I met Derek (Likeamacheen) the way most people meet today...on Instagram. He is a mutual friend of a friend who is also a photographer (and who will also be featured here soon). He saw some work we did together and when he needed someone to shoot with I was the first to volunteer after seeing his work. He captures NYC the way not New Yorkers can only dream of it. For months we developed a friendship based on memes and responding to each other's stories. By the time we were going to shoot together, I felt comfortable enough to show up alone, knowing I had nothing to worry about. We've worked together a few times since then, and though Derek's niche is to capture the city in its most candid way, he's also managed to get some sick shots of me while I stand awkwardly in front of his camera. What I am trying to say is that the man is talented and his photographs are filled with the same passion he loves his city with.
Get to know Derek and his work:
What is the meaning behind the name, Like a Macheen?
LMAO* Go on YouTube and look up “Little Lupe on the Howard Stern Show” and watch the clip that’s 36 seconds long. I was trying to brand myself a few years back, and the whole “first name, last name” thing just isn’t me. I was watching old Stern interviews and when I watched that clip, I repeated back those 3 words when she said them and died laughing. That was it. That was my brand, because why wouldn’t it be???**
When did you know you wanted to be a photographer?
I lost my job in 2008 and my mother was about to go on a trip out west to visit family, and she knew I needed a pick-me-up, so she brought me along. I had this little, busted Casio point-and-shoot joint that had missing screws, and I went with her and took pics of everything. I have always loved the power of capturing a moment and being able to remember it; I thrive on nostalgia. I’m not sure I ever “wanted to be a photographer,” but it was on that trip that I realized I wanted to take photography seriously
At what age did you take your first photograph? What was it of?
I don’t remember my first photo, but I remember my first 2 cameras; I got them at the same time…I think for my 8th birthday. One was a hot pink Kodak Pazzazz camera, which shot 110 film, and a Fuji DL-7, which shot 35mm film. The first photos I remember taking were these panoramic shots of the punk rock kids down by Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco. I had to have been about 8 or 9 years old, and I was already approaching people for flicks. I jumped in a shot with them, and now that I am remembering this, I would give a pinky to find those old prints. I also just remembered that I lied on a recent podcast, when I said my first street photo was taken in Mexico. Technically, my first street photo was that day in San Fran…so thanks for forcing me to dig that memory up.
Do you prefer to shoot portraits or landscapes? Why?
I have always had a fascination with people, and in college I took sociology and psychology courses and it only fed that intrigue. Street photography involves a lot of people watching—watching people when they don’t know they’re being observed is one of the most interesting and educating experiences. That all being said, I’ve always loved incorporating the human element into my photos, but not just in the way of “portraiture” as most people would think of it. As far as portraits are concerned, I’ve always loved environmental portraits, which give a little more insight on that person’s story. But I love landscapes with people interspersed, whether it’s one single individual providing a sense of scale walking past a graffiti mural, or a bunch of random people in the foreground of an iconic structure. It’s funny, most people do everything in their power to capture famous/known landmarks without any people in the shot, but I love it. I often look back on old photos and scan for faces in the crowd—what are they thinking, what kind of day were they having—just the fact that I have captured that piece of a complete stranger’s experience is pretty wild to me. And that image will live forever.
Do you enjoy being photographed?
I have always rushed to answer this question with a quick “NO!!!”...and then I thought for half a second and I was like “well, I like when my photo is taken by people who know how to take a good pic and make me look good”……and now, as I sit here really being honest with myself, I realize that I value every photo of myself. The “ugly” photos still tell a story, and many times an even better story than the photos we selectively share because we like how we looked. I am obsessed with the feeling of nostalgia from looking at old photos, and that’s a huge motivating factor in my work. That same nostalgia applies to photos of me. No one likes looking at old group photos and not being in them, right? Most of us would rather be in a photo looking a hot mess, than to not be in it at all. So, yes, I enjoy being photographed.
Who/what is your favorite person/thing to photograph?
