Creatives of NY // Entry #011 // JAYKO Studios // Collaborative Visual Artists

Hello readers,

It’s been awhile since I last posted an article or transcript from this series. I was dealing with a very serious ankle injury, and then that blended into an illness in my family; however, I am back, and I am ready to start up this project again.

I am very excited to re-launch this project with a feature on the talented artists of JAYKO STUDIOS. I initially met up with Jayson and Yoko at Karaoke One7 in July of 2018, the place where these two talented visual artists first met. 

Both from different backgrounds, Jayson from New Jersey and Yoko from Japan, this duo collaborates to create work that is greater and even more dynamic than just the sum of its parts. Jayson always knew he wanted to be an artist, and set his sights from a young age on attending the Fashion Institute of Technology in the city - it was the only school he applied to. He was admitted, and at 18 took the leap and moved to the city. Yoko, born in Osaka, Japan, was an only child and had strict parents - she wanted to attend art school, but wasn’t allowed to follow that path. She started working, and when she turned 33 she moved to New York City: “I came here just to study English for one year, but I just decided to stay, and I started working here. I met Jason in maybe 2013 or 2014, and he helped me with drawing and painting and such.”

The pair got together and repainted the outdated private karaoke rooms in Karaoke One7, giving new life to each room with a brand new theme. Jayson remarked, “We both actually had no idea that we were both artists, until we started working on the rooms here together, and that’s when we decided to start our own company and just focus mainly on art, fashion… anything that has to do with art.”

Together, Jayson and Yoko developed a distinctive style and formed JAYKO STUDIOS - “At first, we would just say what we were going to do, and she would work over there in one corner, and I would work on another corner, but our styles were a little different, so it stood out. Then we just came up with this whole system where we kept switching back and forth so the whole piece would look uniform, but now we’ve gotten to the point where we forget who did what because our styles have become so similar because we’ve been working together so long,” Jayson said.

The duo is inspired by street art, taking further inspiration from artists who make their work accessible on social media sites such as Instagram. For Yoko, her favorite artist is OkayTina and for Jayson, he grew up admiring Edgar Degas, Pablo Picasso, Andy Warhol, and Keith Haring, but nowadays enjoys the artwork of Alec Monopoly, Mr. Doodle.

The pair said collaboration isn’t all smooth-sailing - fighting does happen: Yoko laughed as Jayson stated, “It’s two different artists with crazy heads and so many ideas, so to work together as a team, we go through it sometimes, but we’ll just sit down and we’ll figure out her ideas and my ideas and we try to put it together as one idea, and then we build from there.”

“I feel like we have to have each other to make this work. Jayson has a fine arts background, and he taught me all the art techniques and everything,” shared Yoko. Jayson noted that Yoko picks up new mediums quickly and has a meticulous nature when she creates, sometimes making adjustments as she goes.

The artists make sure to encourage one another in the creative process: “Sometimes when I have an idea and I start it, I get really hard on myself because I don’t see it how I am seeing it in my head, so she’ll be like ‘Keep going!’ and I’m like, ‘No, I hate it!’, but then I keep working on it and then I’m like, ‘Fine, I like it.’”

Yoko takes inspiration from her heritage in her process: “Some of my painting and doodling is from my childhood - I’m Japanese, and it’s a Japanese thing, there is a drawing song for the character, and there is a song with the drawing and I can dance to the beat of my childhood, like a younger me. Mainly American people can’t notice it, but Japanese people can sit and notice it’s a childhood drawing,”

Visually-driven, one can’t help but take note of their great sense of style - Jayson and Yoko often sport similar outfits, both sharing an interest in fashion. Yoko said, “So many people ask me, ‘Where did you buy that? Where did you get your clothes from? I want the same clothes as you.’”

Jayson added, “We’ll take clothes and we’ll cut them and sew them up. By accident, I’ll get paint on my clothes while we’re painting. She’s smart - she wears a jumpsuit. I’m always covered in paint, and she’s always the clean one, but I’ll get paint on my clothes and then I just add more paint and wear it again anyways.”

