Syndicate Barbershop

This is the first in what I hope is a long line of Q&A's with barbers from my book. I'm naturally curious about people and the way they live, so I thought this would be a fun thing to do. Adam Byrd cuts at Syndicate Barbershop in Long Beach, CA and is a great example of what I love about the "next generation" of barbers. So many of them are covered in tattoos, which could be very intimidating to people who aren't used to that culture. Once you get past that and talk to them though, you'll see they are just good people who happen to have a lot of ink on their skin. I enjoyed talking with Adam during the shoot because of his candid style, and figured he would be a good interview to kick this off with. I also think it's a good way for barbers to learn about other barbers and to be inspired by their stories. You can follow him on Instagram @bakoscum19 and the shop @syndicatebarbershop . 

Click here to check out the book. 

1) Where are you from and how did you make a living prior to becoming a barber? 

Bakersfield, CA. Prior to becoming a barber I worked random construction jobs. 

2) When we shot at Syndicate you mentioned moving to Long Beach because you were partying too much. Talk about that and what has changed since you moved to LB.

Partying too much, for me, means black tar heroin...crack cocaine...pills....and vodka.  I was using heroin everyday, I was in and out of jail and prison...lived in shit bag hotel rooms.  I was strung out and I had to quit doin' drugs.  Since moving to Long Beach, I 've been off drugs for  5 years.  I graduated barbering school, got married, and became a full time barber at Syndicate Barber Shop. 

    ** Would you mind expanding on that? 

So when I was a young Punk Rocker everyone that I looked up to was a heroin addict and most of them died very young. It was just a natural progression for me. I was 16 years old the first time I tried heroin. The first time I became strung out on that particular drug I was 19 years old. That was pretty much my life for a whole lot of years. Back then they weren’t so lenient with drug users so I eventually went to prison for 10 dollars worth of dope and with parole the way it was back then I was in and out- couldn’t clean up because really I didn’t want to. Eventually I got off parole but not off drugs and almost every bad thing that can happen to an addict short of dying or catching a terminal disease happened to me. I had girlfriends who were prostitutes, I was shot once in a drive by (in my foot haha), dropped off for dead in my mother’s driveway, woke up in the hospital handcuffed to a wheelchair. All kinds of crazy shit some people probably only think is in the movies. Then one day at age 35 I looked at myself in the mirror and was like ,”Well- you fucked off dying young, maybe it’s time.” December 12th, 2013 I did hard drugs for the last time in the restroom at Union Station downtown Los Angeles. At about 4 months sober I enrolled in Barberschool and the rest is history. This trade has literally helped me save my life because it has given me a life worth living. I met a kid who became one of my best friends, Anthony Champion, Rest In Peace, in barber school. He pushed me when I wanted to quit. My wife pushed me when I wanted to quit. My family pushed me when I wanted to quit. And Tim hired me when I was ready to just go to work in a sober living home haha. I don’t know where I’m going with this but I’ll tell you one thing I’m not falling asleep in a 30 dollar motel room tonight. And for that I’m grateful.

3) What was the final factor that lead you to start barber college? 

To be honest, there really weren't a lot of options for a guy like me.  The wreckage created from my past life makes me almost completely unemployable.  Except for Tim.  Tim doesn't give a fuck.  

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4) What is life like as a barber at Syndicate? 

I've met some of my best friends working at Syndicate.  I get to listen to music I love all day.  I meet people from all over the United States and the world.  I make cash daily and I get to make people feel better.

5) What are your favorite/least favorite parts about being a barber? 

Least favorite: Rollercoaster income, man buns, picky metro-sexuals

Favorite:  Get to hang out with my friends all day, get to make people feel better walking out then they did when they walked in, nobody seems to mind the fact that I am heavily tattooed or what my past has been.

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6) Opinions on where the industry is now compared to when you were getting cut as a kid? 

Hipsterville.  Its saturated with hipsters...when I was a kid you went a got a fucking haircut, they did an alright job, and barbers didn't have egos..they didn't have Instagram.  They didn't have this cool-guy bullshit.  It's oversaturated with corny people.  I like the old timers.

7) What is your greatest strength as a barber? 

My greatest strength as a barber is my gift of gab. Cutting hair has helped me immensely go from being sort of introverted to getting outside of myself talking to people making them feel comfortable. I look a little intimidating so I always make it a priority to let a new clients know that I'm just a poo-butt teddy bear. And the way I do this is through a handshake, a conversation, and doing my best to make sure that time in my chair is enjoyable for the client. Like I’m not a dick or some too cool for school barber stuck up his own asshole.

