People like Stefan Simikich. He’s the sort of person who you could leave in any part of the world and he would fit right in without ever showing up on the radar as an outsider.
I first met Stefan at a meeting in San Fransisco around 2005 where a hand-picked crew of photographers, writers and film-makers had gathered to prepare a trip to Jamaica to work on a campaign for Red Stripe. Steffan was part of a crew called Hamburger Eyes which is a great magazine featuring street photography from around the world.
Unlike many of the people who visit the island looking for material to be published, Stefan’s brain wasn’t filled with preconceptions or uninformed assumptions. Rather he chose to listen and look for himself and as a result, was able to grasp the real Jamaica within minutes of his arrival in Kingston.
Wherever he went, whether it was uptown or downtown, he was never uncomfortable or unable to understand what was was going on at all times. During his time in Jamaica he ventured into the so-called roughest areas of Kingston without hesitation and returned with a true snapshot of what was going on at that exact time.
I remember one day Stefan decided to try skateboarding in Billy Mystic’s empty skate/swimming pool that he and the video guys had cleaned out. Since I’m not from L.A, I took some time out to go and sit in the car to cool out when suddenly he appeared at the window with a strange look on his face. I rolled the window down and said ‘Hey, what’s wrong man?‘, to which he replied, ‘You have any headache stuff? I just smacked the sh*t out my head on the side of the swimming pool.‘
At first I thought he was joking because he had said it so calmly, but later the video guys told me he had really smashed his skull hard and they thought he was going to swallow his own tongue.
Since that time Stefan and Hamburger have kept going, publishing a book with Powerhouse and making crazy money painting houses.