First of all thanks for taking the time to do this interview, to start can you introduce yourself what you do? How did you choose the name zipgun?

I’m a photographer, designer, and publisher currently living in Los Angeles. I’m best known for my kanji eggshell stickers and a long-running booklet series I started in 2009 that documents graffiti and urban life in major cities.

I came up with the name when I was living in Sacramento. At the time I was working an office job and started experimenting with a MS Publisher on my work laptop. I taught myself how to set up a basic layout for a digest-size zine using a handful of random graffiti photos I had posted to Flickr and after a day or two a primitive 10-page booklet was ready to go. All it needed was a title.  

Originally Zipgun was going to be called 3G’s—Graffiti, Girls, and Grime. However, there was already a 4G’s magazine—Graffiti, Girls, Guns, and Ganja—so that idea was out. Other ideas I had were either too long, too edgy, or too derivative. I started researching crime topics online for inspiration when I came across a 1958 issue of LIFE with a cover article titled “Teenagers shocking account: Zip-gun armies at war.” That word just stood out immediately, ZIPGUN. I liked how it sounded quick, clean, and unpretentious. Over the years it would grow to become more than just the title of my zine, effectively becoming my entire creative identity and persona.

Stickers seem to be your thing, what appeals to you so much about sticker bombing versus the other forms of graffiti like piecing, tags or throws?

In the early 2000’s I went to the Castro Halloween parade in San Francisco with this guy I knew who worked at Kinko’s and he showed up with hundreds of 3×4 stickers for me. I wasted no time putting them up everywhere: signs, recycling bins, dumpsters, windows, newspaper boxes, awnings, bike racks, doorways, display windows, shopping carts, statues, AC units, trash cans, safety cones, bar caddies, toilets, urinals, bus stops, buses, taxis, planters, discarded sidewalk junk. That night really got me hyped on stickers and laid the foundation for everything up to this point. 

My sticker addiction grew when I relocated to Sacramento, then absolutely blew up after moving to Los Angeles in 2011 and creating the Zipgun kanji logo. My friends at Art Primo SF connected me with Eggshell Stickers overseas who sent me bricks of stickers every few months. As soon as I started running low, another box of eggshells would arrive and I’d be out putting up stickers everywhere I went. I discovered Avery name badges and started running off hundreds of them at Kinko’s every week. There were also the silkscreened vinyl sheets cut by hand, friends with label printing machines who hooked up big stacks, custom rubber-stamping hundreds of postage labels. 

Sticker’s appeal to me on multiple levels. They’re quick and easy to apply. A brick of stickers isn’t going to spring a leak and destroy your car seat and they don’t need any tips or attachments to work. Designed well, a sticker can really command people’s attention and communicate anything you want. Printed on the right material and stuck in the right location, a good sticker can last indefinitely. Aesthetically pleasing or rare designs can be used as currency in the right situations —I’ve traded my stickers for beer, weed, and food at raves and festivals before. They’re a great way for networking and making friends with complete strangers. People hold onto a good sticker and carry it with them, pass it on to others. You really don’t know where they will end up. 

How many stickers have you think you’ve printed total? Do you source them from China or are you making them yourself?
Total stickers? There must be tens of thousands out there in the world by this point. I used to make most of them myself but these days it’s more efficient for me to source out production, For all my vinyl 3×4’s I go through Cal American graphics. They silkscreen everything on a heavyweight vinyl that cooks to surfaces so it’s almost like you’re getting eggshell vinyl. As far as eggshell stickers go, I still have stacks of the classic design but there’s always new ones I have on the way. 

Your stickers have this Japanese anime-type aesthetic that is prominent throughout a lot of your work. What got you into that style of design?

I grew up in the 80’s when manga and anime were at the periphery of popular culture. My earliest exposures were early weekend mornings and late-night cable television, watching shows like Battle of the Planets, Starblazers, Captain Harlock, Mazinger Z, and Robotech. When VHS became a thing, I’d find random imports in the cult section at a local independent video store.  like Bubblegum Crisis, Venus Wars, Project A-Ko, Macross, Dominion, etc. 