8) What does is take to be a great barber?

I’m still learning what it takes to be a good barber haha but I’d say taking it seriously and doing your best haircut and remembering that even if you have an asshole in your chair that asshole is paying for your dinner that night. Be nice.

9) Advice for someone wanting to become a barber? 

Try to join a union first.

10) Where do you see yourself in ten years?

At Syndicate.

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Hulk Hogan

This isn't a typical assignment for me, but had to share because it was such a unique experience. I followed Hulk Hogan around for the WWE during his induction to the Boys and Girls Club of America Hall of Fame. Admittedly I had no idea what a big deal this is or what would be going on. The place was filled with lots of former inductees as well as a big incoming class, which consisted of professional athletes from all sports and people like Shaun White and Jason Derulo. Who, by all accounts, are far more "relevant" today than Hulk Hogan. He has been retired for years and you rarely see or hear about him except in certain circles. Still though, he was the draw. EVERYBODY wanted to meet The Hulk and have their picture taken with him. Men and woman of all ages. Didn't matter. It was shocking. I've been around some of the biggest professional athletes in the world, yet there was something special about The Hulk. It was a quick reminder about the enormous impact he's had on the world. An easy thing to forget about when you don't see someone on TV anymore. Hulk Hogan is a once in lifetime personality, and I'll never forget shaking his enormous hand and having him say "HEY BROTHER!". 

South Africa

Been having a hard time describing how I feel about South Africa. The simplest thing to say is that it's beautiful. And while that's true, there is a lot more to it than that. You'd be hard pressed to find any logical person who wouldn't tell you it's beautiful. When you spend 30 hours on a plane though, you expect "different". The country as a whole, and Cape Town in particular has an odd way of making you feel not far from home as an American. Just about everybody speaks English and every single bar/restaurant you visit is playing American music. Doesn't matter if you're in a trendy city bar or a small town hole in the wall, chances are you're gonna hear Bon Jovi. And while I respect what he's done for music, I want to slam my head against the wall when I hear him come through the speakers while sipping on a gin cocktail (gin is big in South Africa) at a salty beach bar overlooking the Indian Ocean. Most people, no matter the reason for their trip, is looking to check out, disconnect, or soak up local culture when they visit a foreign country. That's hard to do when everything feels, at least on some level, like home. The architecture was the other thing that I felt was lacking. It didn't seem to have a very defined vibe. Nothing about it made you distinctly feel like you were in another place. Between the geography and architecture, there many times were I said to myself "we could be in California", or Colorado, or Arizona, etc. I was in an Uber one day with a driver from Rwanda and he asked if it was my first time to Africa. I said yes, to which he responded "So you have not been to Africa!".  And proceeded to tell me that I was in "Africa Light". After thinking about it for a while, I had to agree with him. All that being said, we still had a great time and we're very happy we went. Travel is something that should change you no matter what. Whether or not you see what you're expecting to see is irrelevant. The experience itself will stretch you and change your point of view. That undoubtedly happened, so the trip is a win. Now for the positives. One thing that certainly sticks out is how genuine and friendly they people are. You get the sense that they really want you to enjoy your time there as a visitor. And that goes for everything from a cup of coffee (which is taken VERY seriously) to a walk on the beach or a animal safari. When you thank them for anything, their response will always be "pleasure" or "you must enjoy it". And they mean it. Nobody is in a hurry and that's something you learn right away from the food/drink service. It's also a reminder just how American you are, and how demanding we are about service. Speaking of food; they do seafood very well. Not sure I've ever had so many oysters in a two week period. What they are really passionate about is meat though. "Braai" and "Biltong" are huge. The first being their version of bbq, and the second is what we would call beef jerky. Both delicious. Biltong is something that I will be making at home on my own. The farmers markets which seem to always take place in all towns on Saturdays are top notch. We we're lucky to visit a bunch of them and we're always very impressed. It was obvious that they were a thing to do because the vibe at them was so great. There was so much energy. Loved the markets. A must do. 

