There is a Point Where Things Can Shift
“In the end, I just enjoy what I am doing as much as possible; that seems to be what the objective is anyway. The obligation to sort of find true happiness and achieve everything you want in what you see, what you are attracted to, and if you are doing that fully, without lying to yourself or fooling yourself, then it seems that your output would be firing on all cylinders.”
Interview by Theo Constantinou
Introduction Written By Max Blagg — Courtesy of Salomon Contemporary
All Images Provided by Michael Halsband
Michael Halsband is an artist a filmmaker a surfer a Buddhist, a made guy in the art world. Guatama or somebody like him once said, “you have to burn to shine”. Halsband’s gaze has been refined in the fire, and what he shows us reveals the skull beneath the skin, the lived life, scrutinized and examined with an unflinching eye. He peels away the façade, lifts the veil and shows us who we really are. This collection of images from twenty-five years of working a seam of unadulterated honesty clearly reflects the veracity of his vision.
Faced with the simple tools of his art, a camera, light, and themselves, certain subjects simply flee, because they fear the exposure will be too great. The ones who stay to be subjected to his vision are usually people who have made their mark, given the world a piece of their true selves. He will show you the mark they made, and they will show their selves stripped bare.
Keith Richards, sidekick of Bacchus, diabolic under a raw red light. The regal hauteur of Louise Nevelson, Joel Tudor stroking the wet fur of Mother Nature. Halsband respects and understands the uniqueness and beauty of his subjects. Jim Carroll, a Catholic boy looking out so sweetly from the wreckage of the firestorm of dope and depravity that he rode out and survived. Basquiat a skinny innocent, unaware that he was about to become a human sacrifice.
Frozen moments, scenes along the road. But there is no trace of nostalgia or regret. These are pictures taken from inside out. Like the poet at Gettysburg, he was the boy, he was there, he suffered. And lived to tell the tale. And learned the voodoo, how to catch the essence, the beauty that shines through the people who have been around the block, who have truly burned and learned.
Halsband breaks through the shell and makes portraits of an alternate self, the self he sees or hopes to see in other humans. He delineates their strength, the rock solid core at the heart of their art. Hope and glory barreling down the turnpike in a Fairlane with Lucinda Williams on the radio, another wild chapter on a long strange trip. Sex workers exposing everything and nothing, the ravaged beauty of Cuba, the heartbreaking eloquence of young ballet dancers pouring their whole heart into their work.
Each image nailed to the page with a ferocious lucidity, eye honed by years of looking for that brief moment when time stops, the shutter clicks and he catches the eternity of now.
Why is it so important to you to disappear in moments, and truly let situations be as they are as a photographer?
Wow, I thought I was the only one thinking about that; that’s good to hear that that’s what other people are thinking about. I think that it’s just as much of an obstacle, my presence in the moment, as a distraction. If I have any objective going in it’s to get a portrait of someone unaffected or untouched by me. I try to go through that same process myself, playing any kind of game with myself, trying to be open-minded. To be as invisible as possible brings the viewer that much closer to the subject and establishes the intimacy that much better. Even though I’m trying to get as close as I can to the person, it’s to bring the viewer closer, not for me. I think it’s one of those things that is hard to achieve because, the more you try to be invisible the more you’re present; it’s something that you almost have to establish within yourself. When one goes into the interaction of making a photograph, they have to have a sense of themselves and a sense of their place in the process. My place is to serve the medium, the process, in the sense that I’m the operator of the camera; I’m not anything else. My job is to operate the camera and to record what’s happening without any judgment or opinion.
When I think of iconic photographs, I think of Alberto Kordas’ Chez portrait, Bill Eppridge’ RFK assassination picture, and your boxing photograph of Jean Michel and Andy. What is an iconic photograph and how does a photo reach that stature?
