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Interview: Ta-Ku talks about his latest project with G-Star and Anthony Lister

We caught some time with one of the busiest guys in the creative industry to chat about creating meaningful collaborations

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Over the past few years, Ta-Ku has been making tremendous strides in all the fields he’s touched, firmly establishing himself as one of the creative community’s leading influencers and craftsmen. Whether it be in the realms of music, photography, fashion or brand building, he has had a powerful impact, boasting an impressive body of work that continues to grow and develop. His latest project with G-Star and Anthony Lister called “Raw Collaborations” is no exception.

Can you tell us a bit about this project?

Basically, I’m working with G-Star to create a series of images in collaboration with them to feature in the gallery next week in Sydney. It’s been great working with Arc and with G-Star, especially because it’s been an openly creative process. Normally when I do photography, it’s quite a strict objective and strict guidelines, but this has been very open and it’s been really great. Yesterday was a lot of fun—very easy, very relaxed—that’s definitely how I like to collaborate.

So was that the reason you were drawn to it? Because of the openness of the brief?

Yeah definitely, I think it says a lot about a company if they’re wanting to do something like that, especially if it’s a company that’s as big as G-Star. I know they’re going through some transitions in regards to how they’re perceived and branded which I think is really great too, because I love to see how companies change and adapt.

Speaking more broadly, what are the types of things that you look for to ensure a collaboration is the right fit?

I think transparency and open communication is really important with most collaborations—especially this one. It enables everyone to be on the same page and wanting to achieve the same outcome whilst having lines of communication open for various things, such as trying out new things, spit balling ideas, so definitely having that open communication is vital.

Photography is definitely a field that you’ve mastered and surely inspired a great deal of others to do so. What are some of the things that you look out for when you’re taking images?

It’s funny, photography for me is definitely new and it’s something that I am really enjoying because I’m still learning, and still learning off others. I think one thing for me is that I’m from a generation of photographers that didn’t go to school for it, so I’m not really well versed or adept to a lot of the traditional photographers. But that’s part of what I’m trying to do now, which is reading up more on iconic photographers and things like that.

Plus for me, when I go out shooting I just look for scenes that are appealing to my eye and things that have evoked emotion. As corny as that sounds, that’s pretty much what I try and do and what I try to achieve and that’s why I like shooting mostly at night, in places where there’s interesting lighting and that evoke a specific mood.

You also shoot a lot of subjects such as Natasha, Keith Ape, or even people you just encounter on the streets. Is there something in particular that draws you to these individuals?

Yeah I think for me, I’m half Filipino and half Kiwi so culture plays a big part in what I shoot and what I choose to shoot. I think the subjects that I choose to shoot are definitely people I kind of relate to and tell a bit about my story and my background. For me trying to shoot people that I find quite beautiful, and their faces quite interesting because their faces alone tell a story and that for me, is important.

You’re obviously passionate about fashion and sneakers too. How would you describe your own style?

I think my style, definitely the older I get, is more understated and simple. When I decide what I like to wear, everything is a mix of colours—a lot of black [laughs]—but there’s always that one defining piece and that’s normally my sneakers. I normally wear muted, very basic, and understated things with good line, good form, and good shape. I’m a bigger fella too so it’s definitely important that I feel comfortable. A lot of clothing these days seems to be made for super small Japanese men [laughs] which I think is dope but it’s just not my steez. I definitely just like to feel comfortable and cozy. 

It’s clear to see you’ve got a lot of different projects going on. Is it difficult to maintain all these things at the one time?

It definitely can be but I think the one thing that I’m grateful for is that with every project that I start up, I try and make sure there’s a good team behind me to help achieve what needs to be done and that definitely can’t be done on my own. I think that’s one thing I can pride myself in is that I’m really passionate about people as well, building relationships and working together with people to create a common goal. With everything that I create with Team Cozy or Create Explore I know I’ve got a good group of people that can help me achieve it, so I’m not on my own.

And it’s had a great influence on the community without doubt but who are your main influencers right now?

If we’re going to talk in business there’s a lot. Everyone that I work with but in particular all the guys that I work with at Team Cozy—there’s a bunch of photographers and influencers in that group of people that are all doing their own things as well. It’s hard to pinpoint because there’s a lot of people.

I guess my mum, because she’s the one that’s keeping me grounded and reminding me about the important things in life. Normally when we are together, she reminds me about how family and maintaining good relationships with yourself and people that you cherish is so important.

On a more personal level, how has your social presence influenced you?

Good question. I think it definitely has, but in a way that I’m just more conscious of what I put out now. I think the bigger your social presence is, the more I feel like it’s a responsibility to think about what you’re putting out and how it’s been put out. Whether you believe it or not, I think it’s important that you need to realise that people are watching and everything you do is a reflection of yourself. You need to be true to yourself and make sure you’re doing things that you believe in and not the other way around. People can see right through that and I feel like the older I get, the more I notice that there’s a lot of younger kids watching and the last thing I want to do is set a bad example for anyone really.

For people just starting out in their respective fields—whether it be music, photography, or fashion—what piece of advice would you give them?

I think it’s exactly that. As cliché as it sounds, it’s definitely important to do things that are a reflection of you and are true to yourself. I think people listen to that statement and don’t necessarily think of what it means. I think you really have to take the time to realise that what that statement means is that everything you put out is a reflection of yourself. If for one second you put something out or push something or support something that isn’t you but you’re doing it for any other reason but that, it’s a wrong move. It normally leads to the wrong opportunities and wrong motives and it kind of snowballs and takes you in a direction you don’t want to be in. If you create work that you believe in, your fanbase and the people that support you will be other people similar to you.

And that’s a nice tie-in to the stuff you’re doing with G-Star, as it’s a perfect alignment for you in terms of the brand and project.

Yeah, it definitely is. It’s one thing to do work for someone and it’s another thing to collaborate with someone. If a larger company came along and said, “We need you to do some work for us, what can you do?” The feeling behind that job wouldn’t be the same as a collaboration. The thing with G-Star that is really great is because it’s a mutual partner kind of thing and we’re helping each other and I think that’s really nice.

‘Raw Collaborations’ is an art and photography project between Ta-Ku and Anthony Lister to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the iconic G-Star Elwood 5620 jeans. The images and pieces will be on display to the public. The exhibition launches at China Heights Gallery on Thursday March 31,  from 7pm.

  • Interview: Alexander Wu-Kim
  • Images: Supplied

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