The era of 80’s Japanese anime was amazing, a completely different level than anything I had seen before. The hand-drawn detail work, visual aesthetics and adult storylines had me hooked. Key characters in a movie or series would get killed off. There was frequent cartoon titty and nudity along with tobacco and alcohol use. Graphic violence and mass destruction. Manga titles were few and far between in comic shops. You had to go to Japantown in SF or specialty shops to find them. I built up a collection with titles like Akira, Outlanders, Battle Angel, Nausicca, Golgo-13, and Crying Freeman, their narratives and art far beyond anything you’d see in more conventional American comics.

Anime and manga being virtually unknown at the time was part of the appeal. I liked the underground feel, you had to be in the know to hunt it down. When I discovered graffiti, I recognized parallels between it and the Japanese animation I’d become a fan of. Both were niche scenes, largely unknown to most people, a lot darker and violent than expected, often involved very technical execution, as well as existing at the edge of culture. 

I feel the visual aesthetics of graffiti, anime, and manga naturally complement one another. Over the years I’ve seen more and more writers incorporating anime and manga themes into their pieces and illustrations, often with some visually stunning results. I’m not going to claim Zipgun was solely responsible for opening that door, but it certainly played a part.

Some writers think sticker bombing isn’t a valid form of getting up, what would your response to that type of attitude be?

I’d agree to the extent that calling it “sticker bombing” is kind of a disservice to people out there taking far greater risks doing legit bombing with markers, etch, paint, extinguishers, etc. Aside from that, if someone already has that attitude, what good is it going to do me taking the time out to try and convince them otherwise? Don’t waste your time arguing with people online. 

Did you ever explore any other mediums/tools in terms of getting up?

Of course. A lot of people assume I’ve always been the sticker zine dude. I tagged and painted in the mid to late 2000’s, mostly in and around Sacramento. Not terrible but not amazing either. If you put a can of paint in my hand, I’d be able to do something with it and not look like a jerk. Of all the mediums at hand, I always felt the most confident about my rollers, enjoying a level of control that just wasn’t there for me with markers or paint cans. At the end of the day, I didn’t feel like I’d be contributing anything new to the game from a painting perspective. I felt it was better to focus on talents where I excelled.

I recently connected with Restitution Press here in LA who’s showing me the ins and outs of screen printing. It’s an underappreciated medium but understandable once you get an idea of the production process and facilities required to start cranking posters out, not to mention running around with a bucket of glue and plastering them to walls. Ultimately, I hope what the two if us have planned will be received well and encourage more people out there to give it a shot. 

How was visiting Japan? What was the sticker/graffiti culture like there when you visited? What’s your next big travel plan?

Japan is great. Every time I go it feels like I’m visiting for the first time. There’s the quality of life perks there you would never see in most major American cities. The culture, architecture, consumer goods, food, art, all of it combined creates a feeling like you’re on another planet. 

You can step into buildings or alleyways that are their own little self-contained communities. “Worlds within worlds.” 

Everything is designed so well over there you want to bring home everything as a souvenir. Good food is everywhere, even the convenience stores like 711 and Lawson Station sell stuff that wouldn’t look out of place in the grab-n-go section at Whole Foods. Take the time to walk the neighborhoods where there’s not thousands of cars parked everywhere which lends to a much more appealing urban landscape. 

Graffiti in Japan, I’ve always seen it as more focused on tags and stickers. I come across pockets of fill-ins, pieces, and murals, certainly enough to meet my photography needs but given the amount of other cool stuff to flick over there, you don’t need a ton of graffiti to make a worthwhile zine. Since the 2020 Olympics, Tokyo has been thoroughly cleansed of most forms of graffiti but if writers are known for anything it’s their tenacity. Despite the crackdowns and increased surveillance, people are still going to find ways to get up. And there’s other cities like Osaka where it’s a bit more widespread.

