Le Journal de la Photographie — the west coast Issue April 2013 —
From L.A. with Love — featuring —
Lise sarfati by Elizabeth Avedon — David Fahey by Nicholas Fahey Chris Pichler, PHILlIP DIXON & greg gorman by Jeff Dunas Peter Basch by Eric Kroll — John Matkowsky by Andy Romanoff Michael Whalen by PETER C. JONES
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Le Journal is Yours!
omorrow, Paris Photo will open in Los Angeles. We decided to devote an entire week of Le Journal de la Photographie not only to the event, but also to photography all along the West Coast. Why? First, this is the most important event of its kind to be held in Los Angeles. Second, the photographic history of the region, despite boldface names like Edward Weston, Ansel Adams and Ed Ruscha, remains relatively unexplored. And third, with Getty Communications in Seattle (the only photo agency that’s doing fine), publishing houses like Taschen and Twin Palms, and the museums and galleries of Tucson, Santa Fe and Denver, the Western United States has some of the country’s most vibrant photo scenes. Photography was the last individual artistic adventure: photographers, collectors and curators were the cowboys of the art world. And they’re all right here: Michael Wilson, one of the world’s biggest collectors and the producer of James Bond; Manfred Heiting, who, since selling his collection of prints, has amassed the world’s largest collection of photo books; Benedikt Taschen, who revolutionized the world of publishing; David Fahey, Robert Fraenkel, Greg Gorman, a talented photographer and wine connoisseur; Phillip Dixon, one of the few heirs to Jack Kerouac and Lawrence Ferlinghetti; and Jeff Dunas. Everyone on this list continues to explore new territories of photography and experiment with new approaches. One day in September 1996, I found myself north of San Francisco, in Santa Rosa near Napa Valley, at the home of Hansel Mieth. Hansel was a tiny woman, about 4’6”, and one of the greatest photojournalists of our time, although today she has been forgotten. She had moved there forty-five years before with her husband, Otto Hagel, in memory of Jack London. She lived alone on a small ranch, ten miles from her closest neighbor. Over the course of six hours, she spoke about the twenty years she spent at Life magazine, the weekend hunting parties on her property with Gary Cooper and his gang of Hollywood friends and directors, and how her home was used for the passionate, adulterous getaways of Robert Capa and Ingrid Bergman. Freedom, nonchalance, the feeling that anything can happen at any moment — This was the West Coast then and still is today. This special edition of Le Journal de la Photographie, published digitally and on paper, was realized by our Art Director Magnus Naddermier, and made possible with the help of Peter C. Jones, Elizabeth Avedon, Weston Naef, Jeff Dunas, Nicholas Fahey, Andy Romanoff and Eric Kroll. We would also like to thank Damien Thomas, Emma Loos of Paris Photo L.A. (Reed Production) and Gilles Decamps, who gathered all of the material. Jean-Jacques Naudet Editor-in-Chief
Jean-Jacques Naudet Editor-in-Chief
Alex Kummerman President and Founder
Magnus Naddermier Art Director
advertising & partnership
Ericka Weidmann Editorial Manager
Béatrice Dupire Managing Publisher North America firstname.lastname@example.org
Juliette Deschodt Special projects and portfolios Xavier Derache Editorial assistant Frédéric Bourret Responsible for Agenda
Jeanne Alechinsky Advertising, France jeanne@lejounraldela– photographie.com
Greg Hermann Translator English Michaël Verger Translator French
Along with this first print initiative comes another great news which we have been working on for almost a year: A new and updated version of our website. Built around an enhanced user experience and even higher coverage of the photographic news worldwide, our new website simplifies the daily updates and will propose new features such as an international photographic Agenda covering all majors events held in museums, art galleries and festivals. Thanks to our team members in Europe, North America but also in South America, India and China our challenge is to provide our readers with the best photographic information, but as well to develop strategic and specific topics such as women involved in photography. This expensive and time consuming transformation is the result of great feedback and support from our readers.
Sylvie Rebbot Editorial secretary (English) Boris Meyer Website developer Damien Robert Referrer contributing editors – united states – Elizabeth Avedon, Laurence Cornet, Jonas Cuénin, Gilles Decamps, Virginie DrujonKippelen, John Loengar, Paul Melcher, Miss Rosen, Stéphanie de Rougé – south america – Céline Chevallier
From day one we decided that Le Journal de la Photographie should be free to better promote the photographic work we cover. As we grow our expenses grow. In order to continue to offer our readers free and high quality content in both French and English we decided to ask our readers for their financial support. We created ’Les Amis du Journal’ to offer our readers to contribute financially while allowing them to publish their profile with links to their own websites for a better exposure. Thus we will share our massive audience with ’Les Amis du Journal’ who helped us financially. This new and contemporary approach of sponsoring creates a way to make Le Journal de la Photographie yours. If you are interested in making a small contribution in amount, but an important financial support and to become ’Un Ami du Journal’, the time has now come. We would love to have you on the list of our first friends.
– united kingdom – Anna-Maria Pfab – france – Pauline Auzou, Molly Benn, Wilfrid Estève, Séverine Morel, Yan Morvan (photographer), Patricia Nagy, Bernard Perrine, Michel Philippot, Michel Puech, Miriam Rosen, Antoine Soubrier – belgium – Matthieu Wolmark – germany – Eva Gravayat – asia – Eliseo Barbàra – china – Marine Cabos – india – Sybile Girault – australia – Alison Stieven-Taylor
Cover by Lise Sarfati Christine #45 Pioneertown, CA 2008 © Lise Sarfati Courtesy of Rose Gallery, L.A. and Brancolini Grimaldi, London
e Journal de la Photographie is a digital platform that focus on highly qualitative daily selection of photographic news worldwide. We started this project a bit more than two years ago, with a dream that now came true. Today we partner with major museums, galleries, art collectors, and obviously major and emerging photographers in Fine Art, Fashion and Photo Journalism on a daily basis to inform and share with readers the latest photographic news worldwide in both French and English. Every week we develop exclusive portfolios with artists selected by influential curators, writers and museum directors. Our top ranking among the best photo sites worldwide, is the result of hard work by our team and important guidance and financial investments by the partners of Le Journal de la Photographie: Alex Kummerman, JeanJacques Naudet and Magnus Naddermier.
Le Journal de la Photographie 3 rue Primo Levi, 75013 Paris, France Tel + 33 1 43 46 15 61 email@example.com www.lejournaldelaphotographie.com facebook www.facebook.com/ lejournaldelaphotographie twitter @Journal_Photo
Last but not least, and for a larger scale support, we created an offering for international brands. This almost unique opportunity will allow a few brands to support an entire section of our editorial content as again we share our visibility and traction in the niche with our highly respected voice in the photography market and community. If this rings a bell and gives you some ideas, we would love to meet with you, as we have traveled to Los Angeles on this month of April 2013 to meet with some brands and still have a few opportunities and many ideas on how we can built with your brand a powerful and durable partnership. Alex Kummerman President and Founder firstname.lastname@example.org
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Content Le Journal de la Photographie — the west coast Issue April 2013 —
4 Lise Sarfati Anti-Heroines
14 Phillip Dixon between genius and hermit
Elizabeth Avedon talks to french-born photographer Lise Sarfati about her career and her relish to be a foreigner in the United States, where she has worked and lived since 2003.
Phillip Dixon opens the door to his fabled house in Venice Beach, California and talk us through his checkered career – from porn to Harper’s Bazaar... Text & photo by Jeff Dunas
7 Michael Whalen in sequence Important pictures are always part of a process. The sequence leading up to the key image is often as important as the image itself says Peter C. Jones and introduces us to Michael Whalen who understood this before anyone else.
18 Out of the drkrm into the light
David Fahey Chris Makos and Andy Warhol, Los Angeles, November, 1981
8 Chris Pichler the art book maverick
13 David Fahey COMMENTS ON PORTRAITURE L.A. Gallery owner David Fahey shares his personal view on taking photographs.
I love the dark stuff, I love black and white films, dark prints, …my sensibilities seem to go there, says masterprinter and drkrm founder John Matkowsky. Text & photo by Andy Romanoff
20 Greg Gorman A Rambling Conversation
Nazraeli has published over 400 titles in the 25 years Chris Pichler has been exercising his vision for photo books. Jeff Dunas tried to figure out what makes his publishing house so different from others.
After being in the top of the foodchain of celebrity photography for so many years, Greg Gorman now shares his time between his two passions: teaching photography and making wine. Text & photo by Jeff Dunas
12 Nicholas Fahey On david Fahey
23 The Peter Basch Archive
Nicholas Fahey, the son of the famous gallerist reflects on his fathers’ work.
Under the lead of Eric Kroll we dive into the archives of Peter Basch. Please meet Brigitte Bardot, Catherine Deneuve and a teenage Lauren Hutton...
Jeff Dunas Chris Pichler, Santa Monica, California, January 17, 2013
Greg Gorman Jeff Koons, Los Angeles, 1988
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Lise F Sarfati Antiheroines Elizabeth Avedon talks to french-born photographer Lise Sarfati about her career and her relish to be a foreigner in the United States, where she has worked and lived since 2003. Text by Elizabeth Avedon
rench-born Lise Sarfati has lived and worked in the United States since 2003. She produced six important series of photographs in America, each followed by major exhibitions. They include The New Life (2003), Austin, Texas (2008), She (2005-2009), Immaculate (2006-2007), Sloane (2009), and On Hollywood (2010). Two exhibitions of her third series, She, were at Brancolini Grimaldi in London and the Rose Gallery in Los Angeles last spring and On Hollywood was shown at Yossi Milo in New York. Sarfati’s monograph, She, published by Twin Palms, was exhibited at ParisPhoto 2012. She was a finalist for the Photo Book of the Year Award organized by Aperture Foundation and Paris Photo. The hardcover book includes an introductory essay by Quentin Bajac, Chief Curator of Photography at the Museum of Modern Art, New York. Publisher Jack Woody (Twin Palms) confided about Sarfati’s work, ’When I look at the women in her photographs I suspect in some way they are all selfportraits. Lise sees in these women an incredible endurance, confronting their circumstances across the surfaces of the indifferent western landscape they have come to occupy.’ I spoke with Lise recently while she was preparing her work for the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris exhibition. Elizabeth Avedon: What were your earliest photographs and influences? Lise Sarfati: When I was 13 years
Lise Sarfati Gina #01 Emeryville, CA 2007 All Photographs © Lise Sarfati Courtesy of Rose Gallery, L.A. and Brancolini Grimaldi, London
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old, my mother would take me with her when she visited elderly women in their big, old apartments in Nice. The sight of these women made me anxious so I turned these visits into a game. I borrowed a 6x6 camera from my sister and would take a portrait of the old women and their apartment while my mother talked with them. I already had a serial, conceptual approach. Photography allowed me to create a fixed image that removed me from reality and allowed me to have a different relationship with the world. When the women died, my mother would go back to their apartments and
I would photograph the empty rooms. My second subject was the Promenade des Anglais in Nice, a much more linear approach while following the promenade. My father made Super 8 Kodachrome films, which I loved. I remember being very sensitive to the emotion provoked by the colors, the sequences. My mother was a professor of literature. Her main job was writing and literary criticism. At 15, my mother gave me the Diane Arbus monograph published by Editions du Chêne. We lived on top of Roman ruins. The vegetation in the garden where we lived, the light in Nice which is very harsh, the
combined vision of baroque beauty and the decomposition of individuals, I wonder if the chemistry between the setting, the old people, adolescents and the Italian border wasn’t some kind of explosion. Photography did not really exist at the time; we did not get a daily stream of photographs. We would only find books in black and white published by Robert Delpire or Les Editions du Chêne, like Stieglitz, Robert Frank, CartierBresson. Photography appeared as an exception, a mystery. EA: Your work has a cinematic quality to it sometimes. Where did you
Lise Sarfati Sloane #07 Oakland, CA 2007
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Lise Sarfati Gina #12 Oakland, CA 2009
study and how did your Fine Art career begin? LS: I completed a Masters in Russian at the Sorbonne, in Paris. I learned to photograph by myself, reading books and through my professional practice at the Académie des Beaux-Arts. I studied film on my own, if you can call it studying, by going to see movies like those by Dziga Vertov, Jean Eustache, Robert Bresson, Pier Paolo Pasolini, Alain Resnais. I spent a year in Aix en Provence and worked in a gallery that only exhibited photography. Then I was hired by the Académie des Beaux-Arts in Paris (Institut de France) and I did all the photographs for their exhibit catalogues. I reproduced master paintings by Monet, Dali and others. I spoke Russian. I wanted to experience the country’s disruption up close and I moved there in the 1990’s. I was fascinated by Russia and the revolutionary periods, particularly the 1920s, the avantgarde and their history. My first show was at the Centre National de la Photographie (CNP) in Paris and the Musée Nicéphore Niepce in Châlon sur Saône, (France). I received the Villa Medicis and Niepce awards for my work on Russia. The Niepce Prize came with an exhibit at the CNP, the equivalent of the Jeu de Paume today. But the real catalyst was The New Life in 2003. I moved to the United States to create The New Life in 2003. I relished the feeling of being a foreigner. My first galleries were Yossi Milo Gallery (New York) and Rose Gallery (Los Angeles) where I showed The New Life. EA: What was your intention behind your series, She?
