Photographer Q&A: Jake Stangel

Photographer Q&A: Jake Stangel

By Julia Sabot
Photographer Jake Stangel shares his favorite experiences while shooting for Dwell Magazine.

Have you always wanted to know more about Dwell’s photo shoots and the amazing photographers that we get to work with? Well, you’re in luck! This Q&A with the wonderful Jake Stangel kicks off the start to our "Get to Know the Photographer" series. You will learn what it is like to shoot for Dwell and hear about some fun, behind-the-scenes moments. Most importantly, you will be able to put a face to a name of these talented photographers who have helped us create the beautiful pages of Dwell over the years.

Do you remember the first shoot you did for Dwell? 

I sure do! Dwell's former photo editor Amy Silberman called me up while I was working on a personal project on Lake Powell in Utah. I had a shred of service as I talked to her out on the water in my kayak, and about two weeks later, shortly after getting off the lake, I was flying to NYC to shoot an amazing, intense two-day story about a home or space in all five boroughs, while traveling all over the city via public transit—subway, bus, ferry, and foot. It was the most exhilarating shoot of my young career and really helped put me on the map, editorially. So I'm indebted to Amy and Dwell for taking a chance on a young 25-year-old!

Do you enjoy Dwell assignments?

I do love Dwell assignments. I get to visit and be inspired by the most incredible homes, meet the fantastic people who live and designed the spaces, get to work with perspective and how to read and convey space, and I usually get to travel for it!

How do you usually prepare going into a Dwell shoot? 

To be honest, I drink tea, get in a nice, mellow zone, and really just zen out. I also like to play music when shooting for Dwell, for some reason. It just helps me get in the zone of what it's like to inhabit the space, as if I lived there. Oh, I also always photograph homes barefoot! I just literally want to feel like I am a long-term visitor, as opposed to a photographer who is just there for the day.

Type of camera? Film or digital?

I try to still shoot with film as much as I can. All of my Dwell shoots have been on film. I find that is just captures the essence of a home a lot better! Warm tones, kodachrome feel, sunlight, like there's a cozy blanket over everything. I roll to Dwell shoots with my two besties—a Mamiya 7 and a Mamiya RZ67. 

Funny/favorite moments from one or two shoots you can remember?

Definitely taking the NYC bus with a ton of rental gear into Red Hook, Brooklyn, and clumsily rolling everything for blocks on blocks to the first location/home of five, thinking to myself "This is going to be an interesting two days." Getting to take travel shots all over that city, my former home, and taking the 7 train all the way out to another world in Flushing, Queens. Meeting incredibly kind and friendly families. Getting taken out to Shabu-Shabu at the Flushing family's restaurant and getting my mind blown by the food!

Favorite image/s?

From Emeryville and NYC! The modular home in Emeryville just had the most wonderful California light going on all day throughout the house, so I'd constantly be moving around, waiting and watching for every room's peak moment in the sun and shooting it like so. 

Emeryville Home shot for our dec/jan 2013 issue.

NYC... probably one of my favorite all-time images is shot on the 7 train, when it's an elevated line over Queens. I was racing back to Manhattan and was about an hour late to get on the train than I hoped. But the extra hour gave me the most electric light and setting sun light as I came back West. I was standing in the subway car, daydreaming, my Mamiya 7 was on my shoulder, and I shot this photo—the last frame of the roll.

On the 7 train heading back to Manhattan. 5 Boroughs in 48 hours shot for our March 2011 issue.

Do you have a favorite house/location that you have shot for us, and why?

Well, the modular home of Seth Krubiner in Emeryville, California, made me want to buy a plot of land somewhere in this overpriced city and go modular! I think my favorite house has been Bill Ryall’s apartment in Harlem. Bill bought the shell of a Harlem brownstone/townhouse in the ’80s or so, and built the interior from the ground up into the most spectacular demonstration of homey, inviting design ever. Doesn't hurt that his husband is the design curator at the MoMa either.

A portrait of Bill Ryall for 5 Boroughs in 48 Hours in our March 2011 issue

What is it like seeing your images in print when the issue comes out?

Always cool! I get more excited for the homeowners and architects and designers I think. It means so much to them. 

If you could choose one modern element to add to your home what would you choose?

I'd get a home first! 

Tell us a bit more about who you are. Where are you from, and how long have you been shooting? 

I'm by way of Montreal, Maryland, NYC, and Portland, Oregon. I now live in San Francisco for life. I've been shooting photos seriously since 8th grade and as a living, since 22 (scrappily). 

What type of assignments are you shooting these days?

Tons of travel and reportage work, which I love. Meeting the most incredible people, going to the most gorgeous places, witnessing and learning all the time!


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