Youngstown, Ohio Vs. The World!

From a small town in Ohio all the way to Pittsburgh, TYLER CALPIN is quickly solidifying himself as one of the brightest young artists today. With his unique touch in fine art photography, Tyler’s photos capture raw emotion and purity. We sat down with the young creative to dive into his background and creative process. Now it’s time to introduce you to the young legend in this iconic addition to our Q&A series!

Q: Where are you from?

A: I’m currently living, working and studying in Pittsburgh, PA. But I grew up in Youngstown, Ohio.

Q: Have you always had a love for art?

A: I wish I could sit here and say I’ve loved art my whole life, but I despised art class throughout grade school and never understood the point or power of art until I began studying it. I want to say I fell in love with art once I realized it was something I could do with my life that felt right.

Q: What was life like growing up?

A: Growing up in Youngstown, Ohio was honestly strange and confusing. It’s this midwestern industrial city that died when the steel industry did, and it just never fully recovered. The mix of people is strange too. I never felt like I fit in so I just hung out with skater kids and whoever didn’t think I was weird. However, my parents are super sick and always supported my endeavors, and that’s one thing that I have always been grateful for.

Q: What made you decide to pick up a camera?

A: This is the worst question, because I got into photography because of Instagram. I used an iPhone 4 for a year before I ever touched an analog camera. My friends and I would go to the park after school and take cheesy photos so we could hashtag our posts. But doing that taught me to look at my surroundings from a totally different perspective.

Q: Why do you shoot film exclusively?

A: In high school, I needed to have two art credits to graduate, and after what I considered to be a train wreck of an introduction art class consisting of crude drawings full of smudges and tears, lumpy clay pots and mediocre paintings, I decided I should enroll myself in a black and white film photography class. My aunt gifted me her Nikon FG that she used when she took the same class at my high school. At the time, you also had to pass the black and white class to move onto the digital photography classes, so I had to learn how to shoot and develop 35mm. After doing that and learning how to print in a darkroom, the idea of sitting in front of a computer playing with digital files never seemed that appealing. Film is so hands-on. There is a certain amount of love that goes into the process. It’s deeper than loading your camera, shooting 24 or 36 exposures then sending it to the lab. There is a seemingly endless amount of work and love that can truly go into a great film photo that digital photography just doesn’t do for me. It definitely made find my roots within photography and basically fuels my process.

Q: What are your favorite aspects of photography?

A: I love the fact that it is literally everywhere. Almost every second of everyday, someone is snapping, posting, editing, deleting, downloading and making images. After diving into fine art photography, I realized how limitless the medium can be. Sure there is a romantic idea of photography: a gorgeous darkroom print with perfect tonality and contrast, 2.5-3 inch white borders in a nice quarter inch black frame, hung on a freshly painted white gallery wall. That’s cool. I love that. I also love that photography can be a sculpture sitting on a pedestal simply because it is made from photographic material and utilizes the processes of analog photography. Photography can be straight, conceptual, cringe-worthy, meaningless, technical, etc. The medium is changing everyday.

Q: When did you decide that you wanted to pursue art as a career? 

A: Once I had picked up a camera, nothing else made me feel as fulfilled as photography and art did. Once I started to see success, I felt like I didn’t want to dedicate myself to anything else. Being a 9-5 stiff who sits in a cubicle, doing data entry for $35,000 a year in Oklahoma City (sorry OKC, I’ve never been but I think I’ll be okay) never sounded like much of a life to me. So pursuing art as a career gave me the justification to live life by the seat of my pants and see how things go.

Q: Favorite clothing brands out right now? 

A: This might be the hardest question of the interview because I work at a streetwear boutique, so I’m around clothes and looking at them all day. I work closely with a lot of my friends who do clothes, so shout out to them for trusting me with my ideas and letting me run wild.


Right now, I think Parker Jepsen (and his brand Absent) is killing it right now. Parker is a young dude who I have some real respect for. He never stops working, his designs are fresh, and his cut-and-sew pieces are insanely good. He is doing a piece for me that is gonna blow minds, believe that.

Reviving Real is on top of it too. The owner, Mike Caraballo, actually went to the same high school as me, but we never met or worked until I had moved to Pittsburgh. The brand is just a melting pot of artists from a variety of mediums. It’s really not about the clothes, its about everything else: the art/artists, music, photos, events, etc. The clothes are a tangible product of the brand.

I’m kind of put off big bigger brands because a lot of them are doing corny shit, and the clothes are wearing the people half the time. Every time I see a 12 year old with frosted tips wearing a Supreme shirt and some Yeezys, I want to puke. I’m really into NASCAR tees right now. The graphics are just too good to pass up when you find the right one, plus a vintage tee won’t really break the bank like buying BAPE will. I’m a starving artist and a broke college student at the same time, of course I’m going to buy a $10 NASCAR shirt.

Q: Who are some people that inspire and motivate you? 

A: One of my biggest inspirations has always been Tyler, the Creator. I found him at a time when I needed some guidance, and I guess the shock value of Sandwiches did it for me. His attitude and drive are  perfect examples of what I needed to guide me through my youth.

I’m really motivated by two of my friends, Dom Jasinauskas and Carlos Ramos. Those two are some hustlers. Dom takes some of the most fire street photos I have ever seen. He epitomizes a type of photography I wish I was capable of doing. Carlos is full of genuinely creative and original ideas. I hung out with him in Disney World for a day, and he shot photos and videos on a camera that’s basically broken, but he finesses it and the photos are unreal. He truly loves his craft and I admire that.

Q: Top 3 movies of all time?

A: In no particular order:

Jackass: The Movie. That is comedic gold and visual perfection.

KIDS. Shoutout to Larry Clark and Harmony Korine. That shit is raw and unapologetic.

Toy Story. I feel like I don’t need to offer an explanation for that one.

Q: You have a one way ticket to travel anywhere you want, where are you going?

A: Anywhere in Australia is cool with me. I’ve wanted to go there since I could remember.

Q: Top 3 Tyler, The Creator songs?

A: In no particular order:

FUCKING YOUNG/PERFECT. That shit puts me in my feelings and I love singing it off key.

Sandwiches. If you were around during the early days and ever saw him perform that live, then you understand why that is on this list.


Q: Who are some artists that you feel deserve more recognition?

A: Outside of art/photography, I think Choo Jackson needs put on yesterday. He works his ass off, has true talent and awesome stage presence.

My guys Dom Jasinauskas, Carlos Ramos and Joe Robles need more attention for real. They all have endless love for their craft and never cease bringing their ideas and images to life. Hard work and dedication should be recognized before likes or a follower count.

Q: Future aspirations/goals?

A: Ideally I want to just have enough clients/work that I can pay my bills and produce work. All of my creative avenues will collapse eventually and that’s what I really want. I also can see myself opening a gallery/exhibition space to show art made by people I want to give a platform and space to.

Q: What would you tell your 16 year old self today?

A: Keep working, never lose sight of your goals or why you are doing this, and do not trust that girl you meet in two years. Oh and I would tell 16 year old Tyler that he doesn’t get 1,000 Twitter followers for another 5 years so he should chill.

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