Wynn Miller Talk Story with Dan Levy

WYNN MILLER INTERVIEW BY DAN LEVY PHOTOS BY WYNN MILLER

Wynn Miller is simply one of the coolest people that I have been lucky enough to meet in real life. His work is something we, as skateboarders, have an affinity for as he helped to amplify not only the attitude and talents of Tony Alva through his images, he also used his unique skill set to elevate the technical level of photography in skateboarding and beyond. His work documenting skateboarding, gang culture, sports icons and celebrities has been featured all over the world and his story is one that we are honored to share. 

DAN: You were born in LA and went to Fairfax High School. Is that where you got started with your photo life?

WYNN: Yes. It was not to a large extent though. I was very interested in filmmaking and, for my first few years of college, I went to UCLA and studied Cinematography, but I didn’t like college and I was interested in doing other things. Then the draft came along for the Vietnam War and there was a reasonable suspicion that I could get drafted. They did a lottery and my number was so high that I would never get drafted, so I was like, “I’m going to Hawaii. I want to surf.” I went to Hawaii and stayed three years. 

Did you go to Oahu?

I went to Lahaina in Maui and surfed Honolua Bay in the early ‘70s, so we didn’t even use leashes then. We were surfing Honolua, which is all rocks, and those were the biggest waves I’d ever surfed. 

Were the local Hawaiians cool with you?

Well, I got into a couple of fist fights and got a tooth knocked out. 

What happened?

I talked to the wrong girl for a little too long. Her boyfriend was a friend of mine and she told him, “Oh, I was hanging out with Wynn yesterday.” It seemed innocent at the time, but the next time I saw him, he punched me right in the mouth. 

Oh, wow. That sucks.

It happens in Hawaii. It was part of the deal. 

“I would say that a good photo shows something about the photographer and the subject or both.”

Surfing was your first love, yes?

Definitely. I didn’t skate, but I surfed a lot. I still surf a lot. Hawaii was a great experience. Then I met this really nice guy who was a photographer and he had built a dark room in the middle of the cane fields behind his house and he said, “I’ll show you how to develop and process film and make prints.” That’s when I really got into it. Then it started to get really druggy in Maui, with heroin and all of that, and I thought, “Maybe this is a good time for me to get out of here.” I could sense that was a road that was not too hard to go down there. 

Then you came back to the mainland?

Yeah. I was going to go to photography school, so I applied to the Art Center and then they told me how much it was and it was so expensive. At the same time, I thought I might have a chance of being a pro surfer. I ended up at Santa Monica College, which had a really decent photography  department. I jumped into it and wanted to get the best grades and take the best photos and it went pretty good. After I graduated UCLA, I went back to Santa Monica College and graduated from there. 

Do you remember your first photography assignment in class?

I had to shoot a white object on a white background and then shoot a black object on a black background. It’s still hard to do that well. 

This was all shooting with film too, right?

Yeah. So I did two years at Santa Monica College and, while I was there, one teacher, Don Battle, took me under his wing and got me jobs working as an assistant in some studios in Hollywood. That’s why my photography was more oriented that way. The kids that were taking skate pictures were running around chasing guys down. I was like, “They’re coming to me. I’m gonna set the shot up and there is going to be only one person in it.” That happened to be Tony Alva. 

You are a pioneer in conceptual skate photography and your work with Tony Alva was not typical. What was your first photo assisting job?

It was this guy that was shooting out of his house in Beverly Hills. I lasted about a week there because that wasn’t what I wanted to do; just doing lighting and stuff. Then I met a guy that worked at Samy’s Camera, which was called Pan Pacific Camera then. He got me a job at a place called Lenny Inc., which was this big building in Marina Del Rey. They had ten studio set ups and they were shooting catalogs. It was good because I got in as an assistant and got the influence of other photographers that were working there at the same time. That was a good learning zone. 

How did you develop your own Wynn Miller style of photography? 

Well, the whole deal there was to take a subject and make it look as pretty as possible, so that’s how I tried to do things. 

MAD DOG. PHOTO © WYNN MILLER

You were shooting skateboarding photos at the Gonzales pool with strobes and filters. Was that because you had access to equipment or was it your own style?

