How Ed Templeton’s Morals Get in the Way of His Commercial Work

London-based publisher Palm* Studios recently visited Ed Templeton to discuss his new book, Tangentially Parenthetical. The end of the conversation veers in the direction of commercial work, which is a topic that Templeton has rarely discussed in interviews. Given that he’s a world-renowned artist and photographer who shows in high-profile galleries, it’s somewhat surprising that his name hasn’t been attached to various magazine covers and fashion campaigns over the past twenty or so years. He breaks down the reason behind that as follows.

I’ve been super-fortunate to not need to do commercial work. I have a “day job” with my skateboard company, Toy Machine, that keeps me busy and pays the bills. So for me, commercial work has been something I approached if the money is good and if it doesn’t conflict with any of my moral principles. The ones I started taking early on where only if it was something or someone interesting. So I would get a call like, “hey, do you want to shoot Justin Bieber?’ And I’d be like, ‘fuck that guy.’ No.”

But then I’d get a call, like, “Hey, do you want to shoot Raymond Pettibon for this magazine?” and I’d be like, “Yeah, that’s awesome! I want to shoot him for sure.” So I would do jobs only if it’s someone I liked.

I just have no desire to shoot Justin Bieber or Paris Hilton, and I even turned down shooting Johnny Rotten until Deanna was like ‘What are you fucking psycho? You should shoot that’. I was like ‘okay, you’re right, I’ll take that job’.

I have a woman, Sofie Howard, who works as an agent for me, but I think she sorta hates me, because I turn down 90% of the work that she brings me. So she’s been getting me jobs now where basically they bring the whole operation here to Huntington Beach and it’s been amazing, because I just wake up and shoot, I don’t have to drive to LA, they have it all set up and I just shoot a weird fashion thing right here on the streets and the beach in my hometown.

But then there’s the other side of that where morals get in the away. I was offered a major gig with a high-end fashion brand for shit-loads of money, it was almost sacrilege to turn it down.

I started researching them first. They had stopped doing fur, like every brand has, not out of compassion but because it’s a liability now and it’s cheaper to actually get fake fur. Outside of that they still use all these very exotic animals, snakes, alligator, kangaroo. They had just opened their own snake farm so they can breed their own snakes. They have to specifically peel the skin off of them while they’re alive to get it off properly. All for some fancy boots or a wallet, it’s just insanity. I had to turn it down because I just didn’t want to have it on my conscious. Maybe if they change their situation I’d be down to work for them.

I didn’t need the money to survive, I mean I even feel weird talking about it because there are people out there who might read this and be like “Well la-dee-fucking-da. You’re able to turn down all this money based on morals.”But the thing is the more I thought about it, the more uneasy I felt about it, it made me realize I didn’t want to do it. I wanted to walk the walk and I had the ability to do that. I’m a known person, I’ve been a pro skateboarder for so long and I’ve had some minor success in the art world. To me, doing that job ends up being an endorsement, it’d be one thing if maybe it was just a silent, anonymous photographer shooting their stuff and not getting credited. But I’m ‘Ed Templeton’ the outspoken vegan doing that and it ends up being an endorsement no matter what, and I didn’t want to lend my name to that work.

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Image Via Huck Magazine

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