Before Odd Future was a group of juvenile skaters, a rapey rap “collective” or the rebirth of hip-hop, it was a magazine. Conceptualized (but never released) by Tyler, the Creator, Odd Future’s birth was on paper, not in iTunes. Fitting, since the aesthetic of Odd Future mirrors their “nettling” music; pastichey pictures of children whose faces have been digitally warped, decaying bodies and cunnilingus have all appeared on their cover art or concert flyers. They rose to prominence with the help of the street fashion messageboard HypeBeast, as well as backing from notorious skater brand Supreme. Odd Future invite obsessive scopophilia, and perusing the various fuckyeah Tumblrs dedicated to their imagery will cost you hours.
There is no denying that the group is interesting to look at even if you find their music distasteful, and a slew of photographers have had their grab at capturing their already iconic aesthetic. Tyler’s xenophobia is to nineteen-year-old Julian Berman’s advantage, who is Odd Future’s in-house photographer. As part of the Wolf Gang he has an all-access pass to every endeavor, and chances are if you’ve picked up one of the countless magazines with Tyler on the cover, you’ve seen a picture taken by Julian. Being on the artistic but non-musical side of Odd Future gives him a unique perspective–here he is in his own, straight-edge words:
What’s good! My name is Julian Berman, nineteen-year-old Los Angeles native. I am a photographer, student, hardcore enthusiast, and fast food junkie. I am mostly acknowledged for being Odd Future’s primary photographer.
Odd Future as a collective goes beyond the ten-piece rap group, it is a group of individuals who share a common bond and friendship. Regardless of us being skateboarders, producers, photographers, artists, within the OF group, we are all a unit. We roll together, we back each other, and we stick together.
Shooting Odd Future is an entirely new experience on its own. Everyone has their own unique characteristics, and they are such a treat to be around. I try to document them as naturally as possible, and whenever we shoot photos, we just try to have fun with it, almost never serious.
My success is definitely due to having the connection with the Odd Future dudes, I cannot deny that. Anonymous users firing shots at me via Tumblr is always humorous, and I definitely never take any of it too hard. Whatever I am doing, it seems to be paying off, and I cannot complain. The magazines are paying alright, and I’ve got some cool shoots/projects in the works. I actually just quit my retail job, so hopefully these magazines can help me survive!
Everybody who photographs OF still manages to capture an image in a unique way, and I respect that. Everybody has their realm of photography to kind of take advantage of, Terry [Richardson] and [Kenneth Cappello] have their white wall overexposed look on lock, Brick [Stowell] is notorious for his snapshotty B/W or aged film look, and I try to focus on my Medium Format game. In general, I still do not see many people, especially in widespread media, shooting Medium Format, and I try to take advantage of that.
Lucas is my best friend over in Los Angeles. He is also in Odd Future, and is also a part of the daily crew of people who we hang out with. He is the subject of many of my photographs, and people seem to be super into it. He has an interesting look, a bit between Fernando Torres, Ellen Degeneres, and a street rat. He’s into it, and getting quite the attention lately. I’ve actually been trying to expand my client base, go beyond Tyler and Lucas. There is a certain look I’ve actually been meaning to experiment with, on some natural artsy secluded 6×7 tip, no humans.
I’ve got a few cameras under my arsenal, about four. A Nikon D90 with my full on digital kit: Fisheye, 50MM, and the whole light setup. Film wise, I’ve got a Hasselblad 500C/M which is my primary, shooting 6×6 Medium Format film. I’ve got a Contax T2, which is a point and shoot 35mm, which is pretty fun to shoot, but consistently shooting 35mm gets super expensive. Lastly, I just picked up a Mamiya 7, a 6×7 Medium Format rangefinder. I am super excited to learn to use it, and the images that come out of that thing are just mind blowing. I used to take photo classes and have darkroom access, also develop my own black and white as well. It was so much fun and I definitely miss it, so I am considering picking up another Photography class next semester, but we’ll see…
Going to an extremely overcrowded community college is definitely frustrating. This year consists of me going to midday miserable core classes, where I usually sit on my cell phone and answer emails, or check Twitter to see what is happening in the real world as I sit in my own misery. I could never drop out, even though I definitely contemplated it this semester. My parents did not go to college, and even if I have already gotten my life on track, it’d still make them more then happy to know that I had made them proud by following through.
Both of my parents are incredibly supportive and back all of my efforts. My dad is an incredible help, and definitely accompanies me in the business aspect, which I am extremely grateful for. I recently quit my job at Urban Outfitters in order to pursue full time photography, and surprisingly enough they totally understood and backed my decision in the end.
I actually just made a tee shirt with a buddy of mine, Phil from Dertbagdesign. It actually did really well, two 10-15 shirt runs that sold out in minutes, and we should have some more on the way soon. I’ve been talking with my good friend Julian over at Stray Rats about a possible collaboration in the future. He is actually designing my website right now, so be on the lookout for that, because it’ll definitely look badass. Other than that though, more Odd Future shots coming, and hopefully some new clients in the near future.
Stick to your dreams, because as typical as it seems, they very well might come true.. Rewind two years ago and I would have never thought I’d be in the position I currently am.
Also, shoot film – LOTS OF IT.
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