Freshly graduated with an impressive series called Societies – which is about gangs or to be more specific, radical groups – Stacii Samidin set the bar high for himself and has been baptised as the Dutch gang photographer. With work that is based upon 80% trust, we knew we had to talk to this guy.
Tell us something about yourself please. Like who are you and what do you do for a living?
I’m Stacii Samidin, a real ‘Rotterdammer’. I’m a documentary photographer – graduated from the Willem De Kooning Academy – with a focus on group identities, groups that find themselves in radical worlds – a world where regular people would shy away from. Next to that, I have two kids and a lady.
Can you tell us something about your love for photography and how it began to grow?
For me, photography is the language that people listen to and I like telling stories – it’s the only medium that everyone can understand and that I can touch people with. In addition to that, I live like the subject and that kind of makes me the old school photographer – I don’t like all the fuss around it, I’m not chasing after sensation – I want to tell a story. For me it’s about bringing together three patterns as I call them; the subject, the audience and myself.
I used to be involved in a radical world – but my fascination with violence and making a physical statement was not enough anymore. After having my first child, I grew a certain consciousness that eventually guided me into photography. Back at that time, Kees Spruijt helped me set up my first exhibition, which was about Moluccas in The Netherlands – and that’s where I got the confirmation that people were actually paying attention to me. I then got an exhibition at the Nederlands Fotomuseum – and that was the moment I really wanted to focus on photographing on a more serious level.
This year you graduated with a series called ‘Societies’. Can you tell us about it?
Of course. It was a study of about three years and I started out in France, in Paris to be exact, and then I moved on to Nantes. I wanted to prove to myself that I could also photograph other types of groups. I left my trusted environment in Rotterdam, and eventually I even left my trusted environment of The Netherlands – more specifically; I left my trusted environment of the types of radicalism I was familiar with. It was a chance to apply all that I’ve learned here in a (to me) foreign country. I moved to Nantes and lived there like the people I was documenting. Before I came there – there hadn’t been a photographer there for at least the past 5 years and even if they were there – they never managed to get any shots.
From Nantes on I went to Surinam and eventually I made the conscious decision to move onward to LA, which for me was the ultimate studies and basically the source. This is how Societies came about.
To finish ‘Societies’, you took a trip to LA. Can you tell us about the experience?
It was emotional and I felt the impact of ‘the source’ – everything started there. Every dream I had about the gang life, and everything that gave me the strength to photograph the subject – came to life there in LA.
I wasn’t interested in the sensationalism – which a subject like this is sensitive to – and that is how I got into the groups. 80% of my photography isn’t even about the images – but about gaining the trust of the people that I want to photograph. How you get in is different for everybody – but it’s about the story and quality that will open doors for you. The main goal was always that people looking at these images could see a different kind of world – so that they could be more aware and maybe even more accepting – surpassing the stereotypes.
What is the most valuable lesson you’ve learned photographing Societies?
The most valuable lesson that I’ve learned is that life (for me) comes in three patterns; stepping out of the systems of the world that we live in, that it’s important to find balance in your own life and that it’s about how you show to the public.
What do you want the world to see by looking at your work?
That people get accustomed to and maybe even respect a different way of living.
"I’m not chasing after sensation - I want to tell a story."
What memorable responses have you had to your work?
Appreciation for me, as a person – and appreciation for and also from the subjects I choose to document. The gangs think it’s great that the viewers listen, the viewers thinks it great that I put it (my work) out there in the world. So basically, the fact that without ever getting in contact with each other – that I can bring these two separate worlds together and get them to appreciate each other and work together.
Where do you find your inspiration, and do you have any role models you look up to?
Estevan Oriol – he is THE gang photographer. In LA I was invited to meet him and that was one of the most emotional experiences I’ve ever had in my life.
What’s your own personal masterpiece?
Unknown energy. No matter how fucked up I am or how fucked up I look – I have all the luck in the world. Taking care of people and also receiving that care back. The type of energy that you can’t see and you can’t even specifically pinpoint. That I can photograph, my lady, my kids and that I can get into worlds that not a lot of people can enter in to.
Describe a perfect day in the life of Stacii Samidin.
That I can experience the three patterns I mentioned earlier – in one day.
Describe a real-life situation that inspired you.
I was busy working a documentary series in Surinam, and I always go looking for the edge of radicalism. There was a clash between two groups and something happened that nobody should ever experience. I came back to The Netherlands and the next day I woke up with my family and realized that life just kind of goes on, just like that.
That piece of awareness inspired me; that every person is lucky in one way or the other. I gained human insight that I can’t really apply to my own life, which makes me conscious of the luck that I have.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
Don’t become the subject. Always stay the photographer.
What advice would you give to someone who is starting out?
Try to build the road to your own success by creating your own structure and your own security. Or else it feels like failure if something doesn’t happen – you can listen to people and receive things from them, but in the end – it all boils down to yourself and how much you put into it. Never be dependent on others and be conscious of your own self.
“Don’t become the subject. Always stay the photographer.”
How do you stay motivated?
My family – my kids and lady. And my friends that are close to me.
Tell us something random that you want us to know.
I hope that the generation of now gets just as much attention as three generations back, in terms of talent. With this I mean things such as music, photography, arts etc.
Okay, last question. What’s coming up in the future?
Next year I’m starting with my solo exhibition – in which I will introduce myself as the Dutch gang photographer and highlight my last 6 documentary series. All of the work that will be shown then, has never been published before.