Ben Pier Interview
New York based photographer Ben Pier left his native Missouri at the age of nineteen to study documentary photography at Columbia College in Chicago. Now one of the most respected names around, Pier has worked with the likes of Converse, Sony, and Delta Airlines to mention a few, and on the back of launching his first publication, entitled TEENAGE TEETH, I sat down with Ben to find out more about the man and his work.
James Oliver: Please describe yourself...
Ben Pier: My name is Ben Pier. I'm 32. I live in Brooklyn. I'm from the Midwest. Its the summer. Things are good.
JO: Where do you call home and what is the best thing about where you live?
BP: I live in Brooklyn. Been here 6 years now. For me, the best thing about living here is when you're standing still it feels like you're going a million miles an hour. I'm not sure anywhere else has that.
JO: How do you spend a usual day?
BP: Umm, It depends, If I'm not shooting I'm usually in my studio working on scans, prints, edits and such…Maybe even coming up with ideas for shoots but more likely I'm lurking down the street at Beco. If I do happen to be shooting then its anybody's guess where I'll be at or what I'm taking photos of.
JO: What influenced you to be a photographer?
BP: My older brother. He took a photo class in high school and was always bringing home prints that he made of him and his friends hanging out skating and stuff. I would sneak into his room and look thru all the prints and pretty much just snoop on his shit. I kinda remember thinking it was a cool way to tell a story - Like a real one - with just the camera and what you experienced. Anyway, you had to be a senior to take the class so when I was I did…and then I just kinda kept it going.
JO: What inspires you on a daily basis now?
BP: It's just so much radder now. Being here, keeping it moving. friends making work, getting to the next stage of life, getting grown a bit. Pushing the work, myself, and seeing how far i can push it.
JO: What was the motivation to pursue photography as a lifestyle?
BP: The motivation is that it gets me out of bed and keeps me moving and I keep learning. Thats it. I don't really think of it as a "lifestyle" per say. I live a lifestyle of making things - photography is how I do it but its not like I'm into cameras and film and f stops and all that. I like the fact that I can be out in the world making the work and not posted up in the studio all day everyday - I do what I do by making my way thru the world. So i guess thats my lifestyle. I'm not a workaholic but my life is my work. Does that make sense?
JO: Please explain your style of photography in your own words.
BP: My style is pretty automatic. I see what I like - want to see it as a photograph - then photograph it. I know what I want when I see it. Its impulsive but also I'd like to think its well thought out as well.
JO: How has your approach evolved over the years?
BP: I trust my instincts way more and am trying not to control everything so much.
JO: You recently published a book, can you tell me a bit about the concept?
BP: The concept came fairly naturally - I've been stalking teenagers for years - they're great - so I thought I'd make a book about them and the world around them.
JO: You are part of Chinatown Soccer Club, what part does soccer play in your life?
BP: A pretty big one - I'm not a fanatic about soccer or anything but those dudes are the best and I'm psyched to be a part of the team.
JO: What is the best thing about CSC?
BP: The players & the spirit of the thing.
JO: How important is fashion to you?
BP: I'm not super into fashion at all. I'm a total outsider to that world but, I don't know, I like style for sure… Individual style is undeniable and fashion can be bought so its not that cool to me. I mean I get it - but no.
JO: How does travel inspire you?
BP: Traveling is crucial for me. NYC is king but I need to get away sometimes. I'm from Missouri and I need some open fields in my life. As soon as I get out of town my eyes kinda go nuts and I go on the hunt. there is something about shooting in other places...
JO: Where is the best place you visited?
BP: I've been into exploring lesser known spots in the states as of late…Moab, little desert towns in northern Arizona - I also love the south… El paso is super weird and great. I think Vancouver + Paris are tied for my favorite cities outside the states. I even like LA now...whatever.
JO: And the worst?
BP: I've had shitty experiences in certain places but I don't think I can blame a whole city for my bad times…except for Pheonix. Fuck that town. I want to see it burnt to the ground.
JO: Going forward, what direction do you want to take your photography?
BP: I just want to keep exploring and learning…not sure what direction that will take me.