For the first feature in our Scope series; focusing on young entrepreneurs of color out here doing great things, TL got the chance to sit down with Durimel, a young Creative Direction team in L.A. Born in Paris, raised in Miami and the Caribbean, and now in L.A., photographers Durimel are making waves. Having worked with brands in Japan, London, Paris and L.A., the two are taking the opportunity to experiment and re-focus on growing themselves as a brand.
What has it been like for you guys, travelling and attending different fashion weeks? How do you think people have perceived you and vice versa?
Durimel: [Jalan] I feel like people received us really well but it is also kinda corny. I don’t like it, he still really likes it (pointing at Jibril). The people who are higher up are kind of bourgeois, but what I still like about it is that everybody in the fashion industry is there in one city at the same time. There are some shitty people, but also some really cool and interesting people. Some really stylish people but not in the sense of stupid trendy but just genuinely cool. The owners of smaller shops and boutiques, like those in Paris and Japan, those seemed to be the cooler people rather than the fashion editors and stuff. But people received us really well, it was still a really cool experience. Next time we go (to London or Paris) we won’t focus so much on that, but more on meeting photographers and artists that we like, we would just go for a completely different reason lol. But travelling is fun, I want to go to Thailand, to a more rural part of it and experience something that I can’t judge before hand.
So, what’s up with you guys, what are you working on now? :
Durimel: Well we have been going to school in L.A. for three years, but we have taken time off to work. Right now we are working with a store called Union Los Angeles, we met them when we went to Paris for the summer during Men’s Fashion Week, and it turned out they owned a menswear boutique. When we got back to L.A. they reached out and asked if we would shoot for them, mainly doing new arrivals for the store. After a year we proposed to come on as a part of their team and do art direction for them, handling their visuals on a larger scale rather than just submitting photos to them you know. Now we work at the office with them, for about three months now and we work on our personal photography. Because we have recently changed up our style we are kinda remaking our portfolio, there is a certain look we want that we weren’t getting with our other work in digital. We are in the process of shooting new projects and new photos so we can get more of our work out there and build a new website.
How would you describe your old process vs. the new visuals you are creating?
Durimel: We started shooting film, so that is a huge process and about a month ago we started doing dark room prints. Our new work is way more fine art focused and it’s more personal to us, it’s a lot more personal. Before it used to be about product. We used to have this really wack blog , it was so wack, my god, it’s embarrassing to talk about it lol. But for the few years when were in school, we were blogging, and when we travelled to Paris for men’s fashion week and met the couple from Union L.A. Working with them helped give us a new prospective on our work.
In the beginning we would shoot ourselves modeling for the store, but over time we realized they wanted more diverse models and that we didn’t just have to photograph ourselves as much. It kinda inspired us to stop shooting ourselves on our blog too, and then we just stopped blogging period lol.
It was just annoying, we started realizing that we were more about visual than product, and when you’re a blogger, it has a lot to do with product. You’re just getting all these clothes from people and highlighting their product rather than highlighting visuals, and right now that is what we want to focus on.
We are really happy with what we are doing.
I feel like before, if we continued blogging, we wouldn’t be doing it for ourselves.
We are big on mixing and blending different forms of art. We interviewed this kid the other day for Union, because we are starting a video interview series, and he was super inspiring. He is really about blending, he’ll make a video, and then make a soundtrack and then make a booklet for one project, and we found that really interesting. That whole idea is really what we are about, blending different forms of art to present something that is stronger and really stimulating, hitting different dimensions.
So yeah we are trying to figure it out, how we can open ourselves, outside of photography, and move into video and other formats. It’s weird, we change all the time, every time a year goes by I feel like we’ve changed completely lol.
Definitely, I’ve seen your growth from your blog to your website, and now on Instagram…
Durimel: Yeah it’s weird! lol
But now it’s time for us to focus, and work with people that really inspire us, for ourselves you know.
When did you realize that creative direction was something you wanted to pursue?
