Tiny Apples: An Interview with Jacob Schere by Jerry Kolber

It was written and published for Jerry Kolber.Com, by Jerry Kolber.


Jacob is a photographer from Miami who now lives in Tokyo. He and I
met in pre-school and have remained friends for more than thirty
years. Jacob helped me make a feature film in 1998, and we are
currently collaborating on a documentary film with his brother and the
legendary hip-hop artist KRS-One. Jacob is also the creative force
behind Lucid Communication.

Jacob’s photography, tee-shirt designs, more photos, and a blog can be
seen on his m2c (More to Come) MySpace page. Jacob was in New York
with his wife at the end of August, and we’ll be meeting up in Miami
later in October to shoot with KRS-One. I interviewed Jacob via Skype
early this fall. Talking with Jacob always makes me feel clearer and
simpler about art and life. – Jerry Kolber

How are things in Tokyo?

Busy. I’ve been working twenty days straight since I’ve been back. I’m
basically broke, so I needed to put in some extra hours to pay off
some stuff and to be able to go down to Miami.

How are you finding time to work on your photography?

I’m not doing too much right now. One little magazine in Barcelona is
going to publish some of my stuff.

What’s the perspective from Tokyo on everything going on with America
right now – 9/11, Iraq?

Most people here in Japan don’t understand why America is in Iraq at
all. I get asked that question a lot. They don’t understand why Bush
was elected President. I get asked that question a lot too.

What do you tell them?

I tell them it’s a similar reason the party that’s been in power here
in Japan for fifty years, it’s the same reason Bush got elected in
America. He has a strong base in the countryside. All of the cities
don’t really like what he’s doing but the people out in the boondocks,
out there, they still like the guy for some unknown reason. The same
reason why people here in the country vote for the same party for so
long – they keep the rice prices high, they give the farmers
subsidies, and that’s where their power base is still located.

How does the state of world affairs affect your art?

My challenge as an artist here in Japan is that Tokyo is not a very
beautiful city, so my biggest challenge is how do I find stuff that is
beautiful in this giant concrete jungle I live in. I always tell
people why I don’t take nature photography, because for me nature
photography is easy. Anyone can find a flower and make it beautiful,
because a flower already is quite beautiful. But how do you look at a
gray concrete jungle and find something beautiful inside that?

How do you do it?

I just keep my eyes open. Constantly. I’m always looking. That’s why I
always carry my cameras with me because I never know what I’m gonna
see. If I take one picture a day I’m happy. If I take a hundred
pictures a day that’s great too. I try to at least take something
every day.

Why is it so important to you to show beauty within the city?

Because I think people don’t look. The whole basis of my art is really
trying to stimulate communication and get people to look at things a
little bit more closely. If I can show these everyday things that
everyone just passes by and misses but I see and capture with my eye,
I think that’s a way to get other people intersted and to get them to
open their eyes a bit too.

When you say ‘open their eyes’ do you mean that literally or metaphorically?

I mean noticing things on the street, noticing people, don’t live in
your own little isolated bubble. Open yourself up a bit and see that
the world is a big and beautiful place. Sometimes you have to struggle
to find that beauty, it’s not always right out there in the open
saying ‘look at me, I’m beautiful!’

A lot of people are afraid to open themselves, they’re afraid of
having an unplanned encounter or of being vulnerable.

Yeah, me too, sometimes I’m scared of going outside and opening myself
up and being hurt. But I’ve come to the realization that I basically
have no choice but to do that because my art is what I can offer the
world. And whether or not people want to see it or not, I don’t know,
but that’s what I can do. I can open up and show what I see.

How successful have you been at making a living from your art?

It hasn’t been very good, as far as financially. Mentally it helps a
lot, financially right now it hasn’t been helping out too much.

Do you care that you’re not getting a lot of financial rewards at this point?

(Long sigh) Well, yes and no. Yes I would be much happier if I was
doing nothing but making my art to make money but at the same time I
would be doing what I’m doing now whether I am or am not getting paid
for it. This goes back to something KRS-One said when we interviewed
him, he said “What I do is I emcee. Whether you pay me or not I’m
still gonna emcee.” I feel like that with my photography. Yeah, it’s
great when I get paid or get published, but if you’re not gonna pay me
or you’re not gonna publish me I’m still gonna keep doing it.

