Jack Adams is a twenty-year-old photographer from Oxnard, California. His photo style caught our attention when we ran into him on Instagram. His images of musicians capture the essence and attitude of the local music scene. But, it’s his images of Oxnard that really got us going.
Jack’s photos of Oxnard are not your usual boring, glossy takes of the harbor or fancy restaurants surrounded by overpriced bottles of wine. Jack does Oxnard like no other photographer around. These pictures are the real face of the community in all its raw form, sometimes funny and engaging, other times haunting and mysterious.
Did we mention that Jack shoots his photos with real film? Yes, that funky strip of transparent plastic coated on one side with a gelatin emulsion containing microscopically small light-sensitive silver halide crystals. You get the picture?
Sight + Sound is extremely excited to include some of Jack’s work at the festival. You can catch a collection of his Oxnard-centric images on the big screen before and after every film screening during the event. We’ve also invited Jack to bring his camera and capture the film festival as only he can.
To get to know Jack Adams, we sat down with him in the courtyard of the Oxnard Performing Arts Center for a quick interview. Here’s what we talked about.
Did you grow up in Oxnard? Is your family from Oxnard?
Yes. My mom is from Oxnard but my dad is from Oklahoma. He moved out to Ventura to work at the hospital in the ‘80s. My mom worked at the hospital, too. That’s where they met each other.
Which school did you attend?
I have an older brother and sister and they went to Rio Mesa and they were always getting into trouble. By the time my parents got to me, they were probably tired so they stuck me in a private school. I went there freshman, sophomore and junior year. But, for my senior year, I went to Oxnard High School. That’s when I really got into photography.
What was it like at Oxnard High School?
Drinking. Partying. (laughs) Just kidding. It was fun. I was just so deprived from having a ton of friends during my first three years of high school. When senior year came around and I was like, damn, I want to know everybody. I made a lot of good friends. Some of my best friends now are people that I met at Oxnard High School.
You attended Ventura College after high school. Did you already know plenty about photography when you got there?
I knew a little bit. I knew enough. I took two photography classes over two different semesters. They were with William Hendricks, he’s a great professor. I already understood how to use the camera, but it was more of the actual developing and using the enlarger to print. Plus, he (Mr. Hendricks) challenged me to go out and shoot certain things, that was really fun.
Let’s talk about your photos. When you shoot, are you trying to tell a story through your images, or, is it just whatever catches your attention?
I would love to eventually tell stories through my images. I’m somewhat of a minimalist and a purist. I don’t like very noisy images. I like to just process one subject at a time.
How do you plan your shoots?
That’s a funny thing. I don’t orchestrate it as much as some people do. I’m a very wing-it type of person. Just show up and make something happen. The majority of what I shoot is on film. So, when I do get a roll back, sometimes the image that I think is going to be the greatest, isn’t. And, the one that I accidently took is the one that I love the most. It’s definitely not very planned out, it’s more like put yourself out there and see if something happens.
Because you use actual film compared to digital, how does that affect how you shoot?
Before clicking that shutter, I definitely think about it. When I was just shooting things on my iPhone, I would take hundreds of images and I could never decide on one. I would post one on my Instagram and then delete it five minutes later because I was just so unsatisfied. When film eventually came around into my life, it was an instant love. It was just kinda like, man, this is what I’ve been looking for. I only have 24 images (on a film role) and I have to shoot one image of one thing and I got to be happy with it because it’s the one picture that I got instead of having hundreds of them.
I’ve noticed a majority of your images are of musicians. Is that one area that captures your interest?
I guess I resonate with them because we’re both creating something. Music has always been a big part of my life. I listen to music from the moment I wake up to the moment I go to sleep. I’ve been listening to a lot of music that comes from Oxnard and it makes me really proud and it’s a really special thing.
When you’ve shown your work to your photo instructors, does it match what they’ve been teaching you in class, or, are you creating your own rules?
