Sights & Sounds —
Jeremy Jude Lee
Photos by Jeremy Jude Lee
Audio by Elphick Wo
Photos by Jeremy Jude Lee
Audio by Elphick Wo
Jeremy Jude Lee is a lifestyle and commercial photographer and videographer from Vancouver, Canada where he’s currently based.
Jeremy first picked up a camera and started recording whatever was of interest around him after busting his ankle and being forced to take time off from skateboarding. Jeremy has shot for a long list of editorial and commercial clients including Highsnobiety, HYPEBEAST, Lululemon, Reigning Champ, and Canon. He shot the Street Dreams team for a feature we published, “The Feed in Real Life“.
Jeremy’s selection of images for this edition of Sights & Sounds is tinged with nostalgia and linked strongly to his emotions he felt while capturing these shots.
So this photo is probably one of my favorite photos that I’ve taken in a long time. It was actually taken when I was tagging along with my friend Ja Tecson, who is kind of like my mentor and is a really dope photographer out in LA. We were hanging out with this crew of skaters—Briana, Eunice, and Victoria—and we were kind of cruising from spot to spot. Usually, when I’m tagging along on Ja’s shoots I don’t really shoot a lot of photos for myself. I’ll grab one or two behind the scenes photos and film a few clips, but, for the most part, I’m trying to learn.
I don’t know if a lot of people know this, but I’ve been skateboarding for the better half of my life, since I was 13, 14—all I really wanted to do was skate. I was obsessed. I’d be in class and I’d have my eraser and I would be using the eraser as, like, a fingerboard and using my textbook as a ledge or making little ramps with the pages of the books and envisioning what I would be wanting to do when I got out of class. Every waking moment was me dreaming about skateboarding.
So when we were hanging out and shooting, for the most part, I wasn’t really even thinking about taking photographs, I was kind of caught up in the moment and kind of transported back to the feeling of what it was like to really be immersed in skateboarding, and also skateboarding with a crew. The people that I came up skateboarding with when I was a teenager, like the main two guys, one of them stopped skateboarding and one of them moved away, and I still skateboard quite often, but, for the most part, it’s whenever I’ve got spare time, an hour or two here and there. This was one of the first times in a long time that I was skating with other people and, I was really enjoying it.
Yeah, so, we went to a schoolyard and we went to some other spots and towards the end of the day, they suggested that we go downtown to Broadway. I guess when we got there, or in general, that stretch of road that we were on, there were hardly any cars. There was barely any traffic. We were riding through the streets and it was super surreal and it kind of felt like a dream. They were like, “Oh, Jeremy, why don’t you skate ahead and then we’ll push really fast and rip down this stretch and you can take a photo of us cruising right down the middle.” And then I was like, “Yeah, definitely, for sure.” And I’m super happy with the way this photo turned out cause it kind of captures exactly the way that I was feeling at the time, which was purely enjoying that moment.
When we were skating around that day, it really took me back to that feeling of pure joy—skating with friends, no objective, no destination, enjoying the adventure.
Ever since I was a kid, I’ve kind of always been super enamored by movies like The Sandlot and Stand By Me, which belong to this semi-genre of the American boyhood or coming of age film. The stories usually outline either a period of time of a boy’s life or some type of deeply impactful story or experience that kind of shapes who they’re going to become from childhood to manhood, or boyhood to manhood. Typically, from the beginning to the end of the film, the gist is that they have this adventure or experience, throughout it they come to various realizations and nothing is ever the same, like they’re no longer a child and this kind of shapes the way that they are going to be going forward.
So, I don’t know why these films resonated with me so heavily. It’s almost like they made me feel nostalgic but for a past that’s not really my own. I mean, I’m not American, I’m Chinese—on the flip side I did grow up playing baseball and riding bikes, but I’m not necessarily like your typical character from that type of movie.
So I thought that it would be fun to do a little experiment in shooting scenes from these movies but replace the characters with an Asian person. So this image in particular is like trying to recreate this scene from The Sandlot where this character named Benny “The Jet” Rodriguez, they hit a baseball over a fence into where this big dog called The Beast lives, and you never retrieve a ball from that fence, but the ball belonged to one of the kids and it was signed by Babe Ruth so they had to retrieve it. So Benny steps up to the plate and he hops over the fence and he just runs for his life as the dog chases after him.
