Surf Shacks 003 – Jake Burghart
/ Matt 09.03.2013
Meet Jake Burghart. Jake is Director of Photography for a little media company called Vice that just recently hit the mainstream with their awesome new series on HBO. In this series, Vice crew members travel to all the most dangerous places on earth and put themselves right in the thick of the mayhem to get the “regular dude perspective” on world issues. If you haven’t seen it, see it. Behind the lens of all the madness is Jake. Oh yeah, he also does a rad little surf series on VBS.tv called, Hi-Shredability. When he isn’t jet-setting around the globe, Jake calls this little slice of heaven in Topanga home — or at least a place to store some of his shit and crash while he is in LA.
Who are you?
I’m a dude from Florida who kind of lives in California and kind of lives in New York.
What do you do for a living?
I work as the Director of Photography for VICE and my main shit right now is shooting the Vice on HBO series. I travel a lot, to a lot of weird places. It’s lots of time zones and jet lag, and sleep when you can, eat what you can kind of scenarios. Sometimes we’re in a 5 star hotel in the Maldives, sometimes (right now) I’m locked in a room in Kandahar, shitting in a hole and sleeping in some dirty old sheets. I’m skeptical of everything I eat and drink; and I know that regardless of how tired I am or which end I’m shitting out of, when it comes time to get the story we came to get, none of it will matter.
How did you get started with Vice?
I started in 2005, just shooting some random shows at Cake Shop. Looking back, they were actually pretty awesome – Pelican, Two Gallants, Les Savy Fav, Panthers, Black Lips, some others.
What is the craziest thing you’ve seen on the job?
I’ve seen a man get beaten to inches of his life with a baseball bat, and with his last breath grab the bat and attack the other guy. I’ve seen a homeless woman in a bikini punch me in the face over a towel. And that’s just here in LA. We’ve all seen crazy shit – the world is fucking crazy.
What has been the weirdest destination you’ve visited?
Right now I’m in Kandahar, Afghanistan. It’s my second time in Afghanistan. Last time I was just in Kabul. This place makes Kabul look like Dubai, it is crazy here. I’m afraid to go outside.
Where are you from?
I’m from St. Augustine Florida. A magical European surf neck paradise.
Where do you live now?
I live in Greenpoint, Brooklyn and Topanga, California.
How did you find your place in Topanga? How long have you been here?
We’ve been here about 3 years. Meredith’s friend Craig found it for us. He has this cool website with a list of all kinds of shit you can buy.
What is your favorite part about the location and the space?
The space is basically a place to keep our stuff and sleep (tempur-pedic bed, next to a huge window = best sleep of your life). My favorite part is the big french doors that open to our homemade driftwood deck, board shack, peach trees, and mountain views.
What’s so great about Topanga anyway?
Topanga is nothing like LA, but it’s still close enough to go there.
Where are your favorite places to surf around here?
All secret spots I can’t tell you about any, but they all break once a year, so I usually surf Topanga.
What is your favorite board?
I have this battered old 5’10” Chris Christenson that was shaped for my friend Moose probably 10 years ago. It’s got lot of cool things about it. It’s the first board I ever bought. I went from my parents buying me boards to getting free boards from Quiet Flight to complete surf drop out. When I came back, Moose took me surfing and then sold me that board. It’s also cool, because now I’m good friends with Chris and he’s who I get most of my boards from. Oh yeah, I also call it the peg leg because I ripped a fin out and couldn’t find a new match so this kid Joey Clams in New York shaped me a new fin out of wood.
What project has been the most fun for you to shoot?
I shot a narrative feature that my wife wrote and directed a few years ago.
What project do you consider to be your greatest success so far?
The first season of VICE on HBO is definitely what I’m most proud of.
Where do you call home?
It varies, depending on where I am. Sometimes it’s New York, sometimes it’s LA, occasionally it’s still Florida. On a long trip it might even be a hotel room. If I’m there and my wife Meredith is there, and we don’t hate it, it can be home.
To see more of Jake’s work, go to:
/ Interview and photography by Matt Titone