Photographer, LA resident, FADER contributor and all-around good guy RJ Shaughnessy is
throwing a little shindig over at Family this Sunday for the release of
his new book, Death Camp. Titled after the artist collective he lived
in from 2002-2006, the book depicts the intimacy and energy of his fellow
artists with honesty and verve. Fellow Death Camp denizens Michael
Runion and Brother Reade are set to perform at the soiree and anyone
who’s ever had fun with their friends or ever hopes to is invited.
Questions answered and Death Camp clippings after the jump.
What was Death Camp?
It's funny because me and my old roommates talk about it often,
about really, what was it? Death Camp was really just a group of
friends that I guess you could call an art collective. It was a
four-bedroom house in Atwater. Over a couple years roommates left and
people came and went—I don't remember the exact number—there was a
constant flow of people going in and out of it. It was a place where
kids in their early 20s hung out, never watched TV and were always
involved in each other's lives—conversing, cooking and talking. It
was a constant party with these beautifully intelligent people that all
had these punk ideals. You had the writers, the musical people, I was
the only photographer, there were painters and all these different
types of people. How the name Death Camp came about is before I came
around they had a
clothing company with that name. That´s how they made the majority of
their money, screen-printing clothes for weird people, celebrities,
doing one-offs like Travis Barker's wedding
tuxedo. Not tuxedo, his, whatever, "outfit." They made a hat for Will
Smith and Justin Timberlake and all these people.
Do some of your friends still live there? What happened to the house?
I moved out in early 2006 and then earlier this year,
everybody moved out. There was still a couple people living there
holding it down, but it essentially doesn't exist anymore.
What gave you the notion to put a book together about Death Camp?
After I moved out of Death Camp I started to realize how
my life was at that point and how I'll probably never take photos like
that again. I was obsessive compulsive of taking photos of my friends
and I had all these images laying around that I thought were beautiful
and ultimately I didn't want them to die. I wanted them to exist in the
world, and ultimately I want people to relate. Everyone has that time
in their life when your friends are the most beautiful things in the
world. I've now crossed over into adulthood and that period at Death
Camp was my glory days. That's why I made the book, to show off that
universal post-adolescence, pre-adulthood phase.
Tell me something people wouldn't know about Death Camp from the book?
My roommate Dallas said to me, "I like your book and
why didn't you take pictures of anything cool?" Which broke my heart in
a way, but I wanted to know what he meant. He thought of two things:
we had a chip-eating contest at our house, and we invited 30 people
over and we placed bets on how many chips someone could eat. Dallas
thought that was really cool, but I was like, I dunno if that makes a
good photo, but I can see what you mean. The other one he brought up
was this time my friend said I couldn't run to Coffee Bean. Coffee Bean
was 7 or 8 miles away, but I was like, "Fuck yeah I can run to Coffee
Bean," and I went upstairs, threw some shorts on and ran there just to
prove him wrong. Dallas said, "Why didn't you take photos of that?" and
again I said, "I don´t know if that makes a good photo." We're also
really good at Scrabble. We'll kick anyone's ass. We'll also crush
anybody at vegan cuisine cooking.
What was the last photo you took?
I took photos earlier this week of Miranda July, do you
know who that is?
Yeah, I'm a big fan.
She's amazing. I took photos of her for this magazine called Pig.
What is your favorite color?
Would it be really... I'm just going to say black, because
going to lie.
There's no need to lie.
I used to be into green, but then green did me wrong
it just has to be black.
Good enough. My favorite color is purple.
Purple is a very hot color right now. It's very popular and if I
were to pick another color it would probably be purple. Black is just
classic and it'll never go out of style. It's safe, yet dangerous and
mysterious. I feel like Morrissey would say his favorite color is black.