Only 21, Taji Ameen has developed a reputation as one of those born-and-bred New York photographers who documents the weird, unexpected, and starkly beautiful moments that can only happen in New York. The VICE contributor shares how he got his start (his mother’s fix for “idle hands”) and what he hopes to do next –

When did you take up photography?

I started shooting when I was about 12 in the year 2000. My mom wanted
me to do something other than just skate my summer away, so she signed
me up for a black and white photography course at the International
Center of Photography.

Why photography?

It is the most direct way for me to document my surroundings. That and
I have always liked the suspense of a freshly shot roll of film.

Who gave you your first break?

I especially liked my teacher, Serge Levy at another course I took at
ICP. It was called A Day in the Life and he basically taught me to
never not have a camera with me. He has been all over the world with
his and brought in some of his rad fellow documentary photo buffs to
get us even more inspired. Through Vice, I was able to help out
Richard Kern on a couple of shoots which was rad. Lastly, I got to
watch Henry Leutwyler shoot the American Ballet for a few days. That’s
a great guy to learn from.

What is your favorite photograph you have taken so far?

That’s a pretty intense question. I like the one I shot of the fight
at Tompkins Square.

Who has most influenced your work?

I like Diane Arbus’s works a lot. All of her photos are witty and
beautiful. As far as the current day goes, that dude Hunter Barnes is
super inspiring. He doesn’t just shoot it, he lives it.

Where do you see your photography going?

I would like to continue my continuous project of just about every NYC
Lurker I can find. I also want to keep submitting fun stories to Vice.
Other than that, I am slowly moving towards more work in the
commercial world. I have been working on a bunch of stuff for my
homies at Acapulco Gold, so look out for that.

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