I have been friends with David Kalani Larkins for quite a while now. Every single time I talk to him, he is in some foreign land that is thousands of miles away. It is hard to ever guess what exactly he is doing there. He could be taking photos of traveling gypsies or directing and producing a short film with Diddy…The list goes on. Back in the day when I used to travel internationally non-stop, we used to talk, comparing our travel destinations and boasting about how busy we were in each country. When I talked to David last, I was sitting at home watching a re-run of Friends when he told me he was on his way to London. “To London? For what? Then Turkey? Why?” After asking four questions in one breath, I hit my head against the wall and asked myself, “Why haven’t I dragged David into the Green Room yet?” Well, folks, I tracked him down. I found this traveling optimist, and before I could demand answers from him, he was already showing me the photographs of his most recent adventures overseas. Meet Mr. Larkins!
JF - How did you get into photography in the ﬁrst place? + How did your photography career cross over into the world of ﬁlm? Do you prefer one over the other?
DL – I had the pleasure of spending a good portion of my formidable years growing up and living in Oahu, Hawaii. It basically began as a love affair with surf visuals, and the fact that the scenics in Hawaii are mostly picture perfect. My pops hooked me up with a barely used Canon 35mm ﬁlm camera from the 80’s and I started to capture everything around me. I slowly started to collect gear, and shot surf photography and scenics non-stop. I had a friend who worked at a local publication that would use my photos from time to time, but there was little money involved and I still considered it a hobby.
Post college years I moved to the DC area where I went through a phase of assisting a wedding photographer, and eventually shooting my own. I was never keen on the wedding industry, but it is a fantastic source of income which afforded me the luxury of purchasing loads of equipment. The transition into ﬁlm and published work came at about the same time. For ﬁlm I started to assist and ﬁne tune my lighting style with a DP working on ultra low budget music videos, while simultaneously photographing indie bands that little by little crept their way into publications. Later I teamed up with a Director and we kept a steady stream of work. It was always low budget, but in retrospect is great because it allowed us to experience every aspect of production. I moved to LA and from there it was an explosion of work as a photographer, cinematographer, producer and director.
JF – How did your photography career crossover into the world of film? Do you prefer one over the other?
DL – The transition into film and published work came at about the same time. For film, I started to assist and fine tune my lighting style with a DP working on ultra-low budget music videos, while simultaneously photographing indie bands that, little by little, crept their way into publications. Later, I teamed up with a director, and we kept a steady stream of work. It was always on a low budget, but in retrospect, is great because it allowed us experience every aspect of production. I moved to LA, and from there it was an explosion of work as a photographer, cinematographer, producer, and director.
JF – That’s really cool to see how lower budgeting would keep you more involved in your work. Never thought of that. Have you always been a creative/artistic person? Where do you think this came from?
DL – I am still not sure how “creative” I am, but I have grown up loving and playing music and have always had an appreciation for visual artistry. I’d say I get it from my mom. She comes from a country (Austria) that is bustling with the arts in all of its forms. She is a painter and exposed me to all of the Austrian composers, and Euro artists at an early age. Maybe that is it?
JF – Somehow it always boils down to the parents. I have a mother from outside of the U.S. as well. She really did bring some of her own culture into my life. You get to experience a lot more than just Austrian
culture, though. Every time I hear from you, you are in a different country. I believe you are in London right now, saving the world, of course. Did you expect to travel so much from your line of work? Blessing or a Curse?
DL – 100% Blessing. In the last 5 years I have had the fortune of traveling more than I could have ever dreamed or imagined. I get to travel internationally (mostly on commissioned work) to destinations that people save years to visit. I am paid to spend time in these places, and more often than not I enjoy “working” on location much better than being a “tourist”. Getting to shoot, produce, or direct on projects that I ﬁnd valuable is a dream. Getting to do that all over the globe is just a bonus and a niche that I am happy to embrace. I have acquired friends and memories all over the place and I will continue down that path as long as I can. I am happiest on the road. No curses in site! And yes, I was in London, but there was very little world saving going on. Mostly shopping, pubbing, and visiting friends. I have just now arrived in Turkey and hope for some world saving now.
JF – Turkey? Wow! You are everywhere, completing all kinds of artistic missions. Do you have a favorite from your many, many projects?
DL – I am going to take the lazy road on that one….. No. I think that my favorite thing is that I am blessed to be exposed to such a variety of projects in so many genres and so many different formats. I wouldn’t be able to pick just one.
JF – There are no lazy roads in my interview. I’m going to have to ask about that one project where you were…LIVING WITH DIDDY?