What is the biggest struggle an artist faces in the world right now?

The biggest struggle is to figure out how to do what you wanna do all
the time and still get paid for it. It goes back in history, you know?
Michaelangelo was paid by patrons. Artists still need patrons, some
way to make money.

Do you see a lot of hope in the world?

We’re in a dark place, but I always have hope. It feels like there is
darkness all around but if you open your eyes and look you’ll see that
love and beauty is all around too.

Have you had success connecting with other people who want to remind
people that there is beauty in the world?

Yeah, I think so. I really do think so. There’s a lot of people on
Myspace that are at my level right now. A lot of us are struggling in
different ways. There’s people – I don’t want to talk about hierarchy
but there kind of is a hierarchy out there – there’s people who are
100% making their living but of course want to be more succesful and
make more money. There are people just getting started or still in
university right now. And there are people in the middle. And we’re
all looking to different people on the ladder for advice and
suggestions on what we can do. So it’s like giving each other hope and
passing off tidbits of information and advice to each other. That’s
been really useful and good. Support group.

So Myspace has been successful for that?

Yeah, it’s been successful for me. Yeah. I’ve got some pretty
interesting email feedbacks once in a while that people who saw
something I posted that really affected them in some way. It just goes
to show me that I’m doing the right thing. Whether it’s affecting a
million people or not, if it’s affecting a few people out there it
gives me reassurance that what I’m doing is right.

Have you had a chance to meet many Myspace people in the flesh?

In the flesh? Right now it’s an online community. But I’m planning to
go to Paris next year and there’s one or two people I’ve met through
Myspace who I would like to meet in Paris. At the same time you have
to be careful about who you want to meet. You know, the whole
cyber-world is an odd place. Because you have that kind of veil of
being whoever you project yourself to be, you sometimes don’t know who
you’re dealing with. The person who has their picture as a beautiful
woman, for all you know it could be a guy. You never know. You meet
people out there whose symbol is a piece of fruit so you have no idea
what they look like, so you can only judge them by what they post and
what they write.

If you could change one thing in your life right now, what would you change?

I would quit my day job. Seriously. I have feeling that’s not too far
away. That’s the biggest thing that would make me the happiest.

If you could change one thing about the world right now, what would it be?

That’s a good one. Geez. There’s so many things. What would be the
biggest thing that could have a ripple effect throughout the world?
The thing that jumps to my mind would be to make people deal with
people as individuals rather than grouping everyone together as ‘Oh,
you’re Americans’ or ‘You’re Christians’ or “You’re Muslims’ or
‘You’re gay’ or whatever. If people could start looking person to
person rather than grouping everyone together I think that would be a
good start in opening dialogue across all sorts of barriers, whether
they’re real or perceived barriers.

That’s a good answer.

Thank you. That was actually the first thing that popped into my mind,
but I had to figure out how to word it.

Do you think there is a revolution for positive consciousness right now?

There is, but even when I looked at your video (note: Jerry made a
documentary on the 911 Truth movement) a couple of things really gave
me chills about it. I don’t know if it’s purely an American thing, but
people when they think they are doing something right become so
blinded by what they do that they stop listening. I don’t know if this
is a good answer to your question, but that is a little disconcerting
to me. Maybe it’s because I was brought up Jewish, but it was hammered
into me from youth to not believe anything blindly. But I still see
that happening, whether you call it religion, or politics, or
conspiracy, or whatever. That’s a little bit scary.

What freaked you out so much in the video?

There was that one guy who was spouting answers – ‘the buildings came
down in five seconds, five seconds.’ It just sounds like dogma, dogma
of the movement – ‘five seconds, it came down in five seconds.’ I mean
I really have no idea what happened on that day, I don’t know if we’ll
ever really know. I’m glad people are asking questions. But can we
just not accept that our government just totally, totally messed up?
Can we not accept that?