LS: The ordinary and the singular. Universality. Anti-heroines. Projections and situations. In my last series in Russia, there were a lot of adolescent characters and I was already working on landscape. I learned the relationship with landscape in Russia , where it is very strong since man is dominated by nature. Man is insignificant. My series The New Life and She reinforced this approach. The adolescent in The New Life or the sisters in She are subterranean beings, moles through which narration exists like in a novel. The women in She have a vaporous relationship with their surrounding, their house, their streets, and their landscapes. They are shut in their neurotic attitude from where it is difficult to perceive the outside world. My intention was to show a bit of the futility of our daily life, the simplicity of situations and our movements in our environment and to oppose this simplicity to another field: that of interiority, emotion, psychological relationships. It is to receive the emotion (of the 4 women) and to mix them with mine. I also had autobiographical elements that allowed me to situate myself emotionally: I have three sisters. My point of view was not generic but I wanted to be immersed in a particular story between four women from the same family. This story had to have a generational dimension. While The New Life recounts the feelings of adolescence and the attraction to the void, She evokes a sense of identity, a mirror. In The New Life the characters spoke to each other as one. They projected a profound melancholia. In She Christine
and Gina are older, about 40 years of age, while Sloane and Sasha are younger, around 20. They are all sisters. Christine, the mother is the axis of this construction, the only woman who tries to satisfy her dreams. At first married to a Jehovah’s Witness in Arizona, she leaves her husband and her two daughters to live a fully liberated sexual life and becomes a dominatrix on the west coast. Then, she projects herself into a new dream: to become a rock star. Gina cultivates a masculine/feminine sexual ambiguity and wears a black wig to look like her sister Christine. Sloane, Christine’s daughter, changes her appearance constantly going from a blond wig to discolored hair. She has been a nanny for two years. Sasha, Sloane’s sister, is perpetually depressed, enclosed in her cocoon and inclined to melancholia. I was not interested in these biographical details when I decided to do the series. I was interested in merging two approaches: that of the ordinary and the singular. The classic image of the mother is that of a woman drowned by the love for her little one. In She however, the mother, the daughter, the sister and the other sister can be rivals or enemies, competitors or indifferent. We are in a small provincial town in the USA, downtown Oakland, where there are beautiful Victorian Mansions in the ghetto, with magnificent chimneys and dining rooms. These sisters did not make it easy which made them alive and attractive. The photographs and artifacts in the rooms are especially interesting. The environment is an important element. Christine is
photographed in Oakland in the ghetto in a house she shares with a roommate. We meet Sloane in the ghetto in Oakland in the house of a friend of her mother’s. All these houses look alike with their wooden windows and their chimneys. They are the interiors of Hopper paintings. We see Gina coming out of a grocery store, these are environments linked to the 1970s. The only images of projection that are out of the ordinary are those of Christine in the desert. EA: How do you perceive your use of color in your work? LS: I have an inner sense of color. I do not even think about it. I do believe color gives a special meaning to my work. The color gives balance or imbalance to an image or sets a mood if the image is monochrome. I worked with film stock that no longer exists (Kodachrome 64), the first color film used for Hollywood movies in the 1940s. All the photographs were shot in natural light without any outside source. EA: How did you meet Twin Palms publisher Jack Woody? LS: I met Jack through David Stretell who showed him my series The New Life that Twin Palms published in 2005. Jack is a complex and mysterious character. I very much admire his work and his publications. Also, everything he initiated; Roni Horn, Philip-Lorca diCorcia, Eggleston, Mapplethorpe, Jean Luc Mylayne...now Ryan McGinley and Antonio Lopez. He built his collection by mixing known and unknown artists with complete freedom and according to his beliefs. It is a work of art in itself, like a private collection. Jack links the books he publishes to his life and his aspirations. And knowing his books, we wander from a feeling of total freedom to a permanent sentiment of immaturity, melancholia, asserted sexuality mingled with an obsession with death. EA: What has been your experience working on books? LS: I made The New Life with Twin Palms and the book was released very quickly. I was lucky. Everything flowed. I think we completed the whole project in 4 months. I think with She it is a bit longer. One doesn’t realize it, but a book is like a war machine. EA: Tell me about your upcoming retrospective at the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris in 2014. LS: The curator is Anne Biroleau. The exhibition will be centered on my recent work in the USA. It will be a very important show with several series. It is hard to say how it came about. I always showed my work to Anne Biroleau who accepted to enter my universe and open up to my work. I also very much admire her work as a curator. Lise Sarfati On Hollywood and She at Rose Gallery, Booth 11, Paris Photo LA. The exhibition at Bibliothèque Nationale de France in Paris opens in November 2014
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Michael Whalen In Sequence important pictures are always part of a process. the sequence leading up to the key image is often as important as the image itself says Peter c. Jones and introduces us to Michael Whalen who understood this before anyone else.
West Coast Issue
espite his deep immersion in the legal world of trusts and estates, Michael Whalen has consistently shunned the conventional. One would expect his A-List clients, but he has also represented Ansel Adams and Bettie Page. He serves on the Herb Ritts Foundation Board and is a fixture at Hugh Hefner’s notorious Midsummer Night’s Dream Party. So, it is no surprise that this dashing iconoclast would shun a greatesthits, signature collection and would approach the field in a way that is entirely new. Whalen intuitively understood that any important picture was almost always part of a complex intellectual process and that the entire sequence leading up to a key image could be as important as the image itself.
Greg Gorman Above Jeff Koons, Los Angeles 1988 Below Classic portraits of Leonardo di Caprio and bottom Michael Jackson
Whalen took one look at a unique, matched set of Josef Breitenbach’s nine portraits of James Joyce in Paris on July 5, 1937, spotted the most famous image, and to the dealer’s delight, immediately bought the complete sequence. The A-List of photographers Whalen has collected in sequence is impressive: Richard Avedon, Edouard Baldus, Harry Callahan, Ralston Crawford, Baron DeMeyer, Elliott Erwitt, Frederick Evans, Leonard Freed, Andre Kertesz, Gustave LeGray, Helen Levitt, Duane Michals, Tina Modotti, Lisette Model, Eadweard Muybridge, Irving Penn, Aleksandr Rodchenko, Milton Rogovin, Eric Salomon, Paul Strand, Weegee, Edward Weston and sixty-eight more.
Aleksandr Rodchenko Wahlen Collection
Curator Dennis Reed wrote about Michael Whalen’s compulsion to collect: ’Imagine adding an extra requirement in your quest to collect, such as, you must find
not a single work by a photographer, but each and every variation of a particular photographic session. This might be relatively easy if the artist produced the work as a series and issued them as a complete group. But what if the artist produced several versions of a work and sold them separately over the years? How do you find them? How do you know when you have found them all? How long might it take to reassemble them? It could be a daunting task. Col-
lecting all of the images from single photography sessions is exactly the challenge that Michael R. Whalen has set for himself.’ So what do we find out when a photographer’s complex intellectual process is revealed? We learn that photographers are much smarter than we ever imagined and that the great photographs we all admire are no accident. And it took Michael Whalen to prove it to us. Peter C. Jones
Elliott Erwitt Dog Sequence Neuilly, Paris, France, 1952 Wahlen Collection
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Chris Pichler the art book maverick Nazraeli has published over 400 titles in the 25 years Chris Pichler has been exercising his vision for photo books. Jeff Dunas sat down with the maverick and tried to figure out what makes his publishing house so different from the others. Text & photo by Jeff Dunas
rowing up in Lawrence, Kansas, the future maverick art book publisher Chris Pichler had a guardian angel named Nazraeli. By the time he was 18 years old, he knew he had but one goal, one overriding interest, one passion: Publish photography books. Later, armed with a degree in fine art and a desire to live in Europe, Pichler arrived in Germany where he got a job packing lamps in a warehouse by day, and putting together books by night. On occasions when he had only enough money to print a book, heâ€™d hand-bind them himself.
