photography by Mel D. Cole (villageslum.com)
Atiba Jefferson leads the life you wish you could have. He is a renowned skate photographer, knows Kobe Bryant on a personal level, is considered fam by his favorite band and is an ambassador to a brewery. When he’s not traveling or shooting pro-skaters, major athletes and celebs – he’s DJing with his brother. With his great success and enviable lifestyle, you want to hate him – but you can’t. Because the kicker is he is also one of the most humble people you could ever meet. When talking about his work he peppers his conversations with lots of “I’m so lucky,” and “I am thankful.”
He has recently teamed up with Mountain Dew in an apparel collaboration for their Green Label Exclusives. The company has taken select shots from Atiba and turned them into clothing. Mass Appeal had a chance to talk to Atiba about past and upcoming projects as he celebrated the release of L.A. Capsule Collection for Green Label Exclusives-Photo Show; a one day exhibition featuring glimpses of his L.A. lifestyle.
What was the inspiration behind “Sorry for Partying”?
The inspiration was partying with friends and to do something creative and different and all the fun that we had in “Chomp on This” that showed real lifestyle.
What was the shooting/editing process like?
Another big inspiration was the Baker videos and Anti-Hero videos in the way the filming and editing styles were everything was so raw. Now everything is so high-def and ultra slow motion that it is fun to do something the complete opposite. About 50% of the footage was shot with my phone.
You’re an ambassador for St. Archers brewery? How did that come about?
I was approached by Mikey Taylor and he asked me if I wanted to become involved and told me who else was involved. I love Mikey, I love to drink so it was kind of a no-brainer. I feel lucky that I’m a part of it.
How did it feel to beat fellow St. Archer ambassador, P-Rod, in a game of S.K.A.T.E?
Great, it’s the highlight of my life. A lot of people don’t believe me. I’m really lucky that it was filmed and on YouTube. I have played him many times since and he won’t even let me get close. He has a wager on it, if I beat him again, he will go right to the ATM and give me $1,000.
So you and your brother have been DJing under the name The Blackouts lately. How long have you both been spinning for and what are some of your favorite spots to DJ?
I started DJing about 6 years ago, which is pretty long for how bad we are. First and foremost our favorite place is ChaCha Lounge-where we started. Then it’s Max Fish in New York. And really anywhere – it’s fun to listen to what you want loud, which is why we started.
We’ve also seen both you and Ako’s part in Chomp On This. Who do you think has the better part?
I think I do.
Let me retract – I got the better parts; longer and more tricks. But Ako was a gnarlier skater at that point.
You’re always wearing Bad Brains gear. What’s your connection with the band?
Bad Brains is family. I remember walking into a record store when I was 12 and hearing “Sacred Love” and it hitting me like a ton of bricks. They encompass all the music that I love; reggae, punk, metal. I got the opportunity to go on tour and photograph them about 3 years ago. They made me one of the dudes. Darryl (bassist of Bad Brains) is always like “you’re family to me, call me Uncle Darryl.” They hit me up whenever they’re in LA and let me know my all-access pass is at the front.
Everyone says “don’t meet your idols” I was lucky to meet my favorite band of all time and they ended up being the coolest people.
You’re affiliated with Skateboard Mag, but you also do work for Slam Mag, correct? How did you get into basketball photography and what are some of your favorite memories from shooting with the Lakers?
I am a partner at Skateboard Mag, and shoot regularly with Slam Mag. I started with Slam Mag and they’re great to me, as a photographer you can’t expect for people to hire you all the time and I have been lucky to have a relationship with Slam for the last 13 years. It started a few years after I began shooting skateboarding. My brother was buying photos from NBA photos and talking to Joe Amati, who I owe a ton to, he was the buyer for NBA photos and said he always needed young talent. I got in contact with Andy Bernstein who I owe half of that room to because he is the Laker and Clipper team photographer. He took me under his wing and let me assist him. He taught me how to shoot commercially, work with the art director, work with the client, do a job that skateboarding photography hadn’t taught me. But at the same time I would shoot differently than a normal basketball guy and they really liked it. I learned a lot in about 3 years.
Greatest moment with the Lakers was at Game 7 against Portland. When the Lakers weren’t suppose to make it to the Finals – and they did! Won the game the last minute. I’ve been fortunate to see them win their last 5 championships.
How do you think the Lakers will fair in the upcoming season?
Won’t be easy, going to be tough. I know Kobe, he’s a psycho and if he can play he will as soon as he is cleared. But being a true Laker fan, let’s be honest-we’ll be lucky if we make Playoffs.
What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever had to do to get a shot that you really wanted?
I don’t really have any crazy stories. Although, the craziest thing I have ever had to deal with was when I was shooting for Nike and was flown to Newcastle, England the night before the shoot. I was sent to photograph a triple jumper and he could only jump three times so I had three chances to get this photo. We were sitting at the track waiting around for him and no one could get a hold of him. Someone on his coaching team mentioned his wife was pregnant and I told all my assistants to go to the hospitals and look for him. Turns out his wife went into labor and we had to stay an extra day.
What’s the best thing you’ve ever seen that you regret not getting a picture of?
It has happened twice that I thought I blew it by not photographing something. First time was Jordan, I was assisting at an All-Star game and I had my camera and I was spooked. I couldn’t do it. 5 years later I was able to shoot him. Second time, was Andrew Reynolds at a demo doing a trick with all of these kids around. I saw it and went to get my camera and I missed it, I pre-visualized it. Two years later it happen again and even better. It turned out to be one of my favorite shots and is the one photo that everyone asks for prints of.
Any specific funny or crazy run ins with security, police, or public during a shoot over the years that you think are worth sharing?
I’m so use to it – the homeless dude, the person that throws water at you, the cop that kicks you out, the cop that used to skate. To me it’s not that interesting because I deal with it everyday.
How did you get involved with Green Label?
Since a kid, I’m not just saying this, I sincerely love Mountain Dew. Going back to ’99 was the first time I did a shoot for Mountain Dew. I did a lot of work for them in the day and shot skateboarding, snowboarding and soccer.
When Aaron reached out to do the collaboration with Green Label – I was like “of course, without a doubt.” Mountain Dew has always been in tap with youth culture as am I with shooting skateboarding and athletes. I am honored to be a part of the project and to work with them.