It would be a lot easier to accept it if they would admit it. Secrecy
creates fear and paranoia and extreme answers.

I remember when I was in Miami November 2001. At that point it was
pretty much taboo to mention that the US might have been involved. But
I remember hearing from some people that, yeah, of course the US was
involved in it. And that was only six weeks after the fact. It’s kind
of weird now that it’s becoming mainstream, this whole Truth Movement
as I guess it’s being called has a momentum of its own now. It’s got
its movies, it’s got its websites, it’s got its YouTube videos. It
just shows how media is being used completely differently nowadays
than even ten years ago.

More and more people I know seem intersted in making media that shows
how the world has potential, in showing solutions. The world is so
populated that 1/100th of one percent is still 600,000 people. That’s
why there’s no counter-culture anymore. The internet and 200 channels
of TV makes it easy for 600,000 people – a tiny percentage of the
human population – to jump on the bandwagon. Which is a good thing, if
they’re showing the other six billion people a way to be more positive
and conscious.

I’ve been in Tokyo for eight years, but from how it was when I first
got here to now in terms of being able to keep in touch, the change is
ridiculous. I can know almost anything that is going on back home with
a click of the button. That thing you sent me with Clinton on Chris
Wallace on Fox, people were talking about that here in Tokyo. That’s
just crazy. That clip has spread throughout the world. Anyone who
speaks English anywhere in the world has probably heard about that.

Are people in Tokyo dealing with the same issues of conservation and
conscious consumption?

Yes and no. If you think America is a consumer culture, Japan leaves
America in the dust when it comes to being a consumer culture. Most
people when describing why they like or don’t like something talks
about the convenience of it. Everything is convenient, it’s gotta be
convenient or I don’t want it. Whether it’s convenient food, or
convenient lifestyle, everything here is about convenience and

Is there a problem there with landfills and pollution?

Oh yeah. Here, we don’t have any land to fill in, so almost everything
is burned. We do a lot of recycling here in Japan. If you dispose of a
computer or TV you have to pay a fee, which pays for the dismantling
of it and seperating the metal and plastic and lead from it.

Is there a big push for organic food?

Not nearly as much as in the states, because most organic food doesn’t
look beautiful. It doesn’t look perfect. To the Japanese, if you look
at a carrot that’s not perfectly orange and perfectly shaped, they
don’t want to eat it. They wouldn’t eat a McIntosh apple because it
looks dirty because it’s not all one color.

That’s crazy.

Yeah. There’s a big problem with people breaking out in rashes here.
So a lot of parents try to feed their kids organic foods. They feel
that the poisons and pesticides in regular vegetables and fruits is
what’s causing them to break out in rashes. I know two places near me
that do sell organics, but they are mad tiny. Really really really

The food is small?

Yeah, the apples are the size of golf balls and the onions are the
size of marbles. No, really the shops themselves are small.

Where are you calling me from right now?

I’m in my multi-purpose room which I share with my mother-in-law. This
room is where she lives because she can’t move and can’t talk. My
computer is set up here as well.

Is she there now?

Yeah, I think sleeping. I spend more time with her than probably
anyone because I’m in this room so much. If she could speak, she would
probably know English by now.

Anything else you want to say about anything? Food, politics whatever?

I try to stay away from politics to be honest. There’s not a whole lot
of control we have over it, so I try to focus on things that we can

What other things do you feel you have control over that can help make
the world better?

In order to make the world a better place you have to act
individually. You have to say hello to your neighbors. You have to
hold the door open for someone who has a bagful of groceries. It’s so
simple, these little things like that. You know there’s that really
silly phrase ‘show random acts of kindness’. But it really is true.
We’re humans, we have control over how we act and behave. There’s
something else KRS-One said. ‘A lot of people feel like they should be
the light, but aren’t.’ He said,’If you feel like being the light,
than be the light.’ You gotta set the example, you gotta go out there
and do it. It’s sometimes scary, people are scared to do it, but if
you feel it you gotta do it. I don’t want to sound arrogant, but I
know too much about the world to not help out my fellow man. Or woman.

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