Visual and biographical highlights from the photographic career of Ian Flanigan
There’s not much going on around 1317 Olive Street. Desolate warehouses line the streets, with sporadic fruit stands sprinkled throughout. More than a couple walkable city blocks away from Downtown LA’s revitalized core of upscale eateries and rooftop hotel pools, 1317 Olive Street stands alone. However, this nondescript location, situated in the middle of Downtown LA was once revered for housing one of streetwear’s most pioneering brands: for over twenty years, 1317 Olive Street was the home of the beloved Freshjive warehouse. Home to Rick Klotz’ now infamous streetwear company, the offices provided a temporary workspace for a variety of creatives in varying fields to work, connect and grow in their craft. As crass and irreverent as the Freshjive offices were, inside these walls is where I first met Ian Flanigan.
A former product photographer for an electronics company called Accessory Power, Ian came to Freshjive aware of but unaccustomed to the nature of Freshjive, and Rick Klotz’ idiosyncratic mind. His first day of work couldn’t have been more different from his last…
“My last job was pretty corporate, but my boss wanted it to be that way,” Ian remembers when recalling his past work experience, “it was really boring. And then I showed up to Freshjive and it was the complete opposite. I had only met Rick once before, but that day, he mentioned that one of his girlfriends was gonna come by. He said she was a stripper. He wanted me to photograph her for some test pictures or some shit. But this girl was 19 and a stripper. It was weird but it was tight. I kind of knew then it was a good choice to have left my other job…”
For all intents and purposes, that day changed everything. Situating himself squarely in the unorthodox orbit of Rick Klotz, Ian’s prowess with the camera put him in front of an eclectic group of characters, from crack cocaine kingpin Rick Ross, to Odd Future juggernauts Hodgy Beats and Left Brain.
Raised in Simi Valley from the age of 13, Ian Flanigan’s upbringing revolved around skating. In fact, skating is what fueled his photography initially: “I don’t even know why I started doing it. I was always skateboarding in my head, even at school,” he remembers. “I would always see kids putting stuff on their binders, so I would recreate skate ads I saw in magazines, but I would do it with stills from videos of me and my friends. I don’t even know if anyone used them as folder covers.” Also dabbling in video, Ian honed his skills through self-initiated projects. High school soon faded into college, where Ian pursued a degree in graphic design, and soon after discovered the fallacy of good grades equating to real world success. As Ian grew increasingly disillusioned with the college process, school soon took a backseat to the photographer’s budding interests: “I was into [school] for a while. I was getting good grades but I was doing a bunch of drugs and stuff at the same time outside of school. But one day I kind of just woke up and didn’t want to do graphic design anymore–I always just wanted to take pictures… I just kinda signed up for the design thing out of nowhere. That’s when I dropped out and maxed out my credit card on photography equipment.”
Freshjive was the hub. More than just the shirts, Rick Klotz’ irreverent clothing line gave up-and-coming creatives the opportunity to embark on a variety of zany projects. From babysitting Madagascar Hissing Cockroaches for a T-shirt design, to standing ringside photographing Golden Gloves champion Zachary Wohlman, the beauty of Freshjive lay in its eclecticism, and employees knew to expect the unexpected while working under Rick.
Tucked away on the fringes of Downtown Los Angeles, lunches became excursions for the office, often necessitating car missions to grab a good meal. During these times, Ian preferred to skate to lunch, opting for closer, cheaper options like Subway or Taco Bell. “I didn’t wanna spend so much on lunch,” Ian recalls. Yet although lunch was often the task at hand, it was the moments in transition that would add to Ian’s photographic repertoire. Capturing stills while on his skateboard, Ian started a practice that lent itself well to his budding aesthetic. Culminating in a project aptly titled Los Angeles by Skateboard, Ian’s photographs presented a unique glimpse of the city, while the photos granted him inclusion into his first group show at L.A.’s Sancho Gallery.
Los Angeles By Skateboard
Ian at the “Things We Saw” Art Show
Although revered around the world, the Freshjive boat couldn’t sail on forever. Behind shrinking sales and a creative director gone AWOL, the storied brand closed its doors in the spring of 2012. Following the slow demise of Freshjive, work life received an overhaul, as Ian transitioned from Freshjive to American Apparel, securing a position there as a T-shirt designer and photographer. “Going into it, I was really excited,” recalls Ian. “But I kinda got over it. It was hard to get things done. It was a big company with a lot of people with opinions. I got kind of bitter. By the end I wasn’t doing much and hoarding all the good ideas for myself,” Ian remembers. In the meantime though, Ian had started taking on a new kind of project, shooting clips of babes, beaches and booze for the highly coveted Warriors of Radness line. In the coming months, Ian would take on a life behind a new kind of lens, with film becoming his next medium of choice.
“You Listen to Odd Future?”
“Once I got the [Freshjive] job I kind of stopped trying to get freelance work the old way,” remembers Ian, “I told myself whatever comes my way I’ll just do for now.” Perhaps it was a welcome mix of chance, fate, destiny and luck that brought Ian and Hodgy together. A longtime fan of the Freshjive brand, warehouse visits from the Odd Future artist introduced him to FJ’s man behind the lens. From that initial contact a relationship formed, starting with lookbook photos and evolving into feature music videos. Often modest when referring to his own work, Ian attributes his budding Instagram presence to the OF artist: “That’s totally because of Hodgy…he blew my shit up,” he admits.
Domo Genesis, Left Brain & Hodgy Beats
When talking about Ian’s influences and inspiration, the breadth of his references is vast. From the avant garde portraiture of Helmut Newton to the mysterious legacy of Vivian Maier, just to name a few, photographers, their work, and their lifestyles have all left their impressions on the shooter’s approach.
Yet while Ian’s inspirations are varied, few have left a greater impact on his outlook than his late father. Known for never giving too much of a fuck, Ian’s father remained supportive of his son, while continuously reminding him to follow his own path. Wild, loving and unabashedly him, in many ways Ian’s pops embodied the live-for-the-moment attitude so prevalent today, perhaps before it was even a thing… “He always went out and had fun and did what he wanted to do,” Ian remembers. “Which would or would not work out sometimes. He just kind of went with it and bet on that, fuck everything else. He was a gnarly dude.”
Ian and his pops
Zachary Wohlman Fight
Los Angeles 2012
Rick Klotz 2012
Left Brain & Hodgy Beats