Adam & Kev are a Vancouver-based photography duo known for their stunning portraiture and award-winning multimedia projects. We caught up with them at El Caminos—a little Latin American bar on Main St. and the pair's local hangout, where Adam works Friday nights. Read on to learn more about their most recent venture So It Is: Vancouver.

Your photography is very Vancouver-centric (which we love). What compels you about our city and its residents?

I think it's a bunch of things - the reputation for being beautiful but bland, the common conception that there's no history here despite it being home to civilization for thousands of years, and the fact that a lot of things go on here that go unrecognized. I guess at the core of it all, I feel like Vancouver has struggled with its identity. Sure, the tourism agencies can place an identity on the city, but in reality it has to come from the people who live here. They are the real identity of the city, and a lot of people I've met are like me - they love this city but have a hard time expressing why.

Much of your work is portraiture—did this direction happen organically or by demand? What makes a great portrait?

I think we always wanted to shoot people, and rather than going for the prettiest or safest photo we were aiming to make an interesting one.  It was definitely a zig-zagging progression, like with anything I think you learn the most when you really mess shit up. We did a lot of that. We still do.

What do I think makes a great portrait?

I think that's probably different for everyone, but I like getting a sense of the person's character. Sometimes it's hard to avoid, but I don't love portraits that are really literal - the prime example being photographers who's bio shot is them holding a camera.

Where did you find the inspiration for

Background: an award-winning interactive video series of live music events—featuring a recognized artist and a group from the general public that create and record a song in one evening.

In truth it was born out of us trying to imitate Vincent Moon's amazing work with La Blogotheque and not doing a great job. He was shooting these low production acoustic music videos that had so much heart.  We tried to do it during the 2010 Olympics but we weren't adding anything new.

Over the next six months we chatted to people about their experience with musical performances and gigs, and a re-occurring theme kept coming up.  Collaboration was something that really connected people. Contributing to a performance was something that really excited people - especially non-musicians. 

Tell us about your upcoming book So It Is: Vancouver.

So It Is: Vancouver is a book about the people of Vancouver. Built mostly around location portraits, the reader is introduced to 100 different sets of current residents all tied to the history or culture of the city in some way.  That sounds broad, but it allows us to looks at some very different stories - from the woman who was the first person outside of India to produce round-the-clock radio programming for South Asians, to the guy who's ancestor accidentally burnt the city down in 1886.


 What do you hope locals will discover about their city from this project?

That's a tricky one because I think that everyone perceives a story, book, place or event differently.  And in a way that's what I'm hoping some people take away - that they see the city one way, but it's a different place through someone else's eyes. 

If you're from a European background, your perception of Chinatown is going to be very different to someone whose parents emigrated from Asia in the era of the Head Tax and the race riots.  That was a fascinating realization for me personally - because I'm wrapped up inside my own little bubble I don't realize the significance of a park or building. There's still so much that I'm ignorant of, but the more I learn, the more connected I feel to the city both as a place and a community.


How do you feel about the shift towards the ‘social photographer’? Those professional Instagram accounts with pictures that were, well, not taken with an iPhone camera.

Ha - we get a lot of stick from friends for our weak and feeble Instagram efforts.  But this book has definitely made us try harder.

There's been a big shift - it wasn't that long ago that some photographers were concerned with their work going online and being stolen.  Now it's taken as a cost of doing business - you need to put your work out there and social is great for doing that.  After all, what's the point of shooting something if no one sees it?

Take Jeremy Koreski - he shoots incredible nature-based work out of Tofino.  He has 30 thousand followers on Instagram because he's hit that golden combo of being incredibly talented and prolific.  I'm sure he's put a lot of work into the social side, but it was a smart move.  He recently ran a Kickstarter campaign for his book, This Is Nowhere, and he knocked it out of the park because his work is great and he's on a lot of people's radars.

What has been your worst foot fashion moment—canvas sneakers with a hole in the toe, those oversized skate shoes beyond 2005?

We're walking shoe disasters. In fact this is the first time in ten years I've owned more than one pair of sneakers - I usually only buy a pair when the ones I'm wearing fall off my feet. I've had Velcro Clark's shoes as a kid, those pointless Reebok Pump trainers as a teen, and spent 18 months backpacking in Velcro sandals. I did avoid Crocs though. Unlike Adam. He loves walking around his apartment in his knock-off Crocs and long johns. It's not pretty. 

What do you look for in new pair of kicks?

There are two priorities - they have to be comfortable, and my girlfriend has to approve. 

Where will you take your lens next? Any more epic projects just beyond the horizon?

There's a reason the book is called So It Is: Vancouver.  We'd love to take the concept to another city.  There's also a (non-photography related) Podcast concept floating around that looks at the reality of having a "desirable" profession, and another photo series that centers on people who hold strong views on a subject but don't force them on others. If that sounds vague, it's because it is right now.

On Adam: Ben Sherman Men's Eddie Sneaker ; On Kev: PF Flyers Center Core Hi Canvas.

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Photography by Jeremy Jude Lee