Cape Town itself isn't a huge place. It's something that I would almost compare in a certain way to Denver. A small place with a good amount to offer, but you don't necessarily live there for the city. There is so much around Cape Town that is amazing. And that goes for the ever present Table Mountain, Lions Head, Signal Hill or all the small towns up north or down south on the peninsula. Driving the coast is gorgeous. Reminds me a lot of driving up the coast of northern California and Oregon. And most (not all) of the touristy things that people do when they visit South Africa are worth doing. We tried cage diving for Great White Sharks, but got snubbed. They didn't want to come out an play. Also did a safari and it was awesome. Had an amazing guide who provided an unforgettable experience and allowed us to see some beautiful animals. So yeah, do that stuff, but I also think it's important to have just as many things that are unplanned. Some of our best memories came from just wandering around and stopping in random towns. That seems to be consistent. The unknown and unexpected are always welcome. Talk to locals for info that you won't ever get in a guide book. That's where the fun starts. If everything is planned, then you close out the opportunity to see things that you didn't expect. And where is the fun in only checking off boxes? Anyway, we loved South Africa as a whole, but wished that is was a bit more "African". Now we know and next time will be going much farther north. 

Would I recommend Cape Town/the souther coast to people for a trip? Yes and no. For anyone who wants to visit a beautiful foreign country that's easy to navigate and interact with locals (no language barrier), then this is a great place. For someone who is looking to be completely pushed out of their comfort zone, the answer would be no. Either way, I always encourage people to travel more. 

Of The Sea

A few months ago I listened to a presentation by David Allen Harvey, who I have the utmost respect for as a photographer. He's one of those guys who has been doing things his way all along. One of the things he said during the presentation was that "you need to live with images for a while" or something to that point. That comment has been running around in my head ever since. For as long as I can remember, I've been making photographers of certain things and not really known why other than because I was drawn to that thing. More importantly, I didn't know what I was going to do with the images. Then I "lived with then for a while", and started to understand which images were good, which ones were totally worthless, but most of all how they work as a body of images. I've been nonchalantly shooting images related to fishing and the ocean for a few years now. Just here and there during free time or on trips to foreign places. Most of those images you will never see because they suck or because they don't fit with a theme. That doesn't matter though. What's important is that I kept shooting those images, which lead me to discover that I enjoyed the subject, and later on developed a body of work. I don't by any means think that it's complete, but it's a great start, and I'll continue shooting this subject matter indefinitely. Aside from being a lot of fun, the hope is that the work leads to commercial clients like all my other personal projects. Sometimes I feel like I work in reverse. Most people actively shoot things for clients and use that work to get other clients. I create images for myself because I love doing it, and trust that it will lead likeminded clients to me. 

TO SEE THE FULL GALLERY CLICK HERE.

Travel-South Africa

Finished up another bit of international travel with my fist trip to the continent of Africa. We went to South Africa specifically, which the northerners call "Africa Light".  They seem to think that if you've only been to South Africa, then you really haven't been to Africa. Sort of a funny thing to hear. Either way it's a beautiful country. More to come....

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Barbershops of America

We had the release party last Sunday for my new book "Barbershops of America - Then and Now". The day was many things, but the word that comes to mind the most is humbling. There were a couple hundred people in attendance, with barbers that flew in from New Hampshire, New York, Indian, Illinois, Oregon, Washington, and Texas. That in itself makes me extremely grateful, knowing that the barber community trusts in me enough to do something like that. I'm also thankful to have been the perfect excuse to bring together so many people that support each other but have never actually met. Social media has connected them via the internet. The party though, gave them the opportunity to actually hang out. Barbers for the most part are characters, so it was fun to see so many of them in one place just hanging out and drinking beer. It seems from the response that everyone is really pumped about the book, which is all that I can ask. This project has been going on for 5+ years, and was/is an enormous amount of fun. When I look at the final product there are some things that really chap my ass and keep me up at night. Not sure there is any way around that unfortunately? In this kid of profession, or whatever you want to call it, there will always be those things that you want to change or improve.  When I really think about the book though, it was made for barbers. So to have them embrace it is all the payoff I need. Next up, Barbershops of the World??? 

www.robhammerphotography.com/store

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Barbershops of America

5 more days until the release party and it's shaping up to be a great one. The power of social media has really helped to spread the word, and the response has been humbling. Barbers from all over the country are flying in to attend which is cool on a lot of levels. Mostly because I'm excited for all of them to meet for the first time, while drinking beer and talking about the profession that they love. If you're around, come on down to Pig Barber in Costa Mesa. We're gonna have a blast and there will be a lot of treats being raffled off from Uppercut Deluxe, Irving Barber Co, Andis Clippers, and cold brew will be flowing courtesy of House Beer. 

