Jordan Tiberio & Maxwell Runko: Unreleased Collaborative Work and Interview Exclusive
How did you and Max meet? From what I understand, you are decent distance away from each other. First impressions?
J: Max and I met through Flickr when we were both still in high school, I think around 2010. We would talk here and there, but nothing serious since we were both still living at home; he lived in Montpelier, Virginia, I lived in Rochester, New York. In August of 2011 I moved to New York City for college and he happened to be visiting for his first fashion week, so we decided to meet up. It was about 90 degrees out and we walked 40 blocks in the heat to Central Park, where I attempted to take photographs of him and failed miserably. He had bag full of these little colored stars that we stuck to his face, but he was sweating so much from the heat that the colors started to rub off on his skin. He had a casting the next day, so we figured we better take them off and not chance them staining his skin! (By the way, those photographs never saw the light of day on the Internet) As far as first impressions go, I though Max was super personable. He made me feel so comfortable, and we had a great connection right off the bat.
M: After that shoot we walked all the way back and had a rap battle on the way to “Yonkers” by Tyler, The Creator. I was pretty impressed she could rap so well. We also ran into her high school class president on a random street corner. First impressions? She knew how to hold a conversation, was talented at photography, and an overall cool girl, but I didn’t really think anything else would come from it.
When did you both start with photography? Did you both always want to be photographers?
J: I didn’t take up a serious interest in photography until January of my Sophomore year of high school. I took the two photography courses offered at my high school my Freshman year, but because they were in the technology department and not art department, my interest in it didn’t hold up. I took many drawing courses though, so the skills I learned from those classes definitely aided me when I took up photography as an art form. I bought my own camera after breaking my mother’s and being banned from using her new one. My best friend from childhood was my first subject, and my only subject up until the summer before my senior year of high school. She is by far one of the main reasons I am where I am today with my photography. We’d spend almost every day together after school taking photographs somewhere new in our town. We’d do a lot of trespassing, we both got poison ivy one time or another, and we accidentally attempted to get into a house we *thought* was abandoned. I didn’t think I would necessarily always be a photographer until it came time to apply for colleges, and I couldn’t see myself doing anything else.
M: I started in 8th grade I think, possibly sooner, but definitely before 9th grade. It didn’t go anywhere in the beginning, and I didn’t have my own camera for a long time so I used my dad’s. I shot film before shooting digital, but it became expensive. I got more into fine arts around the time I ended up getting my own camera, so I kept photography as something for myself. I didn’t push my photography because I was trying to focus more on fine art during school. I tend to be more of a visual person. I like seeing something on a wall that you can touch and feel, something that holds a texture. A photo can be a little flat for me in comparison to that. I’m going to school for sculpture, but I will probably end up doing something with photography in the end, because I still have a strong passion for it. I’ve been working with polaroids a lot lately and am really into them, so that’s something I plan to do more of in my work coming up. Jordan and I recently collaborated on a project coming out in a month or so strictly on polaroids, so keep a look out for them.
Max, people know you first and foremost for your modelling. Has that affected your work as an artist in any way?
M: Modeling came about when I was in 11th grade. I wanted to shoot models from a local agency, but I was too young. I kept emailing them pictures I took, and one time I included a self portrait, so that’s how they found me and I got signed with their agency. After that, I got signed in New York and went to my first fashion week in the fall of 2011, when I met Jordan. I kept coming back to New York for shoots and kept seeing Jordan, so that helped our relationship evolve. I don’t think I have hype around my work (unsure if the work that would be “hyped” is my fine art, photography, or modeling work). I don’t like the association, since I’m known for my face and not my work, which irks me. Art is my life and I’m not known for that, but instead I’m known for something more superficial. But don’t get me wrong, I like modeling, and I like helping the photographer get their point across, the modeling industry, at times, can be a bit much for me.
Describe the first piece of work you both did together, how did it feel?
J: I can’t think of a single piece that defines the first work we did together, but I think the images we made together in July 2012 are what I would classify as our first collaboration. We spent a week together in my hometown during the summer and I essentially ended up making a series of portraits of Max, a study of him. We didn’t really “collaborate” on the pieces, but he’d give me some ideas for the images of ways to shoot him. For me, it was like a flashback to when I shot my best friend all the time in high school. I didn’t feel bad to boss her around, and I felt that same sort of relaxation and ease with Max. I didn’t want that week to end because of how much I loved making art with and of him (and I also just didn’t want him to leave!).
M: For our images, I think modeling is half of it, and taking the picture is the other half of it. So I guess every time I sit for her it is pretty much a collaboration. The summer proved to me just how well we meshed together. She’s good at directing. She’s very specific and makes it easy to understand what she wants. We’ve been working together for so long now that I know what she wants, and can do what she wants without her telling me. It’s really fun to work together.
Would you say you are each others’ muse?
J: Of course!
M: Definitely, definitely. She’s more of a conceptual kind of muse for me because I incorporate her into some of my fine art work.
You’re both really pretty to look at. Not a question, just a statement.
J & M: Thanks!
So “photography” in the internet era seems to have morphed itself into different ideas of what a “good” photo is. What are your thoughts on the Tumblr aesthetic of photography or, even more so, the way Flickr has influenced today’s photograph?
J: I think the standards for photography can be super low when it comes to the Internet. Speaking of Tumblr specifically, one can’t judge how good a photograph is by the amount of notes it gets, which I think can be a common misconception. Some of the best art on there gets sucked up into the infinite scroll of your Dashboard! As far as Flickr goes, it has definitely been a bigger influence on my life. When I was just starting out it was a great way to meet and see the work of other kids across the country, and even world, that were my around my age and making awesome work! It was my daily source of inspiration, and I could even learn a thing or two from observing other people’s experimentations. Though I do believe there was a time when a lot of people were trying out the same things, but it didn’t matter since we were all young and figuring ourselves out and what we all liked to do individually! I have seen the internet—and again, Flickr—help a ton of young photographers achieve great successes that couldn’t have been possible without it’s reality. I think that’s pretty amazing.
M: I think the “Tumblr aesthetic” is pretty redundant, and I see it as the same aesthetic. It’s pretty crazy how it’s essentially an overstimulating black hole, with so much to take in, and a lot can get lost. Anything goes on Tumblr, so it’s hard to place an aesthetic on it. An interesting thing I find about it though, as well as on Flickr, is specific pockets. There’s specific styles people get placed into or fall into, like cliques on the Internet that might not even be aware of their existence. I have a specific way as to how I decide whether or not I like a photograph, especially with how much imagery is on the Internet. I have to get a feeling from viewing it, anything at all. I get attached to an image because of the emotion it portrays, and how it successfully it gets that across. Speaking from personal experience, with mine and Jordan’s work, I feel a sense of intimacy when I look at our images, and I’ve realized relationship is important. It doesn’t have to be romantic, but just having good vibes to work off of with your subject is crucial.
Your favourite photographers under 25? Who do you think is changing the game up?
Synchrodogs, Mike Bailey-Gates, Lauren Poor, Alison Scarpulla, Aëla Labbé, Lukasz Wierzbowski, Eleanor Hardwick, Lissy Elle Laricchia.