azraeli has published over 400 titles in the 25 years Chris has been exercising his vision for photo books. He doesn’t seem to realize that in fact, he’s been setting them throughout his career. He’s not keen to visit galleries and while he recognizes the value of beautiful prints, he’s not out to replicate that quality in the Nazraeli books he publishes. His vision involves unpretentious books, – where the content rules. He’s been fortunate in that his vision appeals to book and photography collectors throughout the world, and he’s been able to carve out a niche in a business littered with short-lived publishing companies that were unable to find a way to financially survive. One of the primary reasons for so many defeats is inherent in the way books have been marketed and sold. Rather than rely on 35% total sales through wholesalers and retailers who together retain at least 50% of the retail price of a book, and have the luxury of returning as many as they care to for full credit, Pichler has a list of loyal collectors and enthusiasts who buy directly from the company, allowing him to take risks on books that any book publishing company sales team would never understand and instantly reject. Playing it safe is not in Chris Pichler’s vocabulary and we photo book collectors are all the better for it. Chris can print as few as 500 copies and make a profit where the normal publishing model requires publishers to print 3,500 – 5,000 minimally. It’s a high-stakes game and Pichler is one of a precious few mavericks at the table who consistently surprises and amuses us with off-beat but marvelous books, chosen by the gut feeling and experience of one man alone, laid-out and designed by himself or in collaboration with the artist. For years we thought Nazraeli was a German company when all the sudden it turned up in Tucson, Arizona. No press releases, no publicity machine – in fact, no press nor publicity department at all! No sales force, no editorial offices, no committees to decide anything, no tedious discussions about the direction to take with each book, no deep discounts, no remainders, practically no staff. And despite this, all the other publishers and would-be publishers in the game look at Nazraeli, scratch their heads and go away more confused than ever when they try to understand its business model. The answers to these questions lie in the person of Chris Pichler alone. He knows what he likes, what he wants and how to live his life. Is he a recluse? Probably not – but he’s quiet (most of the time!) understated, has a wicked sense of humor, enjoys immensely what he does and understands above all what he doesn’t want. He doesn’t want a big company with lots of employees. He doesn’t want offices in some big city downtown. He doesn’t compete with anyone and isn’t
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interested in following anyone’s path but his own. He understands how to live. Based in a magnificent house in a quiet suburb of Portland, Oregon, where he lives with his lovely wife, Maya, he appreciates the Japanese esthetic and has recently fallen madly in love with Spanish Revival architecture. A wine & food enthusiast, he spends his time between Portland, Tokyo and his new love, the California Central Coast wine region, Paso Robles, where he recently rebuilt an unassuming house on top of a hill with a commanding view over hundreds of miles of rural California. Next came the cows and the olive orchards. His wife’s latest birthday present was a lovely heffer named Chi-Chan. That’s what you give a woman who has everything. He recently began to understand that in the same way he has been able to trust his instincts putting photographs on the printed page, he can also trust his gut feelings about putting a property on a piece of land. If he can imagine it, he can do it. His recently remodeled house in Paso is beautifully appointed, understated, well-thought out and is his secret garden of over 20 acres, smack in the middle of the old cowboy country he dreamt about back when he and his friend Nazraeli lived in Kansas. JEFF DUNAS: How do you select books for Nazraeli? CHRIS PICHLER: I don’t look at work with a pre-conceived agenda. I’m not looking for a certain kind of work. If you look at the books we’ve published over the years or even over the last six months, it’s very diverse: Michael Kenna’s landscapes or Todd Hido’s landscapes and portraits, Pulp Art Book, Daido Moriyama, Richard Misrach: It’s all over the board. I just need to feel that something’s authentic and that it has something to do with my interests at that time. For example: I was never interested in houses or anything domestic really, until 12 years ago when my wife and I moved from an apartment in the East Bay to a house in Portland. Without even thinking about it really, I just happened to publish John Divola’s Isolated Houses, that we published as we were moving and which is one of my all-time favorite titles, and Todd Hido’s book, House Hunting. I don’t know if that’s a total coincidence or if looking at these pictures prodded us in the direction of actually wanting to have a house…? Maybe actually looking for a house opened me to work that was somehow related to that? It’s basically chance, or coincidence, and I absolutely depend on chance in everything. JD: So, how does the work you publish filter up to you? Friends of Friends? CP: That’s fairly common. It’s pretty small, the photography book publishing world. If I publish someone’s work and they know someone else that I might already know about, for example, that’s one way we get connected. Nazraeli get
Six by Six (Set Three) included: William Christenberry House Near Akron Eduardo del Valle & Mirta Gómez On View John Divola LAX NAZ: Los Angeles International Airport Noise Abatement Zone (Exterior Views), 1975 Daido Moriyama Fishnet Karin Apollonia Müller Timber Cove Carrie Mae Weems Slow Fade to Black
asked on a daily basis what its submission policy is and we have to say that we don’t accept unsolicited proposals. The one time each year that I look at work is at the Palm Springs Photo Festival. JD: Thank you…. ! CP: It’s true. I adore the Palm Springs Photo Festival. That’s no secret. It’s a great forum for seeing work because I’m there, enjoying good friends and good weather in April. I’m there as a reviewer. I have maybe 100 appointments over that week. The people that come there to show work are there specifically for that purpose. I actually really enjoy that experience because there’s no pressure on me. I feel pressure if I go out to dinner after a friend’s opening, for example, and someone at the table starts proposing their book project to me. That’s the wrong time. At the Palm Springs Photo Festival, I’m there to review work. I tell each person right at the beginning that I’m not here to find books to publish. This isn’t a scouting trip for me. That being said, when I look at photographs, I tend to see them through the lens of a book publisher. I may see a body of work that I think is incredible - very moving, but I can’t picture how it could be a book. On the other hand, I might see photographs at an exhibition, that don’t resonate with me, but in a certain format and on certain kind of paper, I feel they would make a very powerful book. I look at work with these kinds of things in mind because that’s just who I am. That takes the pressure off. I can tell someone, “I really love your work. I love it for these reasons… “ – without saying I’m going to publish it. And, still, I’ve seen five or six projects at the Palm Springs Photo Festival that I ended up publishing. JD: What role does your wife, Maya, play at Nazraeli? CP: Maya is one of the brightest people I’ve ever met and a very good objective thinker. In our personal lives or in business, she’s someone I can always talk to about an opportunity or an issue, and she’s a very good sounding-board. In her own profession, she’s an expert on Japanese photography. She’s also a director of a design firm in Tokyo for which she acts as a connection between clients including galleries, for example, and artists in Japan, the US or Europe. JD: How can Nazraeli be profitable printing so few copies of each title when other publishers need to print thousands to try to keep costs down? CP: We are not interested in seeing how many bookstores we can get our books into. We’re happy to have two, three great books stores in each major city that can sell lots of our books as opposed to lots of booksellers selling a few copies of each title. I would guess we sell 25% of our books directly which translates into 50% of our revenue. This is very unusual in publishing! I don’t publish a book just because I think I can sell a lot of copies. I am happy to publish a book if I can sell very few copies as long as it’s somewhat profitable. We have a very broad base; individual customers, institutions all over the U.S. and in many other
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countries as well who would rather call us on the phone and talk about our new books, then buy from us rather than buy on Amazon. This way we have a direct connection with many, many people who share similar interests with us. JD: By not following trends, you’ve ended up setting a number of them. CP: When someone sells a dog book and sells a zillion copies, lots of others will publish dog books. When those don’t sell, it’s a bad feeling. When we publish a book and it doesn’t sell well, it’s not a bad feeling. It’s still a book that I believe in and it will still find its audience at some point. I’m not interested in chasing moving targets. JD: Let’s talk about your book design philosophy. Nazraeli books have a distinctive look about them, simple, unpretentious. There’s an esthetic about your books. By stripping everything away, paring things down, and being consistent in that regard, Nazraeli books have become distinctive and widely imitated. You don’t let designers get loud and out of hand. Nazraeli books don’t look like Fabian Baron designed them. The designers need to get out of the way. CP: Everything is designed. Your shirt is designed. Your tape recorder is designed. When it comes to photographic books, ink on paper, representing a photograph, is so beautiful to my eyes, I don’t want to throw things on the paper that are going to compete with that. That doesn’t mean that the book should be like a portfolio. It has to have some feeling, some emotion or some sense to us but that comes through by really small decisions like paper, texture and the format, binding, and first and foremost, the work itself. People understand the subtle things we do that add to the emotional response, without disturbing the experience. JD: Who were your influences at the beginning? CP: Herb Alpert was a major influence!! Really…! Jack Woody at Twelvetrees influenced me a great deal. When I saw what Jack’s company was doing while I was in college, it took that old desire of mine of publishing books and brought it into focus. It showed me there is a way for a human being to select work, words, stories, or even sheet music for that matter, and put them together into a package, have them printed and bound, that you could sell without needing a huge staff and loads of money to do it. I think Jack Woody did pave the way and I always give him credit for that. JD: Earlier in your life – what was the pivotal moment that led you to want to publish books? CP: When I was in the eighth grade, my family moved to Hutchinson, Kansas. When I was a kid vaguely interested in art and music, very interested in girls and hanging out… I wasn’t really very ambitious. My father traveled a lot on business and had the wisdom to take me with him on trips, thinking it was more enlightening for me to see new places, far away from what I was used to, than to
spend another Wednesday or Thursday in my high school in Kansas. One time he took me on a trip to Phoenix, Arizona and since I’ve always loved hot weather, it was great. While he was in meetings, I wandered around the Arizona State University campus, realizing in about a minute that this was where I was going to attend college! While I was wandering around the campus, I went into a little building where there was an exhibition of photographs, mostly collages, by Jack Stuler which just completely overwhelmed me. At that moment I decided I’d study photography and that Jack was gong to be one of my teachers. In my junior year at Arizona State, I attended Salzburg College in Austria. It was my first time in Europe and I loved it. They had a very strong photography program there. During that year I was encouraged to travel a lot, which I did. I spent time in Germany, Italy and Greece. After graduating Arizona State, I got a job washing dishes in a restaurant and saved up enough money to get back to Greece. By this time I knew I wanted to be a publisher but didn’t want to continue to graduate school, so with my bachelors of Fine Arts Degree, as I was in no condition to move to New York and start knocking on publisher’s doors, (I had no idea really what publishing entailed), I wanted to go somewhere far away, where it was warm, and since I liked Greece, I moved to Athens. I ended up in Munich several months later, stayed at a friend’s house in the country and eventually I began publishing, first, photo postcards and then eventually books, having formed a German company. I contacted Jack Stuler and told him I really wanted to publish a book of his work. That was the first book I ever published. It took me forever. JD: How many titles do you currently publish a year? CP: Now, about 30 titles a year. We really don’t care about seasons. It’s not that difficult. In two of our series, the One Picture books has 8 per year [a collection of small format books that each contain a signed print] and the Six by Six series is either 6 or 12 books a year. That’s already 20 books. JD: Describe the Six by Six series. CP: About four or five years ago, when banks started collapsing, like every business owner, I had to think “what should I be doing? How should I be reacting to this economy?” I took a lot of walks at night thinking about…. should I publish inexpensive recession books and sell them for $10 or should I do the opposite and just circle the wagons and aim for the bulls eye? Pull the stops out: So over six months, I developed the idea for this series. There would be 36 titles, work from very celebrated artists. The somewhat flexible rules dictated that the photographer’s work had to be in certain collections, have strong track records and collector bases. We publish 100 numbered and signed copies of each book in the series. Each contains a signed, original print. They are for people who are very serious about collecting who would agree
to buy 36 books over the next 3 years for a total of $18000. JD: So you picked the core of the depression to come up with the most expensive book project in history. CP: The economic crises really was the impetus for it. Initially the price was $500 per book. Currently the set is selling for $36,000 and it’s nearly sold out. These are people or institutions that I have had long-term relationships with. They took a leap of faith. It’s a great value but it’s a lot of money too. I’m moved that certain individuals or institutions trusted us enough to say, “We will do this.” JD: What’s it like being Chris Pichler? CP: It’s fun because I know so many great people that I enjoy spending time with. There are so many interesting places to visit, and things to do. I think it’s great to be anybody who is fortunate to have interests that occupy them and good friends they can hang out with. JD: Congratulations Chris – you have built a great list, a great reputation and a great, pioneering photo-book company that has done a lot to make the names of a lot of photographers. See you in Paso..! Interview made in Santa Monica, California, January 17, 2013
”I don’t publish a book just because I think I can sell a lot of copies. I am happy to publish a book if I can sell very few copies as long as it’s somewhat profitable”.
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Nicholas Fahey on David Fahey The son of the famous gallerist reflects on his fathers’ work.
When you are a child you assume your parents are very important professionals without really understanding what they do in their business lives. As a child I did not understand the value of art. I knew gold had a predetermined worth but I did not understand the value of art – not culturally, monetarily, or personally. I knew that it had value because my father’s business was to sell art but I did not know how that came to be.