That was my sense of how I wanted to separate myself. It was mostly kids doing skateboard         photography. None of them used strobes like I did. I was lucky to get Tony in my corner. I’d say, “Tony, let’s do this. I’ll set up over here.” We’d just do it until we got it. I couldn’t have done it without him. It was a collaboration with Tony. 

How did you get introduced to TA?

It was through Ray Flores. Ray had a friend, Rudy Manheim, and one of those guys said, “Wynn, you have to come and watch this guy skateboard.” 

“I was lucky to get Tony in my corner. I’d say, “Tony, let’s do this. I’ll set up over here.” We’d just do it until we got it. I couldn’t have done it without him. It was a  collaboration with Tony.”

You knew both Ray and Rudy from the neighborhood?

Yes. They were part of the crew that I hung out with. 

Ray was doing a bunch of Super 8 filming back then too, right?

Yes. Ray was way ahead of the deal. He was the Venice aficionado. Rudy was a photographer too. 

How did you get your photos into the magazines?

Warren Bolster got a hold of some of my photos and he liked what I was doing, so he would publish me in Skateboarder as much as he could. Then Tony really caught fire and we toured Europe. Tony did demos, so we’d find cool locations in England. 

What was the photo you took where you decided this was what you wanted to do? 

It was a photo of Ray Flores. There’s a beautiful blue sky and I laid down in the bottom of the pool. That was my first skateboarding shot. I was stoked on that, so I ran down and showed Ray. When Tony first met me, Ray said, “Hey, Tony, this is Wynn. He’s a really good photographer. He could take some really good photos of you.” Tony said, “I’ll be the judge of that.” I guess it worked because then Tony would call me and say, “These guys are going to skate Oxnard.” So I’d drive up there and shoot. I mostly shot skating at the Gonzales pool. That was like my studio. I got a lot of shots of TA there. That’s where we shot the flames photo. We got a couple of really good shots at Nukeland too, down by the nuclear plant in San Onofre. We’d drive in and there was a gate with Marine guards and Tony would talk them into letting us in. He’d say, “My brother works here and he told us to meet him here.” One day, Tony got arrested for trespassing there. We got pulled over after we left the place and Tony was very gnarly in those days. We were talking to the patrolman and Tony dropped the F bomb and that was it. They took TA and drove away. 

Do you think a pro skater can become famous without a good photographer?

No. 

When you were shooting skate photos, were you shooting gang photos too?

No. I did the photos of the gang first. 

GANGLAND AMMO. PHOTO © WYNN MILLER

When you were doing photography of the gang, what was your motivation? 

I just thought it was cool and interesting. I’m a Jewish surfer kid from West LA and these gang guys let me come shoot them. 

What was the craziest situation you were in when you were shooting the gangs?

There were a few times when there were bullets involved. We were all hanging around this funeral and this car comes driving slowly towards us and I see all my guys pulling guns out. They jumped in their cars and took off after that car. They came back 20 minutes later like nothing had happened. 

How old were you at that time?

25. It was after Hawaii. 

What did you learn the most from your experiences shooting the gang photos?

I learned how to be really scared. The thing that intrigued me was how close those guys were. They had their own brotherhood and the gang had all different levels. They had never been to the beach. They pretty much all stayed in that East LA neighborhood. 

Why were they letting you shoot photos? How did you get to do that?

Well, my sister had married a movie director and he was writing a movie, which turned out to be American Me. My brother-in-law said, “Hey, Wynn, do you want to go, I’m going to talk to these guys.” I said, “Sure.” I brought my camera and I snapped a bunch of photos and went home and developed the film and made some prints and the next day I drove back down there on my own. I brought the pictures and showed the guys and they were like, “That’s cool, man.” I said, “Would you guys mind if I hung around a little?” They said, “No.” So that was that. I was in. 

How did it all turn out? 

Well, years later, I went back there with Rick Klotz, the guy who did Freshjive. He wanted to put on a show with the gang photos and I said, “I think we should make an attempt to get in touch with these guys if we are gonna run pictures of them.” He said, “Sure. Let’s go down there.” I got in touch with one of the guys, Ruben, and we met him down there. He told us that most of the guys were dead or in prison and it was okay to use the photos. 

