! The double-right handed approach makes Day & Night an interactive experience, something I found thoroughly refreshing for a photo book.
Horn’s and O’Meara’s styles, their approach to the subjects are what make this a truly memorable photo book. Immensely talented, but with two very different styles, the photographers give the reader a great bang for the buck. Basically two books in one. There’s no text telling you what the subject is, you’re left to figure that out, and their styles make that process a treat. I was so enamored with this project that I reached out to the two Kevins with some questions about Day & Night, which debuted with an exhibition in Minneapolis on March 27th.
Interview with Kevin Horn and Kevin “SHAKES” O’Meara
AS: How did the idea for the project come about?
O’Meara: After Kevin and I formally met each other we noticed how stark the narratives were that we shot in the same city, KH focusing on the day with me shooting at night. Somewhere along the line the joke was made that it was literally the difference between day and night. I approached him about it in December and it came to fruition by March.
Horn: The idea for Day & Night was spawned by us noticing our differences in shooting styles. We both shoot in similar areas of Minneapolis, but I shoot during the day, and Kevin O’Meara shoots primarily at night. I recall commenting on one of his Instagram posts that there was “literally a night & day difference”, which I was intrigued by. After months of focusing on our own projects, we decided it was time to show that juxtaposition, and a book just made sense.
AS: How long have you known each other and how do you know each other?
Horn: I met Kevin O’Meara exactly one year ago. We were both shooting the same music festival and started geeking out over film and camera gear. I vividly remember talking to him about the grain structure of Tri-X…no wonder I have no friends.
O’Meara: I have known about KH since 2009 or 2010 through the skate scene here. He put out a video of local skaters that was solid and I remember watching clips on youtube when I moved back to Minnesota. I formally met him in May of 2014 at a local rap festival that both of us were shooting and we talked about film stuff because KH had just started shooting film again. We’ve stayed in close contact since then.
AS: How did you come up with the list of subjects? Was it difficult?
O’Meara: The idea of the list was something I pulled from Alec Soth’s manner of working. It gave us something to focus our energy on that could provide ostensible connection between images. In terms of prompts, a lot of them was seemingly random and/or vague and it allowed some room for interpretation on both of our ends. Initially it presented some challenges but when we decided to use slide film it definitely opened up the options in terms of selecting a specific palette to work from.
Horn: As mentioned before, Kevin O’Meara came to me with the list. I spent a week or so thinking of my own prompts to add to the list. I treated it like a scavenger hunt. I thought about symbols or themes that I enjoy searching for in my day to day life and added those to Kevin’s list.
AS: Was there pressure, was it hard working off of a list of subjects?
Horn: Working off of a checklist was a completely new workflow for me. When I normally shoot photos, I’m just out trying to capture life as it happens. I don’t look for anything in particular. If something interests me, I shoot it. If not, I keep walking. Having a list gave me a completely new outlook. Things that I wouldn’t normally find interesting were popping up all over the place, and my goal was to incorporate those into a larger frame. As a Cinematographer, I’m constantly trying to incorporate as much information into a single frame, so rather than get close on the prompt, I tried my best to frame it organically into a larger story.
O’Meara: There was definitely pressure. We gave ourselves a week and 5 rolls of film to shoot the entire project. The list ended up being really helpful because it kept me focused on what shots I needed to get rather than just concentrating on a certain aspect of nightlife and getting too myopic.
AS: Why did you each chose the cities you shot in?
O’Meara: For me, I chose Oakland and SF because of the culture that is there. I knew that there was a lot of diversity and SF is in a really strange place right now because of the preposterous amounts of gentrification.
The other part of it was that I wanted to shoot in a temperate climate so the focus didn’t become about the weather conditions in addition to the prompts. To shoot in the midwest during February would have yielded more photos about cold vs. warm than it would have day vs. night.
Horn: I had already booked a trip to New Orleans by the time Kevin O’Meara came to me with the idea. I often make my best work when I’m in a new city because there’s no baggage or personal bias towards the location. I am free to move about and capture as I please, whereas back home I may work differently. New Orleans is also a much more vibrant city than Saint Paul & Minneapolis during the winter.
