I first met Sarja Hasan (aka Sarja Ann) in Richmond, VA, a few years back, before she moved to Brooklyn. She was one of the crazy punks I got to know over the years — always up front taking pictures at gigs in her hometown and in NYC. MRR has run some of her photos on our Monday Photo Blog, highlighting great punk scene photographers, so I thought I’d have Sarja be this week’s Create to Destroy feature… Enjoy!
How old were you when you got your first camera?
Well if an imaginary one counts, I started “taking pictures” using my fingers as a frame when I was four or five. I’d make this annoying “clicky” sound and “take pictures” of everything. It drove my sister nuts. But I got a small point-and-shoot from my dad for my ninth or tenth birthday, I think. Don’t remember what brand, not that I cared at the time.
Did you ever develop in a dark room?
I love darkrooms! I spent a lot of time in and after school all through 12th grade in one. I shot for the yearbook staff with a Canon AE-1, which I still own and love, but unfortunately have watched it collect dust on my shelf. I also took a couple classes through college.
Do you do other forms of art?
Well my day job is graphic design. I also draw, paint and screen-print, though not as frequently as I’d like.
I’ve always had this strange fascination with memory…the way our minds take in our surroundings, and what we choose to remember. It’s from some irrational fear of memory-loss that I’ve never been able to explain. Photos chronicle your life… and I think they’re the most prized possessions an individual, or a family, or any group of people, can own.
When did you switch from film to digital?
I was such a 35mm snob and tried to hang on way after DSLRs started coming out. In 2006, my boyfriend at the time bought me a Canon Rebel XTI for Valentine’s Day. After figuring out the manual settings, I fell instantly in love. Hands down one of the top 5 gifts I’ve ever received. Thanks, Aaron!
What format do you like better?
Film will always have a soft spot in my heart. The magic of seeing an image come to life when you put the photo paper in the developer just can’t be matched by uploading a shot from one screen to another. That being said, for practical purposes, I do still prefer digital by far.
Do you ever print your digital prints?
All the time! The whole hallway in my apartment is lined with framed prints.
How did you start photographing at shows?
Well I love punk and I love photography. It seemed logical to try to blend the two together. The energy and chaos at any punk/metal show is so intense but so fleeting. That’s where the whole memory thing kicks in… Trying to freeze in time what you could have missed if you’d only blinked.
How do you manage to not get hurt or for your cameras to not get broken?
I don’t manage. Haha. I mostly get bruises but I did break my nose during Kollapse fest in 2009. MEGA MINGE was playing and the mic stand fell on my face. I remember reaching up and realizing it felt all sorts of wrong so I climbed up the stairs to the girls’ bathroom and luckily enough, one of my best friends was in there. Apparently I passed out on the floor and the next thing I remember is waking up with Robin kneeling over me after she’d carried me downstairs & the rest of the crowd being confused at why the band stopped playing.
How many cameras have you broken?
I’ve actually never broken a camera body! Just flashes and lenses and honestly I’m not sure. At least four or five of each!
What happened recently with your camera getting stolen?
I got into a fight with someone at Home Sweet Home after the SYSTEM FUCKER show… I was a little distraught afterwards and Jasper handed me a couple shots and I downed them both and I forget who I was talking to and when I went to put on my jacket and grab my camera about 10-15 minutes later, it was gone. The whole bar staff helped me look before I finally admitted defeat and left for the night, and Jasper even looked again the next day but it wasn’t there.
How did the community respond?
In a way that restored my faith in humanity! Or at least in the punk scene, reminding me why I am who I am and not all of “us” are degenerate posers who have nothing to offer the scene. I hoped for some concern and support but was definitely not prepared for the amount of it that was shown to me. I can’t be more grateful to individuals and bands across the states and overseas who have not only purchased but donated additional money to raise funds so I can buy a new camera. And people who have sent me their own works (comics, records, zines, etc) as an extra thank you!!! You guys are the best!
Where has your art been printed?
Ummm… VCU’s Ink magazine and Mountza (a really beautifully-designed zine from Greece [ I think??] you guys should check it out) are the first two that come to mind. Addison, who used to be the editor for “ink” is actually writing a sick book which I’m looking forward to, called Wicked Woman about women in the subculture which will also feature some of my photos. And in Loud Fast Rules #6 along with the photo on the face of the CD that came with it, which I wasn’t aware of until Todd recently showed me. Multiple bands from Richmond (my hometown) have used my photos in their releases or merch… LOST TRIBE, EMPTY GRAVE, SOCIAL DROPOUTS, NO WAY OUT, GOVERNMENT WARNING? Maybe? I don’t remember. I did custom band prints for DEVIATED INSTINCT and HELLBASTARD. And, not in print, but my photographs can be found online if you search my name on Brooklyn Vegan, Invisible Oranges, Profane Existence, CVLT Nation, and of course, Maximum Rocknroll.
Has MRR ever run your photos?
Never in the zine, but I’ve submitted to the Monday Photo Blog three times and, yes, MRR ran them all three times.
Any upcoming plans for your photos?
Yes! I am in the middle of working on a website, along with finally beginning the selection process for a coffee table book, which won’t only be band photos but also photos of parties and crowds at shows and punks hanging out in general. Editing is proving to be extremely difficult. Maybe it’ll turn into a series of books. Who knows!
How can we best stay up to date with what you are doing?
For right now, all I’ve got is Facebook and I keep my profile completely public so anyone can contact me. My work is deeply connected to my daily life, and I love sharing it all with whoever is interested.
Any last words, punk?
Trust your intuition, don’t ever back down, don’t be afraid to be yourself, no matter how many obstacles stand in your way. Conforming is a choice, and the freedom to choose will always be your own… Don’t be a quitter, don’t run away when things get too hard… Stand up for what you believe in and never, ever give up. <3