David Fahey Bruce Weber II Los Angeles November, 2005
David Fahey, my father, the son of a road builder, moved to Lynwood, California at the age of twelve with his three siblings. Without a lot of money in the family he found himself working full time at a convenience store at the age of fourteen. He kept that job through high school. If asked about those days he will tell you about attempted robberies at the store and his weekends spent at late night folk and jazz clubs. It was during this time that he started taking photographs. After high school, he enrolled in Compton Jr. College, which was about the same time the Vietnam War was heating up. At the age of twenty he decided to take a semester off from school to make some extra money. He never thought the Draft Board would get him during that one semester – but he was wrong. He spent Woodstock in basic training. When he landed in Vietnam, he was with a
Warhol’s Interview Magazine. He also conducted lengthy interviews with photographers for the gallery’s publication, the Photo Bulletin.
couple hundred guys. Some soldiers were told to stay where they landed, but he and some others headed out to the bush. Over the next couple of days they moved into the jungle and ended up on the Cambodian border. He spent the next year in the jungle. Upon his return from overseas, he went back to college and began studying Fine Art Photography at California State University, Fullerton. He combined two of his passions, photography and music, and started photographing the musical acts at the Troubadour, bartering his prints for entry to the shows. By the time he finished his MA in Creative Photography, he had become the Director of Contemporary Photography at the G. Ray Hawkins Gallery in West Hollywood. For the next eleven years, he organized exhibitions, made artists’ portraits, and for a brief time contributed to Andy
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In 1986, as fate would have it, my father was approached by his friend and former employer, Randee Klein about starting a business venture together. Both being avid art enthusiasts and collectors, the discussion led to the formation of the Fahey/Klein Gallery.
David Fahey Sheila Metzner I, New York, March, 1986
As a child it was much easier to understand what an artist does than what my father did for a living. It was always hard trying to explain my father’s occupation to people. ’No, he is not an artist’ I would say, or, ’No, he sells other people’s pictures, not his own.’ I found myself stuck trying to explain the value of other people’s artwork. Growing up in an art environment and later receiving an art education allowed me to better understand artists and the art world. This knowledge helped me to better explain what my father did for a living. In the early years, much of the photography my father exhibited, collected and sold was new to the general public. The photographs had a value that could not easily be explained to a child. I knew my father was important in the world of photography, I could see it in the way people talked to him. It was only later that I realized that he was helping to create a market in Fine Art Photography. After I left home and went to college, I realized how much he was doing to raise the status of photography in the art world. I was proud to read everything in the photography section of my art history books and already know so much from my father’s lessons. When I started studying and practicing art I began to realize he was an artist himself. For as long as I can remember, he worked as
much at home as he did at the gallery, but whenever pressed or asked about what he was doing he would always say, ’just working on my stuff.’ I realize my father had been continuously working on his photography during much of my life, he just did not call it art. I was used to artists showing their work; but he had years of work he had never shown anyone. Before I was born, he began his Polaroid portrait series of all the artists that he exhibited at the gallery. Throughout my childhood, he made artist portraits in their environment and later compiled intense diaries that documented his life in the art world. To most people he was a champion for several of the great Fine Art photographers of the past thirty years – people like Peter Beard, Garry Winogrand, Herb Ritts, and many others. While the art world saw him mounting exhibitions, I saw his days off, Sunday and Monday, working on his journals and photographs, and also proofing and editing the many photography books to which he contributed. Over the years, photography has gained the notoriety of the Fine Art world and allowed these artists’ work to live on in private collections and museums. When he first began making his portraits, only a small group of people knew of the work of Andre Kertesz, Manuel Alvarez Bravo, or Joel-Peter Witkin. While he was exhibiting and selling their work, elevating them as serious artists, he was also looking at them as subjects. He was one of the lucky few to put them in front of the camera and let these artists experience themselves being the subject. All too often the identity of an image-maker goes unknown. His large archive of personal photography not only shows his participation in the art world it also shows his fascination with the artist
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as a personality. His relationship to these people gave him a different type of access. These are all intimate images of photographers he respects, admires and with whom he has a professional relationship. Because of the relationships he has with the photographers, it is more difficult for them to hide behind their camera when asked for a portrait. By exposing their work to the larger audience, their photographs have become prominent in the culture thus making the photographers well known. Now my father’s portraits, in turn, will make some of these photographers recognizable. My father is now reflecting back on his early portraits and starting to show friends and colleagues his portraits of many of the photographers that are important to us, the viewer. Nicholas Fahey February 15 2013
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David Fahey COMMENTS ON PORTRAITURE
L.A. Gallery owner david Fahey shares his personal view on taking photographs.
have been making photographs for the past 40 years. My subject matter has primarily been portraits of artists. These images were made during studio visits, on trips with the artists, on vacations, in our gallery, or in my informal studio in a garage behind the gallery. I have always been intrigued by artists, their images, and also how they look. In the beginning, I felt others may also be interested in how these individuals appear and present themselves in front of the camera. I set out to photograph and make an
encyclopedic record of my time in the world of Fine Art Photography. Francis Bacon said, ’chance and accident are the most fertile things at any artists’ disposal.’ Capturing a certain serendipity is an objective. Most of these portraits were made spontaneously, no assistance, no pre-conceived planning, and in most instances – very little time. I enjoy working within these perimeters. I always welcomed the challenge to capture the spirit and personality of these most unique subjects. A powerful portrait is created with cooperation and is a collaboration
David Fahey Allen Ginsberg II, Hand in the Air Los Angeles June, 1996 David Fahey Balthus and Setsuko at Home Rossinière, Switzerland June, 1998
between the subject and the photographer. Each responds to signals from the other. The ability to give and receive these signals determines the success of the sitting. The way a person stands or sits often discloses the way a person thinks, thus revealing the posture of the mind. Every time I make a picture I know this moment will not come again. There is something historical, creative, and exciting about documenting the faces of talented individual artists who in some cases change the way we think and interpret our lives. In my view, art is whatever “changes you”,
transforms your thinking, and makes you recalibrate your perception. Essentially, the portrait is just a fragment of the person but it is often the most telling part. This fragment only reveals a part of a whole which consequently can make the portrait seem mysterious – leaving us more to interpret and imagine. In my view, photographic portraits should never say everything. The less said, the more there is to be interpreted by the viewer – and said by someone else. More importantly, I primarily take portraits for the sheer pleasure of making photographs. D.F.
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s an anomaly a one-off? A contradiction to be sure. He is a cross between a genius and a hermit, leading a quiet non-conformist, reclusive sybaritic life in a home that closely resembles a well-designed, incredibly beautiful monastery in some fictional part of the world where people don’t use machines. Dixon reasons deeply into the subjects he’s interested in and comes up with original thought. He’s kind of like someone who has lived on his own, on his own path and when you suddenly take him into the real world, all he sees is decay and insanity. ’Don’t they get it?’ This hasn’t always made things easy for him when he enters the world inhabited by everyone else. He simply chooses not to be part of the rest of the world. He’s never completely wrong – there’s Dixonian logic to most everything he says and he lives exactly according to his own prescription. He’s off the wall, to be sure, yet when you’re with him, you always leave wondering if perhaps he’s got it right and we all have it wrong. We only go around once and maybe his way makes sense if you really think about what he’s saying. He has a way of stripping away the bullshit. He’s unabashedly politically incorrect. No qualms about it whatsoever. When he’s encountered obstacles in his life he reacts like an animal; he merely turns in another direction and continues right along his way. He looks like a cross between the local bagman and a member of a remote sect – one whose geographical location you can’t quite put your finger on. He dresses primarily in beige or black flowing Indian shirts and trousers. Comfort is the primary purpose. He once told me he never wears anything he can’t sleep in. Kind of makes sense when you think about it. In an earlier iteration of his fabled house in the former war zone of Venice Beach, California, Dixon noticed that when he shaved in the bath and drained the water, after a while ants came and carefully removed all the whiskers. Most people would call an exterminator, but Dixon simply saw it as organic maid service. He notices things most people don’t. He’s hyper-observant. After decades in the business he’s become the venerable sage. He takes himself seriously but he’s capable of laughing at himself. He has wisdom and definitely possesses great talent, but he doesn’t care who knows it and couldn’t care less if anyone ever finds out. He doesn’t trust most of what he reads or hears. He is one of the few people I’ve ever met who are brutally honest with themselves and able to make important decisions based on his observations. He can’t remember names so everyone is ’Joe.’ This vastly simplifies life. He has a great sense of humor if you know him. Few people actually do. He suffers no fools for people in general and Europeans in particular. He appreciates fine things in life – but not those that cost money – he admires the art of indigenous people (’unpretentious,
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Joe’), and finds ostentatious, pretentious humans exquisite fodder for his acerbic observations. He has acute disdain for yuppies, ’plastic people,’ fat cats and flaneurs; people wearing designer clothes or driving expensive cars drive him into fits of laughter. He knew the world would one day come to him. It did, then didn’t, and he simply stepped away. He’s as good as he always was and even better by not just his own admission now – but he only wants to exercise his craft for cash – and the cash jobs don’t pay what they used to. When the massive quantity of work that came his way in the 90’s began to recede, rather than promote himself (pretentious) he simply went outside and took a 90 degree turn to the left – to Todo Santos, Mexico where he shared a palapa on 80 beach-front acres with a bobcat that lived in his rafters. Again, Dixonian thinking: Phillip arose early in the day and was asleep with the sunset, while ’Bob’, being nocturnal, arose after sunset, hunted all night and returned home just before Dixon awoke. It made perfect sense to Phillip Dixon. ’No mouse, no snake, Joe.’ He has his own language: See the Dixionary at the end of this article for a glossary of terms used in this article. Welcome to the world of Phillip Worthington Dixon. Don’t question it – just read. You’re about to enter the Dixon zone. JEFF DUNAS : Let’s go back to Glendora, California – to your early life. Early Dixon. PHILLIP DIXON: I’m a cross between Scottish on my father’s side and a quarter American Indian on my mother’s. As a kid, I did martial arts. My father taught hand-to-hand combat to the Special Forces. So I know all about hand-to-hand combat, and I was a competitive swimmer; I swam six hours a day for my whole childhood. My problem later was I had to medicate myself because I had to deal with humans. JD : I need to hear what it is that brought you to photography in the first place. PD : I’ll tell you the story, Joeı. My buddy and I were selling LSD in our garage in Glendora. The quantity we sold was 1500 micro-grams of acid. Now they take about 100 to get high. We added food coloring in the vials we sold so we could sell it as purple, green, whatever color acid people wanted. Now in the process of me putting the acid in the vials, it would drip on my hands. I would probably have six or seven thousand micrograms in my body. If I was sitting next to a table, I wouldn’t know what a table was or if I was the table, so I realized that it opened a different part of our brain that we don’t normally use. We were supposed to go to college and get solid knowledge, but I didn’t like the bondage of school. So I said, ’Okay, I’m going to take an acid trip to try to figure out what the fuck I’m going to do in life. I got very high and thought about this intently. What I realized was this: It was easy to be complicated and difficult to be
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Phillip Dixon between genius and hermit Phillip Dixon opens the door to his fabled house in Venice Beach, California and talk us through his checkered career – from porn to Harper’s Bazaar... Text & photo by Jeff Dunas
’The house is kind of inside-outside. All the openings face South where the sun is. I can open all the South–facing walls completely. I have skylights on the dark side – they balance the south light in the house.’