AS: How much time did you spend shooting in those cities? Did you give yourself a deadline?
Horn: I shot for 5 days in New Orleans. I went there with 5 rolls of Provia 100F. My goal was to shoot every roll before I boarded the plane back to Minnesota
O’Meara: We had one week. After I got home we had about a month to turn everything around for the show. It was a lot of work in that time to get selections, layout, publication and printing finished for the opening.
AS: Was the book all DIY… layout, etc?
O’Meara: Yeah, we did all the setup ourselves. A lot of exhausted 3AM work nights at Kevin’s apartment. We had a very tight timeframe but somehow we were able to pull everything together in time for the opening.
Horn: Every part of the process, aside from the actual printing of the book, was DIY. From layout, to branding and design, we did it all ourselves.
AS: What has the reception to the book/exhibition been like?
Horn: I was surprised at how well received the book and show was. This project was a complete departure from the way I normally work, and I was nervous that I would lose my voice, especially working with another artist. But I think because both Kevin and I were passionate since day 1 and we believed in what we were doing, our voices carried through until the very end.
O’Meara: Simply, unreal. I was blown away by the support Minneapolis and St. Paul showed us, in addition to the support from the folks from social media outlets. To create a body of work and release it is definitely an experience that I would encourage people to seek. It’s terrifying but also extremely rewarding.
AS: What do you like most about Kevin’s style?
O’Meara: The thing I like most about Kevin’s work is he understands his context. He doesn’t just walk out with a camera to take photos of things on the street and call it street photography or art. He studies other photographers’ work and applies what he learns. The other part that comes with his studying is he has developed his eye in such a way that he finds moments very well. With a background in cinematography he frames his subjects in a dynamic way; he understands composition and how to move an eye around an image.
Horn: The reason I was initially drawn to doing a joint book with Kevin O’Meara is because our shooting styles compliment each other. Kevin O’Meara gets almost uncomfortably close, claustrophobic in a way, whereas I shoot wide scenes. My work is all about context, and Kevin O’Meara completely removes that from his work.
AS: Any chance of a future collaboration?
Horn: I would love to collaborate on a project again someday. I think I need some time to grow as an individual artist before I can do a shared piece again though.
O’Meara: With each other? I’m always open to working with the dude. Kevin’s super solid and I’m really grateful that I have the opportunity to share my work with someone who is so focused and lives in such close proximity. We may do something again in the future but we both have some silver-based stuff we need to finish before we talk about starting another joint effort.
AS: At the beginning of each of your sections, you each have a “thank you” in regards to confrontations you each had while shooting this project. Care to elaborate?
O’Meara: I was walking on Mission and I saw a girl with blue hair and a blue denim jacket on and thought I could use it for the “blue” prompt. I approached her and explained what I was doing and how it was a scavenger hunt of sorts and she said it was okay and I took my photo. However, her friend who had just gotten kicked out of the bar was not okay with it and started hassling me a bit. Long story short, she kept asking me if I liked “bad bitches” and then she choked me and asked me if I liked that. I told her I wasn’t into it. Being a socially anxious person I didn’t really know how to respond to any of it considering most of the time the push back I get, if any, is someone telling me to piss off.
Horn: There’s an image in the Day side of the book of a man with a blond wig, sunglasses, and a cowboy hat. On one of my last days in New Orleans, my girlfriend and I were walking down Bourbon Street. I was looking to fulfill the “wig” prompt, and this guy was the first subject that caught my eye. As he passed by me, I got down low and shot a photo of him. He got heated pretty quickly and asked why I didn’t ask to take his picture. I went on to explain that I didn’t want him to pose, I wanted to capture him organically. He proceeded to ask me for money and when I refused, he started following me. I told him to back off and he got right up in my face, so I shot a close up of him, the one that made it in the book. Before I could even pull the camera away from my face, he had already hit me. Luckily my camera took most of the blow, but it was still pretty shocking. I scurried off into the crowd to avoid further conflict.
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