DL – Haha well, A bit over a year ago Interscope commissioned me to go into the studio with Diddy for one week to create content. I was thrown into the Lions den with no particular directions given other than being told I worked well with challenging artists, and to “just shoot”. After a nerve racking day 1 we decided that we would create a 6 part short-form series that was shot super dirty, and as intimate and “raw” as possible. The end result was a gritty sneak peak into his huge producing style, over the top antics, and not so often seen intimate moments. After that he became comfortable with me and hired me to be his personal shooter/producer/director on what amounted to over 30 pieces of commercial and web content spanning several months. I basically lived with him. We hit the road together and I worked from his house daily in LA. It was an all-access peek into the rap world. Until that time my only work in rap was with Gym Class Heroes, and that was way before they reached their current fame. Living and traveling with Diddy is on a whole new level. Full on mogul and baller status. After that time period ended I have since toured with him and received random calls to do content pieces. Bits and pieces of our work together can be found throughout my site: http://dk.la/
JF – Wow, you and Diddy must have had great chemistry. So after entering the world of rap, that wasn’t enough for you. You went on to… working with Gypsies? In Garbage Dumps? In Nicaragua?
DL – I LOVE the third world! Although I think the politically correct term is developing country. These are three separate worlds that I am constantly drawn too, and I will have to keep it brief because I could go forever on each….
I have been shooting and covering stories in two worlds that are little known to most people. Gypsy Communities all over Eastern Europe and in Garbage Dump Communities throughout Central America. Most of the work has been embedded with the same organization that travels to gnarly places in the world seeking out to bless the poorest of the poor. I have been in about 15 different Gypsy camps at this point and am working to put out a photo heavy book on the subject matter in 2013.
…And “garbage dump” makes it sounds pretty…Well let’s just say “post-apocalyptic landfills” is more accurate.
JF – Haha. I have a feeling there is nothing that you won’t do. You can go from living with Diddy to non-profits. By the way, how is working in a non-profit project different from your usual projects?
DL – The complete and utter lack of Vanity. I have only come across 1 or 2 diva orphans in my day. The vanity may be the real source of cloud cover in LA.
JF – That could be it! Speaking of LA, your current home with the bustling traffic and quirky restaurants. It’s quite a different world from Hawaii. Do you miss Mililani Town?
DL – Hawaii is great but at this point in my life it doesn’t ﬁt very well. There is no “industry” and it is easy to start feeling constrained. LA works as the perfect home base for me. As far as America goes, SoCal is my favorite.
JF – You need to come to the Bay Area and visit. I have a feeling you’ll like it up here too! Okay, so, David, you have worked with Diddy, Interscope Records, MTV, The Rolling Stone, and countless of other impressive names. You have had much success in your career, no doubt. How did you get to where you are? David, what I’m trying to ask you is, what is your secret??
DL – Well thank you, Jade. I try and carry a healthy dose of ambition. Ambition can be a dirty word to some, but I think that only applies when it is nothing more than the drive for personal honor or fame. I have a God-implanted drive to improve, produce, develop, create and seek out the forgotten.
JF – Amibition… It sounds like you have really found your calling! So what’s next for your ambitious soul? Any up-coming projects you are excited about?
DL – 2012 has a lot in store. I am always juggling. Right now I am in Turkey working in a recording studio, co-producing an uber talented electronic gypsy trio that we discovered blaring their music in the slums over a year ago. We heard the music and decided that it couldn’t stay contained in the slums and deserved to be spread. It is absolutely classic! The group is composed of three gypsy guys who have never seen a proper computer setup, let alone an entire studio. These guys listen to music on old 90‘s Nokia phones, and the whole experience is mind blowing for all of us. I live for this kind of story value and spontaneity. The year keeps on going non-stop full of shooting, travel, music artists, writing, and then 3 weeks until I am back in Nicaragua getting my tan and surf on.
JF – You are just set to go. So before I let you do your thing. Knowing that you are also are a part of the music world, would you be kind enough to tell us what it is you are listening to as of lately? Will you ever return to playing music in the future?
DK – I suck and don’t listen to a lot of new music, but the Pandora stations that get the most traction on my iphone are Clint Mansell, CoCoRosie, and Bat for Lashes. I love all of the bonus tracks on the latest Anthony Green record, and have gotten an early listen to some of the upcoming M.I.A. record and they totally tickle my fancy.
I played with FBR (Fueled By Ramen) band Forgive Durden back in the day and the itch to get back out and perform never dies. It has been all quiet in that world, but there has been very recent talk of returning to the studio for a new project. Thomas has been writing crazy tunes for the last year under a new name with a new sound. The demos are all radio hits, Diddy told me so himself.
JF – Okay, well David, I am expecting a lot from you so please keep me updated with all of your projects. Can’t wait for the photo book! Thank you so much for your time!
DL – No problem!