“What i like to do is go out and explore, in search of little streets that I’ve never been down before. It’s like finding a new skate spot to play in. In fact, I find that getting on my bike or skateboard is the best way to explore because you tend to notice things that you would miss in a car, or even go on foot.”
INTERVIEW: RICK DE LA RAY
PHOTOGRAPHY: IVAN BALLACK
HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN ON INSTAGRAM NOW AND WHAT MADE YOU DECIDE TO JOIN THE ONLINE MEDIUM?
I’ve been on Instagram for a little more than two years now. I decided to join it because it was a rad way for me to generate some cash instead of waiting for a sale on a painting to happen. To make an image, print it and sell it in some kind of format. It was also an instant way to show work – an instant portfolio. Artists literally don’t even need a website anymore. I also thought it was rad that I could easily follow people whose work I really like. And it’s a great way of getting exposure to new people and work. It’s like a large and easily accessible bank of inspiration. The coolest part of it is that I can get a good gauge of what images are more popular and that in turn helps me make selections for our Ballack Art House product ranges.
MOST PEOPLE ONLY POST PHOTOGRAPHS BUT YOU SEEM TO MANIPULATE A FEW OF THE PICTURES AND TEXTURES THAT YOU DOCUMENT. WHICH APPLICATIONS DO YOU USE TO CREATE THE EFFECTS?
I’ll always go to Photoshop first. But in terms of getting a shot, I like to play with layout and work with the shapes and elements that make up the composition, instead of just focusing on the subject matter. I like to create mood shots or artworks, pieces that will create a certain ambience if placed in a home or office. Lately, I enjoy capturing textures and I tend to find them in urban environments.
DO YOU SPECIFICALLY DECIDE ON CERTAIN TYPES OF IMAGES THAT YOU ARE LOOKING FOR BEFOREHAND OR DO YOU JUST RANDOMLY FIND THEM AS YOUR DAY GOES BY?
It’s a combination of both. Sometimes I make a specific mission to go get something I want otherwise I’ll just spot something that I think is pretty and then shoot it. Like this latest shot on my feed (called ‘Some Of Us Have Had Enough’) of the burnt out car. While driving back from my dad’s place I spotted this car and decided to make a mission and get this shot. What I like to do is go out and explore, in search of little streets that I’ve never been down before. It’s like finding a new skate spot to play in. In fact, I find that getting on my bike or skateboard is the best way to explore because you tend to notice things that you would miss in a car, or even go on foot.
YOU OBVIOUSLY HAVE A HUGE LOVE FOR VINTAGE CARS AS THEY FEATURE IN A LOT OF YOUR WORK, WHERE DOES THE LOVE FOR THESE OLD RETRO VEHICLES COME FROM?
Ever since I was a small boy in primary school, driving to school with my mom, we would always discuss cars. “What car is that? What shape is that? That one with the four rings. Yeah, I like that one.” And so my love grew for cars and old cars. The signage and use of colour in old cars has always been a draw card. I love seeing the use of space in these old machines because back then space was still abounding and not so limited as it is today. Vintage cars also tend to have a lot more style elements, offering a lot of angles to shoot from. Stumbling upon an old car is like finding an Easter egg. It’s always a fun surprise because it offers a hundred photo opportunities. And it’s the closest I can get to time travelling.
DID YOU HAVE A KEEN INTEREST IN PHOTOGRAPHY BEFORE YOU JOINED THE ONLINE PLATFORM?
No, not as strong as I do now. Though there were always cameras around me, my mom used to have this old Ricoh film camera and I always fantasised about using it, but film was expensive. My first love was always art though. Instagram just became an extension of my art. So I’m reluctant to call myself a photographer, I’m actually just an artist using another tool.
ARE MOST OF YOUR UPLOADS TAKEN WITH YOUR PHONE OR DO YOU ALSO ALLOW YOURSELF TO USE OTHER CAMERAS?
I started out shooting only on my phone, an iPhone 4. Nowadays, I mostly use a camera. At the moment I’m using a Canon because it allows me to print in really large format without comprising on the picture quality. Hopefully one day I can go back to shooting with film, in which case I’d love to get my hands on a Leica.