The journey to becoming an artist is a long one; during our conversation, both artists spoke fondly about the people that helped them grow as artists. For Jayson, his high school art teacher helped him build a strong foundation as an artist while providing valuable insight and also managing to keep things light: “I had Nicolle Schuster for several different classes throughout my high school career. She always took me in - I would have breakfast with her every morning, and we would talk about art. She would always make jokes about my art. Still to this day, we’re friends on Facebook, and I post pictures of my artwork and she’ll be like, ‘What happened to that ugly tree you used to draw?’ She was always my favorite - to this day I still love her.”

Yoko said, “My mentor is Jayson, but sometimes I feel that I am better. I can do better.”

(Jayson added jokingly, “We’re in a competition now!”)

The pair of artists values collaboration with other artists and organizations as well - in June 2018, they worked with twenty other artists on “We B Poppin” to raise money for Chashama’s annual gala. “Yoko and I were all visual, as far as when it comes to the lights, the color, and then we had our friend, Anthony Rodriguez, who was all performance, and under him were other artists such as singers and dancers.”

Jayson described the event: “It was a huge gala for about 1,000 people. It was on the 22nd floor of 4 Times Square, and there were probably about 150 different artists/performers that were involved in the gala, and it’s an old office building - it’s actually the old Vanity Fair office - each artist got their own room or space within the office, so the whole thing was that the people who bought tickets for the event would be able to experience what was going on in each artist’s room or space. The event lasted for six hours, so something had to be going on inside of your room at all times for six hours. We actually ended up getting the lobby of the 22nd floor, which is the largest room, so everyone would come out of the elevator and already be part of the ‘We B Poppin’ experience with our entire team.”

Most recently, Jayson and Yoko had the opportunity to paint the inside of a silo of a warehouse for Elements Fest in the Bronx in August. The room was lit with a blacklight, making their creations glow in neon along the walls. (Click here for pictures of this amazing installation.) They also had their first art show in December at Artspace PS109 featuring some of their newer works.

For both Jayson and Yoko, living in New York City is central to their artistic experiences. “New York is really cool - for me, I don’t have any art background, but so many people have given me so many opportunities... I can do what I want to do… it’s a good thing that I’m here; I’m really here,” Yoko said.

As for aspiring creatives hoping to move to New York, Jayson left this piece of advice: “Just follow your dreams. Do whatever you love. Don’t listen to what other people say about your work. If you like it and feel inspired to do it, then just do it… there’s always going to be somebody who’s going to like your work.”

You can find out more about JAYKO STUDIOS on their website or follow them on Instagram.

Yoko and Jayson on 35mm film

Yoko and Jayson on 35mm film

Yoko and Jayson on FP-100c

Yoko and Jayson on FP-100c

Jayson and Yoko on 35mm film

Jayson and Yoko on 35mm film

Yoko and Jayson on 35mm film

Yoko and Jayson on 35mm film

Creatives of NY // Entry #007 // Christian Frarey // Photographer

This week, I decided I wanted to write up an interview transcript on my session with photographer Christian Frarey. Hailing from Michigan, Frarey's love of photography was spurred when his father gave him his first film camera: a Minolta X-700. We met up in Greenpoint and explored a bit, visiting a record store before sitting down for the interview. (This was also delightfully one of my more conversational interviews.)

Allison: Tell me a little bit about your background.

Christian: I grew up in Michigan. I wanted to be an archaeologist when I was five, but that was because of movies like Jurassic Park. I loved movies. I didn't always have friends to hang out with because of where we lived - it was very rural. I would just go to a friend's house and watch movies all the time. I always wanted to be a part of that world. I gave filmmaking a try, but I didn't really enjoy it too much, so then I got into photography a little bit later, like in middle school.

My dad gave me my first film camera - it was a Minolta X-700, which I still have. If your Canon ever breaks down (I shoot with a Canon AE-1 Program) go get a Minolta X-700 - it's a good time. Didn't have any formal training at all - I wanted to go to film school, but that was expensive.  I thought, "Maybe I'll just take a year off and see what happens". I actually started working kind-of odd jobs for money, like a stint at Jersey Giant, and then saved up enough to move to New York in 2014 with my sister.