That’s heavy. 

There were a couple of sketchy times when the guys would come up to me. They liked to drink beer and sniff glue, and this one guy tried to pick a fight with me. He was like, “What are you doing, man? You come down here and take our pictures and then you’re gone. We don’t know what you do with them.” I said, “I’ll show you what I’m going to do with them.” I showed him the LA Weekly where they had done a little story on the photos. I told the guys about it and they went out that night and emptied all the racks they could find. They wanted as many copies as they could get, so they went around and took them all. Now all of those guys are gone. I can’t find any of them now. There was one guy who befriended me named Lyle. He was cool. Then there was Squire who was the leader of the gang. He wouldn’t let anybody fuck with me or I probably wouldn’t be here. When I went back years later, I said, “Ruben, do you remember me? I was here 20 years ago taking pictures.” He said, “I remember. You were the guy that was scared all the time.” 

[Laughs] Wow. That’s a trip. How long did you shoot the gang?

It was on and off for a year. I probably should have been a photojournalist because I really loved that. 

What about the humanity part of it for you? Did they all want to be in the gang? Did you ever have conversations about it?

No. Not really. It was the only way to survive in that neighborhood. 

The photo you took of the two kids with the shotguns is insane.

I got in so much trouble for that. Someone called me and said, “Hey, you shouldn’t have done that. You shouldn’t have shown a picture of a kid with a gun like that.” I said, “I had permission. It wasn’t my idea to do that shot.” He said, “It wasn’t cool.” I just thought of it as portraiture of the gang. There was a lot of culture in those shots. 

What gang was this?

It was called Arizona Maravilla. There were a lot of gangs in LA in those days. 

“I shot with Jay a few times. he was a hard guy to shoot because he’d try a trick a few times and if he didn’t get it, he’d move on to something else. When he did get it, he’d still just move on.”

How did you get into doing advertising photography?

It’s funny. I met this guy, John Krisik who owned a company called Life-Link. He invented Croakies, the neoprene bands that went on your sunglasses so they would hang around your neck. We decided to try something different with Croakies because surfers use them.

What was your first commercial gig?

My first commerical shoot was with Kanoa Surf, which was some kind of skate shop. I never turned anything down and I just kept going at it. 

Z-BOY J-BOY. PHOTO © WYNN MILLER

What was your first photography job after college?

It was Sepia magazine. Don Cornelius was the guy from Soul Train and I shot him for my first job. 

Didn’t you do some stuff with LA Gear?

Yes. I was their first photographer. 

That turned into a big gig. 

It was huge. It was such a successful company that they gave me stock options. 

What’s the first thing you shot for them?

We shot these E.T. shoelaces with extraterrestrial pictures on them. The guy that started LA Gear is a billionaire now and he owns Skechers. He just kept building and building and building companies. Then he introduced me to another guy and things really picked up and I was shooting all the time. 

What were some of your most interesting commercial shoots?

One time I wanted to get a shot of a guy fishing off of the top of a tall building downtown. We taped the camera to a pole and stuck the pole out over the edge of the building and just had to play around with it until we got it. This was all on film, so we didn’t know what we were getting. 

What was your worst nightmare shooting advertising photos?

It was shooting Art Linkletter. I was working for a guy in Hollywood and he said, “Wynn, I can’t do this job. Will you please go take pictures of this guy, Art Linkletter?” I said, “Okay. I’ve never used a Hasselblad before though.” He said, “You’ll be all right.” He hands me the Hasselblad and a tripod and sends me to a stage where they were filming. I was so nervous. They cut from the filming and said, “You can have ten minutes with Art.” Art goes, “What is this for?” He was against it right off the bat. I said, “They asked me to do it. Do you mind just giving me ten minutes, sir?” He was like, “I don’t know. What are you doing here?” He was challenging me and there was a whole crew around. I put the camera on the tripod and clicked my first frame and the camera fell off the tripod because I didn’t have it secured properly. 

Oh no! 

Art Linkletter yelled, “What the fuck are you doing?” Just like that, I was going to run out of there. Then the director came over and said to Art, “Give this guy a shot. He has a job to do just like you have a job to do.” Art was like, “All right.” I got to shoot four frames and I was out of there. 

