Being a photographer with a background in music simply adds perspective. There’s just no better way to capture the raw intensity of bold emotional expression. Based in the city of angels, Dan Monick is a photographer whose dynamic track record of capturing LA’s very own prince of hip-hop, Kendrick Lamar, to even TV celebrities, like Bob Odernkirk (Better Call Saul). So its only natural that you’d be thinking by now that your own photographic needs to “Better Call Dan!”.
Dan shares with us his latest body of work 'Psychic Windows' which was also released by Los Angeles based publisher, Deadbeat Club in a limited run of 200 and a little bit about his love for zines.
Hello Dan, thank’s for being part of this interview! Can you share with us a little bit about yourself and what you’re busy with at the moment?
Hello! I live in Los Angeles. I have been here for 18 years. I shoot a lot of bands and portraits, fluorescent lights, and various storefronts. Currently editing three books for my press Cash Machine by three different photographers, trying to find a director for a feature film I've written, writing music, working on the Masculine de La FEMME series I do with my girlfriend Monica Reyes, starting up a creative agency called Look.At.Us with my friend Gena Tuso, just shot a couple different bands…..lots of stuff!
What are your thoughts of zines in this day & age?
It's amazing how much it has exploded. I do love doing the work I do old school style with tape and scissors and a copier. I think the democratization of printing options is an amazing thing but I also think it can wind up creating a lot of the same thing. If you can think if you can print it. I love stuff that is a little more rough or homemade or has an unusual format.
What were some of your earlier works? Any particular memory that stood out for you?
I have a bit of a dual life photography wise. I've always created my work but also have done a lot fo commercial work as well. I also publish a lot of bookshops for other people with my press Cash Machine. The last few years I've really turned the focus back to my personal work and publishing. I think the biggest moments though were my first book Se7en coming out. That was huge. Going to the UK with the band Atmosphere for the first time. Also, my first big cover with Daft Punk for Paper Magazine was great. My first show in Tokyo for the Vineland series I did with Clint Woodside and Commune Press at Voilld Galery was really a great thing. And then recently I saw a post where someone had used google street view to figure out where I had shot a Murs record cover. That sounds so dumb but also gives me a huge sense of gratification.
What was your first photography job? And what did that felt like for you?
To be honest I'm not totally sure what was the first time I got paid to do photos. It may have been when I went to shoot The Isley Brothers in the studio. Dan Corrigan who is a Minneapolis legend called me up and said: “Hey I can't do this so I told them to call you.” It was insane. It was at Flyte Tyme studios in Minneapolis so Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis were there and I just hung out and snapped black and whites. It was pretty wild. You might have to look up all the stuff I just mentioned haha. Oh and I'm from Minneapolis and this happened while I still lived there.
Out of all kinds of storefronts - why Psychic Windows?
I don't know. I love neon for one. And Psychics were such an oddity to me when I first moved to Los Angeles. Then I saw them absolutely everywhere. I guess I love how something that can seem fringe can be so commonplace. Its like there are as many Psychics as there are donut shops and corner stores in Los Angeles. And then the name. When I figured out to just call the series Psychic Windows it seemed so perfect. So literal but also such a metaphorical title.
Dan's photography had a nostalgic aesthetic, some of which naturally possessed providing a life and energy of its own.
Do you think your music background has a part to play for your love of zines? Since it all started with printing band flyers through Xerox and copiers?
100%. I loved getting zines as a kid and reading about the weird stuff that you couldn’t find info about anywhere else. Also, I just love copy shops. The late nights hanging out, cutting up magazines to make flyers, stealing glue stick, laughing and hanging out. Its why I'm very partial to the cut and paste method for my own zines and for zines I release for others.
Zines were your form of social media, how has that changed for you in terms of our current social media platforms?
I still prefer zines haha. I'm very limited in my use of social media. I have an Instagram for my press and one for my work where I only post-film shots or polaroids. I’m on twitter a lot but much more for reading news and political stuff.
You seem like you can immerse yourself in the underrated, underwhelming, unconventional, the norm and the mundane - is that why LA is so amazing to you?
Absolutely. The perception of Los Angeles is so built on the whole glitz and glamour aspect that the regular parts of the city are often ignored by the outside world. This place is massive and beautiful and to me, the ‘everyday life” that thrives here under the weight of the aforementioned perception becomes all the more beautiful. And weird haha. I'm also kind of shy even though it can seem to the contrary. I like to sit back and observe. And that activity is absolutely endless in Los Angeles.
I’ve read that you have not properly visited a psychic - why the theme?
I loved the signs. And yes I've never gone. I think I just don’t want to ruin the surprise haha.
Black+white or color photography?
Both. I use a bunch of cameras and I use primarily one or the other style film in them. My split frame is almost always black and white while I have a broken Contax TVS with a light leak that always has color. I love portraits in B and W. Also I love B and W shots of palm trees haha.
If you were not a photographer - what would you be doing right now?
Either a line cook or probably a starving musician. Those are the only two other things I've ever done.
What is your morning ritual?
Wake up, drink three espressos with my girlfriend while she gets ready for work. Work on music for a second, then head to the studio.
Souher Wahba for Your Local Newsstand
Photography by Dan Monick.