San Diego

I'm of the completely biased opinion that San Diego is the best place to live in America. Not that it's a stretch, but it's still biased. One of the things that comes along with living in such a beautiful place is tons of year round visitors who all seem to make the same pictures. Let's be honest, San Diego is a really easy place to photograph. Go to just about any landscape gallery in the country and you're sure to see a big framed image of Antelope Canyon (AZ), Horseshoe Bend(AZ), and Scripps Pier among many other overly shot landmarks. A long time ago I realized that I have almost no desire to photograph the landmarks. What's the point? They've all been shot a million times over. And I'm certainly not a landscape photographer, so I won't be making any money from the shots. I still think it's important to photograph the place you live though. So over the past couple years, I've slowly developed a body of images made in various parts of San Diego. You're not going to see any images of Scripps Pier or Lajolla Cove in this gallery, but they are still interesting in my opinion. And images that I feel are representative of San Diego. 

PRESS HERE TO SEE THE FULL GALLERY.   

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Barbershops of America

Thought this project was going to be done about a year ago, but I suppose that's just how it goes? Either way I'm really excited that the second barbershop book is finally on it's way. For anyone not familiar with the project, I initially spent 3 years (on and off) traveling to all 50 states with Mojo, documenting the old and quickly disappearing American barbershop. At the end of it all, that group of images was published into a book. Then about a year and half ago I started the project again. The whole time still documenting old school shops, but also photographing the "next generation" of shops that I feel are doing things the right way. So this second book is essentially an extension of the first. A lot of the images from the first book are also in this one, but completely re-edited, and with a proper trimming of the fat. The printing is also better than the first book, and I think the addition of all the new shops shows an incredible contrast of where the barber industry has grown to. I'm proud of the book and excited for people to see it. The barber industry has been very welcoming of me, so I hope that the book is something they feel does them right. 

On Sunday May 6th, we'll be having a book release party at the notorious Eagle+Pig Barbershop in Costa Mesa, CA (Orange County). We've got some great people behind the project with sponsorships from Uppercut Deluxe, Andis Clippers, Irving Barber Company, and House Beer. It's sure to be a great time with tons of raffles, so come hang out, check out the book, drink some beer, and talk to some cool barbers. 

 

 

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Roadtrip

Was back out on the road earlier this month. This time it was up to Canada for a snowboarding trip with a stop in Beaverton for a meeting with Nike. More on that later. About 2 years ago I realized that snowboarding is the only that will take the camera out of my hands. During any other activity I'm happy to watch from the sidelines just so I can shoot. On snowboarding trips though, the camera unfortunately spends too much time in the bag. I'm alright with that.  A weird thing happens on those trips though, because the itch still needs to be scratched. I can't not shoot for any extended amount of time or I turn into a prick. Especially on the road because you see images everywhere, which are hard to pass up. So I start looking for images in other places. Thus the reason for a completely random mash-up of images in this blogpost. 

Barbershops of America

Completely forgot to post last week about my gallery show for the Hoops Project in LA during All-Star weekend. Oops. It will be up there at Fathom gallery all month if you still want to check it out.  Also have another show at Culture Brewing in Encinitas for Barbershops of America starting next week.The book won't be ready for about a month, but I'll be showing a bunch of limited edition prints. Come on out to Culture and enjoy a beer. 

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America

Last month I watched an on-line talk given by a photographer that I very much respect. He dished out a lot of great information, and briefly mentioned something about another photographer that he very much respected. The remark was about a book that photographer was about to publish, and the speaker said "I already know what it looks like". He hadn't seen the book, or any of the images, but was referring to the fact that the photographer was very predictable. And that stuck with me. He also didn't mean any disrespect at all, was just stating a fact. After thinking about it for a while, I realized how important it is to constantly be charging ahead in different directions. That's something I've always believed, but it was cool to hear from his perspective. As a photographer, you'll always have your "bread and butter", but it's boring to rest on that. Branch out and try new things. Develop portfolios in areas that your audience is expecting. Challenge yourself even if it means failing miserably for a while. In the long term, I believe that's the only way to make it. 

Last month I did another cross-country trip from San Diego to as far as Plymouth, Massachusetts. Time on the road was shorter than I initially planned for, but it's always great. Shot a lot of images that are probably a lot different my norm, and people might not connect with them right away, but whatever. Some of them are certainly winners. I enjoy looking at them, and can see this stuff developing into a much larger portfolio. My main objective on this trip was to wrap up shooting on the barbershop project. So all of this "America" stuff was on the side, but I love it, and am always eager for more. 

