TS: I first came across your work when you got a photo into HCSP. I read your name and saw your Flickr buddy icon and was like who is this chick taking these crazy street photographs. After further investigation I found out that my future wife was really a man. How do you respond to this?
AB: I’m so sorry. Take solace in knowing that you’re not alone. Nearly everyone I’ve met recently has mentioned they were at least entertaining the idea that I was a beautiful woman, and I’ve just done my best to apologize for the disappointment. I actually changed it a couple days ago, because how many broken hearts before enough is enough. Then again, I should probably change it back because I liked being her. Plus, this question isn’t going to make sense now to some. So I’m sorry twice.
TS: Your work has a timeless feel to it, by looking at your photographs they could have easily been taken in the 70’s or 80’s. But once you put on your Steven Avery hat and realise that along with cell phones and many other prevalent signs of the times plus the fact that you were born in 1989, you are making these photographs today. Your style is very unique in the sense that when I see one of your photos I know that it is yours.
AB: I’m not sure I agree, but damn, thank you. I think one of the highest compliments you can give someone is that their work looks like theirs; that they have their own thing. There are quite a few candid voyeurs in New York City that take really good pictures. If I could have my own thing in that ocean, that would be very cool. As for timelessness, that might be more a function of the way my photos look, in terms of color and contrast. I quite like it when a photo documents the current times and surroundings. I think holding a mirror up to the present can mean more in 30 years time, especially with how fast things change.
TS: You are killing it on instagram, what kind of advice can you give to an old fart like me who has no idea what instagram is for other than looking at pictures of cupcakes and over filtered sunsets.
AB: Resist the urge to define it by the cupcakes and sunsets, because there is lots of good work getting posted every day. You’ll get used to viewing it on a 2 inch screen. Find people making stuff that you like, follow them, then see what they like, etc. Engage with the community that’s into the stuff you’re into, because it’s definitely there. Then maybe they reciprocate and you get more people seeing your pictures and more people telling you that you’re “killing it on instagram,” because you know, that’s super important. Or don’t, just be an old fart. Ignorance is bliss. Go churn the butter and fetch water from the well.
TS: Is it a viable tool for self development in your art?
AB: I think it has helped me a ton. Constantly looking at other people’s work that I like, seeing all different kinds of work, seeing lots of art that isn’t photography — it’s all been good, and motivating. I’ve agreed with a couple others that it can feel a bit at times like we’re pushing each other. You might think your picture today is ok, then someone posts something that destroys yours and you feel a nice kick in the ass.
TS: I have yet to see a black and white Aaron Berger photograph, making it big in photography is so much easier If you just desaturate everything. It doesn’t even matter what you photograph at that point.
AB: When I got my first ever camera while living in Thailand, I dabbled with photos for about a week and of course shot everything in black and white because black and white is cooler. It’s funny, because Thailand has such searing light and color. Ever since I’ve gotten way into photos, I’ve shot all color. I’ll probably never shoot black and white. As cool as it is, the world is in color. And I don’t even look for color or care about it really. I just don’t want to see grey grass for the same reason I don’t want to see purple grass.
TS: Do you like..……ummmm…….music?
AB: Love music. Both my parents were professional musicians, that’s how they met. I’ve been fiddling with a guitar since I was 13, and still play just about every day. I’m very big on blues and some jazz. I also like listening to some more current stuff, categorized as alternative/indie pop according to wikipedia. I used to always walk around taking pictures with my headphones in, jamming out. Now I don’t because it seems like a bad idea.
TS: If you could only use one condiment for the rest of your life what would it be? And why?
AB: Shit, that’s heavy. Does hummus qualify as a condiment? Man. Sriracha though. Because I’m completely addicted to spicy food, and although sriracha is not really spicy at all, it is delicious and simple enough to go with a wide array, plus it does have a little kick. If Thai fish sauce in the little jar with all the chilis qualifies, I would probably go with that. Because nothing is better for super salty/spicy. Definitely can’t live without hummus though. I don’t know man.
TS: Did you choose New York or did it choose you? I have only had the pleasure of visiting there once but your photographs make me want to get back there and shoot real badly.
AB: New York chose me, but I was open to choosing it. My wife is from Thailand and she was able to first come to America by getting in a work visa program that got her a job in New York City. I was in LA at the time and just starting to take more pictures, so I was pretty excited to come here anyway.
TS: Before this you were living in Thailand? What were you doing there? Were you making photographs at that time?
AB: I lived in Chiang Mai, Thailand for 4 years. It’s an odd story I’ll try to condense: I dropped out of college because I was really obsessed with internet poker and once I got good at it, I was making a living. Lots of professional online poker players from western countries were moving to Thailand because it’s a lovely place and the cost of living is quite low. Working from the internet allowed freedom to live anywhere.
I was originally just going to visit for a summer and then go back to school, but then summer was 4 years long. I was all settled in, working at poker like any other job, and made a lot of great friends doing the same thing. I love Chiang Mai like it’s my home town. Shortly before I came back to the states, I met the girl.
I bought my first camera near the end of my time there, because I wanted to make funny youtube videos. I inexplicably decided to test the camera by going outside and taking pictures of strangers. Still have no idea why I did that. I knew I liked it right away, but didn’t really start shooting until I got to New York 10 months ago. So no, I had not discovered photography yet. Sorry, I know that whole thing sounds so ridiculous.
TS: What is happening in this photograph?
AB: I have no idea, which is usually the case for me. I snapped them as I passed by on a very crowded 34th street, didn’t stand still and watch at all. I just about never do. It appeared that the shirtless man was making the guys in suits a tad uncomfortable.
TS: When you head out to take pictures what’s your routine like? how long are you out for at one time?
AB: I just walk and walk,. Usually I walk from lower manhattan up to central park and then back down, with lots of zig zagging and random wandering. There’s not much of a routine besides going outside and walking. Usually for about 5 or 6 hours, sometimes more or less. I’m likely to grab 2 slices of 99 cent pizza at some point.
TS: Coffee, Tea or Beer while shooting?
AB: Occasionally coffee if I wake up feeling awful. But coffee works too well for me. I won’t allow myself to drink it too often. Because the guy I am after coffee, I don’t know that guy. He is way too happy and upbeat and it frightens me.
TS: If you weren’t so into photography what would you be doing with your time?
AB: No doubt I’d be helplessly addicted and obsessed with something else. Probably music or movie making. Or if I didn’t have something else, just general moping and wallowing. I’m lost if I don’t have a thing to be dedicated to. I’d definitely be in the gym and playing a lot more soccer, too.
TS: Who’s another photographer you would recommend checking out on either Instagram or Flickr?
AB: There are so many I could name. Way too many to list. If I’m only recommending one, I’ll go with someone maybe not a lot of people know. I’ll say a guy called @powercorruptionandlikes on instagram. Very much has his own thing that he does.
You can find more of Aaron’s work HERE