‘Smoking crack, drinking Jack and flying into rainbows’: Louie Jenkins’s photography zine is immortalising the lives of the misfits and the misunderstood
“I like to think that people are drawn together – that weirdos are like magnets,” reveals Louie Jenkins, a photographer whose travels around the world have brought him face-to-face with plenty of such people. Bored of shooting bands in London, Jenkins took off in search of more stimulating surroundings to document with his Ricoh GR1V, culminating in his just-released zine, published with the help of London-based brand Real Gold, titled Larger than life and twice as ugly. Picking up his first camera at the tender age of 13, Jenkins’s shots have progressed from typical teenage snaps of wasted friends on skateboards to immortalising the global misfits who wouldn’t be given a second glance otherwise. A combination of alcohol and poor planning, Jenkins’s pictures are an homage to the “Freaks I met in America, Morocco and everywhere in-between”. As we score exclusive pictures from his limited edition zine, below, the photographer riffs on misfits, memories (or lack thereof) and living in the moment.
What drew you to capture these people?
Louie Jenkins: Most of them just started talking to me, but some could have been listening to Lynyrd Skynyrd on a boom box in San Francisco or something and I’d want to know their story. Most of the people that others avoid have got some pretty wild stories and nuggets of information, they just don’t know how to express it right. Plus my memory sucks, and I'm drunk all the time, so without a camera I wouldn't have remembered much of the stuff that’s happened.
Who’s your favourite misfit?
Louie Jenkins: This guy I met in New Orleans called Peanut was totally my favourite. He was homeless because of Hurricane Katrina, and was this short, ratty black dude who would freestyle rap for money, but was pretty illiterate so he just rapped about smoking crack, drinking Jack and flying into rainbows. I hung with him for a while then I saw him a few more times.
Do you keep in contact with any of them?
Louie Jenkins: I took a book on my American trip and wrote loads of shit down – jokes, names and addresses. I’ve still got a bunch of people’s details. I sent Peanut a photo of us to the address of the homeless shelter that he gave me, but I don’t know if he got it. I’m sure our paths will cross again.
What’s the story behind the title Larger than life and twice as ugly?
Louie Jenkins: It's a quote from Mad Max (1979). When I heard it I wrote it on my hand because it’s pretty perfect. It makes you think that sometimes people are such big characters that it crushes them into the weird creatures that they are.
Your early work focused on getting drunk with friends and skateboarding, does any element of youth or rebellion still inform your work today?
Louie Jenkins: I never really focus on anything specific with photography; I just take pictures of what’s happening at that moment. When I was a kid, skating and drinking was what we did so I photographed it. If I get rich I’ll take photos of roulette tables and high-class whores, but I guess for now I’ll continue with pictures of people. I think if you go out looking for stuff you’ll never end up finding it. Also, I lost everything I shot as a kid so that’s all in the past.
What are you currently working on?
Louie Jenkins: I recently brought an Instax Polaroid camera as I left mine in McDonalds a few years ago and never replaced it. I’m going to be doing some polaroid stuff. Then I’m going to do a series of photos recreating those posters you see in gun ranges, the ones of dudes with guns, holding knifes to girls throats. It’s going to be pretty fun and I’m getting some incredible people to be in the photos, then I’ll have an exhibition and release a zine of it all.