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The Minimalist Makeover Photography of Jeff Czum

Jeff Czum’s photography feels isolated yet comforting, eerie yet peaceful, surreal yet homely. Czum reels you into his minimalistic world where quaint houses, desert ridden gas stations and towering apartment buildings take center stage. Mid-century modern architecture intertwines with rolling hills and palm trees and his signature blue skies transports you to a dreamy, unadorned version of our world.

The cherry on top of Czum’s minimalistic cake is the text phrases often plastered across neon signs and billboards acting as a voice for not only himself, but the artistic world he has created.

Jeff Czum is a freelance digital creator based in Buffalo, New York who specialises in photography and graphic design. While this creative endeavor is not his full-time job, it’s been a lifelong passion ever since his parents bought him a disposable camera when he was 11 years old. Over the past couple of years, since the pandemic began, Czum has found himself able to fully explore his passion and has honed his skills as a self-taught photographer and graphic designer. Inspired by the works of Tony Kelly and Tyler Shields, Czum has experimented with both digital and film photography and has developed his own area of expertise, which is his signature style of “minimal makeovers”. This minimalistic style of photography highlight the most crucial aspects of his work while simultaneously acting as an outlet for him to share what is on his mind in humorous, sarcastic and relatable ways.

My goal is to take away any distractions to really put focus on what I’m trying to convey.

Interview With Jeff Czum

How would you describe your work using only three words?

Yikes – I feel like no matter what I say, I’m going to come off as accidentally pretentious so I’ll keep it simple.

Minimalistic / symmetrical / quaint.

What is your background when it comes to photography and graphic design? Are you a self-taught
artist?

I’ve always had a big interest in photography and design for as long as I remember. Even as a kid, I was obsessed with disposable cameras, which eventually led to more technical analog photography to what I’ve been creating lately. I never took any classes (aside from high school photography) and found everything that I needed readily available on the internet. YouTube was a huge help for when I was ready to dive into Photoshop.

Where did the idea for your “minimal makeovers” come from?

I think it has something to do with the less is more mentality I have when it comes to art. I like to separate the subject as much as possible in my photos and my goal is to take away any distractions to really put focus on what I’m trying to convey.

Id love to hear about your creative process, how do you approach designing a new piece and how
long does the process take from start to finish?

It’s been different each time and each piece often turns out completely different than I had previously imagined – I’ve learned to just go with the flow at this point. Sometimes, I’ll have a general idea of what I want to create or a certain text phrase I’d like to work around and give it a go. I usually begin with photographing the main subject (some kind of stand-alone building, vehicle, etc.) and build around it in post. I like to have full editing control of each section of the photo so I’ll cut or crop almost every single segment and make it into it’s own layer – very similar to making a collage.

90% of all of my photos were taken from my car. I’ll drive aimlessly around if I have to in order to find something interesting.

What is your favourite part about your creative process?

I favor the unpredictable and having the ability to make something from something. Each process is different and it’s very rewarding once everything in a specific photo starts to merge together. There have been numerous times where I’ve given up halfway through a photo because I’m realizing it’s just not going to work – but when it does, it makes it all the more satisfying.

What is the most challenging part of your creative process?

I really think I put myself into this bubble, which doubles the creative block for me. I love incorporating text into my photos that eventually leads to writer’s block…add that to photographic block, and I’m left with 0 ideas.

What have been some of your favourite locations to shoot at and why?

I’m a sucker for desert landscapes so California, Arizona, and Nevada have been some of my favorites so far.

Do you have any dream destinations when it comes to collecting material for your photographs?

Palm Springs – I love mid-century modern architecture.

Clear blue skies are a reoccurring theme within many of your pieces; is this because it works as a great, minimalistic background so the main subject of the photograph can really pop?

Yes – 100%. Maybe it has something to do with the fact I live in Buffalo, NY where it’s overcast most of the year, but I’ve found that adding clear blue skies helps create a more realistic way to incorporate negative space.

There is such a wide variety of buildings and architecture within your photography. How do you approach scouting potential subjects and how do you decide which ones will work best?

90% of all of my photos were taken from my car. I’ll drive aimlessly around if I have to in order to find something interesting.

I favor the unpredictable and having the ability to make something from something. Each process is different and it’s very rewarding once everything in a specific photo starts to merge together.

Are there any other genres of photography that you’d like to experiment with in the future?

I’m a little tempted to begin an interior series. I’ve spent so much time focussing on exterior facades, it may be time to start switching things up!

If you had to pick between shooting only digital or only analogue photography for the rest of your life, which one would you choose and why?

I’ll always love the look of film but if I had to choose, I really enjoy the control I have with digital.

If your photographs had a genre of music to accompany them, what genre would it be and why?

I love this question – I’m going with indie-rock. Photos that aim to have a balance of pop, experimentation, and sometimes just all out noise that makes no sense at all.

Do you have any exciting plans or projects for your photography and graphic design work in the near future?

I have something pretty cool lined up for spring of this year. Hoping everything works out (fingers crossed).

Jeff Czum Social Media Accounts

Instagram | Pexels

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