simple. I got down to the simplest form of what I was good at, which I realized was arranging things. So I thought of all the things I could do to get paid for arranging things. I thought, Ah – Halleluiah! I could arrange things and take a picture of them. So what I did when I came down from the trip was to get a job as a delivery boy for an old glamour photographer in Hollyweird2 named Bud Fraker. This meant shooting wanna-be actors. Then when I wasn’t delivering for Fraker, I went into the darkroom and watched his assistant develop film and make prints. After work, I went back in the lab and experimented for myself. When the lab assistant quit one day and Bud needed a new guy, I told him, ’I can do it, Joe.’ He said, ’OK Phillip – I’ll give you a test. Develop this film, and make a print for me.’ I did and got the job so I became his lab guy, processing his film and making his prints. After a while, I need more bacon3, so I looked around Hollyweird and found a job at a custom lab owned by a European guy. We had one customer who shot simulated porno. Eventually the owner wanted to go back home to Europe so the porno photographer said, ’I’ll buy the lab.’ Of course he needed a guy to set it up so I raised my hand and said, ’I can do that.’ So I began to work in porno – for mob guys. After a while, I realized that the guys who were shooting the porno were making more bacon than me but they didn’t shoot very well, so I told the boss, ’I can do this shit.’ So in the daytime I printed, and at night I shot porno. I got two girls and one guy, shot the guy with one girl, then with the other girl, shot them all three together and then shot the two girls singly then together. I used this to practice lighting. JD: What was it like working for the porno people? PD: Ed Wood worked for the same guy then too. They made a movie about Ed Wood with Johnny Depp. The movie was bullshit. That cartoon director4, whatever his name is, made the movie like an Ed Wood movie but not about Ed Wood. I remember one day, being called into the big office because the FBI was there – so I’m walking down the hall and passed Ed Wood’s office. He was frantically changing his clothes, and I asked him what he was doing. He was totally straight but he liked to dress in women’s clothes. He liked to wear angora sweaters, pearls and women’s stretch-pants
under his cloths and pumps! Ed was petrified that the feds would take him downtown, find out he had ladies underwear on and think he was a fucking homosexual! He once told me a story about being in the Second World War – and how he would have preferred getting killed to being wounded because if he got wounded they’d find out he was wearing woman’s underwear under his uniform! I used to go to parties at Ed’s house – there were transvestites, midgets, cut and tucks5, everything. They were all really nice people. Ed was later nominated the world’s worst film-maker in the history of film. JD: Ok – so now you’re in Hollywood shooting porno and it’s the early seventies. Then what? PD: Well, I had a very pretty girlfriend, so after doing this for a while, I shot pictures of her and showed them to Playboy. What happened next was amazing: They called me up and said they wanted to buy them and publish them over 10 pages! They had never ever done that before – bought unsolicited pictures – so I started working for them. It was 1972 or 1973. JD: I remember the pictures – a shorthaired blond girl on a barber chair. PD: Yes. So I’m shooting tits and ass for the Pajama Man6 and then got fed up with that just like I had done shooting porno and quit. I’d been called to a meeting with the Playboy photographers and Pajama Man. He had put up a bunch of pictures to illustrate what he didn’t want in the magazine anymore. I was in good company. The pictures were by Helmut Newton and me. He called our pictures abstract. And I said to him, ’Come on. You think a girl on her hands and knees with her ass in the air wearing matching lingerie out is reality? Stick it where the sun don’t shine Pajama Man!’ And I walked out forever. JD: What was your first break shooting fashion? PD: What happened was I realized I was in LaLa Land7 and all the jobs were in Zoo York Shitty8. I would never want to live in Zoo York Shitty – ugly and too many humans, so I went to the sportswear companies in LaLa because the only way to get Zoo York companies on my side would be if they saw my work in advertising. So I went to them and said, ’I will do the pictures and the layout; I’ll do everything for X amount of money, but my name goes on the ad.’ In those days no photographers got their names on ads. So I got work and they put my pictures in the magazines. What happened? My pictures looked better than the fucking editorial they were using so they started calling me up. That’s how I started doing editorial pictures. Jimmy Z’s was one of the sportswear companies I worked for. He was a surfer with jelly belly and was making his own shorts in his garage using Velcro because he couldn’t stop eating. I went with my friend Sep who had just gotten out of jail and went to visit Jimmy. Within a year of me doing advertising, and with Sep who became a partner with Jimmy, they
were a 20 million dollar company. JD: The sportswear companies were all in LaLa. They were hip and had begun to get national attention. PD: Exactly. But putting my name on the ads gave me international exposure. I worked for no bacon but I was better than their other photographers. Then I got sick of all that shit. After 15 years I got sick of shooting dresses for no-taste, no talents who wanted to tie my hands and now I’m unemployed. I lost interest and bought land in Mexico where I planted trees for seven years. I couldn’t evolve because they were regressing in taste, culture and everything. Today’s young art directors are brain-dead. Nobody home, Joe. JD: Jean-Loup Sieff once remarked to me, ’Today’s art directors think La Redoute [boring French fashion catalogue] is Avant Garde.’ PD: True! There used to be great art directors and now you have bankers. I’d be shooting a model, aiming the camera at her and the art director, standing over on the side, would say to me, ’But I can see the kitchen.’! This is how stupid some
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’Don’t be a photographer! Photography is over. You have to fight too much to do good work.’
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of them were. Retarded. JD: I remember you saying once that every successful photographer had but a ten-year window. PD: It takes you 20 years to get to the point where you can make bacon. Then you only have 10 years to cash in. I had the ten years, so then I went to Mexico. JD: You thought your career was over. PD: Of course. And it is over. You can’t let the business control your life. You have to control your own destiny. I lived for part of the time there with a lady but the lady went away. I didn’t want to live in Mexico alone, so now I want to sell the property. The problem is they’ve started cutting heads off down there and no one wants to buy in Mexico anymore. JD: That was unforeseeable. The plan was good. You were a pioneer in Mexico. PD: Yes. I was a pioneer in Venice too. The shiny people9 started showing up in Venice and bourgeois Europeans started showing up in Mexico. JD: In the 90s you really started working for everyone. PD: True. I went to Anthony Mazzola at Harper’s Bazaar and said, ’Let me do one layout – one shooting, and let me control it. If you like it and it works for you commercially, then I do what I want.’ So I did it – and after it was published, they got so much response that he said to me, ’OK – but you can’t keep as much control going forward.’ I told him I needed $1000 per page. I would do one layout for him and one for me. Whatever you want, and whatever I want. It was good for Bazaar and good for me. I showed humans visual things they’d never thought of. I worked for a few good years for them. I had trust in my pictures. So I made a living! JD: It was the beginning of your ten years. I remember for a while you were being copied a lot - people trying on your style. PD: True – but it’s a compliment. I can always invent new things. So many of them had no depth. It wasn’t coming from their own personality or their own point of view. It was easy for them to copy but it was coming from the obvious cosmetic surface things they saw in my work - or a technique. First you need an original idea, then comes the composition and the necessary texture and shading to enhance all that and bring your point across. They only saw the cosmetic stuff on top when they copied. I remember there was a photographer who wore makeup and fur hats. He was very successful and copied everybody. The young guys coming up saw him making lots of bacon and they started copying him and everyone with an original voice like he did. Then there was no point of view anymore. For three months they all copy this one or that one, then three months later they were all copying someone else. And you couldn’t tell one from another. In the old days, there were photographers with their own point of view and their work was beautiful. You never had to look at the credits because you could tell whose picture it was. Their inspiration was coming from within. You
had Helmut Newton – Guy Bourdin, Sarah Moon; great photographers who did their own pictures. Lawrence Sackman was fantastic. JD: Your style is your brand. PD: It’s foolish to copy people unless somebody pays you – if they paid me I’d do whatever they wanted, but not for editorial. They don’t pay you for editorial, Joe. You do your own pictures. Now they don’t pay you and they won’t let you do your pictures. Why would anybody do that? Now photographers PAY for their own editorial! What happened? That’s ridiculous! If you don’t GET paid anymore, at least you shouldn’t have to PAY! You can’t make a living like I did anymore. JD: Talk about Dixon House. PD: It’s a house in which I feel comfortable. When I designed it, I realized something about myself that I didn’t know 20 years earlier: Because of my compositional training in photography and the fact that I always photographed in nature, I was able to see and incorporate scale into my house. I could tell exactly how much height I’d need for my ceiling – for scale! I studied the building code books. The maximum height for houses is 25 feet and I needed 30, so I dug down 5 feet inside! JD: The natural light in the house is superb and it’s kind of naturally climate-controlled. PD: Architects don’t understand natural or artificial light. They’re mathematical. I’m visual. The house is kind of inside-outside. All the openings face South where the sun is. I can open all the South–facing walls completely. I’m observant and noticed wind comes from the north west everyday at 1pm. So, I have no openings on that side of the building. The wind never gets in to cool down the house. I have skylights on the dark side – they balance the south light in the house. JD: Tell me about moving to Mexico. Was it about the senoritas down there? PD: I love nature, not people. I was getting tired of the bullshit of my business, so I went to plan B. My idea was this: I’d built a beautiful house here in LaLa that I could sell, buy land in Mexico and live until I go in the ground there. So I bought eighty acres, built a little hut – and lived there, planting trees – on the Pacific. JD: Don’t you want to do more work? PD: I never cared unless I got paid. Art is for rich people. I’ve never been a rich person. If someone has a budget, I will be the best I can be. As an photographer that only listens to their own inner voice, you have to be brave. Brave people don’t care about what the sheepleı0 think. Sheeple follow brave people. JD: You’ve always had clients that gave you grief. You’ve always been fighting to do things your way. It hasn’t always led to a happy Dixon. PD: You have to fight. That’s why I quit many jobs – then I was left with nothing – so I planted trees. JD: Phillip – you’ve always had lots of European clients who appreciated your style.