You shot some photos of Robin Williams too. What was it like to shoot with him?

People magazine sent me to shoot Robin and he wasn’t famous then. He was just about to come out with Mork & Mindy. He was cool and really funny. I saw him at the Comedy Store one night with Richard Belzer, the guy on Law & Order. Richard was doing his performance and he was in a foul mood. He was harassing some guy in the audience and he flicked a cigarette and bounced it off the guy’s chest. All of a sudden, Robin Williams came out of nowhere and rescued the guy and started doing his Robin Williams shtick and totally turned it around.

ROBIN WILLIAMS. R.I.P. PHOTO © WYNN MILLER

He was brilliant. What camera do you shoot with mostly?

I was a Nikon guy for many years and then, when digital came around, I shifted to Canon. I thought, at the time, they did a better job with digital. 

Then you had to buy all new lenses.

I had to buy all new everything. In those days, I had a lot of lenses too. I just gave my Nikon gear away recently because I hadn’t used it in ten years.  

When digital started, film still reigned for a while. Do you remember when the shift to digital became a reality?

This guy came in as an assistant and he’d been working in Chicago. He said, “Wynn, you have to try this digital. It’s really happening. Trust me.” He brought his digital Kodak with a Nikon body. I had to work at it. You have to know so much more to shoot digital. When I was working with film, it was two bodies and three lenses. With the digital stuff, look how many things there are to utilize. 

A lot of photographers shoot something nowadays and say, “I’ll just fix that in post.” With film, you had to get it right on the spot. With Photoshop and Lightroom, it’s such a different world now. 

Yeah. Nowadays, art directors are the kings. It’s not the photographers anymore. If someone says, “Hey, Wynn, we want a picture of an apple against fluffy white clouds,” nowadays, I would shoot each part separately and they would put it together later. Now it’s different. It was the post production that I got snagged on at first, but we figured it out and got pretty good at it. Martin Herbst, my assistant, retouches everything we shoot. Sometimes it’s just a little bit. I do miss that feeling when you go into the studio the next day and you still don’t know how your film looked. Nowadays, you just don’t leave until you get it. 

What’s your advice to photographers on how to get work?

I tell all the kids, when I do lectures, “When you’re in photo school, make friends with the designers at the school you’re in. They will be your clients one day.” Getting work usually involves knowing somebody and keeping in touch with those people. 

Absolutely. When I started taking photos, it was because of opportunity. Terri was like, “You should start shooting photos because you’re in these situations that no one else is in.” I’ve never looked beyond skateboarding though.

Well, you’re a skateboarder. 

Yeah. That’s what interests me. What still excites you to shoot photos?

I still have that jazzy feeling when I look at a photo that I’ve taken. When you realize that you’ve taken a photo and people are paying you to take pictures, it’s so cool. I still get that buzz.

That’s awesome. It’s like, if you’re a skateboarder or a surfer and somebody pays you to skate or surf, it’s a win, win. 

Yeah. It’s awesome. 

What work are you most proud of and has had the most impact on you?

I feel like the stuff that is the most effective is my Alva stuff. I just sold one of my Alva photos to Vans. Those photos are worth a lot of money. 

Yes. They are time pieces. You can never go back and recreate that time. 

Yeah. I enjoyed being around Tony. It was fun to put up with his shenanigans. 

What were you thinking when you shot Alva in those colorful and artistic photos? As far as the concept and all the make up photos, what about that?

We’d just fuck around and do all kinds of stuff. One day Tony dragged Mondo along and we shot Tony and Mondo with their faces spray painted. I don’t know where I came up with that idea. We usually had something we were trying to accomplish. 

Those photos were so outside of the box of skateboarding. No one else was doing anything like that. 

Yeah. I was surprised that more kids didn’t try to copy it. I was always trying to dig out something. Irving Penn is my favorite photographer of all time. 

What is the most challenging thing for you about shooting portraits?

It’s all about making a connection with the subject. I’m actually a pretty shy guy, but I’m collaborative with the subject. When you first get there, there’s a wall. I don’t know you and you don’t know me and I’m there to get something from you. If you can smash that wall and get a little sense of who that person is and connect, you can get it. It’s hard to do. Some people enjoy shooting celebrities. I don’t, not after Art Linkletter. Who is the most famous person that you’ve shot?

