Interview: J. Anthony Cruz
To begin with, could you tell us who you are, where you’re from and what you do?
My name is J. Anthony Cruz, I’m based in the United States. I create content. #ToProgress
When I viewed your work for the first time I immediately noticed your choice in using solely black and white for your photography and videos. Is there a reason behind this decision?
When I first started creating photographs and films, I wanted to train my eye for strong composition. I could always see angles and composition better when I shot images solely in black in white. Through this I began to develop a true affinity for the style. I have tried to produce color images for my collections however, the color images just don’t speak to me the same.
Black and white imagery has a way of making us think differently about things. With the large amount of content we are exposed to on a daily basis, black and white imagery can be somewhat of a visual ‘breath of fresh air’.
On your website you say: “Every moment has the ability to move us toward our goals. The key is to manage our time or our time will ultimately manage us. […] Once we come to a point where we stop taking time for granted, we stop procrastinating on our dreams and endeavors.” This is something worth thinking about. How did this idea/thought develop, and in which way does it relate to your work?
This idea simply helps me work better. Personally, I used to just ‘allow’ my day to happen. I used to just ‘allow’ ideas to come to me and when they did, I would simply begin creating; only to be randomly inspired to start a new project in the midst of what I was already working on. I would never finish anything because I was letting my time and inspiration manage me and it was extremely frustrating.
In learning this lesson, I began to plan when I work and how I work. I even plan for the random inspiration to avoid getting distracted by it. The constraints of having a schedule actually has made me a better creative.
In your videos, you often continuously bring the subject in and out of focus. This style of filming could be called experimental. Experimental cinematography (or experimental art in general) often requires courage from the creator, as there’s always a large chunk of people who don’t like things that are ‘different’. How do you cope with this, and what drives you to keep doing things the way you want to do them?
I simply do what feels right to me with a belief that there is always someone that will appreciate my work.
Yes, I have had to endure scrutiny from those that don’t always like something ‘different’. I understand that my work is not for the large chunk that you speak of which I have grown to become content with.
My motivation is not gaining a million twitter followers or getting the most hits on my website. I simply want to engage people that will appreciate the things I create. The support will come.
Your videos could be considered minimalistic, as they are very straight to the point and do not involve any special effects or other essentially unnecessary elements. What’s the reason behind this choice of style?
I have always been attracted to strong, minimalist design. I think it takes an incredible deal of courage and discipline to achieve and can often be more difficult than complicating things. I simply enjoy the creative challenges that minimalism offers. In light of minimalism I’ll keep this answer short.
You say you want your brand Cum Laude Co to be “a catalyst for a lifestyle of learning”. In which way does this concept apply to the current product you’re selling (a wooden, hand made iPhone case), and what are your (future) ideas for Cum Laude Co?
Cum Laude Co. is short for Cum Laude Students of Life. The brand manifesto is as follows:
"We are apprentices of aptitude. Pupils of prosperity. Catalysts for change. And now makers of the monumental. We are students of life." - Cum Laude Co.
For the iPhone case, I was blessed to be able to work with a family company based in Holland called Miniot. They actually designed the case and provided the opportunity for me to include it as a Cum Laude Co. branded product. Since our mobile phone is the one thing that we always have with us, the Cum Laude Co. branding on the piece serves as a reminder to approach life with a desire to learn.
The future plans I have for the brand include more high quality and well-designed lifestyle accessories that will inspire those who believe in what the brand stands for.
I have been following you on Twitter for a while, and a word that frequently returns in your tweets is progress. If I’ve interpreted your tweets the right way, you want to people to progress on a personal level, but also - on a much larger scale - make the world progress. Is art a way for you to do achieve this?
Yes. I strive to provoke thought through art. I believe that where there is provoked thought, there is provoked progress. It may sound lofty, but I want the world around me and abroad to have the desire for progress.
I am actually in the process of building MARKHAM, a collective of artists and designers, musicians and poets, photographers and filmmakers, modern philosophers and humanitarians. All of which will be assembled as one to create things that transcend convention.
It’s always about progress for me. I guess you can say I have dedicated my life to it. No matter what roles I undertake in society, the element of progress will always remain paramount. #Toprogress. - J. Anthony Cruz
A huge thanks to J. Anthony Cruz for participating in this interview. Don’t forget to check out his website and view more of his work and take a closer look at Cum Laude Co.