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PD: Not always. Not anymore. They don’t seem to overstandıı. JD: Why haven’t you done a book of your work? PD: At one time, when I was making money, I could have but I wasn’t ready for it then. I’m much better at making pictures now than I was 20 years ago. If you have money to throw around – OK you can do a book, do it for publicity and deduct it from your taxes. No publisher telling you what to do costs bacon. You need to retain total control. Most of what I’ve photographed was on film so you have the cost of scanning, post production, printing it. You’re lucky to get back 20% of what you invest. A prominent photographer was here one day and asked me why I didn’t have a book – I told her ’Bacon!’ – I have the house, no book, Joe. The house is much more functional. JD: Art is expensive. PD: Art has always been done by trustafarians.ı2 Rich people make art and sell it to other rich people. I don’t know where that starving artist thing came from because it doesn’t work. It’s always been that way and it still is. There are exceptions to the rule, but usually artists have family money. Look at the very successful photographers on the art market, they come from banking families! Robert Frank for example. Eggleston’s family owned plantations in Mississippi. Salgado’s father was a rich cattle rancher. They have the money to make the art in the first place. Then they made money because they had the pictures to sell. The initial years making the pictures required bacon! If you spend 7 years on a project… If I gave my camera to a fucking hobo for 7 years and told him to aim at a subject and keep pushing the button – he’ll absolutely get something saleable too. JD: You think of yourself purely as a commercial photographer. PD: It keeps me honest. Photography has been good to me and it’s been a struggle. I had the option of being a whore – a generic photographer like so many others – they have no point of view but they make lots of bacon. I just make pictures. I’m a gun for hire. I’m an artist, not an art photographer. I like life. I like to straddle-loungeı3 Joe! JD: You wouldn’t want to drive a fast car and wear expensive suits? [gales of laughter]. PD: No, no! Why would anybody want to deal with those bad taste assholes?No! JD: New Question: Ladies in your life. PD: I’ve never had more hubba-hubbaı4 in my life than now! Listen. I’m a virtuous human being. I elevate the female so she can open her heart to me. So many of the girls that I meet haven’t experienced the heart. I’ve educated them about heart! The girls are telling the other girls about me. The others call me. Because I overstand pleasure! JD: What is it that’s truly important to you now? PD: Beauty – I only care about beauty. What I like is love. Laughter and Love…! JD: Advice for young photographers? PD: Don’t be a photographer. Photogra-
phy is over. You have to fight too much to do good work. It’s not the same as it was. JD: Your observations on the world today? PD: Small government = Individual freedoms. Big government = no individual freedoms. The only free place in the world that I’ve experienced is the USA. Socialism doesn’t work. Too many sheeple. I think common sense has been bread out of human beings. It takes away the honesty that Americans had with each other. It was better before. Get rid of the neck-beardsı5 too. It’s all about being honest. No bullshit. Now, I hubbahubba and I straddle-lounge. JD: I know you have some Dixonian observations on computers and social media. PD: Social Media, Joe? [LOTS of Laughter] When computers started becoming popular I could see that photography was going to go away. So was a lot of other things too. Now with digital cameras, you can do anything. I just think of it as a new hammer. I use it differently than most. People shoot pieces of pictures and put them together routinely. They don’t even understand the culture of light. Nothing looks right anymore. Because of all that, no one looks at magazines anymore either. There are fewer and fewer magazines because everyone looks at pictures on computers. The work is going away with the magazines. The photographers that are older, who had darkrooms like me, know more about how to work in Photoshop than the younger guys that do it for a living. Don’t think most computer-heads know how to use Photoshop properly to make images look good. They have more tools but less culture and knowledge. People use bullshit filters from Hipstamatic or Instagram – what do they know? Nothing. It’s a bad joke. JD: Photojournalists are using smart phones often now.
PD: Quality never mattered in photojournalism. Ever. They never needed more than an 8x10. We’re living in a bad time – like a science fiction movie. The machines are starting to control the humans and they don’t even know it. You see people in restaurants – they’re not looking at each other or sharing with each other. They’re looking down at their phones. People go to their jobs. They look at a computer all day long then they go home and look at it some more. When we finished work in the past we wanted to relax! We didn’t want to look at our tools all night. We were the most advanced creatures on the planet – but soon the machines will control us completely. We won’t be able to do shit without them. If I have a gathering at my house, I ask everyone to turn off their phones and leave them at the door. I want people to interact and talk with each other. Fuck email. I want them to be normal. They start jonzing! They need their machines! They get nervous and upset when you take them away! They’re addicted to the machines. No one talks to each other anymore. They are texting. It’s inefficient. It also takes much longer! Having to type is a joke. Pick up the phone! There are so many subtleties that you only get from a conversation - when you speak with someone that you can’t get in an email. It’s science fiction. Email is like the telegraph. We’re going back in time. Phones are much better. Skype is the exception. I think that’s one of the good things computers can do. JD: Thoughts on getting older? PD: Not really. I get better. It’s actually very cool getting older. JD: Would you still like to be shooting great work again? PD: Yes. Yes Joe. It’s all the same. JD: What’s next? PD: Die, Joe.
DIXONARY ı. Joe Dixon can’t remember names. So – everyone’s first name. Mostly masculine, but not always. 2. Hollyweird Hollywood, California 3. Bacon Money 4. Cartoon Director Tim Burton 5. Cut and Tucks Transexuals 6. Pajama Man Hugh Hefner 7. LaLa Land Los Angeles 8. Zoo York Shitty Manhattan. New York City 9. Shiny People Consumers on Steroids ı0. Sheeple People in general. Followers ıı. Overstand Understand ı2. Trustafarians Inherited Wealth ı3. Straddle-Lounge Hang out ı4. Hubba-Hubba Lovemaking ı5. Neck Beards Terrorists
Le Journal de la Photographie
Out of the drkrm into the light I love the dark stuff, I love black and white films, dark prints,…my sensibilities seem to go there. At the same time I like the aesthetically dark as well as physically dark, says masterprinter and drkrm founder John Matkowsky. Text & photo Andy Romanoff
n the one hand there is the gallery, all beautiful and gleaming. Prints hang on the walls under perfect light and people move from image to image like Stations of the Cross. On the other hand there is the darkroom, the place where fine art analog prints are made. Usually black, confined and smelling of chemicals, darkrooms are places most collectors will never see. drkrm bridges these worlds in a most interesting way. Founded by master printer John Matkowsky, drkrm is both a fine art printer and a gallery, working with photographers to make their images beautiful and tangible and then showing them in their new space on Chung King Rd in Chinatown. I spoke with John to discover how drkrm came to be and the kind of work he intends to show. AR: Tell me how you came to be both a fine art printer and a gallerist. JM: In 82 I came out to LA to work on movies and I worked for free but free doesn’t pay the rent so I got a job at photo lab. It was a commercial lab, called Modern, and they were printing for companies like McCann Ericson, all the big advertising agencies in town. Then someone turned me on to another job, working more as a fine art printer. It was a place called Silverlab, owned by Tom Consilvio. He was printing for Garry Winogrand, Bill Claxton; a whole lot of people you’ve heard of. I had been there for about three years one day he took me to lunch, I’ll never forget this and
West Coast Issue
he said ’you’re the best printer I’ve ever met, you have a problem with judgment, you don’t know when to stop, but I can teach you that, you’re on the right path.’ For the next year, he would oversee me. I would show him the print and he would tell me what to change but not who I was printing for. Only later I’d find out it was Garry Winogrand or somebody like that. I learned a lot from him. At the time we were known for our black and white prints, doing work for a lot of great clients, we were doing Platinum prints, things like that. Unfortunately, not long after, Tom died but the business was bought so I stayed there another fifteen years until they went out of business in 2005. When they closed they offered me all the equipment for $2500 dollars so I raised the money and started looking for a space. I figured I would open a little lab that specialized in fine art prints for really cool people. It would be just me and you, no counter people, just one on one and you could tell me what you want and I’ll do a test for you and we could discuss it and then I’d make the print. I had this great space on San Fernando Rd, a really big space with all white walls and someone suggested I should do a group show of all my clients work. We did it and some of the pieces sold and that was cool because the show was more about showing, not about selling but after it was over someone said ’What are you doing next?’…and I hadn’t even thought about that. So we started to show, to do something every month and it kind of took off from there. AR: The gallery has an unusual bias. Can you talk about how you choose what you show? JM: I have a background in low budget horror movies and I love the genre, I love the dark stuff, I love black and white films, dark prints,…my sensibilities seem to go there. At the same time I like the aesthetically dark as well as physically dark. I like things you don’t get to see every day, prostitution, gay stuff, a lot of things you will never see in another gallery, that’s what I go for. AR: But at the same time you’ve shown Ansel Adams… JM: Ok, let me clarify that and you can quote me on this, I’m not a big fan of Ansel Adams. I’m not a big fan of snow covered mountains and pretty forests, I mean I love those things in real life but when you’ve seen one Ansel Adams you’ve seen them all. The Ansel Adams I showed is down and dirty, it’s LA noir, its overcast skies and slick streets from the rain. It’s not ’Ansel Adams’ and that’s what I really liked about it. If someone came up to me and said ’I have Half Dome’, that’s not for me, but if you show me Sunset Boulevard that works for me, that’s the Ansel Adams I like. I’m a huge fan of street photography and you can’t get any bigger than Ansel Adams. AR: How does the LA art establishment relate to what you’re showing? JM: You mean other than ignoring it completely? Well there are a couple of factors in that. For one I’m very young
in the gallery business, I’ve been around less than ten years, I’m nobody. All the other galleries that get attention are better established, they have been around for a long time. The LA Times reviews a half a dozen shows and they are all museum shows or better established galleries so it’s really hard to get in there. At this stage, any attention, any publicity you get you have to create yourself. AR: Did you print the Ansel Adams negatives? JM: Yes I did, in September of last year I was approached by the Los Angeles Public Library. They were looking for someone to make prints from their collection. They came by and checked me out and I guess I passed so now they send me two or three negatives a week from their archives, 8’ x 10’ or 4’ x 5’ and I make fiber prints for them. Once I met them I was invited by Christina, who’s the head of the department to take a tour of the collection. It was rooms and rooms of files and negatives, amazing stuff, and near the end she came to some files and said ’This is our Ansel Adams collection, you should check it out online.’ I did and when I went through them with my partner I realized it was the basis for a show and when I went back and proposed it she was very receptive. Christina took our proposal to the board and after some delays it was accepted. The only problem was that in order to fit the show into our schedule I now had only about five weeks to print all the 16 by 20’s and 20 by 24’s for exhibition. AR: How did it feel to be printing all those Ansel Adams negatives for display? JM: I just did it the best I could. If there was detail in the negative I just made sure it was in the print. For instance, if there was detail in the sky, if there were clouds, I made sure we saw the clouds. I just did the very best I could but it was fast and furious. AR: Talk about Chung King Rd, tell me what you see going on here. JM: Well Chung King Rd started as a gallery site around 2003 and the first gallery that moved in was located right in this space. Then other galleries moved in and Chung King became a recognized gallery site. Now a few years later, some of the more successful galleries have moved to places like Culver City, to Berlin, and eventually that’s what I hope will happen with us. AR: what kind of work are you looking for as a gallery owner? JM: I’m looking for dark stuff; I’m looking for war stuff, I’m looking for any kind of photojournalist stuff about the seventies, eighties, especially the eighties in LA. You figure there would be a lot of photography of the eighties in LA but there isn’t. That’s what I like, that’s what I’ll show. And it doesn’t matter how old you are. The older you are, the more stuff you have to show. AR: You spend your days making beautiful prints for others. Do you shoot any pictures yourself? JM: I do…with my IPhone… AR: I’ll pretend I didn’t hear that…
Le Journal de la Photographie
West Coast Issue
Above Hanging the first print is always the hardest. Getting it placed well makes the rest go easier. Left Three days before the show opens but already people are looking in hoping to see whatâ€™s happening. Far left The big enlarger is installed in the new darkroom, ready to print again. This is probably one of the last commercial darkrooms anyone will ever build drkrmâ€™s inaugural show will feature the legendary Art Shay, 91 year old photographic chronicler of Chicago life for over seventy years.
