Ones To Watch: Evan Mock Is Making Waves
It seems as though 2019 is off to a better start for Evan Mock than most—with a fresh, pink buzzcut gone certifiably viral, the rising photographer from the North Shore of Oahu is more than ready to ride the growing wave. A true creative by definition—whether he’s whipping out a miniature, point-and-shoot on a wild night out in Tokyo, or modeling for some of the biggest luxury brands in the world — Mock defines himself by his undefinable nature, as someone who breaks every mold he’s put in. His gritty film portraits showcase some of the biggest faces in fashion and pop culture with a down-to-earth quality and honest feel, capturing a candid essence and natural energy. With a unique tenacity in spirit and an artistic vision that runs deep in his blood, the Hawaiian-born, LA-based artist is in the process of building a brand with his message and his mindset at the core: doing Evan Mock.
Milk had the opportunity to chat with the 21-year-old about his buzz-worthy new look, his photographic style, and some of the adventures he’s had jetting around the world at the drop of a dime. Read on to see how the artist channels his roots as a skater and surfer into his work, and get a glimpse into some of the incredible projects he’s already got lined up for the rest of 2019.
So what kinds of traveling have you been up to recently, and how do you think your traveling influences your work?
I’ve been doing fucking laps around this world for a while, especially last year. A bunch of places like Barcelona, and Paris, and London—a lot of places I got to go to for the first time, so of course I was inspired. And traveling, and shooting photos is the only way I take photos really. It’s documenting all the experiences and adventures that I go through, and I’ve always shot things in the ways I experience them, and the people I meet on my trips, and the places I go on my trips. I think traveling and shooting photos go hand in hand. I’m just inspired to be around new environments and cultures and languages and seeing how people live out there. It helps you come around, for sure.
I saw some of your photos from Tokyo, and they’re amazing! Tokyo is one of my favorite cities in the world, it serves as both an interesting subject and a backdrop for photos. How do your travels inform your photography style?
I grew up on the North Shore of Oahu, and within a 7-mile radius is the most known waves that surfers travel to, in the world. So, being able to grow up around there, you’re around surfers of the best in the world, skaters of the best of the world, photographers of the best of the world, so I was influenced by all those people. Me, growing up around that, of course that’s just how I thought people lived. You surfed, and you grow up and you skate, and you grow up and you’re just around all these creatives and artists. Being around them really is how I developed my style, because hanging out around people that are creative and are always bouncing ideas off of each other, the fact that I got to grow up being around that is a major influence on me. Especially being a young kid, wanting to document things, being around your heroes, of course you want a picture of them. I’ve seen them in magazines, I want to hang out with you. Being able to document that stuff is where I got my start, and my grandpa pretty much started my career of it, if you could call it a career. He had a bunch of old Minolta cameras, and I was messing around with them and had fun with them. I figured out how to develop film, and he was teaching me how to do it. He was an artist, and being around him, he was always painting. There’s also an artistic side from my mom, she’s insanely artistic in so many ways. I think it’s genetic for me. My dad makes surfboard fins on the North Shore, he hand makes them. He basically works on handmade art everyday. He works by himself without any help, he basically slaves away to his own company. But he’s a big inspiration for me, because he’s one of the hardest working people I know—I’m not just saying that because he’s my dad, but because it’s legit. He’s a gnarly workhorse. He’s a workaholic, he can’t get enough of it. I’ve always kind of been a Swiss-army knife in that way. Keeping my doors open, and being easily inspired by everything. Being inspired by everything and wanting to get better and wanting to find out more… I’ve been super go-getter attitude towards it.
Totally. I noticed that much of your work is centered around the surfing or skating community. And as a skater and a surfer yourself, it’s not that you’re just observing from afar—what was it like to have surfing and skating go from being a hobby of yours, to a subject of your photography?
Fast-forward a few years from when I first started surfing and skating and knew what I was doing, I ended up getting sponsored by a couple companies like Hurley and Converse. I think just being on the surf trips, going on the skate trips constantly, there’s a lot of stuff you forget about if you don’t document it. So, I think that’s how I got my start. I think it’s so important, and I think everyone takes it for granted now that everyone has a fucking camera on their phone, but the reason why I shoot film is because it’s not going to just disappear on a hard drive somewhere if it craps out. It’ll be on a negative forever, and you can archive them forever and develop them whenever. It’s just there.
I was going to ask you about your preferences about film versus digital. Are all of your shots on film?
There’s a certain type of permanence that comes with film that I think is really interesting. It goes back to the roots of photography, and like you were saying, it’s easy to take the practice of taking a photo for granted. At the base of it all, there’s a type of memorialization of whatever you capture through your lens, and it’s cool that you have this perspective. I think it adds a layer of depth into the work.
Thanks! Yeah, the camera that I shoot with, they’re all pretty much super easy, dummy-proof, point-and-shoot. Not for the fact that they’re easy to use, but because I can slide it open, and get to that one moment when it happens instead of asking people to go back and pose. Three-quarter of my work is candid shit, where I’m just a fly on the wall and don’t say anything until it happens and stick my camera out. It’s so small, it’s literally smaller than my iPhone. Those moments, you may never get again, and that camera allows me to get those moments when I want them. People have the Canon A1s or whatever, and they’re messing with the ISO and the shutter, and I… for the reasons of wanting to get those moments when I see them happen, it just allows me to do it. It’s so easy and they’re so small, I can literally wear a t-shirt with a pocket and put my camera in there and pull it out whenever I want.
