If you like the kind of party pictures where everybody in the shot looks like they will wake up having no recollection of the night before, but very glad to have been there, Olivia Jaffe is the photographer for you.
Jaffe’s unerring eye for edge, cool, and humans who other humans want to look at has her lens in demand with brands like OBEY, Marshall, and Crap eyewear. Her skills with video realization have helped solidify the DGAF/LAMF images of bands like the Shrine, Pink Mountaintops, and Jesus Sons.
Grown and nurtured in the Los Angeles sprawl, Olivia Jaffe’s best photos—the ones where you think maybe you know the people, or have met them somewhere, and that they saw you do things that you didn’t remember the next morning—are the shots no one paid her to take, images that were too good in the moment to be surrendered to passing time.
The Skeeve: Is there anything you owe to the 1970s?
Olivia Jaffe: Everything. That era is more directly responsible for what makes life worth living to me than any other time before or since. There are infinite parallels to be drawn between that decade and our present one. 1970 gave birth to Black Sabbath, and the first Motörhead record was released in ’77. The ’60s were sufficiently psychedelic, but by the 1970s people were disillusioned with the flower child and went looking for something a little meaner and truer to life. That’s consistent across all mediums at that time, not just music. That said, the rock & roll documentary photos that came out of the ’70s were what made me realize photography was the thing I wanted to dedicate my existence on this planet to doing. Bummed I missed the party.
The Skeeve: How is it different shooting friends as opposed to people you don’t know?
Olivia Jaffe: Comfort in communication all the way. When I’m photographing a friend, I don’t second guess any direction or commentary, it just flows. When I’m working with someone I’ve just met, I spend some time building up a bit of trust. Working with strangers is a positive challenge in that sense. It takes you out of your comfort zone and forces you to capture something that isn’t so effortless. Definitely dig it for that reason; keeps me on my toes.
The Skeeve: What’s great about working out of Los Angeles?
Olivia Jaffe: Everything. I grew up in L.A.; so this massive creeping town is home, which rules. As a kid, I thought for sure I’d end up elsewhere because “staying” is boring and maybe even lazy. Then I discovered working in Los Angeles, and it kind of redefined it for me. Everything you could possibly ever want or need as a creative person is here, or within a couple hours of here. Relatively speaking, life is easy in Los Angeles. It’s all possible here with a little blood, sweat, and tears. L.A. is everything good and bad everyone else says it is. It’s the best.
The Skeeve: Please rank your relationship to a) sex b) drugs c) rock ‘n’ roll
Olivia Jaffe: 1 = A
2 = C
3 = B
The Skeeve: Why photography?
Olivia Jaffe: Sentimentality. Initially, that feeling of being so fucking excited about where you are in a moment that you need to do something to ensure you’ll have proof of it forever, or revisit it in some small way down the line. Life moves a lot faster than we like to admit or even realize most of the time, and documenting the good shit is the most crucial aspect of moving forward. We would be screwed without it.
All photos copyright Olivia Jaffe.