A Conversation with John Kilar


John Kilar’s iconic, unprejudiced snapshots feature subjects from all walks of life. Travelling from festival to festival across the states, John photographs anyone from street dwellers to celebrities, so long as they display a strong sense of individuality.  When he’s not enjoying time at home in Venice Beach, the Istanbul-born and California-raised photographer moves around with not much more than his essentials.  We chatted a bit with John about himself, his cameras and his optimism.



List three possessions you could not live without?
Contacts, camera, crystals.

Describe yourself in two words:
Alien weirdo.

What are the subjects you prefer to shoot? What catches your eye? 
I tend to shoot anything that catches my attention. I mostly enjoy shooting nature. That’s where I strive to spend the majority of my time. When I’m in the city I tend to gravitate towards capturing the street art and architecture. I find pretty obscure places to go, so there’s always something interesting to document. And with people it’s usually the weirdos or anyone doing weird shit in general. Also people with a sense of individuality—I like to document all different walks and aspects of life.






You take a wide variety of photos; from festivals, to random individuals, to famous rappers (ASAP Rocky, Riff Raff, Snoop Dogg, to name a few). What is the underlying connection? What do the subjects of your photography have in common?  
The underlying connection between the subjects in my photos is the environment I choose to surround myself in during that specific period of my life. The rappers were all shot at different parties I attended. I’m always putting myself in different environments so my subject matters tend to change constantly. I’m always on the move and enjoy exposing myself to new circles.

How do you feel about your camera?
Cameras are just the tiny instruments I carry in my pocket to document my life. I guess I have a pretty abusive relationship with them. They break often and I don’t take the best care of them, apparently. I’m getting better at it though. Good thing I use point and shoots that are fairly inexpensive.

How many cameras do you think you’ve gone through? And how do they usually break?
Probably close to 10 by now. I guess I’m clumsy and reckless at times. Whoops.

How’s Venice Beach?
Venice is essentially amazing, but it’s been getting incredibly gentrified for the past few years like every other awesome town. Unfortunately most of my rad artist homies moved elsewhere, and I realized I’ve been holding on to the memories of what Venice once was, hoping the magic surfaces once again. But that’s rarely the case. The beach and boardwalk still holds their essence with the art, grime, weirdos and nomads but the rest of town is turning into a trendy haven for yuppie hipsters with their fedoras and beards eating their $15 sandwiches.







What’s your favorite pass time? 
Adventuring, traveling, dancing, meditation, spending time in nature, doing weird shit. I just got a van and I’m currently on a cross-country road trip, which has been super fun.

If you were only allowed to read one book and watch only one movie for the rest of your life, what would you choose?
Voyagers 2 by Ashayana Deane and The Holy Mountain.




How does the future of the world look to you?
Bright, but only if we so choose. I’m an eternal optimist. I guess it all depends on our ability as a collective to wake up, self-educate and work together while taking direct action and practicing active resistance against the oppressors that don’t have our planet’s and our best interest at heart. We’re amidst a very fragile and fascinating era in history right now and our generation is watching things unfold in front of our very own eyes, while most of us are sitting around being distracted by the media and our egos. I just hope it doesn’t come to the point where we all sit around shaking our heads while saying “well, we’ve seen that one coming for years.”

What is the most absurd encounter you’ve had during your travels?
Ugh, there are so many. It’s hard to pinpoint a single encounter. I’ve seen so much awesome, weird and bizarre shit by now so it’s really hard to say.