I think that speaks to the spontaneity of your creative process in comparison to other photographers. When you’re shooting film, you don’t even know if you’ve got a good shot until after it’s all developed.
Yeah, most times, like for Tokyo, I had just met Hailey through my friend Kelia. She’s the brown girl, the really cute girl. She introduced me to Hailey a couple weeks before at Coachella, and then she came to Hawaii for a shoot with Kelia. I had no idea we would do this, but we went to Tokyo after she said “You’re coming to Tokyo with me.” Like, fuck yeah I’m coming to Tokyo with you. I had no idea where I’d be the next day, but we packed our bags. The whole time I thought it would be Kelia, her husband, and Hailey. And so I’m going the next day, packing my bags that night. That night, the way to the airport, we’re mobbing. Those are the times that I’m getting my shit, mostly. We’re mobbing through the streets, we’re seeing the lights, we’re experiencing Tokyo. You want to take a photo of everything. I’ve been wanting to go there for so long, and was so lucky to go twice last year. I had never gone before. I think that’s when I get my best stuff, just being inspired by your experiences with your homies. And all that jazz.
You can recreate poses and recreate lighting, but there’s a specific type of energy that when you have it, you might never get that again. When you act on spontaneity, you have the opportunity to capture it.
Definitely. The point-and-shoots allow me to do that.
Along with your photography, skating, and surfing, I know you’re doing some modeling work as well. Do you feel like one of these identities stands out most to you?
Honestly, I’ve been trying to figure that out my whole 21 years of life. Growing up, really easily inspired by so many people around me. I was lucky enough to grow up with some of the best in the category of what they do. Growing up in Hawaii allowed me to do that and meet all those people. I was not only an athlete, but also a person with a camera. Then I started getting recognized by those people. It’s never really a set-up thing—if I’m skating I’m at the local park, or if I’m surfing, I’m with my friends throughout Hawaii. I don’t know exactly what I do, but I know I’m trying to explore all these things, surfing, taking photos, modeling stuff. It’s all sort of one package for me, but I’m learning them differently. You’re not going to get better at skating by being better at photography, you have to work at them one at a time. I’m starting to get there, amounting to one big goal of establishing my brand. It’s like Tom Ford making a business, he’s Tom Ford. It makes sense, it’s his brand. To be honest, I don’t know what I’m going to get into today. I’m the busiest non-employed person in the world. That’s what my sister calls me. When she asks me what I’m going to do today, I say I have no clue. But I always figure something out. She’ll call an hour later, and I’m neck-deep in a project I just figured out.
Sometimes it’s almost pointless to even try to box yourself in or limit it, especially since you’re young.
I mean, I know what I want to do—I just want to do me. Whatever I’m creating, or whatever I’m doing, is what I want to be known for. Evan is making art. Evan is on a photoshoot, and he’s a model now and he’s shooting Dior or some shit. He’s surfing, he’s skating, in Hawaii. Just crazy shit like that, just seeing where things go. It’s whatever. I’m just keeping my options open, I don’t know if I’ll have a title, but I’m trying to make my name my own title.
Do you have any exciting projects going on for 2019 you can talk about?
I just had my first two solo shows, one was my first show in Hawaii in December of 2018, and the one before was in August in Huntington Beach. It went a lot better than I thought! I think I’m going to continue doing shows on the side. I’ve been doing some art over the break, over my photos, so I’m exploring that whole deal. Breaking little fractions of a photo and blowing them up huge on pigment paper, and putting them on mahogany wood and doing art over that. That went well, so I’m going to continue to do that. I don’t have a set date in 2019 yet, but I’m going to do a show sometime. I’m just going to continue to do me, and I have personal goals set for myself. I’m going to break it down, and see how that’s going to be possible. Breaking it up into smaller goals, and go from a year to a month, to a week, to a day. Take things day by day, and figure out what I want to do.
Every day has been so crazy. Even at the start of this year, Frank Ocean posted me on his Instagram, of me skating. I’ve gotten a bunch of crazy recent work from that. Tom Sachs sent a video of me skating to Frank Ocean, “Say hello to my friend Frank! He has the same hair as you!” I had no idea that he was talking about Frank Ocean. And then he posted it. That’s probably one of the craziest things that’s happened to me in my career so far, he doesn’t really post anyone. He’s like adding me, messaging me back. It was really funny, I literally woke up in the morning with 30-thousand new followers, and I had no idea where it came from. It’s just funny how that whole thing came up. Since then, I’ve been doing some editorial shit for Dior. I think the following has been taking off since they’ve seen that. They’ve seen that I’m in that light now. It’s funny that all it takes is someone of that caliber to put them on the same stage as them, and it’s not that you’re just put on because your on a pedestal, but they’ve seen you’ve been doing this stuff for a while. This is how you live. It was because he’s genuine, I said, “What’s up Frank!” It was so strange, I didn’t know it was him. And I wake up the next morning and it’s on his Instagram. Through that, I’ve been actually able to work a lot more, and get my year started so much quicker. Being able to be on that pedestal has given me a lot of opportunities, even in this year. But I feel like it’s definitely the year that I am going to grow as a person, and come into my own. I feel that no only because of the video, but I’m like that every year. I want to top every year with the next. This year started off good, and I plan to finish it good.
Images courtesy of Evan Mock
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