Taylor Bonin is a renaissance man. When he comes up at Alt, it’s almost never about the same thing. He’s spent the last few years touring with and chronicling the Growlers, he’s directed a slew of music videos for them as well as other artists (including the maybe-one-of-the-best-music-videos-ever for “One Million Lovers”). He’s also a great travel, nature and band photographer and to round this list out nicely, he’s also just completed his first feature film, Lacrimosa.
Interviewing Taylor Bonin for this piece, he mentioned his affinity for Paul Thomas Anderson which isn’t surprising considering his cameo alongside the Growlers in Inherent Vice (one of the best movies of the past decade). It was however somewhat eerie and on the nose — part of what makes Bonin’s photography so interesting is that it feels a lot like Anderson’s movies do. There’s a sense that not only is he capturing a moment in time, he’s also capturing it’s essence through some sun drenched filter that exists only in his mind. His photos are also completely quiet, there’s a serene silence surrounding them which is all the more amazing considering music is at the center of much of his work. Take a look at his photos, the trailer for his new movie and our interview with him below:
Tell us a little bit about yourself — where are you from, where did you grow up, how did you get here?
I’m from Costa Mesa, CA and now currently reside in Los Angeles. When I’m not on tour around the world with The Growlers, I work as a freelance filmmaker and photographer. I finished my first feature film last year called Lacrimosa and have made a number of music videos for different artists including: The Growlers, Tomorrow’s Tulips, Broncho, Jessica Hernandez, Curtis Harding and The Garden.
How did you get into photography?
My interest in photography came after filmmaking. I was 8 years old when I got my first hi8mm video camera and starting making short films with my deaf next door neighbor, Austin Chapman. When I was in high school, I took a black and white film photography class which really got me hooked. I’ve been learning and experimenting with film ever since.
What do you usually shoot with film or digital?
I tend to feel better when I have a film camera in my hands. The process and aesthetic of film has kept me in love with it over the years. Experimenting with different old film cameras is very exciting to me. I also like being selective with my shooting and not just snap away at everything.
Film makes you slow down and think differently before you capture an image. Even when I’m shooting digital, I tend to shoot a lot less frames than a normal photographer would. While I’m on tour, I’ll always have a digital camera with me as well because people like to see things in real time.
Do you prefer shooting live photos or editorial/staged shots?
Live candid photos. I love to capture the raw and real moments in life. Those images mean more to me.
What’s the process in creating a music video for a band like the Growlers? How do you find space for both your styles and aesthetics?
The Growlers have always been very inspiring people to make music videos with. Every video has had a completely different creative process but they have mostly been a very tight collaboration between the guys and myself. Being able to create art with some of your best friends is a special thing.
My best friend, Anthony Perry has been in a number of bands over the past 10 years. In 2012, he had a band called TRMRS which took me on my first tour up the west coast from San Diego to Seattle. When Anthony joined The Growlers and started to tour heavily, I got into surf photography.
While I was on a surf trip with Alex Knost in Indonesia, I got an email from The Growlers asking if I would come meet them on their current US tour and help them out on the road. It didn’t take much convincing and a couple days later I was flying from Bali, Indonesia to Detroit, Michigan.
Are there any photographers or directors that you’re especially into?
My favorite director is Paul Thomas Anderson. I love his long shots and attention to detail. Having a small role in one of his films (Inherent Vice) and witnessing him at work was such a cool experience. Boogie Nights is probably my favorite film of all time.
What bands are you into these days? What bands do you love seeing live?
I just saw La Femme play a few weeks ago and they always put on an rad show. Great entertainers. Also, Anthony’s new band CATSIGNS is recording their debut album right now which is sounding amazing. Keep an eye out for some music video collaborations with them in the near future.
Do you have a favorite video project that you’ve worked on?
Last year I finished making my first feature film with Austin Chapman that took us a little over two years to complete. It was a huge learning experience and very rewarding. It’s called Lacrimosa, It’s about two deaf friends who are struggling to make their first film against all odds. We are currently waiting to hear back from film festivals around the world..
How did scoring, music and general noise, speech and dialogue play into Lacrimosa considering it’s subject matter?
This film went through so many drafts of the script with the sole goal of balancing out the deaf world with the hearing world. Half of the scenes are only sign language without verbal dialogue. We worked closely with Kyle Mullarky scoring the film and had Austin listen to each new cut to see how he responded. We ended up putting in a lot more bass in the soundtrack so the deaf audience could feel the beautiful language of music.
You’ve directed videos before but on a much smaller, shorter scale. What were some of the biggest or most surprising things you learnt by working on a full length movie?
I thought we would be comfortable with our budget for the film because it was substantially larger than any I had ever worked with but it was a close shave and we ended up running out of money which forced Austin and I to do nearly all of the post production ourselves. I’ve definitely learned to put more time into pre-production as well. Now that the film is done it’s surreal because there were moments where me and Austin looked at each other and were like ‘did we just fuck this up?’
As someone really immersed in a musical environment what was the impetus, or where did the idea of two deaf main characters come from?
Lacrimosa is deeply autobiographical and in the early drafts it was more like a documentary than a film. Austin plays himself in the movie and his best friend is loosely based off of me. It was very inspiring to grow up with a deaf friend and still is as we continue to work on nearly every project together to date.
As a professional photographer what do you think of platforms like Instagram? Is the democratization of art good or bad for the art itself?
I think instagram is a good platform for any photographer to showcase their work to large audiences. It’s cool to be able to go through old archives of my photos and decide to instantly share one to thousands of people.
What are recent movies or video projects that have caught your eye specifically in terms of direction (as opposed to like plot or acting etc)?
Atlanta. The filmmaking in the show feels so real to me. I love the atmosphere they create.
Do you have a bucket list of people, bands, events, things you’d like to get around to shooting?
I love to travel and shoot the locals way of life wherever I go. Papua New Guinea, Colombia and Cuba are currently at the top of my list!