Interview by Ryan Lyons
One thing that's always inspired me about my friend James Walker is his ability to pick up and move to any city and make something unique happen. His outlook on life and ability to connect to people has undoubtedly had an effect on how he shoots with his camera. After recently moving from San Fransisco to Chicago, he sent me a couple of his photographs that he’s been taking in the windy city and beyond. Read our conversation and peep how the comfortability of his subjects shine through.
What places and spaces have you lived in?
In my adult life I've lived in Atlanta, Baltimore, Oakland, San Francisco and now Chicago.
Where are you from originally?
I was born in Chicago but I moved to Columbia Maryland, just outside of Baltimore county, when I was in 6th grade so that's like 1996.
You recently moved from Chicago to San Francisco. Can we speak about the transition? What’s something that you appreciate about both cities?
Yeah moved from SF to Chicago about 3 months ago.
Being in SF was hella fun man. I was there for 5 years but I swear within 2-3 months of being there, it felt like I had been there for hella long and I knew a lot of people. We were all about the same shit; just kicking it and having hella fun. I was welcomed with open arms and developed life long relationships there that I'll cherish forever.
Chicago is still new to me and I love that. The city is so fucking huge. I feel like it will never get old. Luckily I have a homie whom I've known for over a decade out here as well. Real cool dude who I've met some really dope people through so I'm stoked about what my experience in Chicago will be like.
What do you think you’ve gathered from all the places you’ve lived? About people?
Every place was different but the consistent variable was love and positive energy. I feel like as long as you bring that vibe with you, no matter your location, that's what you're going to attract. In SF that way of thinking was most common for sure.
"I don't really see myself as a photographer. I'm just a guy with a camera." - James Walker
Do you take your camera everywhere with you now?
Everywhere...whether it's a point and shoot or an SLR I have to have it with me. I've always been one to live in the moment and my desire to freeze moments forever are why I feel the need to keep a camera on me.
Film is pretty expensive. How do you maneuver around it?
Damn film can be hella expensive. For a while I couldn't afford it at all so I kept going through rolls and not getting them developed. It's not a practice that I'd recommend to anyone but now that I have more funds I can get those old rolls from 3-4 years ago developed and it's like a blast from the past reliving those moments.
Do you have any plans to show your photography on a grander scale? Do you print your work?
You know...I am working on a couple projects right now but I don't really see myself as a photographer. I'm just a guy with a camera. But even with that said I do strive to capture moments so well that if a stranger was to see a print of mine he or she would feel like they were there or it would make that person feel something... hopefully something good.
I print everything usually 4x6. Something about that physical print...that feeling of N.E.R.D... Nothing ever really dies...I don't wanna be forgotten. I want to leave my mark be for my time has expired and there's a lot of ways to do that...those prints are one of them.
"I feel like no matter where you are in life there's always something to smile about and capturing that is what I try to do." - James Walker
When you shoot people, do you generally ask permission or do you just take the shot? What moment propels you to take a shot?
I pretty much always ask permission. I think that's important; the integrity behind it. The moments that spark my desire to snap one depend on the film I'm shooting with. If I'm shooting with black and white then the light or the character/personality of the subject is what makes me freeze that moment.
If I'm shooting with color film than the colors involved in the frame are what means most.
But at the end of the day it's just those moments that make me say "that's dope" is what it's all about; a sunset, an attractive person, genuine moments, or just dope tones and color.
I feel like no matter where you are in life there's always something to smile about and capturing that is what I try to do.
In your photos you capture the bar scene a lot. What’s so enticing about bars? Any favorite spots in different cities?
Yeah I guess I do *laughs. The bar scene....the bar is often where someone goes to have a good time. A lot of smiles and a lot laughter can be found in most bars. The bar is where people let their guards down and inhibitions are left behind.
My favorite bars....for Baltimore I'd say Ottobar and Brewer's Art....In Oakland it's Ruby Room... For SF it's The Makeout Room and MOSTO... In Chicago it's Danny's Tavern. They all have different vibes but at the same time great energy and positive people can be found in all of those places.
What music have you been listening to lately? Do you have a favorite album?
Damn I'm glad you asked. Music is important to me. Whatever I'm listening to at the moment explains what I'm going through and/or where I want to be. DVSN's new album and Tame Impala's Currents LP are on heavy rotation. "Gimme All Your Love" by Alabama Shakes as well as "Come and See Me" by PARTYNEXTDOOR are two songs that I can listen to over and over right now.