Well, it’s an interesting thing. It’s presumptuous of me to say this, but it’s probably every photographer’s dream to create an iconic image. Or maybe it’s not. In my case, I assumed that was the dream: to study them and to understand them in my fiber in terms of what makes an iconic photograph. I naïvely thought one could have control over that. I was probably already creating what have become iconic photographs before I reached 1985 and made that portrait. Nonetheless, I was really fascinated with the whole idea of iconic images. Jean Michel asked me if I wanted to join him on a trip to Paris. He said I’m going to Paris tomorrow, do you want to come with me? I said sure. Off we went and we arrived on Bastille Day. A very close friend of mine, who I literally called the day before I left, a very close Parisian friend, said of course I could always stay: so I went to visit. I expressed this interest in meeting Robert Doisneau, who made the photo of the couple kissing in the streets of Paris. I was drawn to him. As much as I’d seen other iconic images, this one somehow resonated deeper with me than any of the others. She knew a friend who could introduce me to him. He was extremely gracious, and I asked him a lot about the making of that picture. Doisneau said that he recreated a moment that he saw, asked the couple to do it again for him and made many exposures. That was a big piece of the puzzle in the sense that, it broke open a lot about what I thought street photography was: if you saw it, it was okay to try to recreate it as best as you could. For so long, I had struggled with actually achieving it in the real moment; it took a lot of pressure off of me, though I still never felt comfortable relying on that. I kept my discipline up to the standard of how I approached it before, of trying to get the moment IN the moment; to really capture something in the moment; not that I’d seen something and then tried to recreate it. Doisneau and all the others, it was fine for, but for myself I really wanted pure truth, which I defined as being authentic. I kept really forcing the stripping of the second down to the precise action. It was all about letting go of a sort of attempt to nail the response time of the perfect moment within the moment, of letting the picture be made of something much stronger.
I’m not so sure of the difference between instinct and intuition; intuition alerts you to something happening and instinct meets it right on the moment that you want it, it’s plugged into your intellect and, right in that moment that you know something is happening, you let go: it’s beyond your control. When Robert talked about making that photograph, he talked about what other people had described similarly; he didn’t really have control of that moment: something made his finger press the button. It was probably the power of the moment. You really have to surrender yourself to that idea; that’s the tricky part. It takes an audience to create an iconic image. I didn’t create that image; it took on a life of its own on when people decided it represented something to them. I think I secretly liked that photograph a lot but I didn’t want it to define me. I wrestled with the idea that I didn’t think of it as my best work, but I learned to accept the fact that it is a true example of the things I’ve worked really hard to achieve.
Can you describe how you felt when Mick Jigger asked you to continue work as a tour photographer?
It was like winning the lottery or something. How do I describe that? It’s like anything you’d want in life and have the dream-like moment where everything lines up in the way that it usually doesn’t. To be asked to do something like touring with The Rolling Stones, or becoming their tour photographer is one thing, but being asked by Mick Jagger in a hotel room in Los Angeles, as close as can be where, he’s basically sitting in your lap, it’s as pure as it can be. I was very subjective in the moment; I didn’t really see it coming. I was about to fly home to New York with no immediate future that I could see. For me, I had reached a point where I was just accepting what had happened in terms of, where I had ended up in the arc of the initial assignment, with nothing more than the happiness or the content of having had the opportunity to do what I’d done. And then to have that offered to me was…as good as it gets. I couldn’t have been more excited and happy about having this opportunity to continue: it was a real dream come true. I’d had that dream since like eleven or twelve. It was a definite dream that I’d had. I kept upping the ante of dreaming of seeing the Rolling Stones live, of just being a fan, then bringing it to the level of photography. I was about seventeen or eighteen when I went up to where they were rehearsing in Newburgh, NY. I was helping deliver some equipment for a musical instrument rental company. I saw Mick while I was there. I saw him actually do a quick photo shoot with a photographer who said that it was the worst job she’d ever had. I thought to myself oh my God, that would be like a dream come true for me. That was 1975. It was clearly something I’d looked at and said, that’s what I want to do. I was just lost and in the moment of doing whatever I wanted to do, without any direction of where I wanted to go. A lot had to take place. A lot of work had to be done before that moment in the hotel room. It was a lucky break, but I don’t think it was about the bigger picture for me … It’s a daunting task, but it’s amazing to sort of revisit it and to see how seriously I took the whole job and the work I did accomplish.
Is there a point for you as a photographer where you feel like you are capturing more than just the musicians?
