Welcome to Weird Town

Semi-cinematic New Jersey photographer Richard Perez snaps Garden State parties

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Aptly describing his own Weird Town series as “off-beat,” “semi-cinematic,” and “relatable,” Richard Perez's evocative portrayal of family and friends has elevated the party snapshot genre to the realm of art. Evolving with the Facebook and Instagram-selfie generation, Perez’s intimate flashes of multicultural New Jersey youth read like the movie trailers he is inspired by—often overdramatic or melancholic, but dead-earnest and incredibly familiar. It doesn't bother him that he's no longer the only photographer at the party. As Perez puts it, these days everyone is interested in "curating" their own lives.   

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What inspired you to take Weird Town

Weird Town is a nickname my friends and I gave our hometown, which is a pretty odd place. I've always been inspired by New Jersey's oddities, diversity, Jersey Shore stereotypes, and the fact that so many of my idols were born and/or raised there. Weird Town started with party photos I posted on Facebook and eventually turned into a body of work. 

What influences your work?

Whenever I go home to visit, my mother has these family snapshots stored away in shoeboxes. We sift through them and reminisce about memories from 20 years ago—it's always interested me how the effect these candid images still resonate. There's something honest about snapshots. 

What are you trying to achieve through your photos?  

I want to create the feeling of watching a movie trailer.  I'm completely obsessed with trailers and how the many images streaming on the screen hint at what the narrative could be about. It just reminds me of life flashing before your eyes.  I had an obsession with labeling my photos from each college semester "Season 1, Season 2, Season 3 etc," which made me realize how much we relate/compare our lives to TV and movies. As visual creatures, we impose our own stories and meanings onto every real life moment, photo, or video. We're all playing movies in our heads about our lives. 

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Is there anything unique about the techniques you use? 

I incorporate color fields, film stills, personal videos, and TV show imagery into my work. I also like to see my hand as a photographer in the picture: it adds another layer of odd reality to these photos of people and places in my life. 

How has American  youth culture changed since you started documenting it? 

In 2005, when I started using my first point-and-shoot digital camera, no one was concerned about party pics being posted online or felt that they needed these images to sum up their night. Now everyone is a photographer, which is really interesting to me. Instagram images load immediately, as opposed to being developed first or stored on a hard drive. People seem to want to curate their lives now more then ever.

Thanks to Capricious Magazine, buy issue #14 here

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