Le Journal de la Photographie
A Rambling Conversation with Greg Gorman After being in the top of the foodchain of celebrity photography for so many years, Greg Gorman now shares his time between his two passions: teaching photography and making wine. Text & photo by Jeff Dunas
reg Gorman has been a force to be reckoned with in the world of celebrity photography since the early eighties. He came up in a group that included Herb Ritts, Matthew Rolston, Paul Jasmin and Bruce Weber. He was the classic one. His portraits were always clear and crisp; It was easy to spot his work. The black and white work seemed to extend the tonal range towards the left and right – his mid-tones are right about zone 6. It was largely a West Coast school – though he came from Kansas. Jasmin had been an actor/model, Herb grew up on the westside of L.A. – Greg was a tall, rugged looking kid from Kansas who had the right style and the right approach for the time. He also had longevity – it’s been a great 40-year run and he’s climbed all the peaks in the business. His list of good friends includes everyone cool in Hollywood. He’s a mensch. People speak highly of him. Then, about seven or eight years ago, another principal passion began to overshadow his love of photography – that being his love of wine. To know Gorman is to appreciate good wine. In fact, a smorgasbord of wine. This led quite naturally to him bottling his own vintages since 2006. His other great passion is teaching photography. This love of photography, wine and teaching
morphed into his high-end, celebrated workshop series, based in Mendocino, California, where he maintains his personal retreat. Students come to learn how to photograph portraits as well as male and female nudes – and are treated to great food prepared by his award-winning chef and extraordinary wines, – lots of wine – and often served by the winemakers themselves. A class act. JEFF DUNAS: How did you become such a wine enthusiast? GREG GORMAN: I’ve had a love interest in wine since the early seventies. It’s actually a great story and few people know it. It dates back to photography, obviously. In the early days, studios had a lot of money and working on all those assignments and movies, we got paid a reasonable fee in the day for what we were doing – but we also had really amazingly open, no-questions-asked-expense-accounts. This included everything being first class; the airfares, the hotels and… of course, most importantly, the dining! JD: On your shootings… GG: Well, it really all got started when I was living in a little one-bedroom apartment in Laurel Canyon and, of course, I had no money. I’d just gotten out of film school and was just kind of kicking around. The first wines that were really affordable were the Spanish wines – the
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Riojas. Marques de Riscal. They were $6.99 a bottle back then! This was 1974. Little by little my passion for wine kept growing – the wines kept getting a little more expensive…. ! By about 1982 or 1983, I had done a couple of movies, and I got on the movie, Tootsie. I got on well with Dustin [Hoffman]. In fact, and this is hot off the presses – I only discovered the other day, that in fact, on the day when I first showed up there to make special stills for the movie, Dustin saw me with my cameras and asked one of the production heads to throw me off the set! He really didn’t want to be photographed while he was working! So – they told me I’d have to leave at the end of the day. Being stubborn, I shot my pictures, had my films developed immediately and stopped by Dustin’s trailer before leaving. He let me in, apparently surprised, (I don’t remember any of this!) and I showed him the film. I guess he liked it because he then told the production to keep me on the film. I ended up doing five weeks on Tootsie. JD: And…? GG: A long digression – but at nights, we’d go to dinner at a great Italian restaurant – Castellanos I think it was – and there was this wild, flamboyant wine sommelier there named Walther, who was incredible. I remember he had one lens cracked on his glasses; I’d eat and drink there every night and we’d drink pretty damned good! One night I got totally turned onto Tignanello. It was probably a ’78 or ’80. It was one of Antinori’s premier Super Tuscans and I said to myself, ’Wow this is a fucking good bottle of wine!’ So I kind of got hooked on wine. I came back to LA and started buying wines. I think the first wine I was buying back in the seventies is now a kind of yuppie wine – but a good one: Silver Oak. It was awesome. Very fruit-forward but easily drinkable, beautiful fruit, nice tannins – great wine. Back then it was like a $29 bottle. Now it’s probably a hundred bucks! JD: They have some very nice reds. GG: Well, when you start drinking wines, it’s easy to be a total fucking wine snob: ’I only drink red wines.’ or ’I only drink BIG red wines with big sticker prices.’ So stupid! It isn’t until you really start learning about wine that you realize you don’t have to drink a ball-buster to drink a great bottle of wine. You realize there are a lot of great wines out there and a lot of great values. You learn that white wine is more than acceptable and many white wines are really amazing! A lot of people don’t get it. You don’t drink a lot of whites? JD: I’m partial to French reds myself. GG: Oh MAN! White wines are awesome! You gotta get into white wines! I drink a ton of white wine. Almost as much as red! There are so many great, great whites. In the early days I thought it was all about drinking big Cabernets, big Rhone blends or big Syrahs. Then, after drinking and enjoying so many great wines all these years, I realized it’s really about Pinot Noir. That’s my
favorite grape. The real essence of wine is an elegant Pinot Noir. There’s one that just came out for example– absolutely wonderful, made by Chuck Wagner of Caymus fame. Considering the price point, it’s a tremendous wine! Jeff, you’re a Francophile – I’m not at all! It’s not really about French wines or Italian wines, which I prefer over French – it’s about your palate. Of course I love French wines. It’s just they really take their toll on your pocketbook if you’re drinking the great DRC’s or burgundies, which I totally love! I prefer the match sticks, tobacco and sweaty saddle notes that go with Italian terroir over the barnyard notes that I often get from many of the French wines! It’s a question of finding what you like. I like to tease with you, because of course I love great Bordeaux’s and the like very much! JD: You prefer Italy over France? GG: I do! Italy for me is one of my favorite countries in Europe – one of the greatest in the world. It’s one of those countries you can go to on a first visit and you think it looks almost like a third-world country and all of a sudden you realize it has the best food, the best fashion, the best furniture and of course, the most beautiful girls – it’s got everything! Of course, how it works, and how they hold that country together is way beyond me…! I’ve fallen in love with Bologna. Bo-
Le Journal de la Photographie
logna to me is probably one of the most extraordinary cities– so under the radar. I’ve published my last two books there with Damiani and I’ll hopefully do my next one there. JD: How did you come in contact with Damiani? GG: I’ve never really chased publishers. I’ve been very lucky, having published so many damned books. They called me and asked me if there was anything I wanted to do. It was kind of a war game to get the first one done the way I wanted but it worked out very well. It is a funny story. I had a book I wanted to do called In Their Youth, about young actors before they hit their mark. They were more vulnerable, more accessible; they didn’t have an image they had to promote yet – they could just be themselves. Damiani had a great design firm they wanted to work with – so they did the layout and sent it over. I don’t know why I agreed to that – you know me – I’m such a control freak! That’s one of the reasons I never became a cinematographer with my degree in film – I need too much control over my imagery and my image-making. So – I was excited with Damiani and agreed to send off a [hard] drive with all the photographs on it. I’d scanned everything myself, prepared all the files. The first layout came back and… it was hideous! Pink, blue and yellow pages! I
said, ’What fag did this fucking layout?’ I can say ’fag’ because I’m openly gay but I mean some fuckin’ fruit fly did this Goddamned layout that was ludicrous! I asked them if this jerk had taken the time to notice that I was a 60-year old man that shoots classic pictures – you know – I’m not a hip, trendy photographer. I’m certainly not the flavor of the month! The bottom line was this guy didn’t do any homework. I just said – ’Wait a minute. This is ridiculous.’ After a second disastrous attempt, I ultimately took all my pictures up to my home in Mendocino and called a couple buddies to come up and we did the layout in InDesign. I’m grateful I did the design myself because the book has my feeling, my flavor, my touch. Big advice to anyone doing a book – do your own layouts! A lot of the personality that goes into your work stems from how it is all put together. Now I’m very happy working with Damiani. Plus – going out in the evenings in Italy is not too difficult. So yes – I love Italy. JD: Speaking of the Flavor of the Month – you were the flavor of the month at one time. GG: Yes – back in 1910 or 1912! JD: It was when you worked for Interview Magazine. GG: Interview Magazine is what I really attribute to launching my career – shooting all those covers for them in those
West Coast Issue
’I’ve had a love interest in wine since the early seventies … In the early days, studios had a lot of money and … we got paid a reasonable fee in the day … but we also had really amazingly open, no-questions-asked-expense-accounts. This included everything being first class; the airfares, the hotels and… most importantly, the dining!’
Greg Gorman Tony and Rosetta Los Angeles 1988
years. It was the early 80s. JD: It was [Paul] Jasmin, Herb [Ritts]… GG: It was Herb and Matthew [Rolston], myself, Bruce Weber and Mapplethorpe. JD: For everyone else at the time it meant… something was happening, and ’we may not be in on this…’ It seemed like a club – and Interview was the magazine to work for. Everyone in NY looked at it. It was hugely influential. GG: Who knew? I was actually on the set of an Alan Carr movie called Grease II. I was photographing Maxwell Caulfield who was the flavor of the month – he’d just done Entertaining Mr. Sloan off Broadway and they wanted him for a cover. That was my entrée into Interview. They called and asked if I could shoot him – telling me he had a ’bad boy reputation’ and that he was ’going to be difficult’. This was back in the day – so I can talk about this now: It was my first cover for Interview and I ended up going over to his house… this is such an 80’s story! I had a little vial of marching powder with me which I sent up to him, and we made great pictures [LOL] and to this day he and his lovely wife Juliette are two of my closest friends. A real 80’s drug story! JD: How did you come to realize celebrity photography was going to be your thing? GG: In the beginning, I’d never been able to shoot anything that couldn’t talk back to me. I started shooting rock’n’roll concerts in Kansas City. My dad didn’t want to have anything to do with me because I was a ’hippie’ – I had long hair then and pork-chop sideburns! So I came out here to LA and got a little apartment next to the Magic Castle. I basically started doing head-shots for actors and actresses. $35 a day and I thought I was making a killing. I paid my dues. In fact when I moved here after college at KU and then at USC, I drove a truck delivering photographic supplies in East LA for about a year and a half. So there I was, doing headshots and little by little – it built. I never assisted anyone – that was the strange thing. I never did much editorial work although in the very early days I shot celebrities for After Dark magazine. A little later it began for Interview and that really helped get my pictures out there. Through Interview, I met this beautiful person named Barbara DeWitt, the late sister of Bruce Weber, who had a public relations firm out here. Through her I met David Bowie and then David hooked me up with Iggy Pop. I also did a lot of work with Frank Zappa in the early days. Those relationships really helped to get the ball rolling. Then I started working on movies. I remember I did a little Sci-Fi movie for Roger Corman in the beginning. Then I had the chance to work with Barbra Streisand, who liked my work. Then came Tootsie, Big Chill, Scarface and The Last of the Mohicans with Daniel Day Lewis. JD: Forging relationships was the key. GG: Yes – establishing the relationships
and friendships with the talent. That’s what would hurt me now if I still wanted to do this work. Today the young art directors want to have the control – they don’t want a photographer who has a relationship with the talent. That’s the last thing they want. For me, the relationships with the talent that I developed were far more important than the relationships with the clients because clients come and go – but the talent are going to be around for a while. JD: You and Herb and a few others realized that in the early eighties. That was new then. At that moment, talent really grasped the importance of working with someone they could trust – that they cared about. GG: Those are the friendships that became lifelong friendships. Herb had his stable of stars and I had mine. ’Do you shoot with Herb Ritts? – No – I shoot with Greg Gorman!’ Anyway – it was a great run and I really loved what I did and I did it for a long time. JD: Then you wound down a bit and something else began to get your juices going! GG: I realized that I was bidding jobs that I wasn’t getting, and I said to myself – this is getting old! I really didn’t enjoy it anymore and there’s people out there that are a lot hungrier than I was by that time. I’m the least lazy person I know – it’s not that I was getting lazy – the passion and drive ebbs after so many years. I had the greatest time of my life doing it. I was on a roller-coaster ride and I was there when the studios really made it interesting to play the part! I couldn’t have had a better time but it reached a certain point where I felt I had been there, done that. In about 2005 or 2006 I kind of moved out of the genre of the movie work and was teaching a lot more. I love teaching, and I love wine. JD: When did you start making wine yourself? GG: I was asked by a major wine shop I knew in St. Helena called Acme Fine Wines if I was interested in shooting a wine label. Dave Phinney, a very talented young wine maker, had asked Acme if they knew anyone who might be able to shoot a wine label for him and they suggested me. He didn’t think he could afford me – but Acme told them ’You might be surprised – maybe he’d work for wine!’ JD: Did you? GG: Of course I did! Actually I didn’t have to – we hit it off instantly and that night over dinner I kind of worked out a label design I shot for him in Photoshop. It’s a wonderful bottle of wine called Papillion. It’s just under his Mercury Head wine. Similar grapes- it’s a fantastic Cab blend. Beautiful. One night we were talking and I told him how I was such a wine lover – and of my dream to one day make my own wine. To my surprise, Dave said – ’Let’s do it – Let’s make some wine!’ So not knowing a lot about the actual wine making process- though I have a pretty good palate, I said ’What the hell! Let’s give it a shot!’ JD: Thus the Gorman Wine.