Allison: So how did you get into photography then? Was it when your dad gave you the camera?

Christian: My dad did it for awhile - he had a lot of odd hobbies - he likes woodworking and he did some photography classes at the local community college just because he was interested in it. It's sort of a thing you do to get closer to a parent or somebody you like - it was the same with my mom and music. I started to get into records because that's what she knew - you do it to get closer to your parents, I guess. It was fun capturing these little family moments and whatnot: Christmas parties, being the annoying kid with the camera taking pictures of everybody. I still do that...

My dad sold off a bunch of his stuff, which was kind of irritating when I actually did get into photography hardcore. He was like, "Oh man, I should've kept my 4x5 for you." He still enjoys it. He is always asking me, "What kind of camera should I get?" "I don't know. It depends on what you want to do."

Allison: So why shoot film?

Christian: It makes me think less. I know you can spend hours in a darkroom, Ansel Adams-style, dodging and burning, and all that. You can still manipulate it, even though it's on film. I sort of enjoy the "what you see is what you get." I'm not worried so much.

I shoot a lot of black and white film: it's inexpensive to buy and develop. It is what it is. It sort of relies on you to be knowledgeable about composition and the way the light looks. It makes you think in a totally different way.

I shoot both (film and digital) quite often. It's whatever I feel like shooting really. I'm not one of those people that's a die-hard film only person in the film vs. digital debate. Shoot whatever you want.

Allison: So what made you decide to get the Widelux camera?

Christian: I had first heard of the Widelux through the actor Jeff Bridges, who's 'The Dude' in The Big Lebowski - he's a passionate photographer and over the past 30 to 40 years, he's always shot film on set behind the scenes, and he's had a Widelux. It gives you this really strange perspective because it's a turn-based thing, not unlike the Hasselblad, where it just snaps the picture and it has to swivel around to get the whole picture, and it gives you this sort of weird distortion if you don't level it right, which is always really cool.

The interest in panoramic stuff is from my love of movies - I always liked the CinemaScope look, like the broad, huge frame is really nice. I like it - it's nice and clean. With the Widelux, it swivels, so it takes a moment. Even at 1/250th of a second, it takes a moment. When you shoot at 1/15th of a second, it takes about a full second to go its full rotation, so it's sort of like one part of the photograph is at a different time than another part of the photograph, which is kind of cool. It's a shame, because not many people will repair them anymore. They're very much like a clock inside with all these gears, and if I open it, my head would explode. I would have no idea what to do to clean it. Plus it's pretty.

Allison: It's a very pretty camera.

Christian: I am a big fan of the Art Deco silver and black - I wish they would still make lenses silver and black. I think it looks so cool.

Allison: What artists, either from your medium or other mediums, inspire you?  

Christian: It's kind of weird - I don't have quite a knowledge of classic photographers. I know the basics - like Henri Cartier-Bresson, Diane Arbus, and Annie Leibovitz. I know of those people in a sense, but I don't know what other people would consider the "classic street photographers". I still get a lot of my inspiration from movies and the look from directors of photography - people like Roger Deakins, who has been a DP for 40 years and has worked on all the Coen brothers movies. I get a large amount of inspiration from movies, probably more so than from other photographers. Especially because there are a lot of people trying to do things differently, especially in television.

Allison: What are some of your other inspirations? What drives you to take pictures?

Christian: I don't know - it's just something I've done for so long and I enjoy it, and I'm fairly decent at it. I'm not very good at hyping myself and saying, "Yeah, I'm really good at this," but I would say I'm okay at it. When you find that thing, even though you can't explain it, you just know you can do that. It allows me to get out of my head-space just walking around the city taking pictures.

I feel like getting older makes you appreciate the family photos - all the family photos that we have at home I've told my parents to bring just so I can scan them and have them. I feel like they became more important to me when I got older. I'd like to eventually make a whole book of all those photos together, because there's so many chunks of the family that have certain photos, and I want to try and accumulate them all together like a big book, but that's a chore.

Allison: Who were some of your mentors you met along the way?