Click here for more AMERICA. 

 

 

 

The Basketball Hoops Project

Just a reminder that I'm having a show at Fathom Gallery tonight after the Kobe jersey retirement ceremony at Staples Center. I'll have a bunch of limited edition prints on display, along with some 1/1 signed Kobe game jerseys by a group of really talented street artists. Hope to see you all there! 

HOOPS GALLERY

Fathom Gallery: 110 East 9th St. Suite CL002, Los Angeles, CA 90079

 

 

 

The Basketball Hoops Project

On 12/18/17 the Los Angeles Lakers will be retiring Kobe Bryant's jersey at the Staples Center. If you're around for it, or just live in LA, come by Fathom Gallery afterward. I'll be showing some signed limited edition hoops prints. Alongside my prints will be a bunch of signed one of a kind Kobe jerseys that have been made in art pieces by a number of extremely talented street artists. Hope to see you there!! 

Fathom Gallery. 12/18/17. 9pm-12am. - 110 E 9th St, Suite CL002, Los Angeles, CA 90079

These images were made a few weeks ago during a trip to Indonesia, and won't be in the show, but wanted to post some updated images anyway. For more, check out my HOOPS gallery. 

Sri Lanka

Years and years ago Steve McCurry made an iconic photograph of the Sri Lanken stilt fisherman. At the time, it was a rich part of the countries culture, and a real way for the fisherman to earn a living while also providing for local residents. That was then. Fast forward X amount of years, and this beautiful trade has become nothing more that a tourist attraction. To the point that you can click on them on Google Maps. I didn't realize this before visiting, and very much wanted to see them all based on McCurry's photo. How ignorant of me. On this day, we pulled up to a beautiful beach where they are located, and were greeted by tourist buses filled with people waving their selfie sticks around. The worst part though, you can't even do this for free. If you want to take a picture, you have to pay a guy on the beach who almost acts like their agent. At the end of the day they divvy up the profits. Not sure what's more sad, the fact that hoards of idiot tourists ruin a beautiful scene with their selfie sticks, or that these guys don't even fish anymore? IF you can set all of that aside, it's still something to appreciate as a unique scene that you won't find anywhere else in the world. I tried to picture them 30+ years without the crowds just trying to earn a buck. It helped a little.

Forget everything I just said, because otherwise Sri Lanka is a great country. I really enjoyed it, and would have loved to spend more time there. A highlight for me was seeing how big the cricket culture is. Seems like everywhere we went there were pick-up games going on. Grass fields, dirt lots, concrete, doesn't matter. Sri Lankan's just want to play cricket. 

Street Photography

About a year ago I developed a healthy obsession with photography books, and now have a small (and growing) collection that I try and comb through regularly. It's a calming thing to do, but it's also sort of a free education. Every time I look through another book, or back through an old one, I learn something new. Whether that's a new way of seeing, or whatever, it doesn't matter. Either way it has caused me to to enjoy shooting and looking for different kinds of images. I've always been of the opinion that not every image needs to be "epic". I fully understand why most people need to shoot that way, and why it sells, but there is a lot more to it than that. Simple images that show the viewer a slice of life or tell a story, are every bit as fun to make as one of the guy standing on top of Everest. The images below were taken on a couple walks around my neighborhood in San Diego and another in Los Angeles. They are simple, but I really like them, and will be making a lot more of them. The term "street photography" is getting pretty loose these days. Back in the day, if you were a street photographer, then you were wandering around NYC with a Leica. Now, these images would probably fit into that category. Looking at them, the style of shooting isn't much different from my America series. Just different subjects. 

America

My America gallery of images is the one that gets the least attention and interest from people/clients. Which I find strange because sometimes I think it's my best stuff?  Either way it's something I've been shooting for a long time, and will continue shooting forever. Lately I've been getting a lot of images request from clients for other bodies of work, which is always a gift because it forces you to go back through old hard drives, causing me to look at images I haven't seen in a long time. And whatever it is about time, that factor has made turned me on to images that I thought were worthless in the past. That might be a problem, but then again it might just be part of the process. Regardless, I'm happy to have stumbled upon these images that have been during road trips from as far back as  2011, and as recently as a few months ago. Can't wait to get back out on the road.