I’ve shot with Tony Hawk and Christian Hosoi and a bunch of people, but I guess Jay Adams would be the most famous skateboarder I’ve shot.

I shot with Jay a few times, but he was a hard guy to shoot because he’d try a trick a few times and if he didn’t get it, he’d move on to something else. When he did get it, he’d still just move on. 

JAY BACK IN THE DAY. PHOTO © WYNN MILLER

That was Jay. Which of your photos of skateboarding were your favorites? 

Bolster told me that he wanted to put the photo of Tony wearing the pink mask on the cover of the Skateboarder annual, but he wasn’t wearing elbow pads and knee pads, so they wouldn’t let him do it. 

Wow. In today’s times, if he was wearing elbow pads and knee pads, it wouldn’t go on the cover. What a flip.

That’s too funny. 

As far as your photographs of Tony Alva, your timing was dead on. 

I had this thing that I consider my philosophy of shooting. You’ve got to get the shot at the very top of its arc. Whatever the highest point would be, that’s where you shoot it. You can be under it or around it, it doesn’t matter. Everything stops when you’re at the top of that arc.

Did you ever apply the way that you shot skateboarding to your other work?

That’s a good question. I can’t think of any time I’ve done something like that, but it’s a cool idea. You can get dependent on a fisheye lens, but I like to try to use a variety of lenses. You can shoot with a long lens from far away or you can shoot close up with a fisheye lens. I had so many fisheye lenses that got hit by skateboarders, right in my face. I wish I could have used my fisheye for other stuff. That would have been neat. 

Yeah. I bought my first fisheye lens and the first day I was shooting with it, I was shooting Hosoi and he bailed and his grip tape shaved the front of my lens. I was like, “No!” I get crap sometimes when I shoot music stuff with a fisheye. Other photographers look at me like, “What are you doing?” To me, it’s like skating. It’s action. This one time I shot Billy Idol at a signing. All of the photographers were on one side of the line and I just walked up next to him and shot him and got all of the photographers in there too. The publicist was like, “What are you doing?” I was like, “I’m a skateboarder, so I was just moving around to get a shot.” She was like, “Cool. Just don’t do that again.” 

Yeah. With skateboarding photography, a lot of times, you’re trying to satisfy somebody besides yourself. What happens to your photos generally?

They go into the magazine or our website. Sometimes a company will want to use them. As a photographer, where do you most want to see your work? 

I still like print. We are eventually going to do a book of all of these photos. I’m working with a kid who is going to help me. When I finished my two years at Santa Monica College and I had just done my gang pictures, I was like, “I want to get these published.” I put together a little book and went to New York to Magnum Photos, a world famous photo agency. I found somebody there and knocked on his door and he was cool and he let me down nicely. He said, “I don’t think this is what we’re looking for right now, but it’s good work. Don’t stop shooting.” He was a nice guy and he was honest. He could have told me to just quit photography. 

I’m glad you didn’t quit. When you make your book, are you going to go through a publisher or do it yourself?

I think we’re going to have to get a publisher. Do you think we could do it ourselves?

You could. 

Look at this shot of Muhammad Ali. It reminds me of that story of the Billy Idol shot you took that you told me about. I stepped over and got that shot   because I couldn’t get through the other side. I came around and said, “Hey champ!” He turned around and I snapped the photo. 

THE CHAMP – MUHAMMAD ALI.  PHOTO © WYNN MILLER

That’s your surfer self coming through. There are no rules, especially when they tell you there are rules. When there are 65 photographers facing one way, I look for a different spot. It’s not always going to be the best, but it will be different than what everyone else is getting. What was it like to go from shooting Tony Alva skateboarding at the Gonzales pool to going into a studio and shooting a movie star or celebrity?

It goes good if I don’t let myself get overwhelmed by the celebrity. I get nervous still, but, if I get a good picture, I’m happy. 

“Look at this shot of MuhammAd Ali…. I stepped over and got that shot because I couldn’t get through the other side. I came around and said, “Hey champ!” He turned around and I snapped the photo.”

Who made you the most nervous to shoot? 

