Jeremy Perez-Cruz, @sleepingplanes / by Dave Krugman

Hey all- Dave Krugman here. Today, I’m speaking to a photographer who is a huge influence on my work. To contextualize our conversation, please follow him on Instagram and familiarize yourself with his work by clicking the image below.

Dave Krugman: So, as you well know, I’m a huge fan of the work you make. It evokes almost a bygone era of street photography and reminds me of work from my favorite film guys from back in the day. Who are some of those artists from pre-internet era who have influenced you?

Jeremy Perez-Cruz: “There are almost too many to list - Garry Winogrand, Joel Meyerowitz, Alex Prager, Alex Webb, Diane Arbus. However, there are usually three or four that I see creep into my work most often:

    • Fred Herzog: Herzog is one of my biggest inspirations regarding color. I love how he captured Vancouver and found these really bright, colorful moments everywhere.

    • Philip-Lorca DiCorcia:  The theatrical feeling he produces with light is something I really aspire towards.

    • Saul Leiter: I love Saul because he doesn't seem to care about the medium - his images look like paintings. I love what he chose to crop and leave out of the frame. He really didn’t care what a photo was traditionally supposed to look like. He had his own vision and has, in turn, inspired a generation.

    • Vivian Maier (specifically her color work): The way Vivian documented people resonates the most with me. She had such an amazing eye and you could tell she was really fascinated by people and how they interacted with the world. Though she mostly shot black and white, her eye for color was also incredible.

Beyond photographers, I’m always inspired by films (Jordan Cronenweth), paintings (Edward Hopper), books (Murakami) and music.”

DK: Awesome. Love all those names and I can certainly see the influence in your work.

Smartphones have put a camera in almost everyone’s hands by default. How do you think that has changed the medium- and is it overall a good or bad thing for the craft?

JPC:“I think it’s a good thing for the craft. In a country where art seems to be valued by society less and less, it’s getting people who wouldn’t otherwise create art to make pictures.

Street photography, specifically, is such a democratic art form. With almost everyone having a camera in their pocket, one can just walk outside and start creating. I love that.”

DK: Couldn’t agree more. I feel like it’s also created a wider audience for the craft- people who used to be indifferent are now being exposed to photography on a level they had never had access to. Any thoughts on that idea?

JPC:“100%. I feel that it’s a win-win. I have a hard time with complaining about more people exploring positive ideas, experimenting, and creating. I hear a lot of professionals complain about it - and I understand we all need to make a living- but I guess I just believe the cream rises to the top. People with talent and work ethic will be just fine. If you’re getting lapped, it says more about you than your ‘competition.’”

DK: Interesting. Well put, thank you. Let’s talk about the idea of collaboration vs. competition. Do you think social media has made the craft more or less collaborative?

JPC:“That’s an interesting question. Generally, I view competition as a good thing - helps to stop people from being too comfortable, to drive the discipline forward and keeps artists hungry. However, social media has made people more competitive for – what I consider – the wrong reasons. Too much focus on likes, comments, ‘influence,’ fame. In turn, it’s helped perpetuate a copycat kind of culture. Everyone is looking for the formula for more engagement. I’d love for us all to focus more on the images.

The flip side is, social media has connected us all. I’ve met amazing people who are big supporters of each other who don’t let ego get in the way. I would never have connected with them if not for social media, so a sense of collaboration is definitely there.

Going back to the engagement thing for a second - and I’m guilty of this - it’s dampened our desire for experimentation. We generally view a low ‘performing’ photo as a failure, regardless of how we personally feel about it or if it’s objectively good. General public opinion has killed our desire for interesting work.”

DK: I agree with those sentiments, and I try to disconnect myself from the “numbers game.” Any tips for people who have a hard time separating their work from the feedback they do or don’t receive on social media?

JPC:“Ignoring the numbers to the best of our ability is a good start. Another thing that personally help ls me is looking at work, including my own, outside of a phone screen - books, galleries, museums, prints. Things exist in the physical world. It helps in deciding that a social media post isn’t the end point for your work, it’s a stop along a journey.”

DK: That last sentence is a gem. I agree with that as well- I try to think of my Instagram as a sketchbook for bigger ideas and projects, and as a tool to market those bigger ideas.

Who are some modern day street shooters on Instagram that you’d recommend people follow if they want to be inspired and pushed in new directions?

DK: Why photography over another form of visual art? What drew you to it?

JPC: “I’ve done lots of visual art! The good thing is all visual mediums are related - composition, framing, color, balance, texture, story - those skills translate well.

Communication design is one of my primary means of income. In many ways, it’s because of that that photography is interesting to me. It really started as a means of being creative outside of a client environment and grew into a form of walking meditation.

I have a lot of things bouncing around my mind any given second and photography helps quiet all of that and give me a singular focus. It’s also helped me discover details in the world and find beauty almost anywhere.

Going back to earlier in our conversation, it “costs” almost nothing but time. You can have a cheap camera, or phone, or whatever - and walk outside and the entire world is you canvas/set/subject.

It’s very freeing in that way.”

DK: Amazing. I love photography because it makes every waking moment a visual game- even when you don’t have a camera on you.

Do you think that hyper awareness translates to other areas of your life?

JPC: “I do. Speaking to hyper awareness specifically, I definitely pay much more attention to my environment. I’ve always been curious but now I’m much more prone to investigation (of places, films, people, travel, etc). Sometimes it causes me to be distracted in everyday personal scenarios but, generally, being observant is a valuable quality.

Being such an observer of humanity has also helped me to become more empathetic.”

DK: That empathy line is so true. I’ve experienced the same. Care to elaborate on that?

JPC:“I think as an active observer you start to see a lot more of what’s happening with people in the world. We’re all existing and we all have our routines and we all run up against adversity or difficult times. I’ve always been an advocate for social good but I used to think a little less about what was going on outside of my direct path of life, I’m now much more in tune with others and actively try to make positive change outside of my little world. I notice it a lot in how I travel and how I speak with people.

There is a need to check my entitlement out there - and make sure I’m aware of how my creation of art affects and reflects those I’m documenting. It’s also been nice to be forced to engage with strangers more - taking a picture is often an involuntary invitation to discussion.”

DK: Tell me about this photo:

JPC:”Ultimately, it asks a question of the viewer. People either wonder what’s happening or how I got this frame or they empathize with the mother. I like that it’s an image that creates a dialogue. It develops a relationship with the audience.

Then it has other things, aesthetics, I like - pops of color, decent light, subframes, dynamic composition, reflections.

The tl;dr is that it combines a decisive moment with a well-executed / well composed image.”

DK: And this one?

JPC: “Similar reasons. This one is a bit more of a character study - the gentleman is interesting to me. His hair, mustache, glasses, expression. I love the color and shape harmony happening between his shirt and the building. All orange and lines. And then the technical stuff - composed, focal point, rhythm, exposure, etc. The shadow play is fun, too.”

DK: Can you explain what’s going on here?

JPC: ”The simple explanation is that it’s a Reeded glass door. The longer story is, while leaving brunch with my girlfriend in Brooklyn, I ran out ahead of her to chase a photo, I turned around and saw her approaching the door and snapped her right before she opened it.”

DK: Thanks so much for the interview. I’ve learned a lot and I’m sure others will too.

For more work from Jeremey, please follow his Instagram at @sleepingplanes