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Jamie Lee Taete

Photographer + Writer

Q: How did your career at VICE begin?
A: My career started at VICE after some photos I took (I used to be a photographer) were seen by one of the editors at the time.

Q: What were the photos?
A: I worked as a counselor at a summer camp. They were photos I took with the kids.

Q: What was your first position at VICE?
A: Staff Photographer.
Q: How did you make the transition from staff photographer to writer/editor?
A: I found photography to be quite embarrassing. I got flown to LA by VICE to exhibit some photos at a gallery, and it caused me to have a freak-out. I was totally in over my head. When I say I found it embarrassing, I mean having to justify my photos. I always just took pictures of stuff I thought was funny or interesting, but I got sucked into some artsy hole where everything had to have a meaning. I felt like a pretentious dick all the time. I also wasn't very good at photography, so I constantly felt anxious. One of the editors asked me to try writing something about a metal festival. I did, and people seemed to like it, so I started writing more and more, and now I'm one of the editors. Though I don't find writing easy at all. I'm not a natural writer. I was hoping it would become easier with time, but it's a constant struggle. 

Q: Who do you pitch story ideas to?
A: It depends. If it's a written piece for the website, I don't pitch it to anyone. If it's a video piece, I have to pitch it to our video team in NYC.

Q: What about for the magazine?
A: I don't often write for the magazine but when I do, it goes through Rocco Castoro (the editor-in-chief). 

Q: Is there a medium you prefer?
A: Video stuff, generally, has a bigger budget. Which is good. Though I definitely prefer writing writing for online than print. 

Q: Does VICE provide enough creative freedom? 
A: I do have a lot of creative freedom, yeah. I'm pretty much just allowed to write whatever I want. I can't, off the top of my head, think of anything I've been told is too risqué, no. 

Q: What has been your favourite piece thus far?
A: I'm not really a fan of my own stuff, TBH. I guess the whole Corey Feldman thing was pretty funny.

(Jamie was invited to attend former child actor Corey Feldman's birthday party under the condition that he have the final edit. Despite giving his approval, Corey became upset over how the piece was received and went on several rants, which prompted Jamie to write a second story titled 'I'm Being Cyber Bullied by Corey Feldman'.)

Q: Didn't you do something with the Westboro Baptist Church?
A: I did. 'What Do Hate Groups Think of Jennifer Lawrence' and 'We Got Members of the Westboro Baptist Church to Do Buzzfeed Quizzes'.

Q: VICE is known for its immersion journalism. Are you a fan of it?
A: Yup, I like to read it and it's fun to do (though I don't do it as often as I'd like.)

Q: What's next in your career?
A: I'm not totally sure, honestly. I never really plan ahead. I'm trying to move away from editing and more towards writing, currently.

Interview Recorded: 2014

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