I’m making 2024 the year to diversify my travel log. Some countries on my list include South Korea, Thailand, Vietnam. I follow some people on IG living out in Southeast Asia and they make it look like a street photography paradise and all-around exciting region to visit. Everything I see coming out of NYC right now is wild, lot of interesting things coming down out of the Pacific Northwest, I’m certainly not starved for choice in terms of good photo destinations.

How many photography zines have you printed so far? When you’re producing them how do you choose what to put into them? What kind of layout designs do you enjoy utilizing the most? 

Over the years I’m published 20+ zines and booklets of varying length and content types. The earlier editions had a heavy LifeSucksDie influence, mostly collage-style layouts. I took collages as far as they could go and then eventually started to grow out of that visual orientation. Done right collages can be very effective but often they’re just too disorganized and visually exhausting to look at.

Content-wise, I’ve always been drawn to streetside tagging, fill-ins, illegal pieces, suicide spots, rollers, etc. The execution is so raw, you feel the adrenaline that goes into everything. This style of graffiti leaves a bit of someone’s soul in every mark they make. Not to say piecing and mural work isn’t infused with an artist’s energy but it’s an altogether different vibe as opposed to graffiti being done with permission.  

A hallmark of my content is I always try to capture people in my photos. This started in 2015 on a trip to NYC and with millions of people within such a small area, I had people constantly walking into my shots. At first it was an annoyance, but when I got back to my hotel and reviewed the first day’s photos, I was struck as how their presence added to the overall image. By the end of my trip, I had made it an integral part of my photo technique, one that would continue to evolve over time.

People are a potent reminder that graffiti doesn’t exist in a vacuum, it’s very much a permanent part of our daily environment. When I capture the right individual, in the right clothes, at just the right moment, all in front of the right graffiti, it feels like you’re scoring a touchdown. If there’s no one around, I’ll frame the shot further out to take in more of the surrounding environment whether that’s a utility box, a pile of trash, a parked vehicle, even minor environmental elements like a couple discarded beer boxes make for a richer visual dynamic. 

These days I’m about presenting a focused group of high-quality photos in a gallery-style, the very thing I consciously avoided when I first started making booklets. As far as my favorite layout types, I prefer the big, four-photo spreads the best. I group them by themes which can be as direct as specific individuals, crews, or styles of graffiti or aligning them more subtlety like by color, surface type, time of day. The big multi-photo grids are a lot of fun to make too although a huge pain in the ass to align correctly. Grids give me an opportunity to use photos that might not work in a larger format but look incredible when grouped together and I often hide some nice eater eggs within them.

What’s the craziest response you’ve gotten for putting up a sticker? Any funny stories?

I’ve never really been hassled too much for putting up stickers. I’m low key and avoid drawing attention to myself. Being on a bike works best as the mobility allows you to dip super quick if needed. One time I was putting eggshells up on a crosswalk signal box in NYCs Lower East Side and this random Larry David-looking dude started yelling “THAT’S ILLEGAL!” over and over at me from his car when. He stalked me for a block, “THAT’S ILLEGAL! WHAT YOU’RE DOING IS ILLEGAL! STOP VANDALIZING MY CITY! THAT’S ILLEGAL!” Since it was a one-way street, I just turned and headed back the way I came, and he kept it up until I was out of sight. Honestly surprised he didn’t get out and try chasing me on foot. Outside of rare instances like that, mostly people want to know if the stickers are for a band or clothing company then ask if they can have some.  

Thanks again for taking the time to do this interview. Where is the best place for people to find you on social media? Any shout-outs you’d like to give?

Really appreciate this opportunity. You can find me on Instagram @zipgunforlife as well as my shop over at There’s a lot of people out there who have been very generous with their support, friendship, and loyalty over the years—you all know who you are.