He moved to San Francisco at 18 and almost got swallowed up by the streets. Today, Travis Jensen is one of the foremost photographers of the myriad complexities of an urban icon of Californian living.
The smiling man with a smiling pig slung over his shoulder, came from such a moment. It was about seven in the morning, Jensen says, and he happened across a delivery man carrying that evening’s slow-roasted pork belly through the back entrance of a restaurant. “He was this big guy, carrying 150 pounds of pig on his shoulder. It was funny how the pig was grinning at me, but I also got a sense of the guy’s pride in his work, his dignity.”
It encapsulates the kind of ethic Jensen looks for in his photos. “I’m interested in photos that demonstrate respect,” he says. “Regardless of their situation; whether they’re selling newspapers on the corner, or carrying pigs into restaurants, or down on their luck, I always make them look their absolute best, because everyone should be able to demand respect on some level.
“That’s what street photography all boils down to; respecting your fellow brother and sister. Some people treat this craft like they’re dealing with caged animals. And people breathe; they live everyday.”
He first came for the skateboarding. “San Fran was the skateboarding Mecca of the world,” he says. “I really wanted to make it work for me. But when I got out here I got a real awakening. It’s hard to make it here – I blew through that 800 bucks so quickly, and I found myself living in a shithole in one of the worst neighbourhoods in the city. I was all but homeless until a friend took me in and pretty much saved me.”
That friend, as it turned out, was an artist called Andrew Schoultz. Working with him, Jensen would study skateboard videos and stills. “It gave me a basic understanding of good composition, good light, the importance of being close.”