Gritty, dirty, noisy, graffiti aesthetics, that's something Grimey Mondays fucks with to the world and back. It seems natural then to get Ellisdawg, a man with the sort of edgy video directing, unconventional photography and grungy creative skills on board with ...is dead? gang. It's apt he talks for Through The Lens considering he was preaching 2020 being doomed before it was even 2020, still though, vibes haffi run.
Live is dead? That's a contradiction ain't it? More mindfucks below.
From looking at your work, the first question is this, is your approach towards photography different to your approach to videography?
“Erm..good question...my personal photography is more just capturing moments rather than staging anything. Most of the time I’ll be shooting somewhere live with my camera, maybe at a show and get some photos there and then after the show I might get some more photos on the streets and stuff, it’s more lifestyle. Whereas with videos, they’re a bit more thought out, there’s something to execute which needs to be done.”
So with portraits, you’re living more in the moment but with videos, you’re looking more at the bigger picture.
“Yeah yeah yeah yeah. With music videos, I always try to make the visuals fit the song.”
What’s ‘2Ø2Ø’, is it a platform?
“Erm..it basically started off in 2016. My friend got approached to do a clothing brand and he came to me asking if I wanted to be the photographer for it and I was “yeah cool” and from there, we grew his clothing brand, it was called the Doomed Regular and through that, I was able to meet some of the bigger artists I worked with when I first started out like IAMDDB who became massive. ‘2Ø2Ø’ was something back in the 2016 where we were thinking we’re living in 2020, putting it on clothes and stuff. With IAMDDB’s song ‘Shade’ (“bad bitch no underwear, 2020 gon’ pull up and air yeah”), that was through us, I did a video with her which is called ‘Vibe 2Ø2Ø’, we kind of stuck with it from there.”
Bet you weren’t expecting 2020 to be like this right now!
“Nah, not at all really, it’s a bit of a mazza!”
No-one saw this coming at the start of the year!
“Trust bruv, I thought this was gonna be a good year. Bad things happen with clothing brands, it’s just one of those things where throughout it all, we are all doomed to be regular, this was kind of the point of the clothing brand, we were saying “Doomed 2020” so maybe 2020 was already meant to be doomed!”
*2020 is what 2012 tried to be.*
Now’s the time to really support the independent creatives, whatever crafts they’re doing.
“We’ve just got to come together and keep creating.”
Who inspires you now in 2020 and who inspired you when you were first starting out.
"Right now for photography and videography, I’d definitely say ABOVEGROUND, he’s doing bits right now, very crazy with the visuals and the photos. Other guys who are making better visuals are BKAS and KC Locke’s a sick director, he’s pretty inspiring for me right now.
When I was first starting out, it was mainly photography that I was getting into, there was a guy called Jason Lee, he’s super dope. Rosie Matheson, even Vicky Grout when I first started out as a photographer, I was looking at her stuff, I guess it was the first stuff I came across on social media."
What makes the street aesthetic so pleasing to be around, what’s the essence you’re trying to capture?
“I just do it for the love of music, I love all different types of it and I love photography and I love capturing it. Whatever comes with music, that’s what I imagine people might find so appealing.”
You’ve got an archive of 35mm shots in your Instagram highlights so why do you think film photography is so important nowadays?
“For me personally, I much prefer my film work than my digital work. I have a lot of digital work that I don’t really show to a lot of people because film looks better, it has more character, the colours come out differently, it feels more real to life whereas digitally, you can retouch images to make them super clean but I don’t like clean images. I tend to put more noise on my digital photos to get a film look.”
How would you describe your style, your video for Onoe Caponoe looks grungy, gritty, and it’s not glossy plus your film photography adds to that element?
“That’s pretty much it, gritty, dirty, rough and it’s not really...it’s weird because I do all sorts of different styles I must admit by the style I mainly prefer is underground, urban and really messy, it fits the vibe of the music. I don’t want it to be clean, I want dirty aesthetics, writing on the wall, incorporating different cultures like skateboarding and graffiti. Mainly independent vibes, it’s rare for me to be working with bigger companies...I dunno, that’s just for now I guess.”
