Considering the eventful year he’s had, it’s a little surprising that Adam DeGross still has a day job at a grocery store.
Not that there’s anything wrong with that. It’s just that some of the Minneapolis photographer and videographer’s recent moves seem to indicate a guy who is well on his way to wide renown, even riches.
For one thing, there’s DeGross’ newly announced deal with Pabst Blue Ribbon, through which a number of his concert photos will cover cans, boxes, and displays all around the country beginning March 1. For another, there’s the two weeks he spent on tour with Harlem rap star A$AP Ferg earlier this year, plus the upcoming Ferg video he flew to Los Angeles to direct. Oh, and have you seen the cover art for Joyce Manor’s buzzing new album? You guessed it: DeGross shot that, too.
No matter who or what he’s shooting, DeGross is turning more and more heads. Lately, social media has been a big factor in his progress. He has more than 11,000 followers on Instagram, where he posts pretty much every day.
Days before the Ferg video shoot, City Pages spoke to DeGross -- who's also an occasional CP contributor -- about the PBR deal, his relationship with Ferg, his latest book of photos, and more.
City Pages: You’ve been a photographer for about a decade, but a lot of extraordinarily good things are happening for you back to back to back. Why do you think that is?
Adam DeGross: It all kinda came together, and it doesn’t seem to be stopping. I feel like when people catch on to something, it gets rolling. It’s crazy because it all happened through Instagram, mainly. When I first got an Instagram -- I haven’t really had it for that long -- that’s when things started taking off.
CP: How did the PBR deal originally come about?
AD: That was off of Instagram. I would start tagging photos of PBR in [photos], and all of a sudden I got this message from one of the guys there. He’s like, “We wanna use your photos for the cans and stuff like that, and then boxes.” The dude originally hit me up like, “Can I use some of your photos for our Instagram posts? I’ll give you some money for that.”
They hit me up for my photos. It took a little longer than normal because they never had a live photo on a can before. They were trying to see how that works. But it looks good. It’s crowds, and a dude with a big mohawk singing. It’s kind of like my standard punk stuff. I can’t post it yet, but it looks good.
CP: How did you first get in touch with ASAP Ferg?
AD: It was crazy ‘cause when I first got Instagram, I was just posting older photos. The first rap show I ever shot was A$AP Ferg and Bone Thugs. I went to that, and I did some photos for it, and I posted some A$AP Ferg shots. He commented saying, “Yo, DM me.” I never knew how to DM anybody; I had to look up how to do it [laughs].
He’s like, “Yeah, I really like your stuff.” It said “A$AP Ferg followed you,” and at the time he was only following like 10 people. It was crazy. He was like, “Yeah, man, I really like your stuff. I like what you’re doing. I’ll hit you up. Maybe we can work together sometime.”
And one day, [Ferg] came back [to Minneapolis] with G-Eazy at Target Center. I finessed my way into a photo pass. I did the photos, and the next day I posted them, and he started commenting: “Yo, DM me right now. Let me get your phone number.” He called me and he’s like, “Can you go, can you just leave and go on tour with me, like, right now?” I was with him for about two weeks, getting all this stuff done, getting live shots, 15- or 30-second videos on Instagram.
CP: Ferg’s videos tend to get millions and millions of views. Since you don’t have a ton of experience with music videos, are you feeling intimidated about the shoot at all?
AD: Yeah, honestly. I got a DM from him: “Yo, can I call you?” He’s like, “Hey man, I’m doing this video for the new album that’s going to come out. We want it to look like your photos, like a wild punk show.” The video’s going to be like a punk show for his [music]. There’s going to be like a real show with real bands at a real venue, a punk venue, with him performing. I never thought I’d get into video. I’m still not completely there, but I’m happy that he trusts my vision to make it what he wants.
CP: You come from a background of punk and heavy music, but you’re shooting more and more rappers. What do you like about shooting hip-hop shows?
AD: Lil Yachty came [to Minneapolis] and that was more of a punk show than any punk show I’ve been to in years. The energy at those shows is crazy. It’s exactly like punk. At these hip-hop shows, people just lose it. It’s kinda how I used to feel about punk when I was younger.
Travis Scott came to the Fine Line and changed my whole vision of what hip-hop shows are like. It was like seeing the Bad Brains or an old hardcore show. I was like, man, there’s this movement going on that I need to be a part of, or at least document. People should realize that and open their minds up to new things, and not be stuck in one little spot.
CP: How did your latest book of photos, Fuck You, We Rule OK!, come together?
AD: That was a collection of street punk photos from this festival [Fuck You, We Rule OK!] that happens each year in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Those are some of my more dynamic punk photos that I get every single year, because everyone’s decked out and got the mohawks. Everyone looks crazy at those shows and everyone goes off; people are losing their minds at that festival. It’s been going around underground websites; you can’t go to Barnes & Noble.
CP: What’s stopping you from doing photography full-time?
AD: Full-time photography’s hard. Art’s hard. When you fully get into it, people are like, “You still have to do the day job, because you gotta get the gear, you gotta get people to pay for this.” But I feel like I’m right on the cusp of being able to do my photos full-time, and I’ve finally made it to the point where I feel comfortable. I feel like if you rely just on your photos and trying to get that paycheck for doing your art, you push it too hard and it doesn’t become real anymore. I’m still doing it because I love the art.
With photography, everyone’s got a camera nowadays. You gotta really have a unique eye, and a different vision, and a way to promote yourself, to make it in that world. Most of the time when I go to shows, I’m not shooting for anybody other than myself. People know my photos, so they want me to come. Hopefully my name will keep on growing and I’ll be able to rely on that, so I can get out of the day job.