I like to go out and create my own look. I’ve only had one professor where we didn’t agree. You’re not always going to see eye-to-eye. The key is to always be open to constructive criticism. I love to hear feedback. I guess for the most part I’ve been sticking to a certain style and watching it as it evolves. I hope it evolves into something different, soon.
Do you like movies?
I love movies.
Tell me some of your favorites?
It’s kind of all over the board. I love international films. Coming of age films are really good, definitely more independent, B-movie films. I love scary movies.
Have you’ve experienced any situations when people didn’t want their photo taken?
I’m not very intrusive. I like to subtly be intrusive. Side note. When I was at parties a lot in high school, I loved to walk into people’s houses to use the rest room and then take photos of their décor, or, their living room. There are photos in my Instagram of people’s houses and later people will be like, when did you take that? Is that my living room? Is that my mom’s painting? I don’t think I’ve ever had anybody get up in my face and say, delete it, or, ask, why did you take that, or, give me your camera. I’ve definitely gotten some ugly look from people that think I’m taking their picture, but I’m shooting something else.
Do you shoot video?
I’ve just posted a video the other day. It was an interview. It’s more like compilations of clips. I used a VHS-C camera. I have two fiends that transfer VHS to a digital file. I do like using it, but it’s definitely a process.
Why do you think you’re drawn to shooting on film and using the VHS format as opposed to digital?
Its kind of cliché. Some might call me an indie-hipster. I love how it looks. It looks nostalgic and beautiful. I remember when I was little my parents would take film photos of us. And, we used to watch home movies on VHS. So, maybe it takes me back to a place, definitely. I don’t like to get caught up in the quality. If I were shooting something digitally, I would want it to be the absolute best quality it can be. If I’m using VHS, or film, if it looks shitty and low-fi, it still gets the point across. And, living in a digital age, it’s nice to move backwards to some analog stuff. I wouldn’t be opposed to shooting digital. Analog stuff is somewhat inexpensive. Sure, you pay a little bit for the film, but your camera might cost you a hundred bucks compared to $2,400.
You can also find cool analog gear at second-hand stores.
Yeah, a lot of people find film cameras in their parents’ garage, or, VHS cameras, and, they still work, too.
What kind of camera and film stock do you normally use?
I have multiple cameras, but what I’ve kind of stuck with for the most part is the Pentax K-1000, which is like a tank of a camera. You can drop it and it won’t break. What I carry around on me all the time is an Olympus Stylus-Epic. It’s a fixed lens and point-and-shoot camera. It’s completely compact and slips in your pocket. Those are my go-to cameras. As far as film stock goes, I love Kodak Gold. I love black and white films. Ilford, for sure. I don’t worry much about expensive professional grade films. Kodak Gold is super cheap, but it looks incredible. I love the neutral tones. You shoot Oxnard in multiple film stocks and one’s going to be the one that’s a very true representative of what I’m trying to convey. I think Kodak Gold does that well.
What is your future plans with photography?
Future plans? (long pause) Have not been decided. I would love for it to become an even bigger thing. When I was younger I didn’t know a lot of musicians or a lot photographers or a lot of people to look up to. When I started getting older I started to notice there was a lot of talent here. And, there’s never been a really big platform in Oxnard. The Performing Arts Center is a platform. We need the PAC. I went to gem and mineral shows here with my dad. I’ve been here so many times. You need stuff like this. We need platforms where young people in Oxnard from every single neighborhood can be inspired to create and to express themselves and be themselves. We need people to look up to and that’s why I love doing what I do.
All photos shot in Oxnard by Jack Adams. You can find Jack on Instagram under the name, oxnardbadboy.
Jack Adams, 20 year-old photographer from Oxnard, California, photographing his everyday life as he navigates through early adulthood surrounded by other artists of various styles. Adams hopes to inspire the youth of Oxnard and bring light to the talent that’s there. Jack wants to thank Jaime Bailon, and all his close friends, for constantly supporting and encouraging him.