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Daytripping: Photographers (and Supercool Couple) Joel Leshefka and Krysta Jabczenski at LA’s Most Futuristic Historical Art Palace

In a series we call “It’s Personal” we talk to artists and designers about their personal work and the projects that are closest to their hearts.

Image by Krysta Jabczenski

The first thing you need to know about photographers Joel Leshefka and Krysta Jabczenski is either a) that they are a deadly good-looking couple, b) that it’s okay to be intimidated by their combined talent or c) how to pronounce their last names. It all depends on the context.

Let’s start, instead, with what’s at hand today: their images of the stunning otherworld that is Los Angeles’s J. Paul Getty Museum and an interview to go along with them.

The Thread: Is it a coincidence that two camera-lovers met and fell in love, or did photography have something to do with the story of your meeting?
Jabczenski: Total coincidence. Unbeknownst to me at the beginning of “us,” Joel was already a skilled photographer. To this day he doesn’t identify as a photographer because he does a lot of things and photography is just a fraction of it. It wasn’t until we took our first road trip together that I understood we liked photography for the same reasons. He was the only person I had ever met who understood why I needed to pull over and photograph a boring plant. He encouraged it because he did the same thing. We both keep our eyes peeled for oddities in the mundane. Since then we’ve pretty much always had our 35mm conveniently sitting in the center console and have become the most annoying couple to drive with.

Leshefka: I had to think about this for a second. Our meeting really had nothing to do with being photographers per se, but perhaps had something to do with why we are so interested in photography? We met and didn’t know the other’s name for months, yet we saw each other every single day. In photography we both look for things that are subtle in the world, small pieces of things that seem rather ordinary but hold some sort of allure over time. I think meeting in the way we did, day after day, watching each other interact with our space is similar to why we like each other’s imagery and photos.

Image by Joel Leshefka

I assume, and I have observed, that photography has been a way for you two to collaborate. Has it ever been a source of competition or contention?
Jabczenski: Photographers can be territorial about their vision and their subject matter, and rightly so. But it’s always been different with our relationship. Joel and I take the same photos all the time. Our Instagrams are funny because he’ll post a photo and I post the same thing two seconds later. Most of the time we don’t even know we’re doing it. I think it’s sweet.

Leshefka: Thankfully no. I feel like I’ve been in all sorts of creative relationships, some competitive and some complementary. Krysta’s and my relationship is the BEST kind of complementary. We both have a genuine interest in what the other is “doing,” whether that’s photography, drawing, designing, curating or any number of things we both “dabble in.” It’s sometimes very difficult to hear criticism or feedback from people you truly love, but it’s also the absolute truest form. … If it’s competitive, it’s only in the spirit of creating something larger, more robust, or a fuller version of whatever we are attempting to manifest.

Image by Krysta Jabczenski

What was the unfolding of your trip to the Getty Museum? Was it planned or impromptu?
Jabczenski: We were in LA because I had a couple of shoots. The first shoot finished early that day and Joel was like, “I don’t care where we go, just take me somewhere.” So I just drove the three of us (Joel, our nine-month-old baby girl and I) to the Getty. Joel had never been there, which was cool because he had no idea what to expect. We only went inside one building because we spent all our time soaking in the architecture and the gardens.

Leshefka: We currently live in a city that does not have (but is not devoid of) a lot of contemporary art or large-scale architecture. Arizona is full of gorgeous decay, things that have been built and left to ruin. “Intentional” large-scale works (i.e., stuff that takes a ton of capital) for the most part don’t exist like they do in other major U.S. cities. So when we travel, it’s almost like we feel an urgency to visit these more traditional spaces. I know very little about museums, and was honestly more struck with the outside of the Getty than the inside. We were there for three or four hours, and I think spent a total of 30 minutes inside? We had a great picnic on the lawn, saw the insane cactus garden and wandered endlessly. It’s a truly spectacular space.