Le Journal de la Photographie
Greg Gorman Above Jeff Koons, Los Angeles 1988 Below Classic portraits of Leonardo di Caprio and bottom Michael Jackson
GG: Yes – he and his wine making assistant Kevin Fox – pulled together a bunch of barrel samples and we sat down and began tasting and evaluating what I liked. All blind – they didn’t say if it was a Merlot or a Cab – Cab Franc, Petit Verdot or whatever. We sampled all the wines – and I said I really liked this or that and that’s how we did the first 2006 vintage. It was really a Merlot and Petit Verdot blend, believe it or not. They were fantastic teachers, letting me take the lead on what I liked or didn’t like. That’s how I’ve begun to learn! JD: No Pinot? GG: No – there’s really not a lot of Pinot being grown right in Napa. The 2007 blend I did was very fruit-forward, primarily Cabernet. ’08 was like my ’07 – primarily Cab but a bit more complex and integrated. The ’09 is really a coferment with some Cabernet Franc. I’m very proud of this. If I could produce 1000 barrels a year I’d do it – but you know you’re relying on Mother Nature, the ripeness of the fruit, etc. I’ve stayed pretty true to my Cab vineyards I’m working with. I am doing 300 cases this year. It’s mostly St. Helena fruit. Now I have five vintages in the bottle! JD: Do you visit the vineyards providing the grapes? GG: Of course! I’m there for the bottling as well. What we do is get the general blend down – then it’s barreled, it sits there for 18 months basically with some racking (LOL!), we taste it as it gets closer, then we start tweaking it when it gets really close. I might add 5% of the next vintage fruit. If it’s the ’09, I’ll add, for example, 5% of the 2010 vintage. It strengthens the mid palate of the wine. Sometimes I’ll trick it out with a little Malbec or Petit Verdot and usually a
West Coast Issue
little Merlot. This 2010 was pretty much a straight Cab. I didn’t make any wine in 2011. JD: It wasn’t a good year up there. GG: Right – it was cold; the fruit wasn’t really ripening. At the end people were letting it hang – then it rained a lot so there was a lot of rot and then heat etc. Aspergillus was a real problem in 2011. For 2012 the Cab Franc was really ripe. JD: When did you realize that your passion for wine had overtaken your passion for photography? GG: I’ll tell you – shooting for me in the early phase of my career was like getting all jacked up – it was invigorating. So much energy! Then I realized something – that energy was waning. But – when I’d meet wine makers and I’d be up in Napa, or the Central Coast or Tuscany or wherever – all of a sudden my energy was higher again. I’d get really amped up and excited! I held a very high level of respect for these folks. I love meeting wine makers. I love hearing their stories. This led me to realize that this was what I needed to be doing at this stage in my life. I loved what I did for a living – I loved being a photographer working in the movie business. I made so many awesome relationships. Then it began to take a back seat for me. I did it for a long time. Sure I did my male and female nudes as a kind of escape but my job was the movie business. JD: And now? GG: Now I really get excited when I see I’ve really turned the lights on for one of my students. You learn as a teacher never to discourage anyone. It’s great when you can make that difference for someone. It’s amazing-helping them find their way. JD: I understand. It’s very moving when you see something click in a young photographer. GG: If you get down to the nitty gritty – it’s about one concept: People. Relationships. Communication. Connection. That’s what gets my motor going. What’s great about meeting the wine-makers is it’s like meeting the stars I met before. They’re like my new heroes. My movie stars of today. They’re really glorified farmers – and awesome people. JD: What are you going to do next? GG: I’m finishing a book on street photography – a real one-off. Workshops – exhibitions and lots of speaking engagements occupy my time now when I am not off fishing. JD: Your body of work is always going to be of interest. The young Gorman was working for you. GG: Well, I’m not going nuts but I’ve had a great 2013 thus far and that has made me very happy! JD: Last question Greg: How is it possible to drink at least a bottle of wine a day? GG: It’s easy – you take the cork out of the bottle! The truth is, I can go a week or so without even drinking. I really don’t drink much liquor. Although I am beginning to grow fond of cocktails… but that’s another story!
Le Journal de la Photographie
The Peter Basch Archive Under the lead of Eric kroll we dive into the archives of Peter Basch. Please meet Jane Fonda, Ursula Andress and Brigitte Bardot. Catherine Deneuve and a teenage Lauren Hutton...
Peter Basch Julie Newmar and Peter Basch, Lil Abner, New York, c. 1960 © Basch LLC
Peter Basch Jane Fonda in Walk on the Wild Side, 1962 © Basch LLC
he first time I met Peter Basch was in his cavernous upper Westside New York City apartment, facing the Hudson river. I had discovered that, among his many nude torso studies, he had shot Bettie Page. This was circa 1985 and Bettie hadn’t resurfaced yet. In the deep shadows of his sunlit living room, I explained that I had developed a market for signed contemporary prints made from vintage negatives shot by Miami Beach pin-up photographer, Bunny Yeager of Bettie Page. I had done the same with Weegee the famous’ photographs of Bettie Page shot at several Cass Carr Camera Club shoots. These prints were signed and numbered by his paramour, ninety two year old, Wilma Wilcox. Like many photographers who worked successfully in the 1950’s and ‘60’s, I found Peter Basch by looking in the Manhattan phone book! As a youngster growing up in Westchester county I would devour the ’how to’ digest books put out by Whitestone and Fawcett. This was my early exposure to Andre de Dienes, Bunny Yeager, Peter Gowland and Peter Basch. Lightly hidden behind ’technique’, the viewer could enjoy a naked woman outside ’porn’, inside ’art’. When I pointed out his shots of Bettie Page taken three decades earlier he had no memory or recognition of who she was. More than twenty years later I got a ’facebook’ contact from Irvin Gelb asking me to phone him. He and his partner, Peter Koch, were handling the extensive Peter Basch archive and it was now in Irvin’s living room. The two made a habit of rescuing photo collections and had done the same for the work of Wallace Seawell, 1950’s glamour photographer. Would I come down and help them understand
West Coast Issue
and market the Bettie Page material? When I walked into Irv’s Beverly Hills apartment I found what I never found from Peter B. in New York. An openness. Peter was, at best, smug, formal, stubborn. He had a laugh that made one feel that maybe he thought you were a fool. But his work…his archive, was spectacular in its depth. After a while Peter would deal me out what he needed me to print for him. He acted like he was doing me a favor and he was. He let me take home his Jayne Mansfield negatives which were many and intimate. His Julie Newmar photographs. Had there been a love affair? His Brigitte Bardot on the set with Roger Vadim. Peter shot ALL the major stars and starlets at the APEX of their careers. In other words…when they were young. Did I leave out Jane Fonda, nude on a bed; Ursula Andress on the beach looking illegally young and beautiful. Tuesday Weld, my teenage crush. Or Warhol in his Factory with Baby Jane Holzer about to be photographed by Andy’s unique lighting system. (I want that print). Or a nineteen year old, with gap, Lauren Hutton NAKED and laughing. (I want those vintage contacts) I had a major French collector who would fly me to Paris to develop various archive collections and introduced me to Catherine Deneuve while I tasted my crème brûlée in a fine French restaurant (I will never forget that pairing). When Fellini died on halloween 1993, Peter called me to tell me he had a set of vintage prints he had shot on the set of 8 1/2. Could I sell them. Is the world round? I sold them to my French collector. I found, he bought. Once, in the years we worked together, Peter took me down to the basement to a storage locker that looked like it belonged in a high school gym. Inside were transparencies in disarray. On the
Peter Basch Lauren Hutton, 1962 © Basch LLC
top were shots of Claudia Cardinale, Candice Bergen, Sean Connery, and Lee Marvin. The pile was bottomless. Peter shot everyone. But when I met Peter he was no longer an active portrait photographer. When I mentioned the money I could get from his signed Bettie Page images, he scoffed. He had become a book agent and had just made a deal with Grove Press for Mary Brave Bird’s Lakota Woman and it had become a huge success. The irony is the only prints I saw in Irv Gelb’s apartment of Bettie Page were signed by him BUT printed by me. Perhaps Peter was using me as his printer, not as a dealer. No problem. In the mid 1990’s I became a ’picker’ for my friend, Benedikt Taschen. I brought him Elmer Batters, the great foot photographer, Eric Stanton, the brilliant kinky water colorist, the twenty year old Natacha Merritt (Digital Diaries)
and Peter Basch. Even early on Benedikt didn’t care for attitude and Peter had attitude and no deal was made. But now this fabulous work is archived and available to collectors. Irvin Gelb and Peter Koch are selling select transparencies, vintage prints and contact sheets on ebay but the archive is huge and the price runs from $300 to $3,000. There are over 10,000 items! I remember how jealous I was that Dennis Hopper had ’known’ Natalie Wood when they were both young. Maybe Peter’s smugness came from being a (rumored) ladies man. Maybe it came from being an only child. Or from assisting the great Laszlo Willinger in Hollywood when Basch was a young man. Maybe… just maybe it came from knowing how good his photographs were that he had seen and recorded through the viewfinder of his rolleiflex so many years ago.
Ps: I work for spare change and stories about the photo past. Peter Basch pointed out a spectacular nude model and told me her name was Shirley Levitt and that she lived nearby. I recognized her as the only jewish model for Irving and Paula Klaw and from the cover of NUS magazine from a shoot by Andre de Dienes. Peter laughed and told me how Andre picked her up at a party in Greenwich village. She had arrived on the arm of Marlon Brando and left with Andre. He took her to a beach in Mexico and probably did (in my mind) the greatest nude session ever done except for what Bunny Yeager did of Bettie Page on the back of a boat in the Florida Keys at sunset but that’s another story. When I went to Shirley’s building several days later, I rang the buzzer and she told me to ’come up to 6m like ’mistress’. Thanks Peter…see ya in the past. Eric Kroll
DAILY REPORTS FROM THE WORLD OF PHOTOGRAPHY
OR F OR F UP N SIG
m co . e hi p a r tog o h lap e ald n r jou e l w. w w N O TI P I R SC B SU E RE F A
Published on Apr 25, 2013
Published on Apr 25, 2013
Le Journal de la Photographie – Daily reports from the world of photography. This is a special printed edition for the Paris Photo LA 2013.