Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Interview with Larry Fink

While when he works it is with the familiar speed of light, much like a snapshot, his cultural influences are deep. Larry Fink is catalogued with the esteemed ranks of Robert Frank, Diane Arbus and Garry Winogrand. He first picked up the camera at the age of thirteen. He found that taking pictures relaxed the inhibitions of introduction, making social interactions a thing of ease. Amid the crowd, rather than outside it, Fink is not a voyeur, but rather his work speaks a visual vernacular. The results of his tutelage with Lisette Model is that his pictures tend to expose the flaws in the polished façades we all present in the public arena. Fink's images often display the sensitive core of interpersonal-relationships, prevalent despite social posturing, whether mingled among unctuous characters at a high-society benefit or a down-home potluck setting of family.

Editorially, Larry Fink has been a regular contributor to Condé Nast and Vanity Fair, and has worked for the The New Yorker, GQ, and The New York Times Magazine. In May, 1997 he won the SPD gold medal with Dennis Freedman at W Magazine for his story looking at the world behind the scenes at fashion shows. His advertising portfolio includes campaigns for Cunard, Chivas Regal, Smirnoff, Godiva, Nike, Adidas, Baccardi, W Hotels, MasterCard and Bank of New York. His 9 books float iconically within the visual world as examples of the wedding between heart, eye and mind. He has had major museum shows across the world and has been a professor of photography at Bard College, working with Stephen Shore for 18 years, and within his passion for teaching for now 44 years. He is a constant and generous perpetuator of the life of the eye within the soul of the young.

Looking at your work with people at parties and events, you seem to disappear. Being a big man, how do you and your camera manage to become invisible in such close proximity to your subjects? 
Simple, I'm not a spy. I'm friendly and I care about people and shoot with honest intentions. People generally trust me.         

Do you consider these photographs to be portraits or do they serve some other function? 
They are portraits in action, but they serve so many functions that it would be encyclopedic to begin the journey. Plus it’s a question that you can ask each moment and the answer will change.

Much of your work seems to expose those rare intimate moments present in an otherwise public and theatrical arena. What is it exactly about the celebrity world that intrigues you?
The simple fact that these icons are simply people and go through much of the same sensations and emotions that we all do, plus some of their own from the specific context which is endemic to the star lit ambition of their lives. They are no more or no less than you or I.

Do people always know you are taking their picture?
Yes and no. They can feel my presence in their vector but they can’t know when I will respond. I am very fast and I might add singular. I don’t shoot a lot.... Except in advertising where the criteria is so specific to literal cast but always emotionally vague.

Which is the one iconic image you wish you had taken?
I have no larceny within me. The cultural property of the world is not to be auctioned off to silly desires of personnel destiny.

Your project “Instantaneous” seems to enter a new realm of performance, can you tell us more about it? 
Instantaneous is a shooting star, and as it disappears it reappears. It is not a project as such it is a life of milking the moment for its deeper worth.

If you had the chance to photograph anyone living or dead, who would it be? 
The leaders of the Republican conspiracy in present America. I would do them no favors.

You have published some cult / classic photography books. What are the books you would have done but didn’t happen and why? Are you thinking / working on new titles?
Right now books are in jeopardy as is culture generally... The rapid truths of the internet are advancing... The sliding cultural mediocrity is on the march and capitalism is the winner in the losers parade of the soulless automatons. More practically spoken, the market for niche books is imperiled and there are many titles on my desk which will have to wait for the next river and tide in order to float.

Photography is in an interesting phase, the medium and its consumption / production changing almost daily. Do you have a vision for where it's going?
Where it is going is where it will go..... I don’t take wagers on things that are out of my control............ I’m a small morsel in the big stew..... Let's eat the future.

How do you enjoy spending your time when you are not taking photographs?
Playing piano, farm work… being with Martha... Anything to do with good music and movies.

Can you tell us of any funny or bizarre moments that happened during one of your shoots? 
Stories are to be told at midnight. Come see me when it is dark.

If you were given one last roll of film to use, what would you shoot with it?
My digital camera and my computer.

Who or what has been your biggest influence? 
Max the Dog.

What has been your greatest creative achievement? 
To live as long as I have.

What are you excited about right now? 
Right now.

What do you dream?  And why do you take photographs?
I dream about jazz bands and tunafish..... Drum rolls and corn flake pie..... Sweet potato shake and naked bears..............  Hazy Sundays and ice floats in the summer morning.... 

I photograph because I live. I want to contribute that passion of living to posterity in the best way I can.


Who is your favourite photographer at the moment?
Dani Bogenhagen

What advice do you have for young photographers?
If you are smitten with obsession then you will survive and the world will be larger for it... If not, you might simply make a living or simply go broke.

See more of Larry Fink's work online

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