Jason Dill has filled his life with the kind of hedonism the rest of us can only dream of. Luckily for the rest of us, in between the parties and the travel, the legendary pro-skater — and founder of cult streetwear brand and skateboard company Fucking Awesome — found time to capture it all on film. His new photo book Prince Street (Photos from Africa, People Remembered, Places Forgotten) features never-before-seen images from those years — including intimate shots of friends, and members of downtown graffiti crew, IRAK, including late artist Dash Snow and photographer Tim Barber.
“When I was about 8 years old, I took a Polaroid of myself in a mirror, I saw myself instantaneously in the image, I liked it. This is my first experience with photography,” explains Jason in the opening of the book. Although he first encountered the medium at such at young age, he never thought he’d be putting out a book of his own images. But after finally digitizing hundreds of negatives and with friends’ consistent suggestions, Dill finally changed his mind.
The result is a historical artefact of the wild nights spent chasing the sunrise, and a celebration of the freedom and raw spirit of youth. “My life is so different now and the world in which I took these images doesn’t exist any longer,” Jason writes. “I miss that world. This book contains scenes of happiness, humor, love, regret, nudity, pain and a little sadness. This book will exist after I no longer do. Which is my purpose in its production.”
Tell me about Prince Street. It says it’s your first, but I thought you’d put out a few books before?
Well, I’ve never put out a book. I’ve put out zines before with people. I did a book through what was OHWOW and Supreme with my friend Dave, who did a publication called Fuck This Life. It was a book version of a zine with them. But I’ve never done a full-blown book. This one is pretty big – 250 pages. It’s over a foot tall and bound. But yeah I never thought I’d put out a book of my photography, certainly not a book this big.
Tell me about the photos.
I just so happened to have the opportunity to travel the world at a young age. As a teenager I started taking photos, just carrying disposable cameras. Then when I was like 20, 21 I got the Olympus with the slide. I started taking photos everywhere I went. In 1994, I went to New York for the first time, and Tokyo, Paris, London, all these places. The photos in the book are from 1997 until 2015.
Did you stop taking photos then?
A bit, yeah. I don’t actively take cameras around with me like I used to. The daily life I live isn’t conducive to the way I used to take photos when I was younger. I don’t want to sound corny, but there are certain photos in the book that when I’m in these other countries, I’m taking photos of people out in public. I’m glad I have the photos, but it’s an intrusive act. Of course not all of them, but there are some that were taken without permission. At the same time, those photos were so long ago. I’m not saying that makes it right; I’m glad I had the photos.
Anyone who knows about taking photos and keeping your negatives organized, I didn’t get mine organized until a couple of years ago. That’s when I started the process of doing this book. When all of the photos were in my computer finally and I could look through them for the first time. Like, “Wow, that’s 1998.” It felt like time travel to live through the photos again.
Why did it take you so long to put out a photo book?
I’m a bit insecure about my photography, just like I’m insecure about my painting and a bit about the products that I make. But I have enough friends – whose opinions I really respect, and I really respect what they do – that over time have told me I should make a book of my photos. And so I did.
How long did it take you to get to the point where you felt comfortable with it?
It took a little over two years for the whole thing. Obviously events over the last 30 months took the ordeal into a lengthier process. But I was never in any hurry anyway. And yeah, I’m happy with it. But it’s not really up to me to be happy with it. I took the photos and I’ve been sitting looking at them for so long. It was cool for me to see the photos for the first time, not just in a shoe box. Getting them on a computer where I could blow them up, that was wild to see things in them that I hadn’t seen before. Some of this stuff is funny, some’s interesting. That’s enough for me.
You put your collage work on the Fucking Awesome clothing, right? Do you feel more confident putting that out than the photos?
Yeah all the collage work I make. I put out two skate decks and a couple of T-shirts with my photos as the graphics. And they did well; I was pleased with how they turned out. But for the most part, my confidence with making product for FA supersedes my confidence in my paintings or my photography because in the process of collage, you can always come back and change something or rework it. And also, when I’m in different cities and I see someone wearing something I made, you can’t get much more of a nod of confidence than that, you know? That’s really cool. I look at so many other photographers and painters that I think are really good. And I think, Oh my shit sucks.
This guy interviewed me yesterday and he was really nice, and he said, “I’ve heard that a photographer without an Instagram is like a director without a reel nowadays.” I heard him — because I don’t have an Instagram account. There’s a fake one made of me. I only bring this up because I think with this book, there’s so much imagery that you’ve never seen before. It’s not on your phone or computer; it’s only in this book. And I also understand that it’s very difficult to publish a book if you don’t have some sort of known background, which I’m fortunate to have because of skateboarding and my company and the history of that. It’s a nice feeling that even within today’s industry where everything is getting farmed out with extreme waves of discontent that I’m able to contribute something with real humanness – where you actually have to pick it up and look at it.
I like that it’s something I’ve made and someone can have this book on a shelf in their house and someone comes over and they don’t know who the fuck I am, and they start to look through it. And who knows how much longer walking, talking, breathing, brain-function animals will be on this planet? But so long as this book is on someone’s shelf, someone can come over and look at it outside of the person who bought it.