For a few months now, we at Full Frontal, have been gushing like middle school girls about this new street photographer on the scene in Vancouver who’s been ripping it up with his flash. Who is this A Common Thief guy? Countless facebook messages and speculation narrowed it down to Kurt Cobain after sneaking off from the spotlight and needing some sort of creative outlet OR the ghost of Fred Herzog (who is actually very much alive, and you should look him up if you aren’t familiar.) Don’t be daft and follow our line of thought, he’s TYLER SIMPSON. Here’s an interview with him. Oh yeah, and he’s riding with our click, so step off.
FF: For being a smallish city, Vancouver has a really rich photographic history, notably with John Goldsmith and Fred Herzog. Do you feel some pressure shooting the streets? Care to share any experiences?
TS: A few years ago I was having a really hard time making photographs here and a common cop-out is always – “Vancouver’s too small it would be so much easier in New York.” So I went to New York to cash in on the wealth of SP opportunity and ended up with a bunch of shitty photographs there as well. I remember coming across John’s work in HCSP and it was like getting slapped in the face, he had made some of the most beautiful photographs in places where I wasn’t able to see anything. I admire Fred and John immensely and have learned and will continue to learn from them and their work.
FF: You’ve gone by the moniker A Common Thief, is this a clever comment on the “taking” vs “making” a picture debate?
TS: “A Common Thief” was a quote from the Biggie track Juicy, around the same time that song came out me and my friends were running a small town shoplifting ring. We would steal headphones and sell them to kids at our school, cassette tapes, clothes and gas that was before you had to prepay to fill up. All that finally ended when we got caught taking chocolate bars, and batteries for our Walkmans. These days the only thing I take without asking is pictures.
FF: Awwww you little Canadian scoundrel. Tssk tssk.
TS: Don’t tell my mom.
FF: So that lays to rest the theory that Johan and I shared, I guess can you confirm for the record that you were not Ricky Gervais’ bandmate in Seona Dancing?
FF: You kind of exploded onto the scene recently, what did you do for your first 10,000 photos?
TS: I’ve made the rounds. I started off photographing wild life which led to portraits portraits to weddings – weddings to selling off every camera and lens I owned. During that whole time I submitted my fair share of bokehlicious black and white telephoto street portraits of homeless people to HCSP as well. After almost a two year break, I picked up a camera again (this time with flash) and have hit the streets hard.
FF: What’s your street setup?
TS: I shoot with a Ricoh Gr and a small Pentax flash, I’d rather look like a tourist than a photographer. The pop up flash of the Gr is hella strong on its own and you can easily hold a coffee in one hand and shoot with the other.
FF: What books are you excited about?
TS: I am on such a Mark Cohen kick right now It’s crazy. I can’t stop looking through Frame and I’ve been looking out the window every few minutes for the postman to drop off Dark Knees. I couldn’t find a single copy of it anywhere in Canada or the States and finally bit the bullet and ordered in a copy from Paris (which I find weird because I don’t even think anyone shoots flash in european countries, I believe it’s only in Canada, Thailand and the United States).
FF: Interesting you mention Mark Cohen, he’s the kind of guy that I feel like it wouldn’t be a letdown to meet. Any other photo heroes worthy of mention? (please don’t say Bruce Gilden, I mean you can if you want I guess.)
TS: Well aside from the Magnum photographer who dresses in a fishermans hat and photo vest and speaks with a very pronounced Brooklyn accent, I would have to say that I really admire the work of Charlie Kirk, Todd Gross, Jack Simon and Tavepong (that is before he sold out and went all mainstream). We don’t have to look far for inspiration these days, it’s a good time to be doing what we do.
FF: WTF is with all these people that don’t use flash 100% of the time? Idiots.
TS: Guess they haven’t seen the light yet. Darn purest with their (finger quote) 50mm’s and decisive moments (end finger quote).
FF: Can you talk about your book? Any advice you could pass on to the uninitiated?
TS: Yeah, I just had a bunch of images that I wanted to see printed so I put them out there. I didn’t want to be that guy who always talks about the book he’s working on then years go by and nothing’s happened. It’s called Flash Face and it is more of a zine than a photobook. I printed 30 copies, mailed one to Martin Parr, gave a few away to people that are in it and have been selling the rest. I originally planned on doing a series of them but Flash Face has slowly morphed into FlashGun and this time I want to feature more photographers work in it than just mine.
FF: So, expand on what brought you back into photography and this complete departure from the bokehlicious. Let’s get to the heart of it. You’ve got something here that we shouldn’t gloss over.
TS: For that time period I quit shooting my life was a mess. I was going to the gym all the time, running in 25km trail races, learning archery, doing Muay Thai, I even took up fishing. I was in the best shape of my life but something just wasn’t right. I tried so hard to fill the void of photography but nothing quite did the trick. When I finally decided to pick up a camera again it was the first time in a long time that I felt like myself again. I’m no longer in the best shape of my life but I don’t feel lost anymore, I know what I want to be doing and I’m doing it.
That’s all folks, you can buy Tyler’s book here.