Who are you, where are you, what can you see, and what do you do?
I’m Louis Jensen, I’m 26 years old and I’m a producer and documentary filmmaker. Originally from Hastings on the south coast but I now live in East London. At this moment in time I’m currently on tour shooting a documentary for Harley Davidson motorcycles and looking out on the city of Presov in Slovakia.
Tell us how you started out making documentaries and why did you choose graffiti art?
I started to make short documentary films around two years ago now. At the time I started I was working for a creative agency which used street and graffiti artists alike to create outdoor campaigns for various brands. The process was always filmed and distributed through the usual social media channels. This felt soulless to me. The only gain was for the brand and the skills of these talented young and old people was being disregarding for capital gains. With street art still seen by some as deviant, I wanted to create a new platform for artists to expose and showcase their skills and expertise while also show the thought process and steps taken to create their art. Many people appreciate street art in all forms, however sheltered from how it was created and that in my eyes is part of the art itself, the process as one entity.
A good friend of mine, and in some respects an inspiration to me, Jamal Edward founder of SBTV. What he had done for the Urban music scene I got to see first hand and I wanted to recreate that for the art world. I wanted to give these artists, most of whom are close friends, a platform to exhibit their work for the world to see.
Every piece of art tells a story. Art is not just reliant on the superficial final piece, however the process, thought and meaning which creatives go through prior to the final art form.
Did you have any “proper” jobs before becoming a sort of documentarian adventurer?
Living in Hastings there wasn’t much opportunity. [When I was 21] I had a major wake up call and I decided to pick up my things and move to London. Being that sales was all I knew and I was on the property ladder I thought it best to find work as an estate agent. The profession was a bad idea but I was stationed in East London and in the heart of Shoreditch. I was exposed to so much colour, life and art it was too much to resist. I found myself working for a creative agency, working in alternative outdoor media recreating old and generating new campaigns with the help of street artists. The dream was to change the advertising landscape and simultaneously create a public gallery of artist’s works, endorsed by the brand in question. As time went by this dream seemed further and further away with increasing brand guidelines causing restriction in creativity and undermining the ability of the artist and the value of their work.
Was it hard to get into the underground culture of graffiti and have the artists let you film?
I write myself and I’m lucky enough to be good friends with many artists. Not just from my days of working in an agency but from Hastings too. Hastings is quite the creative hub. The Chapman brothers are form Hastings, Ben Eine spent many years and had a studio down there. Banksy had visited a view times and is also a very good artist and close friend of mine. Word To Mother is from there too. The street and graffiti art circuit is similar to that of music, comedy and acting. You know someone who knows someone and they know someone. We’re all here to do the same thing and that is to create art in our own form. Some like to paint, I like to film.
What was your best experience with Spraying Bricks?
In terms of best experiences it’s hard to say. Whenever I’m on location I’m hanging with family so it’s always fun and there is always love. Meeting new people constantly is the best experience, whether that would be an artist or just people on the streets passing by. I suppose though that one of the best moments was when Smug had painted my face on Great Eastern Street on the Village Underground. More than a million cars a week drive past that wall. It was an honour to have the worlds best photo realistic artist paint my face…Smug doesn’t like to be told what to paint so the fact he wanted to was amazing. The piece lasted nearly two years too.
Any advice for someone aspiring to do what you are doing?
My advice would be to stay true to what you believe in and are passionate about. It is always going to be a struggle at the start, you would be foolish to think that it wouldn’t. Don’t let superficial elements like money get in the way of what you really enjoy doing and stick at it. Cliché, but Rome wasn’t built in a day. Have fun with what you do…if you’re not having fun then there really isn’t any point, you will just be wasting your time…your life! Walk it and don’t talk it. I meet so many people who say ‘I wish I done this…I wish I done that‘ or ‘I really want to do this‘ Don’t say it just do it! Too many people blow hot air. Even if you fail at least you tried rather than living your life on ‘what if’s’.
Is music a large part of your life, seeing as it is widely used for inspiration in graffiti and artistic creativity?
I like to think that music is a large part of everyone’s life. Music adapts to your moods and can get you through significant moments in your life from far ends of the spectrum. Death through to celebration. I have a wide taste in music but I suppose in a rather cliché way I’m a lover of hip hop. I used to play a lot of basketball as a kid so they went hand in hand. The days of Big L, Wu-Tang and Nas to name a few. With me it’s not necessarily the lyrics or the beat but the flow of an artist, it gets me pumped. I could sit in front of my screen for hours editing, listening to hip hop until my eyes start to bleed. Right now I’m listening to Kendrick Lamar aka K-Dot. The man is a lyrical genius and ‘Good Kid Mad City’ will go down as a classic. I think he is a great inspiration to the youth of his generation…he’s not trying to be gangster, he wants to create art.
Give us a 4 song playlist that you couldn’t do without…
I can’t really pinpoint four song but I can four albums
Good Kid Mad City – Kendrick Lamar
36 Chambers – Wu-Tang Clan
illmatic – Nas
Lifestylez Ov Da Poor and Dangerous – Big L
Have you ever been to Belfast to document any artists?
Unfortunately I’ve yet to visit Belfast even though there are two street art festivals that run there each year. Wellness and East Belfast Art Fest. So I must pay a visit soon. As you know the population of Ireland is just over half the population of London so artists that reside in their native are scarce. But I do know James Earley and Dan Leo. Both incredibly talented artists from Dublin. The scene in Dublin is getting bigger and I hope that this does extend to Belfast. However it is great to see such political murals in Belfast.
If you had to choose 3 artists you love who would they be?
There are not a specific three artists that I love compared with the rest for instance. Each artist has their own style and their own method which I appreciate and love individually and specifically. In this industry I am constantly being surprised by what is being produced by these creative people.
However I can tell you who is popping up on the radar more than others at the moment. Word To Mother, biased opinion maybe, but he is working on his new show and it is looking to be out of this world. The Cyrcle guys…such good dudes and they are flying to all corners of the globe at the moment creating original murals on such a large scale. My third would be Spencer Keeton Cunningham. Spencer is a humble artist from San Francisco and he is what I call a true artist. He doesn’t do it for money or fame, he is simply doing it for his own enjoyment and hoping others do too. He travels across most of North America creating murals that have meaning while raising awareness for various charitable causes.
What are you doing at the moment, and what have you got lined up in the future?
I’ve been very busy with the commercial side of things at the moment as I had a great opportunity to come on a tour of Europe, Middle East and Africa with Harley Davidson. But I can assure you that there are some videos due to release soon including Above, Smug and Faith 47 from the recent ArtScape event in Sweden as well as short films from Cyrcle, Word To Mother, D*Face and Shepard Fairey aka OBEY to name but a view.
Its going to be an interesting end to the year.
Check out more of Louis !
Keith Boe | You can follow Keith on Twitter |