Durimel: With photography there are so many realms. We realized we were interested in art in general when we came to L.A.. At the beginning we were like “yeah we definitely want to work in film and in the arts,” Fashion came into it after coming back from Paris and being in L.A. for a few months. After four months we started reaching out to people in the industry and really decided that we wanted to work in fashion; that was when we had our blog, and for us back then, we considered the blog ‘the work’ and that this was how we are going to work in fashion and make money, we’ll be bloggers. We didn’t even really know how we would make money out of it. It was stupid, and it got us somewhere, but once we realized the pros and cons of blogging we moved on. But to answer your question of when we started taking this seriously, that was about a year ago. First we were shooting digital photography and started doing more research on photo and got into film, which what we work with now. We tried it out and working in film wasn’t as expensive as we thought it would be, and now we are working with medium format film, which has gotten us into darkroom printing. We have wanted to work in the arts for a while and we have been slowly narrowing our focus to want we are really interested in. The biggest thing we took from our blog was creative direction because it took a lot of curating to create the site; instead of just doing pictures we realized there was so much more to it.
We got to a point were we felt skilled at creative direction and started being interested in doing it for other people and building clients that way.
But with art direction, if you do it as a profession and only do that, you eventually have to start working with people you don’t like, or whose work you don’t believe it because that is what you do to support yourself. With us, we can do our photography and make money doing that, and when it comes to art and creative direction, we can be super picky and just deal with who we want to deal with and whose work/projects we support, which is fine for us.
So what is your studio like? How do you both work?
Durimel: We have this big dream of setting up a darkroom in our house right now, but our space is just an apartment. Something that has worked out though is that at Union L.A., they told us that they had a studio that we could use whenever we wanted. They eventually moved to a bigger office space, so now the office we work in with them has a studio that we have access to. We work on things for the store but also get to do our own projects.
So what is the process of getting clients like? Is it a lot of people that approach you or more collaboration that you both seek out?
Durimel: It is more people that approach us right now, because in a sense we aren’t even looking for clients right now, we feel like our work isn’t super put together for us to go out and look for people. It’s weird that throughout the past year we haven’t sought out any clients, they have just been finding us. We are kind of in a place right now where we have met a lot of people, so know we know a lot of people and that’s how we have gotten most of our jobs. Recently, maybe for the past two months, we have been getting more work because of what people have seen from our portfolios. But it is still a lot of connections in L.A. that have gotten us work. We are just taking what comes, and even if it is not our favorite project, it is worth the experience.
Are there any artists you are working with right now?
Durimel: Yeah this singer named Marian Mereba. We went to a Halloween party at Syd’s (from The Internet) house and met her in the basement level music studio. She had a guitar and when everyone left, we stayed with her and she started playing her music for us and we became really good friends. We clicked really well and ever since then we have been in contact. She has new management now and when she begins really pushing her music it is going to be great. So we are working with her on art direction and are going to try and handle most of her visuals.
I saw your write up in COMPLEX mag, how has it been being interviewed about your work?
Durimel: It was cool, that article was really good and a cool experience. The headline was funny because he said something about ‘International Models’ (referring to the twins in-print and online American Apparel ads) and we were like “What?!” lol. Magazines always trying to bring the corny out of you a little bit, if its not there, they will put it there. The interviews are cool but we want to hold off on that and get interviewed when we actually have like something to show, something we are really proud of. With big magazines they have such a large reach, when a big magazine like that interviews you it feels like it “must mean something,” when a smaller magazine interviews us it’s cool because they are interested in up and coming people. When Complex interviewed us it was like we were already famous or successful, they were being cocky for us. We are still young though and we don’t want people to come to us like we have it all together already.
