Skate Photographer Jake Mein Turns His Lens On a New Subject
The New Zealander on finding home in a transitory world.
All images: Jake Mein
After a decade of blood, sweat and capturing, Jake Mein has a new photobook Six for Gold. Widely recognised for his skateboarding photography, this new collection tackles a different theme with just as much intensity. Mein uses his camera as a way to destabilise familiar scenes, catching everyday moments between one action and another. What we may see as the mundane, Mein sees as a setting for opportunity.
VICE: How does this work relate to your skate-based photography or is it largely separate?
Jake Mein: I think there’s definitely hints of it in there but its largely kind of separate although a lot was shot around the trips we went on. A lot of it’s shot in Japan, and then there’s some stuff in South America and in Australia and Europe.
You’ve referred to Six for Gold as a visual poem. How would you describe the narrative of your ‘poetry’?
A lot of the images are the moments in between. A good friend of mine said it’s about finding beautiful in the mundane. It really resonated with me. It’s about looking at things that maybe we don’t pay attention to a lot and finding the beautiful inside you.
Where does the title come from?
It’s kind of bizarre, it’s actually from this nursery rhyme called One for Sorrow. And the nursery rhyme is basically about magpies and the amount you see determining your luck. One of the lines in it is, “six for gold”. But actually it got rewritten—before that it was, “six for hell,” meaning if you saw six magpies, you go to hell.
You have a few shots from outside New Zealand. Were you searching for something you couldn’t find in on your home turf?
Maybe I was. At the time I didn’t really think of it. As you get to look back on this stuff, you might not realise at the time but for me it was kind of a search for belonging, a search for home. Part of it’s also about growing up.
You talk about the world being increasingly transitory—have you found this is the case in all the countries you have photographed in or is it specific to New Zealand?
I think it’s everywhere. That’s that whole idea of stabilising it—by looking at familiar scenes. I guess photography is the tool to stabilise yourself somewhat, because you can look back on something.
The photos in Six for Gold are taken over a 10-year period, did you find your initial message changed during this time?
Definitely. I don’t think anyone who works on something for ten years—I hope—would look at it any differently. I think as you grow up and your ideas change, so does your work. I didn’t think when I first started that it would become what it is. I think it’s only in the last three or four years that I’ve really realised it. It became a body of work that I wanted to explore further. But I also wanted to finish it man, because it becomes a big weight on your shoulders when you have this thing you want to finish.
Art is seen to carry a piece of the artist within it, what would you say your work reveals about who you are?
Really good question. Maybe that I didn’t really have a sense of belonging or didn’t feel like I fit in anywhere. It’s only now that you realise that at that time, that’s what you were searching for.