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DOPAMINE SPACES #1 - Adrian Morris' Barcelona studio

Dopamine spaces is a project series by Monokel Eyewear. In each episode we pay a visit to someones home or working space in an attempt to shed light, and gain insight on the intricate relationship between spaces and creativity. For the first episode, we’ve visited illustrator, photographer, graphic designer and notorious global wanderer Adrian Morris aka ”Mowgli”. Transforming a handful of his hobbies into a career with clients from the likes of Dazed & Confused, Huck Mag, Boat Mag, to Furr Skateboards (just to name a few). Born and raised in Australia, Morris has spent the last 8 years travelling. Currently based in Barcelona for his first steady base in recent years, we popped into Adrian’s studio for a visit… 

Photography: Crista Leonard

Where are we?

In my old living and studio space in the area of Poble Nou, Barcelona.

What do you like about it?

I like that it’s a bit further out of the centre. The streets are more quiet, I’m close to the sea and there’s a more local feeling in the area. My space is a converted warehouse so there is a lot of natural light and space which is really nice to have. Also ice cream… Good ice cream places…

What do you like about Barcelona?

Barcelona has the sea and nature as well as city life, perfect weather, beautiful architecture (skate-able and non skate-able), hidden places to discover everywhere, as well as interesting neighbourhoods. For me it is a really nice and relaxed city to be based and a good location in terms of travelling around Europe, Africa, Asia and America.

What's the main thing you need in a space or from a place in order to be creative there?

Natural light, good music, plants and big windows, but a balcony or terrace are the most important. I like to feel connected with the outside world if I have to be working inside all day. 

You're a difficult man to label, you're an illustrator, photographer, graphic designer and global wanderer, and you've made a name for yourself in all of these areas. Which of your interests came first, and how did the others come about?
The first thing I ever did was graphic design because it was the first thing I studied when I finished school. I got really into it and worked in design studios for 2 or 3 years before taking the plunge into the risky freelance worker traveller life and haven't looked back since. I have loved drawing since I was young and tried incorporating illustration in to my graphic design work until people started asking me for only illustration work. It all evolved from there. 
And how about your photography?
When I started to travel more that’s when I became really interested in photography. I became obsessed and interested in documenting everything I was experiencing and seeing. There are so many beautiful things about different cultures, people and places of the world that are often looked past even by other travellers. I think my goal from the beginning was just to try and capture and share the way that I see things that I felt were unique or special about the moment or place. I never planned for it to become something that I could make a living from, but I am grateful to have been able to utilise photography as a form of work because I have experienced a lot of things and met a lot of inspirational people that I wouldn't have otherwise.

It seems that your interests and your different professions are very linked and sort of inspire eachother. How do you think your work would be affected if you for some reason could only do one of them without the others?

I feel like illustration and graphic design are quite closely tied together for me because I rely on a combination of both most of the time, so my work wouldn't be the same if one side of that was missing. The way that I see things while I'm taking photos in terms of composition, light, colour and shadows are all strongly influenced by the things I learnt and developed as a graphic designer so I have no idea how I would take photos if that side of my brain didn't exist either. I also draw a lot of the things that I would take photos of, for example - interesting people, patterns, shapes and colours.

How many travel days do you normally have every year?

It depends how much money I have! I guess if I get asked to go somewhere to shoot photos I always try and stay longer or continue travelling on after a job. Everything that I do is put towards having as many travel days a year as possible so it always changes depending on how much work or what type of work I have.

Do you ever feel like just settling down in one place, knowing what lies ahead and relying on routines?

Well I feel like I am beginning to settle down more at the moment, no big commitments yet though, I haven't gotten a dog and a house with kids or anything like that yet... I’ve been based in Barcelona for a year and half now which is a really long time for me, but it’s knowing that I have a home in a nice place to come back to even when I travel  somewhere.

If you could teleport yourself to one place for one hour each day for the rest of your life, where would that be?

That's a hard question to answer... Sounds cheesy but somewhere at home in Australia. If I could go back to some of my favourite places in Australia for one hour a day that would be pretty awesome. Also I could occasionally drop in and say hello to my mum that I have rarely seen for the past few years because Australia is so damn far away...

We then asked Adrian to show us a few of his photos and tell us how the places where they were shot influenced his state of mind when he was there:

This shot was taken at Yangon Central Railway station in Yangon, Myanmar. It was kind of a calm moment in a chaotic situation. I was walking down all the platforms with so much going on around me. People running and yelling and I looked through the window at these two guys patiently waiting totally calm looking out the window, I guess it kind of made me stop and calm down for a second also.

This shot I took recently in a small place called Tonghor out of the centre of Dakar, Senegal. I was sitting on this street corner kind of watching a million scenarios happening at once past this red coca cola wall. The colour and movement in this photo remind me of the busy crazy and colourful streets of Tonghor and all the things that happen on the streets.

I took this photo  during a work trip for Boat Magazine. We visited a local school and were peaking in through the door at a class trying not to be seen. I was taking photos and this boy looked back at me. It was a strange moment, we were both so curious about each other and I think this photo kind of captures that feeling and initial shock or curiosity looking back.