THE PICTURES CLEARLY SHOW THAT YOU HAVE A KEEN EYE FOR DETAIL WHEN YOU FOCUS ON THE MORE IN-DEPTH ANGLES OF CERTAIN OBJECTS. WHAT MADE YOU REALISE THAT THESE IMAGES COULD BE USED SO EFFECTIVELY THROUGH OTHER MEDIUMS?
I like a photo to be engaging. It must attract your attention and give you that sense of familiarity, but at the same time it should make you go, “Gee, I’ve never seen it in that way before.” That’s what focusing on the details or trying different angles allows me to do. Deciding on an angle or detail to focus on in a photo is a lot like planning the composition of a painting. Before you start you think about flow, layout, colour and ambience. I realised this after shooting the first three or four pics on Instagram and I’ve been using this approach ever since.
INSTAGRAM SEEMS TO BE AN EXTENSION OF YOUR BUSINESS ‘BALLACK ART HOUSE’. PLEASE ELABORATE ON THE COMPANY AND ITS SERVICES?
Ballack Art House actually started after I’d been on Instagram for a while. The husband of my business partner, Gretha Meyer, really liked my work and came up with the idea of creating an exhibition with them. The interest at the exhibition was great and Bob’s your uncle, Ballack Art House was born! The brand focuses on images and designs that I create and translates them into different products. Even before the brand came about I had always wanted to make pretty things for the home. So the creation of interior goods has been Ballack Art House’s main focus. These goods range from things like scatter cushions and lamps to magnets and canvases in various sizes. We’re in the process of developing new products like gift cards, clothing accessories and wallpaper.
What I love about this brand and Instagram as its core tool is that it allows me to take current trends and express them in non-obvious ways, letting elements of the trends (for example triangles and chevrons that are all the rage now) occur naturally in my photos.
So, in a way Instagram led me to Ballack Art House and it’s still very useful in terms of marketing. It allows people to see what I’m working on and it gives me instant feedback on their responses.
WHAT PROCESS DO YOU USE TO TRANSFER THE IMAGES ONTO FABRIC AND WERE THERE ANY DIFFICULTIES INVOLVED IN THE INITIAL PROCESS?
We use the digital print process to get images transferred onto fabric and issues like colour consistency and shrinkage or keeping the fabric from pulling skew are some of the difficulties we continually deal with.
WHERE CAN WE FIND ANY OF THE BALLACK CREATIONS AND HOW ARE THEY AVAILABLE TO THE GENERAL PUBLIC AT THE MOMENT?
Ballack Art House creations are quite readily available. There are a few online stores like Superbalist.com (based in Cape Town), Deny Designs (based in the US) and Juniqe.com (based in Germany) that stock our goods and there are also local stores like Stable in Cape Town and the Modernist in Parkhurst, Johannesburg. For more info on where you can find our products, please contact Gretha at firstname.lastname@example.org.
HOW DO YOU GO ABOUT SELECTING WHICH PICTURES YOU CHOOSE TO USE FOR PRINT, WHAT DO YOU THINK MAKES AN IMAGE STAND OUT AND ULTIMATELY SELLABLE?
It’s all about identifying images with a bit of commercial value. As artists we tend to like arbitrary or abstract things, but in order to turn art into something sellable we need to find imagery that people can relate to. If something resonates with someone on some level, chances are they’ll want to buy it.
WHICH OF YOUR IMAGES TEND TO ATTRACT THE MOST ATTENTION ON YOUR FEED?
The images that tend to attract more attention from followers are those on which I’ve done some design.
NOW THAT INSTAGRAM HAS A VIDEO FEATURE, HAVE YOU DABBLED IN ANY VIDEO OR CONSIDERED GETTING INVOLVED ON VINE?
I haven’t touched video yet. That’ll be for the new year.
HOW MANY PHOTOS DO YOU RECKON YOU TAKE DURING AN AVERAGE WEEK AND HOW MANY OF THEM END UP BEING USED?
I take about 20 to 30 images a week, but I end up using only three. It’s funny though because I always struggle to delete stuff. You never know what wacky concept it might be useful for in future.
PLEASE GIVE US 5 OF YOUR FAVOURITE FEEDS THAT YOU FOLLOW?