‘Complex Co-Signs’ is a monthly feature that will highlight up-and-coming or under-the-radar creators within the style space that we are personally fans of but may fall outside the realm of our regular news cycle. Hopefully, it will help you discover a new brand or learn more about someone that you’ve already taken a liking to. Whether you are familiar with them yet or not, these individuals are surely worth keeping up with.
Jacob Consenstein is a photographer who always happens to be in the right place at the right time. A soundcheck that BadBadNotGood asked him to shoot at Carbone ended up being the location of Virgil Abloh’s Met Gala after-party filled with celebrities. Briefly working retail at The Good Company led him to meeting a young British designer named Clint 419, who later invited him to document Corteiz’s headquarters in London last year. And a chance meeting with the New York rapper Wiki at 18 East’s flagship led to Consenstein creating the visuals and a book for Half God—Wiki’s collaborative album with Navy Blue.
While the universe seems to naturally guide Consenstein to incredible creatives, artists, and celebrities that he’s photographed, don’t get it twisted. Consenstein didn’t reach these spaces because of luck. As a Manhattan native, his hustle and eye for real New York City culture has allowed him to become one of the city’s most distinguished photographers.
“The only reason I ended up doing photography was because I liked fucking around; being around graffiti writers and people who partied or were on some kind of bullshit,” says Consenstein, who started taking photos with disposable film cameras he shoplifted in 2013. “I feel like I’ve just kept it super connected to what I’m interested in and never really wavered. I love hip hop, music, graffiti, and New York in general. I love taking photos of people on the street. Once you create a voice that way, people know what to expect from you. And if you can keep them surprised a little bit, they’ll stay tapped in.”
Since he started taking photos a decade ago, Consenstein has continued to document the nitty gritty pockets of New York while also making a name for himself as a commercial fashion photographer. His documentary-style photography has captured New York City graffiti legends like the late ZEXOR and his ongoing “Artist Series” portraits have spotlighted many of New York’s up-and-coming creatives. An artist who originally supported himself by working retail at stores like Only NY, his eye for great product has recently led him to direct campaigns for rising New York City labels like 18 East and large footwear brands like Keds.
Here Consenstein reveals how he photographed the night of one of Abloh’s last public appearances, what photography equipment he uses, creating the visuals for Navy Blue and Wiki’s Half God album, and more.