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conversations | Culture

Oliver Peoples captures the creative chemistry of music and photography with Myles Hendrik.

4 Min Reading

From sublime DJ sets to astute photography exhibitions, Myles Hendrik weaves his artistic pursuits together with passion.

Through all his creative exploits, Hendrik demonstrates a heightened sense of surrounding. This corresponds to the time he’s spent on stage, DJing some 150 shows per year, and honing in on audience members to bring crowds together at exclusive fashion events and international music festivals. Showing at Scope at Art Basel Miami and launching his Zine ‘Dreams of LA’ at the LA Book Fair/Frieze NYC, Hendrik is also flexing his visual talent. Often spotted wearing Oliver Peoples frames, the inspiring multi-hyphenate mastermind made for the perfect creative to interview. Here, he’s shared insight on how to express personal inspiration through its most effective medium and more.

Myles wearing Oliver in Black

Myles wearing Oliver in Black.

Beachwood Drive

Beachwood Drive

Which came first: your desire to create music or photography?

Music predates the camera in my pocket. I was born with an insatiable appetite to do things, to do everything. All at once and all the time. Dipping my hands in every pie right from an early age. Sports, music, art. You name it, I was doing it. My poor parents: having to drag me from one after-school activity right to the next. But to your question directly, a plethora of instruments came first until I landed on a drum kit. Then rock 'n' roll took over my brain. Then came the camera.

Did technology impact your ability to pursue either—or did passion come first and surmount technical hindrances?

Passion came first. It always has. When I lock on something, I just kind of dive straight in. With my first band as a teenager, I was a principal songwriter and singer without having any real training in either. Technology—as in how to record—wasn’t ever a consideration. I just plowed in headfirst and figured all of that out along the way. Same with photography: My dad handed me a small film camera when I was around ten and off I went with nothing more than a beady eye. When you’re young and full of ideas and all the dreams, you don’t really ever consider the how-tos. You just get in there and do it.

What about the influence of technology today, as it becomes more available?

I mean, don’t get me wrong, technology is a wonderful and necessary tool that can definitely enhance the creative process. But, it has to start with something organic, something genuine, something analog. Passion is always and forever first; that innate and instinctive pull from deep behind your teeth, kicking like a banshee within your bones. Because at the end of the day you can either write a great song or you can’t. No amount of plug-ins in Ableton or editing tricks in Pro Tools is going to change that. And no high-end camera is going to help you take a better shot if you can’t even see it’s there to be taken in the first place.

Driving in the lowrider

Driving in the lowrider.

When you come across a moment of inspiration, how do some moments speak through photography and others through sound?

Inspiration chooses the medium of expression. A melody that trickles across your subconscious will require a guitar or a piano or some paper to immediately scribble lyrics, so a journal or a typewriter is never far from reach. As is my camera for when a moment, a feeling, demands to be photographed. This is my daily routine.

Are there moments when they work in tandem? Could you ever see yourself presenting a multi-sensory exhibit?

I’m always working in tandem, it’s in deep within my wiring. If I’m working on music, I’m seeing images in my head. Conversely, if I’m shooting something, there are melodies ricocheting. Images are poetry to me, as songs are colors. It’s all storytelling just with different brushes. I’d love to combine it all: music, images, film into a multi-layered exhibit.

It's hard to qualify or analyze the power of a DJ—the artistry of a DJ. As an audience member, you just know it when you feel it. Can you talk about this from the perspective of a stage?

My job is about taking a room, a venue full of all sorts of people and making each and every one of them, even if only for one night, fall in love. It’s not simply about playing a bunch of songs and mixing them well. It’s about generating a common feeling, a shared mood. The real skill is being able to essentially read every person in the room and take them out of their heads—if just for a few hours—into a magical, communal journey. Everyone has to be in it together. And that’s what a great DJ will do. They will bring everyone, no matter how disparate, together. It’s spiritual communion and in the hands of someone who understands this, these moments, nights, hours can be indelible.

The historic Los Angeles Theatre

The historic Los Angeles Theatre in Downtown.

Myles at home

Myles at home.

Do you ruminate on the unique global access your DJ status offers when taking a picture?

Access can obviously be advantageous at times, but more often than not, the images I’ve taken that really resonate have come from the simplest, more banal situations. Access gets you through the door, but it’s still the simple, sincere moments that get my attention. The real human connection is what I look for. Then, and only then, will the camera come out. My 35mm is small, unobtrusive, un-alarming so it’s never the story. If you’re thinking about where you are, then you’re not really in the moment and the real shots will never present themselves.

LA was the subject of your show at the photo festival. Do you feel like you experience LA as a photographer?

I’m a very visual person, so my eyes have a natural predilection to search, to wander. I’m always searching for cracks in the pavement, the rusty nail in the candied palm. That’s where the gold dust poems lie. LA is such a vibrant, seething jungle and a lot of people just can’t see how alive, how beautiful it is. They just gaze at it with lazy and suspicious preconceptions so the poems and their beauty are bypassed en route to the airport. So, I guess I’m always viewing LA through a lens. I’ve always viewed life through one, too.

How does what you’ve learned about LA by photographing it differ from what you've learned by DJing parties there?

I think that I’ve started to see the honest stories, the ones that tell of the true layers, and I think that’s why my images have resonated with people. I think the same can be applied to DJing: If the story, the vibe, the “communion,” as I mentioned earlier, is honest within the set then the moment you spend together will be special.

Soaring in Malibu

Soaring in Malibu

You've got a zine on LA. A zine, as a medium, has a real punkish DIY association. How does that match your work?

Anything that democratizes art is a good thing. I grew up listening to punk music. Playing small shows in people’s living rooms, making photocopied fliers, recording homemade demos in a few quick live takes. So that DIY Punk approach has followed me into my photography. At the core, my work is simple, sincere and honest, complete with all the soaring, glorious blemishes and those bum notes—the ones with the magical melodies—that hide out somewhere between the Pacific and fault lines.

Do you think it's possible to move people through a zine, or photographs, in the same way you move people with music?

Yes, absolutely. Life is all about stories. And stories are life. The story is what moves us all. I look for love, life, the true stories. They’re the thread, the salty-sweet glue in every photo I take and every set I play.

OP Sounds By Myles Hendrik

A collection of songs to enjoy this summer curated by Myles Hendrik.

OP Sounds By Myles Hendrik cover

Words: David Graver

Portraits: Dana Boulos
LA Photos: Myles Hendrik

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