All in all, it just ended up being a super fun shoot and I’m really happy with the images. So afterwards I submitted them to my friend Jeff’s website Booooooom that kind of features artist series. When he wrote about it he wrote that they had, “a beautiful undertone of loneliness.” So, I guess, if I think about it, the project ended up being a little bit more telling than I’d like to admit but maybe something from my childhood about being the only Asian kid on a baseball team, or whatever, not that it really matters to me now, but I guess it’s funny to see how memories can really influence your work subconsciously, like things you might not even be thinking about.
Trial By Fire
So this photo doesn’t really fit with the kind of theme or feeling of the rest of the photos I’ve included, but it has a really funny story behind it. This photo was taken back in 2014. I was still in university and, like, trying to get my feet planted as a photographer in Vancouver. And I was working a lot with my friend Chris Danforth, who lived in the city at the same time and he was writing in the blog scene and we had done some articles together for HYPEBEAST. And he hit me up one day when I was at school, and he was like, “Yo, Jeremy. I have this really cool opportunity. I started writing for Highsnobiety and I have this chance to interview Pusha T in person tonight at this local club.” I was like, “Yeah, I’m down.”
And he linked me in the email thread he had going with the tour manager, whose name was Day Day. So Day Day told us, okay, show up at the club kind of during the opening act and we’ll get you into the backroom before his set and you’ll be able to ask a couple of questions and take a few pictures before he goes on stage. I don’t know how this happened, but in my conversations back and forth with Chris, maybe neither of us had met anyone named Day Day before, so we were referring to Day Day as she or her. We get there and we’re waiting, we’re trying to figure out where the manager is and somebody taps on Chris’ shoulder and says, “Yo, what up. I’m Day Day.” And we look up and it’s actually this big, tall man. And then we were both kind of looking at each other like, oh.”
I think me, personally, I was just a little bit embarrassed and thrown off. And he was like, “Okay, Pusha’s ready. Just follow me.” So he opened this door that lead to the green room and there were these two big bodyguards. They were totally silent. I was, like, internally freaking out at that moment. ‘Cause we were walking up this staircase, in my brain, I was like, “Oh my god, I thought Day Day was a woman, but he’s actually a man. And there are these two super super scary bodyguards. And, like, I’m going to meet Pusha T, and, based on his lyrics, Pusha T used to be a straight up G. And I’m just this Asian kid with a camera and I don’t even know what I’m doing.”
So we get to the top of the stairs and we meet Pusha T and he’s kind of like in his zone, about to perform, so he was kind of not really making eye contact, like he was kind of mouthing the lyrics to his song, I guess maybe getting into the headspace to perform. Day Day was like, “Okay, you got 10, 15 minutes before he’s got to go on stage.” Chris totally clued in and he was awesome and he was asking all the right questions and kind of breaking the silence and loosening things up, but then he kind of, like, looked over his shoulder at me and shot a look at me, like, “Dude, start taking these photos now.” So, I quickly opened up my bag and all I had was this kind of dinky light stand with an umbrella and a flash with a pocket wizard so I could fire the flash off my camera. I was like, “You know what? I have to do this right now,” and I just zoned in. I started directing him and Pusha was super professional, he knew all his angles. He listened to every direction. In that moment, something took over me and I all of a sudden knew what I had to do. We shot a few photos. We got out of there.
And it’s funny, because at the time, maybe I thought I had no idea what I was doing, but when I was digging through my archives and looking back, I was like, damn, I actually really like some of these photos. That goes to show you got to learn by throwing yourself right into the fire.
Editor’s Note: De’Von “Day Day” Pickett died on February 18, 2015 after sustaining fatal wounds in an altercation.
Fly Like an Eagle
This photo’s actually shot on my first ever roll of Kodak Tri-X film. When I was in photography school, the first film I ever shot was Ilford HP5 Plus, which is like this kind of low contrast black and white film, and I never really liked it. To be honest, until recently I never really saw the point of shooting film when I had a digital camera and I wouldn’t have to pay for film and I could see the results instantly. But I’ve kind of taken a complete 180 in my stance when it comes to film. I absolutely love shooting it now. And I’m not saying by any means that I’m like a fantastic film shooter, but what I find is that when you don’t get that instant feedback of what the image looks like that you would from a digital camera, it kind of allows you to exercise different parts of your brain when it comes to dissecting a scene with your eyes. And it forces you to see in a different way, to challenge yourself to work from your level of experience. It kind of hyper-accelerates your learning curve. I find that every time I shoot a roll of film I significantly improve and I’m all about learning and trying to become a better photographer constantly.