There is a point where things can shift. Something profound can happen as a result of an interaction. With live photography, you step into the idea that this is performance. In order to step up my concentration, my ability to concentrate for long periods of times on one person, I encompass the whole thing into one image, and hold on and ride that until I somehow find that perfect fit. It’s stages of concentration, of holding on. Einstein said something to the effect that, the average span of concentration on one thing is eight seconds. I think a lot about it. For the most part today, we are challenged by the fact that we can concentrate on something for much longer. In photography though, you’re really only concentrating for a split second, so the idea of waiting it out and sitting with an exposure, making another, and actually firing through multiple exposures to ensure that you stayed with it all the way through, takes a certain state of mind. In still photography, there’s this idea that it all has to fit into one image. But sometimes you end up with a series of images that doesn’t have to be married to any rules. I went to art school. There were rules imposed onto me, of what’s artful, what’s tacky, or whatever but, all of a sudden you’re in a moment, and you transcend the rule that the limitations placed on you. Photography has become less important. There was a moment when it was very important, to cover that kind of depth of exploration. Now it might have receded into the fact that digital photography has become popular. It doesn’t have quite the latitude; film is still way better in lowlight. You can push Fuji 400 safely four stops … you can expand, and the clarity of that film is phenomenal for concert.
Did you ever run into Robert Mapplethorpe after Jean Michel and Andy had decided they wanted you to take that photograph?
I met Robert Mapplethorpe towards the end of his life, but I didn’t talk to him. I may have met him in passing in 1982 or 1983. I was introduced to him as the photographer who toured with The Rolling Stones, and the next time I saw him was before I made the portrait. As I was setting up to make this group portrait he was in he said, “Wow this is a gutsy thing to do. Wow, you’ve got a lot of courage to do this picture.” I took it as a compliment. He was not necessarily someone’s work I was all that impressed with in a technical way. I had a true sense of my own work and kind of technical discipline. I looked at what he did more as subject matter driven. He did very soft, flat pictures that I felt seemed technically weak, but years later I realized it was the perfect combination. The choices he made were more transparent and didn’t interfere with how intense the subject matter was, though I did sort of feel that a little more contrast would have made it that much more intense. He was just allowing it to be what it was, not sensationalizing. Robert had a lot of respect built into that approach, to look at it in a different way, and to appreciate it.
Years later, I learned on my own to give it a chance, to give myself a chance to look at it in a different way, and appreciate it. So, I didn’t get to talk to him but I don’t think it mattered to him. Maybe it did. Maybe I just denied myself the respect that I had, in that getting the opportunity to make that picture of Jean Michel was all the more important and sweeter, that I was getting the opportunity away from him. I don’t think that in the end it would have been the same picture. I think it is easier to look at that picture and say, that could have been a Mapplethorpe picture, but I wasn’t aiming at that. It is very formal, that picture; I didn’t take a sloppy approach to it. The thought has crossed my mind, what would Mapplethorpe have done? I don’t know, but I didn’t get to talk to him about it.
Frida Kahlo said, “I leave you my portrait so that you will have my presence all the days and nights that I am away from you.” Do you think this is the reason people take pictures? To give someone their presence when they are away? And, how has that now changed with the advent of the internet and digital photography?
I don’t really want to interfere with the pictures and the relationships people have with my photographs after I have made them and put them out in the world. People always say to me, you don’t promote yourself enough; you’re far more successful than you are credited for. I think, in a way, I try to achieve all my dreams. In the end, I just enjoy what I am doing as much as possible; that seems to be what the objective is anyway. The obligation to sort of find true happiness and achieve everything you want in what you see, what you are attracted to, and if you are doing that fully, without lying to yourself or fooling yourself, then it seems that your output would be firing on all cylinders. It seems that the idea of marketing myself, or thinking about what I am getting out of this, starts to take away from all the energy I am putting toward my work. I am trying to satisfy myself; if I am not doing it close to 100%, then I have to work on that little amount that is left. I am not concerned with whether I will be remembered; it just seems kind of hopeless to a certain degree. I have observed enough of people coming and going in life that it is not going to matter, and that the work will become part of a time when everyone will fade, when other people will come and make their statements and their marks in time, and time will evolve. If you are part of the history, then so be it, you did your part in contributing to that. What is really important is to me is, to do everything I can, in a way to make every situation the best it can be, and then leave it better than I found it: I just do the best I can to make every situation better than I found it and leave. Serve the moment with everything you’ve got walking in, and leaving it better than you found it. But that is an objective; it doesn’t mean that you can do it; it’s just an attitude. I work without myself being the objective. It is not about me and leaving anything behind, not about remembering me. It couldn’t be. Nobody is going to think of me. I never thought about myself in the midst of when I was making the picture. The success of that picture is that people like it. People come and go in life; that it is not going to matter. The work will become a part of a time, and everybody will fade, everything will fade, other people will make their marks and time will continue. If you are part of the history of that, you did your part in contributing. Does anything like that matter? In a physical sense? In a material sense? Probably not. My objective is not about leaving anything behind, it’s not about being remembered. No one is going to think about me on the same level with Basquiat and Warhol. I never thought about myself in the mix of that when I was making the picture and the success of the picture. Nobody thinks about me when they rip it off; they just rip it off, and then, when I call and say, look that’s ok, they weren’t doing anything to screw me up, they were just moved by the image: that’s awesome.