I would have to say Michael Jackson, but I didn’t get to talk to him. I shot Kareem Abdul-Jabbar a few times and that was nice. They told me, if you want to get a good shot of Kareem, you have to have a girl with big boobs hanging around the set. So I did and he was so happy. He just talked to her and then I’d call him over and we’d take a few pictures and then he’d go back and chat up the girl.  

You shot the photo of him in the fire background, right? That was real, right?

Yeah. Most of it was real. I think they added some fire to his back later. We hired a fire company that they have for movies and we set up different shots with flames coming up and then we put Kareem in the middle and put light on each side of him, with orange gel on the lights. 

When you think about the value of your photos, how do you determine that?

I’m a wuss about that. I just say, “How much do you have?” It’s either enough or it isn’t. 

That’s a great way to handle it. You’ve never had a photography agent?

No. I had a photography agent for a month and he stole my portfolio. He said he was going to be my agent and get me work. He said that to me and  several of my photographer friends around town and then he disappeared with everyone’s portfolio. 

That’s horrifying. So you’ve fought for your own work your whole life, and you’ve done it your own way by nurturing connections and friendships. 

Yes. In my photography lectures, I say to the kids, “The most important instrument is your phone. You have to know how to work that phone.” 

What do you think is the biggest mistake you can make as a photographer when shooting photos?

My biggest mistake was when we were in Belize. We’d been there for a week and in Costa Rica and I was doing photography for a fishing company. The last day we got to our hotel in Belize and it was so hot and muggy and I said, “I think I’ve got to do something to protect my film.” So I got a styrofoam case and filled it with ice and then I put ten-days worth of film I’d shot in a baggy and put that into the ice-filled styrofoam case. At the end of the day, the baggy had been cut on the corner and all my film was floating in water. It was the worst feeling. We had spent thousands of dollars. I was sick to my stomach. I didn’t tell anyone. I didn’t know what to do, so I found a phone and called a lab and asked what I should do. They said, “Don’t do anything. Just leave it and we’ll take care of it.” I took it straight to the lab when I got back and I lost about a quarter of the images. My client never knew what happened, but it wasn’t good. 

That’s scary. So you wound up having enough photos for the client?

Yeah. I never even told them to this day. 

Have you ever had to reshoot stuff?

Yeah. I had a new kid that I didn’t know very well and I had him loading film for a job for 4×5. I shot a day’s worth of film and, that night, we got back to the lab and one of my assistants goes, “Uh oh, Wynn.” He had loaded the film inside out. I went back and reshot it the next day, so it wasn’t as bad as it could have been. 

Where’s the coolest place that you ever got to go shoot photos for a job?

I went to Costa Rica three times and I’ve been all over the States. The Canary Islands were kind of cool. I hardly knew anything about them when I got to go and shoot them. South Africa was beautiful. 

Was that all outdoor photography? 

It was for a shoe company. The guy was a triathlete whose shoe it was. He was right in the middle of training for the Iron Man and couldn’t leave, so they sent me there instead. 

Where is one spot that you haven’t shot that you’d like to photograph?

I’m happy to go somewhere I haven’t been before. 

That’s the best. When you were shooting in South Africa, after you got the work done, did you shoot stuff for yourself?

Yeah. I’ve got some pretty good South Africa black mamba shots. Those snakes will kill you.

Whoa. Are you still shooting advertising?

Not much. I’m kinda retired. If something comes my way, I’ll do it. 

Do you ever make movies?

No. Making movies is too collaborative. I like to be more in charge if I can.

Glen Friedman said the same thing. He said, “In filmmaking, there are too many other people that influence the process. I want it to be just me and the subject.” 

Maybe that’s why we became photographers. I never understood why anyone would want to be a director. It’s too scary, with all the people counting on you, and then you have to count on people. That’s one of the reasons I left UCLA.  My first two years in the cinema department, you don’t get to make any moves. It’s all history of art and I wanted more control. I think it’s changed now, but they used to just show experimental films. I really liked the Art History classes though. I just think you can get away with more in filming. You don’t have to stop and center things. Everything is moving. Little mistakes don’t matter. Where do you live?

Venice. 

That’s where Juice Magazine is published, right?