What has been your favourite project to be involved with?
“The one I did recently with Tar Street Sports, we did a two part video to show off some dungarees and a jacket but then they’re pretty much everything I tend to be doing that involves graffiti, skateboarding and music so I’ve been doing a lot of work with them. My work can vary as this was kind of gritty but a different style to what I normally work with.”
What’s the working dynamic between you and your clients, is it more a case of catering for them or is it more a case of you putting yourself into the work to make your mark?
“It can go both ways, they’ll have things they want from me. For example with the TSS with dungarees and jacket they wanted to show off, they wanted to show certain details in the clothing where they have hidden pockets so you have to meet those needs but then the rest of it is creative freedom, how do they respect how you can shoot, they need to understand what you do and have a guide for what they’re looking for. TSS wanted me to have a creative input and it’s nice to deliver something that they wanted.
Whenever someone asks me for a video, I ask them what they are expecting from me, what do they like and what do they want and from there, I try to figure it all out. It’s important to have that conversation from there to outline the brief you’re going to be doing for someone.”
Continuing the videography theme, how do you adapt to changing situations to do with subjects, lighting, location, weather etc. How long have you been directing for?
“Erm...I think I made my first video like five years ago.
I think like every time you go out to do another video, you learn more about making videos. When I first started out with my camera, I was trying things out and seeing what things worked. When you come to edit these things and when you have time to contemplate what you did, you think of the things you could have done better. Every time you go out and film, you learn something new, the process becomes easier and I think over time, you think less about the process and more ahead of time.
Practice makes perfect for me, if you fuck up something, it doesn’t matter. As long as you learn from your mistakes and not make those same mistakes then you’re gucci.”
What does it mean to be a creative in this day and age, what should you represent as a creative?
“Personally for me, I think what a creative should represent is being able to touch people without physically touching people. It’s so easy to do with video, I remember when there was a moment when I was at uni, I was doing a joint project with others where we could have done a presentation for it but because I was making videos at the time, we did a video for it instead and it was to do with homelessness so we showed it to the class and one of my teachers ended up crying in class from watching the video and I was like “rah this is mad!”. Something I’ve made and just shown has had such a profound effect on that teacher, he ended up crying.”
*I'm not crying, you're crying.*
How did that make you feel?
“I mean I was proud, it was for a competition which we ended up winning so I was proud that something I did affected someone like that and that’s why I wanted to do it more. I spoke to the guy after the class asking what happened there, I wasn’t really expecting a reaction like that. He said he’d been in a situation like that before and it made him think back to it.”
There you go, you’re doing your job as a creative. Creating something that someone can fuck with and have empathy with.
“Admittedly, I’m not trying to make everyone cry but I want people to feel experiences and most of the time make people feel happy I guess.”
How do you make your content look so candid and real?
“I guess for the most part, I just build good relationships with everyone I take photos with. There aren't a lot of my photos where I haven’t really met these people before. Everyone that I have met becomes more comfortable taking photos of them, I think that’s why the photos feel more candid and intimate. I don’t tend to meet anyone and get photos straight away. It helps benefit my work a lot more as well.”
Last question, it’s peak at the moment but what are your future plans for 2020?
“To be fair, I only started freelancing properly four months ago. I had a bunch of jobs that I was meant to be doing, shooting at shows and art galleries, just random jobs. I’ve never really freelanced before, I’ve always worked part-time and did the photos and videos on the side.”
Feel liberated being your own boss?
"Yeah, I mean like yeah it was scary, you’re not guaranteed the money, you’re not guaranteed a set amount of money. Once you become used to the routine of it, it becomes normal and fine and I feel like the more freelancing you do, the more jobs you pick up because you’re always available, it’s a worthwhile jump. Even despite what’s happening, I don’t think this should cause creatives to be put down, you have to adapt to what’s going on so for me, I’m going to be focusing on personal projects. I want to get a website running, a magazine/book made, give a space to the content I’ve got from the last five years, make some money and then put some of my video footage up on YouTube.”
Follow Ellis on Instagram and Twitter (@ellisdawg).