New York City baby!!!! Lol I really do have a love affair with all things New York and, although I haven’t traveled much, the places I’ve been have not compared in any way. From the people, to the juxtaposition of luxury and poverty, the grit paired with a palpable drive to succeed—where “succeeding” means merely maintaining, surviving, getting by. We often take for granted that people save money their whole lives to visit here, risk it all to live here, dream about being a “New Yorker,” and how many places can say the same?
Does social media help or hurt your career?
Again, you’re forcing me to think here, because the first thing that comes to mind when anyone says social media is a big vomit emoji…buttttttt, then I think of all the great connections I’ve made, and I realize that social media can either be a tool or a weapon, depending how you wield it. Most people use hammers to build, but as Investigation Discovery will teach you, a hammer is also a great way to cause harm. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is social media in a nutshell. I can’t lie, there are hella people I have to mute because I’m either good friends with them, or love their work, but they go a little ham at times. However, I’m not going to de-friend or unfollow those I’m connected to just because they have social diarrhea, or different views, or get preachy. And politics, ohhhhh the politics. Everyone on social media is a political pundit, health expert, infectious disease doctor, etc...so it’s a very delicate balance I’ve had to dance between using social media to my advantage and not letting it get the best of me.
What advice do you have for young aspiring photographers?
Do it for YOU, and ONLY YOU. There are a million ways to be successful, and no one understands your idea of success like you do. There are also a million ways to have photography as part of your life without “being a photographer.” You can work a 9-5 to pay the bills and just enjoy taking photos; you can also work in a creative field that involves photography in some capacity while not being a photographer. Find your niche. And don’t rush it. I hated what I was doing until I was about 37 years old. In the last year, I have had more great things happen career-wise than in the 15 years prior. Just keep creating, keep yourself inspired…and sometimes you’re going to hit a wall; that’s ok. It’s not only ok, it’s normal…and sometimes that’s where your best work comes from.
Paint us a picture, with words of your favorite photograph by you.
I will paint the moment for you. I was on the 1 train, camera in hand as it always is, and I looked up to see 4-5 women holding onto the vertical rail in the middle of the car. Each woman looked unique in age, style, ethnicity, and it was the perfect adaptation of the “NYC melting pot” theme. The car was obviously crowded, so the shot was very tight, and every time someone moved, it obscured my view. I wavered back and forth whether I wanted to take the pic. It was part laziness, and partly because the subway is a NYC sanctuary. People generally want to be left alone, it’s a tight space, and I had a huge camera. However, some of my favorite photos are the ones I didn’t want to take. So I positioned the camera on my knee and fired off a shot, tightly cropped, as to show just the hands, along with the hints of pole uncovered by their grips. I got lucky. It was beautifully composed, perfect relationship between shadow and highlight, fine detail…and each hand seemed to tell its own tale. I instantly fell in love with the image and ran off a limited edition of 10 monochrome prints. Shortly after, I suffered a hard drive crash that claimed the original image, so those 10 prints will forever remain the only original prints of that image.
If you knew this interview would be read by every person in the world, what would you like to leave them with?
If there is one thing my photography has taught me, it’s that we are all more similar than the world wants us to think. We are unique, beautiful in our way…and we all want the same things. We want to laugh and feel good, be successful and experience new things. I have shared my time with people from all walks of life and, on an individual scale, people get along. It doesn’t matter what you look like, what you believe, where you came from or what choices you have made. People, by nature, accept other people. We can all do better. Put down the phone, get off your timeline, and talk to people. Talk to people who don’t look like you, interact with people who share opposite beliefs and try to understand them instead of trying to convince them to look at life the way you do. Hell, have a conversation with someone and see how little of the conversation has anything to do with all the hot button topics the online world is driven by. All I see these days when I go online is vitriol, hate. Be better than that. Go outside and experience life; experience people. Experience is the cure to judgement.
If you'd like to see more of Derek's work you can click here. Like what you see? Send him a DM & chances are you'll make a new friend instantly.
*Interviewer note: his as$ actually did fall off.
**another interview note: I did have more questions but I think we all think we shouldn't ask those.