Rog & Bee Walker of Paper Monday
Rog and Bee Walker are photographers and founders of Paper Monday, a visual research project examining identities and experience within society. We've been fans of this creative duo for some time so it was great to spend an afternoon in their Bronx studio. We talked everything from family to photography and heard about what they've been up to recently. Check out our conversation below:
Tailored Heritage [TH]: Rog and Bee, thanks for sitting down with us, let's get started! What do you guys do?
Bee: Well, we travel, we talk to people, and we photograph.
Rog: Yeah, we're photographers.
TH: What motivates or drives you in regards to your passions?
Rog: It's pretty tough for me because I haven't been doing this for a long time and it's not something I started doing on purpose. It was kind of an "accidental passion" and so I'm still learning. So the learning and the discovery is what drives me - as I do the work and meet people, there's so much uncovering that drives me to uncover more and learn more. Also - the purpose. I never saw photography as something that I can put all of who I am into, it was just like "oh this is cool". But now I can take something that I feel or an idea that I have and funnel them into this thing.
TH: This kind of ties into that idea of purpose - can both of you speak to your cultural backgrounds and how that inspires or influences your work?
Bee: My family is from Kenya. My mother has her ancestral village there near Kisumu and Lake Victoria, and my father is Indian from Kenya. A big part of their influence on me has just been documenting the family. My father has so many images of his grandparents and great-grandparents - in India and Kenya. And I just love having that connection to that history and be able to see those things. I think it's important for other people to have that for their families so that's part of what I like to provide for other people - getting to know them, their families, and document.
Rog: I grew up in the Bronx but was born in Jamaica. As it relates to the work, creativity and the arts was never a part of my upbringing so in doing this (photography) it kind of is showing a different way of being who I am or what my culture doesn't have. My family was taught to work or go to school so being a photographer or creative director doesn't exist within my background. So it's learning a new self and taking that on, and being a pioneer in a field that wasn't introduced to me as a kid.
TH: So what was your first camera and how did both of you become interested in photography?
Bee: My first camera was a little Olympus point-and-shoot that my dad bought for my twelfth birthday. He would show me how to use it - he would tell me not to photograph towards the sun, and things like that. And that's how I started.
Rog: When I first started taking photos I was working at UPS and I was also working at Modell's and one of my friends who worked with me had these amazing photos. I was doing web design at the time and wondered how his pictures were so great, and he showed me his Sony DSLR. I had never seen a DSLR before and I was in my twenties which was kind of wild. From that point I wanted to try taking pictures and I had this purple point-and-shoot like...I don't know what nonsense camera it was (laughs). I started taking pictures of my friends with that and eventually I bought a Nikon D40x which is a really low-level camera and really started with that.
TH: As a couple, what's your dynamic?
Rog: Um. I don't know. I just try to get Bee to pass me the ball (laughing)
Bee: It's true because he's got the shot...but I'm a ball-hog. We're working on it.
TH: How do you want to be remembered?
Rog: I don't want to be remembered. This is going to get so "extra" right now. I'm reading this book about a brief history of mankind called Sapiens and it talks about how we've developed civilizations and all these things. And I realized we're living in this homo-sapien centric universe and I kind of don't want that. I don't want it to be like "Rog Walker was this great photographer." I want whatever I've done to be what's remembered but I don't want to be an identity within the work. Because I feel like the work, the love, all those things that go into it - are greater than me. The only reason why I'd accept it being about me is because I can carry it, but at the end of the day I want people to remember the things that are eternal. Like this moment right here - meeting up, the camaraderie - those are things that are going to exist long beyond us and I want people to remember that, see it and identify it through the work. And not me.
Bee: See, he's got the shot! (laughing) No I really don't think about things like that. [But] when I do it's incredibly personal and has nothing to do with photography. When I think about the people that matter to me in life like my grandfather - if he weren't around anymore, I'd remember him for inspiring me by his interests. He's really into interior design and fashion and he just lived that. So when I was around him I was like "wow". I'd see him adjusting his tie and I'd see his bookshelf and my other grandfather's National Geographics...It was just the way they were that stays with me and influences how I choose to live my life. So those are the things that I want to leave for the next generation which is kind of what Rog was talking about with being a pioneer in a field that wasn't shown. There are really no outright professional creative people in my family so I would only hope that people are inspired to live the life they'd want to live after seeing us do those things.
TH: Wow, that's really amazing. That was our final question so thank you both so much!
Rog & Bee: Thanks guys!