Image by Joel Leshefka

Image by Krysta Jabczenski

Krysta, what do Joel’s images from that day say to you?
Joel’s photography reads about humanity to me, like the residue we inherently leave on a space that speaks about our history or psychology. It’s in everything, but that day it was in the detail in the Getty’s architecture. The classic “Joel” image for me was one he took of boulders in a dry fountain. The fountain was off because of the drought. Joel looked at the patina on the fountain, the calcium buildup and the water marks. He felt lucky he was able to view the piece in a form that not many people get to see and a form that tells a more interesting story.

Image by Joel Leshefka

And Joel, what about Krysta’s pictures?
Krysta is really drawn towards how things are put together, constructed or passively…. Her images, as they always do, somehow capture the intersection of the two. She gives life to things not thought to be alive. It’s really rare, and I love that about her photos.

Image by Krysta Jabczenski

You both have ties and community in the Northwest and the Southwest, and the images in this post are from sort of right in between. Where do you belong in the world, and how does photography prove, justify or underscore that?
Jabczenski: The Southwest will probably always feel like home for me. I’ve grown up with the dirt and the sun and it’s a part of me in a lot of ways—namely my general slow pace, perpetual tan and super casual style. Aesthetically and photographically, I’m attracted to the Southwest’s sun-bleached grit, natural light, the weirdo culture in the middle of nowhere, bright colors in architecture and clothes that only the warmth seems to invite. Don’t get me wrong, I love to travel and I’d get totally stir-crazy if I had nothing to compare this to, but this is home.

Leshefka: We are both really restless people: “grass is greener” and all that. I think we both see ourselves as living in one place so we can experience it all, if that makes sense? We chose to buy a home in Tucson, to settle in, because we could buy a beautiful refurbished old adobe home from the 1880s for the same price as a condo north of Everett would cost us (no offense to Everett, but it would be far from our community in Seattle). I think our imagery, or what we get excited to share, is the product of that decision. It allows us to travel, to relax, to absorb every inch of the western U.S., which neither one of us seems to tire of…

Heading to the Getty on a whim is a product of the relationship we’ve built with our lives, the communities we feel part of and contribute to. I often feel between worlds, which when I first moved to Arizona felt isolating—like I wasn’t truly a part of anything—but lately it’s started to feel like being a part of so much more, which feels like an incredibly fortunate place to be.

Image by Joel Leshefka

Tell me about an aspect of your life where you two totally mesh and collaborate, and one where you diverge and go your separate ways.
Jabczenski: Hmm, well, mesh pretttttttty well. We work together, can spend months traveling together. I like to cook and he likes to do the dishes. I guess the major issue is pickles. I’m not allowed to eat anything pickled and try to make out with him, or he’ll flip. I don’t understand it.

Leshefka: I think we make a really good “team.” We have a ton of respect for one another, which leads to us collaborating effectively on pretty much all fronts (life partners, parents, buds, bewitched lovers, etc.). WITH ONE EXCEPTION. Krysta enjoys all things pickled, which I find wholly inappropriate and downright RUDE.

Image by Krysta Jabczenski

How does sharing your life with that beautiful little girl factor into your image-capturing lives?
Jabczenski: Well, I had to create a private Instagram account so I could get away with posting ALL photos Weston.

Leshefka: Not gonna lie. It’s waaaaaay tougher to travel with a newborn/infant, but we’ve made it a priority. Once you get going and just commit to making it work, you figure it out. She was conceived on the road, she spent the majority of her first six months on it, and it’s felt necessary for us as a couple to make that part of our life as well as hers.

It’s tough not to take 12 trillion photos of her, instead of whatever epic landscape we find ourselves in, but she does nap, which makes it easier.

Image by Krysta Jabczenski

Follow: Krysta Jabczenski on Instagram | Joel Leshefka on Instagram

Check out: It’s Personal on Men’s Shop Daily

—Laura Cassidy