Christian: My father definitely was a big inspiration for getting into photography. He didn't push me in any way to do it - he just thought I would enjoy it.

Along the way, I've met really cool people, especially in New York. Lloyd Bishop is the photographer over at Late Night with Seth Meyers, and I met him visiting the city for the first time in 2013, and it was just one of those things where I saw an article about him, and I said, "Oh, I should hit him up and see if he'd maybe want to meet and just talk about my work and the business and such," and he did. We've kept in touch since then.

I met a celebrity portrait photographer named Mark Mann through Lloyd - they're both Scottish. Mark sort of took me under his wing a bit and allowed me to assist on a few cool gigs like the Tribeca Film Festival and an interview for The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.

Lloyd and Mark have been amazing people just to ask for advice - photography is their bread and butter. I'm always amazed when people can do that and survive, and they have families, and that's scary to me that they rely on this thing, but they're amazing people.

Mark introduced me to Penumbra, so I was grateful for that. The people at Penumbra like Geoffrey Berliner, Jolene Lupo, Molly Rapp, Sam Dole, and all those people are my film nerd buddies. I don't get to see them too much, but when I do it's a really good time. You try to find those people - hopefully they'll be mentors or people to hang out with. It's always fun, even if I ask them too many questions.

Allison: What are your favorite and least favorite things about living in New York City?

Christian: Ugh... the subway. No. Ummm, my least favorite thing is moving here, luckily I had my sister and our friend from Michigan - we were roommates, and that was fine, but even though there are so many people that live in the city, it is really one of the loneliest places ever. Everybody has their own bubble, and everybody is concerned about themselves and what they're doing, so you walk by all these people and they couldn't care less about you. It's a very lonely feeling, and I was so homesick for months after moving here. Eventually you just push through it and recognize, "This is where I am now. Let's try to make it better." You meet people and just grow from there.

The flip-side is that there are so many people and that’s a way for you to branch out and meet fellow nerds of photography or movies or music. The best thing is just walking around the city taking pictures and seeing these random moments that for those people are just their everyday life, but to you it's something interesting.

Allison: Advice for people who want to move to New York City?

Christian: Save as much money as you can.

Like with moving to any city, be sure. I guess you're never actually sure. My sister and I moved here kind of on a whim just because the opportunity came up. I mean, nobody's ever really truly ready for something like this, because it's a huge life change.

Just be outgoing, as best as you can. Get involved with activities here in the city - something that you enjoy - there's movies in the park - there are a million things happening here every day. Just try to put yourself out there - something I wish I had done a bit more when I first moved here.

Also eat good food. Try to find good food. I always tell people who are visiting, "Save your money for food and drinks." You can buy any of the stuff here online, but the food is a fun experience. I love cooking and baking.

Allison: Is there anything else you want readers to know?

Christian: Hey man, follow me on Instagram. (@frareyphotography)

Allison: I was gonna link your Instagram anyways!

Christian: Just do your own thing. This is a hard question. What did other people say?

Allison: They said, "Do your own thing and don't be afraid to follow your dreams." (I know this is a dramatically redacted version of the amazing answers other artists and creatives have given to me.)

Christian: I try not to say that, because following your dreams is a tough thing to do. I came here kind of following a dream of sorts, and it sucks. Should I say, "Don't follow your dreams,"? Try, but be cautious.

Allison: That's good.

Christian: Try, but be very very cautious. Unless you have a foot in the door for an internship, it is so hard to do anything media-related: production, dancing... there are so many people wanting to do that thing that it's just so overrun with people. You really have to try to do something different or just get lucky. Just get lucky - that's what you can do. Try to meet people and get lucky, not in a sexual way, but you can do that too. (This made me laugh a little bit.) Just have as good a time as you can. Enjoy the little moments just hanging out with friends drinking on a Friday night - maybe take some pictures.

You can view Christian's Instagram here.

You can order prints of Christian's photographs here.

Christian on FP-100C Silk

Christian on FP-100C Silk

Christian on 35mm film

Christian on 35mm film

Christian on 35mm film

Christian on 35mm film