The first time I (Mike Joyce) heard about Ezra Letra, was when he sent me a note congratulating me on issue. That sums up Ezra in a nut shell, he is a stand-up guy who constantly lets the people important to him know that they are doing something special. His commitment to art is profound. He is a poet, a fiction writer, a cinematographer, and now you can add photographer to that list. His shots are wonderful looks at the core of Americana; his perspective as a young hip-hop artist and father ground his work, and looking at his photographs makes me feel a sense of “home” like few others. I don’t want to speak much more on this, as I think he does a much better job in his own words: please read his interview immediately below.
1. What sparked your interest in photography, and when did you know you would pursue being an artist?
I’ve always enjoyed a good photograph. I began my pursuit of photography in a weird way. I’m an independent hip-hop artist and part of the hustle is making sure you have quality branding, which includes photography and graphic design. I could not afford constant photoshoots, or was unable to find photographers interested in shooting a not-so-famous rapper, so I invested in a camera and began doing my own promo shots. This lead to an interest in capturing the sights and people around me, with my own poetic lens turned on.
2. What other artists and art forms have influenced you and your work?
It’s been mostly the human experience. I take just as much from Shakespeare as I do from the homeless man from the neighborhood who walks around with a handful of plastic bags filled with plastic bags. All of it marvels me and so all of it has influenced me and my art.
3. Can you describe your current artistic process, habits, techniques you have formed?
I like to say that my muse is schizophrenic. Some days I wake up with an urge to photograph something, and then I can go for months without taking a photo because I’m working on an album, a poem, or a short story. I trust my muse and I let go of any worry of success that society always tries to shove down my throat.
4. Is storytelling important in your photography?
It definitely is. I don’t know if everyone takes the time to think thoroughly about photographs but I like to try and make it so people wonder about who is being photographed, the places I’m photographing, and how me, as a human being, is connected to that atom of time.
5. What are some of your favorite books, poems, authors?
This is one of those difficult questions to answer. Favorite anything really has to do with time and experience. One moment I’m really in love with work from one artist, then it’s like I need some space, me and that artist are too clingy and I let go and go try something else. I can’t settle down when it comes to picking favorites, but if I HAD to answer, here are just some:
Paradise Lost by John Milton
‘Said the Shotgun to the Head by Saul Williams
Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut
The Crossing by Cormac McCarthy
Labyrinths by Jorge Luis Borges
The Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger
100 Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
6. Where do you turn for motivation and new sources of inspiration?
My son has been my newest and best source of both inspiration and motivation. I love to watch him observe the world and see what interests him or catches his eye. It’s pure and untainted by what society deems entertainment. He motivates me to be a better man, and to leave something behind that he can hopefully cherish when he reaches adulthood. Since I’m here for his development, every day it’s something new with him. Just yesterday he learned to point the number one with his finger when asked how old he is.
7. What do you think is more important for your craft: passion, dedication, or raw talent and can you elaborate on why?
I think passion is the first. I can think of many things I’ve dedicated some part of my life to, or things I know I have some kind of talent for but if the passion wasn’t there, I eventually drifted away. Passion to me goes hand in hand with joy and so if my heart isn’t into something, chances are I’ll just be wasting my own time, no matter how well it can turn out.
8. What is a project, or theme you are currently working on, or something that is currently taking your attention, that you are aiming to explore in your work?
I’m currently working on a spoken word album called “The Anchor That Let Me Fly” that is dedicated to my son. The cover of the album is a photograph done by me of my son when I took him to the aquarium. It will be available on all major online stores like iTunes, Google Play, Amazon, etc.
It’s also very important to me to display love and the human experience in my art, whichever form the muses decide for it to be expressed. I’m not a fan of the materialistic, hypersexual, misogynistic, narcissistic forms of art that make its way to the mainstream. Part of my agenda as an artistic is to show different shades of beauty and other aspects of the human experience that may not always get invited to play.