In L.A. that’s a funny thing, you’re a “successful artist” as soon as you make an Instagram account. It’s like “Yeah I’m hot, this is my work, this is it, let’s go,” there’s never anyone saying “Gimme a minute and let me get back to you in a few years.” L.A. is a weird place, every one is trying to be this Icon, but now that we have figured out whom we can chill with and whom we don’t want to be around, it is easier. That’s how we deal with L.A. right now, from working at Union we have met a lot of genuinely cool people who are about their work and not about just “look at me, I’m the shit.” We just want to take our time with it.
So what is your editing process like, it sounds like there is a lot of consideration that goes into your work. What is it like creating together as brothers and as professional partners?
Durimel: I mean we do everything together, there is not a job that one of us does that the other does not, we both have a say in everything that happens. We set up the studio together (lighting, screens, etc.), set up our computer, set up the cameras, set up the film and decide from there. Recently, the only thing we do alone is darkroom printing, because the place we go would charge us more for two people working. For now we go in separately and each print our shots, but then after all the processing is done we sit down and go over them together. Every project is pretty much just us working together, it’s that simple. Some interviews we have done have made it seem like “Oh, they are a Duo!” and sometimes with the whole twin thing it can get a bit much lol, they make it out to be this cute collaboration, but really we work together because that is all we have ever done. It’s fun to work with each other; it’s like having an extra filter. We are picky people so it works, its like one picky person creates it and another picky person critiques it. It is interesting for us at that point because once two people have judged a project, it comes out that much more refined, which for us has been the best way.
Have you guys found a lot of support within communities of color in L.A.? What is the diversity of the creative scene like?
Durimel: There is a really diverse crowd in L.A. It’s cool, we work for a black couple now (Union), but in general we try not to “exclude” ourselves, we just try to focus on being accessible to everyone through our visuals. Recently we have been inspired Jamaica and Caribbean culture, and black people, but I wouldn’t say it is just to be presented to a black crowd, we want to present it to the world, and we want it to be really open.
Thinking about making a book of your photography?
Durimel: Eventually, but right now we are trying to reach a bigger crowd before we go there. But definitely, every day we have ideas for how a printed book would look, but all the work has to be ready and look really good, and be put together properly.
If you could curate a show in the near future, what would it look like?
Durimel: [Jibril] I would want a really large white space with really large prints. If I could do anything it would be really large prints of photos we have taken. I would want music too, maybe someone playing live, but music would definitely be a big part of it. It’s not something people think about, but I think it’s really important. It would be very simple, large photos, white space, good music…drinks I guess lol. If I had a group show I would want to do something really atmospheric, with a lot of different pieces, collage, photo, sculpture, having furniture specifically designed etc., definitely more good music.
Are you interested in building objects/props for your studio or in a show?
Durimel: [Jalan] No, not really though no lol. We are not that interested in sculpting or building lol.
[Jibril] I love it when it’s done lol. When it’s done I love it, I’m like “yesss” and it’s great, but I realize that’s not my calling lol.
We like going out an taking pictures lol. Photography makes sense, with anything in it that I was scared of doing, when I started doing it, it made sense, where as with other forms of art…I don’t know, I guess if I tried it I’d probably like it, but for now I think we have found our calling, and I think its photography lol. For now, lol.
[Jibril] I have a lot of respect for sculpture (and other forms of art) and I won’t say never because I hope I get a chance one day to do them. We are kind of weird with not touching base everything, like, I can’t die without having ever tried it. I think everyone should try things they have never done, to hell with it, you know, just do it.
So you are working under a studio now, do you ever envision having your own team and maybe your own creative firm one-day?
Durimel: Yeah! But the first step to that, for us, would be teaming up with someone to get a space. We really want to get more into branding ourselves as a creative firm instead of just photographers, whether we stick with our last name (Durimel) or not. But the dream is to have our own space and then be able to hire the people we want. It’s tough though because we are particular, and the people we would want to hire would need to come in with strong work. With the types of creative direction projects we want to do in the future, it would be hard to do it without a team, but yeah, that’s the dream. But in here we are meeting good people, and people that we think can be apart of what we want.