Wonderland.

JERRY HSU

Introducing the skateboarder-turned-photographer who’s capturing everyday America with his Tumblr-style book.

The Beautiful Flower Is the World by photographer Jerry Hsu inside the book

All photography JERRY HSU

The Beautiful Flower Is the World by photographer Jerry Hsu inside the book
All photography JERRY HSU

Bootleg t-shirts. A giant cactus riddled with bullet holes. Dogs chilling out of the passenger-side of a car. Since 2009, Jerry Hsu has been uploading everyday snapshots to his Tumblr blog NAZI GOLD, capturing his travels and documenting high and low America with razor-sharp humour.

From roadside curiosities, to photos of mates messing around, and even unexpectedly touching portraits of humanity at its most raw and unfiltered, this blog photography has now been encapsulated in the second book from the LA-born former pro-skateboarder, The Beautiful Flower Is The World.

We chatted to Hsu about his inspirations, photography as a shorthand language, and the American dream…

The Beautiful Flower Is the World by photographer Jerry Hsu dog
The Beautiful Flower Is the World by photographer Jerry Hsu bootleg t-shirts
The Beautiful Flower Is the World by photographer Jerry Hsu dog
All photography JERRY HSU
The Beautiful Flower Is the World by photographer Jerry Hsu bootleg t-shirts

Tell me about the first time you picked up a camera?
When we grew up skateboarding, documenting ourselves was important to us. Making little videos and photographing each other was a constant. We were borrowing our parents’ cameras and video cameras, but my first camera was a Minolta SR-T 101 a friend gave me. This was in high school.

What came first: the skateboarding or the photography? Do you think the two are synonymous?
They are synonymous in that they are both methods of interpreting environment. Documentation is a peripheral joy to skateboarding and it results in the things we like to consume; zines, magazines, videos. Skateboarding has also brought me to places and situations I otherwise would not have experienced and in that way it helps my photography.

Your blog NAZI GOLD started as a curated feed of your phone pics – how did you start it?
I had been archiving my phone photos for maybe a year and a half beginning in ’06 or ’07. They were mostly “note photos” or images I wanted to send to someone immediately, sort of a personal message using imagery. I think that’s why many of the photos contain humour because it is a bonding experience when two people share a style of humour. in 2009, I made a very garden-variety Tumblr of images i pulled off the web. i showed it to a friend who suggested I scrap that and make a blog of the cell-phone images I had been making. That’s how NAZI GOLD came to be.

And then what made you want to immortalise it all in a book?
NAZI GOLD was more or less chronological and diaristic. Looking at all the images outside of the blog as a whole revealed themes that weren’t apparent and I wanted to see it as a book. I also like the idea of these low resolution images being put in print, a place I don’t think they were intended to exist.

Where did the name from your book come from: The Beautiful Flower is the World?
The title comes from an image in the book of a t-shirt made in Asia. There is a flower on it and it says “The beautiful flower is the world, its love is be beautifids flower life in the oioersotrktrotrt”. So that’s obviously an amazing attempt at translation that we commonly see in Asia. It shares this absurdity and degradation that the pictures also have experience. Initially these photos were created to be sent via wireless networks which degrades their quality (resolution). the “beautiful flower” title seems to have been constructed incorrectly which makes you pause and it mirrors the small absurdities in many of the photos.

The Beautiful Flower Is the World by photographer Jerry Hsu tattoo
The Beautiful Flower Is the World by photographer Jerry Hsu tattoo
All photography JERRY HSU

Where do you find your main inspirations?
Most of my inspirations are from books. I collect images online and I search out the things I like and look at them later. I follow a lot of artists, it comes from a variety of places. It comes from everywhere, films, books, other artists that I’m friends with or follow. One of the artists that I really like that has nothing to do with this body of work is JH Engström, a Swedish photographer that I really like and follow, he’s a great artist. Another artist I really like a lot is Daniel Arnold, he’s a street photographer that I know, he lives in New York, and is great, funny and witty.

All the images seem quite tongue-in-cheek – why is humour important to your photography?
Humour is important in this particular body of work because these photos were created to communicate with other; these photos were taken as a shorthand language because we had just started communicating with photos created with our phones at this time. That’s kind of why they’re funny is because they’re sort of like a vessel of humour to communicate with my friends basically.

What do you love about capturing American culture at its lowest and highest?
America is a place of many contradictions. It’s consumer culture, religious ideals, false sense of superiority, celebrity worship and countless other systems which make it an endless conveyor belt of absurdities. I’m often asked “how I see these things,” and it’s simply because it’s everywhere.

What’s next for you?
I just want to keep doing photography projects and making books, I recently found all these Hi-8 tapes from when I was about 12 and 13 growing up skateboarding and I digitised them and I’ve been going through them and I feel like there is something there. It’s cool because it’s mixed there’s family home footage mixed in with it too that my mom filmed so it’s kind of cool, they’re immigrants from Taiwan and they moved to America for college, so it’s interesting to see their American dream happening and then I’m having my American dream too at the same time sort of pursuing my dreams as a skateboarder and it’s all being documented. I’m also rejecting them and breaking away from them at the same time so I feel like that project could be something, it could be nothing but that’s something I’m excited to work on.

The Beautiful Flower is the World by Jerry Hsu is published by Anthology Editions and available for purchase on 21st May for pre-order on anthology.net and exclusively in-store at Dover Street Market, London from 16 May 2019.

The Beautiful Flower Is the World by photographer Jerry Hsu cactus
The Beautiful Flower Is the World by photographer Jerry Hsu Getty Images
The Beautiful Flower Is the World by photographer Jerry Hsu spiderman
The Beautiful Flower Is the World by photographer Jerry Hsu cactus
All photography JERRY HSU
The Beautiful Flower Is the World by photographer Jerry Hsu Getty Images
The Beautiful Flower Is the World by photographer Jerry Hsu spiderman
The Beautiful Flower Is the World by photographer Jerry Hsu spread
The Beautiful Flower Is the World by photographer Jerry Hsu spread
All photography JERRY HSU
Photography
Jerry Hsu
Words
Maybelle Morgan
JERRY HSU

Related → Related → Related → Related → Related → Related → Related → Related → Related → Related → Related → Related → Related → Related → Related → Related → Related → Related → Related → Related →