When I got this roll of film back I was really excited, because I finally had found…like, I had loved the tones and contrasts and the sharpness and quality that came from this Kodak film stock. So I was just really excited that I’d finally found a black and white film that I like. Or maybe it was just laziness that I had never tried it before.
This photo, in particular, was taken of my friend Gabe. We met up to shoot at this basketball court called Hastings Park and he brought some shoe options in the trunk of his car. Me being the typical ‘90s kid that I am, I opted for the Jordan 11s because I watched way too much Space Jam when I was growing up. Obviously, when I was shooting these photos I was kind of drawing upon memory as inspiration. And I wanted to figure a way to make it look like he was flying, kind of like the scene in Space Jam where they steal his shoes from his house and then he finally shows up to practice and it’s this montage where he’s flying around in the gym.
I was trying to find an angle where it looked like he was flying in the sky. I got really really low. I was actually lying on my back on the ground. When I’m shooting action photos I actually do this kind of weird thing where I take a deep breath and I hold my breath up until the moment that I press the shutter. So I was lying on my back and he was coming for his lay-up and I took a deep breath.
It’s crazy to think about how much memory has to do with how you approach a situation to photograph, like how much memory influences the way you see things, especially in photography. It’s almost like your brain kicks in and makes an association without you even knowing about it and then that’s what inspires you to shoot something a certain way.
The Laundry Room
So the story behind this photo doesn’t really have much to do with what’s in the frame, but how it survived to become an image at all.
I had organized this photoshoot with model named Tavia. Everything went pretty cool, I had decided I was going to shoot a roll of black and white film on my point and shoot camera. And I was pretty stoked with what I was going to get. But by the end of the shoot I still had about two, three shots left on the roll. So during dinner I blasted off the last few shots until I heard the sound of the camera rewinding itself. I was looking at the film counter and instead of rewinding itself all the way back to zero, it actually stopped at two. And I thought that it was kind of just an error with the display so I didn’t think anything of it.
When I got back to my friend’s house, I decided I was going to unload all the film and put them away. So I opened up the back to the camera and I see that the film is still…the film had not wound all the way back into the film canister and that two on the display monitor actually meant it had only managed to rewind to frame number two, which means by opening the back of the camera I had already exposed two or three frames to light and those frames were ruined. So I was freaking out and I closed the back of the camera and I asked my friend, “Where is the darkest room in your house?” And he said, “Oh, uh, quickly go to the laundry room.”
So I went to the laundry room and I put a towel under the door and tried to block out as much light as I could. And then I quickly opened the back of the camera and I tried to rewind the film back into the canister by hand. I was having a little bit of trouble doing this because I guess some of the film sprockets were still kind of stuck in the camera. So while I was fiddling with it, his two-year-old son Ash—who had no idea what was going on—he was wondering where I went, so he opened the door to the laundry room and light started shooting in. And I was like, “Oh no!” and I covered the film and the camera with my body and I was like, “Uh, Ash, could you, uh…close the door, please?”
So, finally the door got closed and I was like, “Oh my god, I have to do this as fast as I can because I don’t know when Ash is going to come bursting through the door again.” So I managed to get it unstuck and rolled back into the canister and when I got out of the laundry room I was like, “You know what, I guess we’ll see what happens to it and hopefully I saved some of the frames.”
When I got the film back, obviously frames two and three were otally blasted with light so they were gone. Half of the roll was totally fine, and then about six frames had this weird kind of foggy glaze on them and I guess that was from when Ash had opened the laundry room door. But this photo was actually one of the frames that was on the foggy strip. And it has kind of this weird dreamy faded quality to it and it’s probably my favorite shot from that whole roll, if not from the whole shoot. So yeah—happy accidents!
I guess the only sad part is if I wanted to recreate this image I would need a mix of a whole lot of random elements in order to make that happen, so we’ll consider this a once-in-a-lifetime shot.