Hot! LOCALS ONLY: AN INTERVIEW WITH JAY MALDONADO

You grew up in the Lower East Side of Manhattan. What were the exact cross streets? What were your surroundings?
La Guardia housing projects on Clinton St., between Cherry St. & Madison St. is where I grew up. My surroundings had some good elements and some bad ones obviously. I was young and I kept myself busy playing sports, being active, so I never really had time to pay attention to the rest of the bullshit going on.

What was it like growing up in the city at that time? What was the environment like?
Well, my grandparents raised my sister and I in a one bed room apartment. I spent most of my time outside because they let me do what I wanted. I’m not going to sit here and say my environment was the best, however, I wouldn’t have wanted it to be any different.

How did you first get into skating? How old were you?
My friend had stole a board from someone, and I ended up trading him my baseball bat for it. I had to be around 12 or 13 years old at the time. There was other kids in my neighborhood who rode and I would always see them skate by heading to The Banks (which I didn’t know at the time). After the trade, that was that.

What was the skate scene like in the city back then? Who did you roll with?
Man, those where the days! We would link up at The Banks, session for awhile, skate downtown/Water St. area and work our way up to Midtown at some point. It became some what of a routine after a while. I mean that’s just what we did in the summer. My crew religiously was Keith Harrison, Ricky Li, Chow, Rodney Torres, Moya, David, Mal/Jeff(R.I.P). That was my crew, but seriously back then everyone just skated together.

Long before you became a photographer, you were a videographer. How did you get into filming? Did you only film skating?
There was hardly any filmers back then in NYC. RB was the only one filming and he was always busy on the road, working on Zoo videos etc. So I ended up buying a cheap camera so my friends and I could film each other, but I ended up doing most of the filming anyways. This was fine by me because at that point I really enjoyed trying to record something I loved to do. I worked on other stuff, but most of my stuff is skate related just cause it’s something I grew up around.

How did you transition into coming strictly a photographer?
Well, I wasn’t doing much at the time and my boy had just gotten a new camera and had his old 5d laying around the house. I asked to borrow it one day and I ended up using it for the whole year. Good for looking out D, he’s the one that gave me the encouragement and support that lead me into photography. I was going though some rough times and that camera became my outlet and hasn’t left my side yet.

How would you describe your photographic style. Tell me about your photos. What are you trying to capture?
I wouldn’t know how to describe my photos, but when I go out shooting I’m always looking to capture some sort of moment. A feeling, that’s what I’m trying to get across.

What kind of equipment do you use?
Canon 5D.

What are your favorite things to shoot?
I guess people, but I don’t really have a favorite thing to shoot. As long as I’m out there I’ll work with what I come across.

What is NYC like as a subject matter?
NYC is great. There are so many different things to shoot, so many different people, buildings. Not every corner is alike and not to mention the great landscape as your back drop. I couldn’t ask for anything better as a backdrop.

In your work, you often document people out in public. Have you ever been confronted? Ever offend someone?
Not really, I try to do things when subjects are not aware. Only in the bad neighborhoods is where they get more protective of their privacy.

How do you go about shooting your photos? I mean, do you get inspired and go out looking for something in particular to shoot, or do you simply explore the city looking for something that catches your eye?
When I normally go out, I’m on my bike or skateboard looking for something interesting to shoot. It’s hard to say cause I’m always looking for something, but I never really know till it jumps out at me.

Do you think of photography as an outlet for you? What, if anything, do you hope a viewer takes away from your work?
Photography is definitely an outlet for me, it’s still really young in my life, so there is tons I need to learn. To be honest, I want the viewer to have some sort of feeling whether it’s good or bad.

Tell me about the Locals Only Pro Series that ZOO YORK just released. How did it come about?
I got a DUI last summer and started to hustle some of my print to help pay for lawyer/court fees. Anyway, I ran into Kimou Meyer who was working over at Zoo, he spoke to Seamus, and here we are today.

I know you lived in Cali for a period of time, but returned home to New York. What keeps you here? Would you move again?
I can always move around. I love new adventures. Home is always going to be home though and my family and all my best friends are here. There isn’t one thing that keeps me here but its the combination of them all!

For more on Jay, visit jaymaldonado.com.

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