Yeah. We live there and work there. 

Venice has changed a lot. Everywhere has changed so much really.

It has. Now we see all of the disposable generation stuff. You’ve got Bird scooters and everything and nothing stays around long enough to have any value. That’s why I asked about the value of your photos. Now everything goes so fast and seems so disposable on social media. 

My kids are buried in their iPhones. There is going to be something going on with people’s necks. 

There is also something going on with people’s mental state of mind. I saw this thing with Steve-O from Jackass. He was with Steve Wozniak who invented the personal computer with Steve Jobs. Steve-O wanted to buy a new computer, and he was like, “Woz, come to the store with me.” They rode Segways to the Apple store and Woz talked about inventing the computer and he said, “The trouble is that a lot of good came with technology and, unfortunately, a lot of bad we didn’t see. We only started companies to do good and help people and then the big companies got control and now it’s used to control us and have power over us. It’s unfortunate nowadays. I kinda regret what I did.” Now social media has become so invasive and negative.

A lot of people are getting fucked over by it. I go around and people will be like, “Wynn, I saw this on your Instagram.” They only know me from what my kids post on my Instagram. I don’t need people to know more about me than they already know. People I don’t know talk to me like they know me. 

It’s strange. For Woz to say he regretted inventing the computer, that was heavy.

It has changed everything. I will never forget the day I shot photos of Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs. We flew up to Palo Alto and we were going to shoot the two of them together. They gave us the corner of a warehouse and some horrible furniture to set up a scenario, and everybody was so nervous. They were like, “Is he here? Is he here?” Wozinak showed up and he was as cool as could be. His shirt was torn and he looked like a bum almost. We sat them on this couch and there was a computer motherboard and I said, “Why don’t guys hold it up like this and the light will come through it and it will be a cool shot.” Steve goes, “Who did this?” My friend, John, who was the other director said, “We did.” Steve Jobs goes, “This is shit.” Everybody froze, but John was cool. He said, “This is our job. We have to do this Steve. It won’t take long. Just let us do our job.” Steve was like, “Oh, all right.” We shot for like 15 minutes and he said, “That’s enough guys.” And he just left. He didn’t care about making it a good shoot. Steve Jobs being a dick is a pretty well known fact, but nerds rule now. Did you ever see that show Silicon Valley? That’s Mike Judge’s show. 

Mike Judge is brilliant. He was going to the OTTTO show at Juice because he’s friends with Robert Trujillo of Metallica. 

Is Robert still married to that gal, Chloe?

Yeah.

Did you ever see the show they did with my photos at the Alva Gallery? I think she did the fire shot. 

Yes. I was at that show. It paid tribute to your work and to TA. It gave a whole other dimension to your photography. That was a cool concept for a show. 

I think Richard Villa came up with that. 

You’ve seen the The Tony Alva Story movie. Your photos are really good in that. 

Thank you. What I also really appreciate is when someone like Anthony Friedkin, from the show we did a few months ago, [“On The Edge of Society”] comes up to me and said, “I think you’ve done some great work.” He was really nice about it and that was very touching to me. That meant a lot.

“People Magazine sent me to shoot Robin and he wasn’t famous then. He was just about to come out with Mork & Mindy. He was cool and really funny. I saw him at the Comedy Store one night with Richard Belzer, the guy on Law & Order. Richard was doing his performance and he was in a foul mood. He was harassing some guy in the audience and he flicked a cigarette and bounced it off the guy’s chest. All of a sudden, Robin Williams came out of nowhere and rescued the guy and started doing his Robin Williams shtick and totally turned it around.”

Anthony Friedkin is amazing. 

Yes. He is. 

What else do you have going on lately?

I’m working with the Venice Arts Gala. They do fundraisers and give cameras to underprivileged kids. I’m a mentor at Venice Arts. 

What’s your favorite part about that?

Hanging out with the kids and watching them look at pictures for the first time and giving them an idea of what makes a good photo. 

What would you say makes a good photo?

I would say that a good photo shows something about the photographer and the subject or both. 

Thank you, Wynn.

Thank you. I enjoyed this a lot. 

FOR THE REST OF THE STORY, GET ISSUE #77 AT THE JUICE SHOP HERE.

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