What led to your fascination with nude photography and those pieces you did in the 90s?
It is one of those subjects that is equally as fascinating I think. I looked back at one point and said, I got the sex and the rock ’n roll done. I wasn’t sure if you could photograph drugs. Using the mind, body, spirit idea: the spirit is rock ‘n roll, the body is sex, the mind is the drug. The mind is the thing you work with to make the pictures, so if anything, we are all on drugs, all the time. We are all kind of chemically driven in that respect. Everything you put into your body can be considered a form of psychoactive drug.
So, to get back to the nudes, I got into the rock ‘n roll, into the portraits, into the fashion, and then I sort of had that personal project I took on of the ballet, the School of American Ballet specifically. I was sort of on the downside of that art, things were sort of plaining off for me and I really didn’t see a lot more growth. I could have kept going with that project, but I saw something more leveling off. At the moment, I was feeling an urge to fund the project so as to not lose the momentum from the previous project. What I really wanted to do was explore my own sex and sexuality. What turns me on about sex? Where should I go for that? Should I just start photographing girls that will take their clothes off for me and let me photograph them? I didn’t even know where to begin with that. I thought I should go to a strip joint where, at least there were girls who were comfortable taking their clothes off. The next thing was if I could convince them to model or pose for me.
A friend of mine wanted to come along with me who owned a gym down here, and the manager of the club recognized him from muscle mags. My friend was a friend enough to say that he was here with his friend who was a photographer, who was really interested in taking some pictures of some of these girls. The guy said, “oh man, I’ll hook you up. I’ll make the introductions and I’ll vouch for you guys, no problem.” The first girl that I was drawn to, he made the introduction for us; she said that her husband was a photographer and that, if she wanted pictures he would take them, and blew me off. I gave her my card and said if she ever changed her mind or, if her husband liked my work or whatever, just to contact me. I didn’t take no for an answer, but I felt like it was pretty final. Since I’d been shot down that night, I went home and regrouped on this idea, thinking it wasn’t going to be as easy as I thought and I just let it go. At least three weeks went by and I got a phone call. She said, “I’m that girl you met at such and such a place and my husband really likes your work and thinks you should take pictures of me if you’re still interested I’m up for it.” Okay great, let’s do it.
Her husband dropped her off and picked her up. The project began and ended in that one photo shoot. This was pretty much everything and more than I expected, and at the same time she was like, if you want to do it again, let me know. Yes, I want to do it again, but this time I want to bring in hair and makeup people. I want to do something a little more glamorous in a way and less stripped down and raw. These were regular girls coming in; they weren’t models, so they didn’t know how to carry themselves. There was a true realness to it, but at the same time it was fighting the idea that I had to do these pinup pictures, these very aggressive, modern pinup pictures. I was just chipping away one shoot at a time and then realizing where I really wanted it to settle in. I went through the whole, styling it with clothes, they ended up taking them off anyway, but you’d start out with clothes, take them off, hair and makeup styling. Patricia Fields was lending the clothes and, the fashion industry hair and makeup people were doing the hair and makeup. It was kind of interesting. I did a series like that, then I looked at it all. It was really much more attractive compared to the original idea of just the girls showing up and kind of projecting her own ideas onto this blank situation; it was really her own interpretations or definition of what I was trying to do without ever saying what I wanted. I never imposed any ideas onto them, kept it in a very stripped down sort of way that I wanted to take portraits of them almost completely dressed, and then have them strip slowly, as if it was natural or whatever felt right. I’d go at their pace and let them take it wherever they wanted to go. I took that idea into the surf project when I went on to do that years later.
The nudes were very distractingly sensational in a sense where I couldn’t even really find myself until I got over the initial sensation of it, because it’s sort of like sex itself. A lot of it is in your head; there’s not much happening. You’re really just over sensationalized by it, so it’s really intense. All of them would say, the first time they ever took their clothes off was incredibly thrilling. Then it was a matter of chasing that sensation, because it was a diminishing result. After a while they just felt like every aspect of the job started to wear them down. I realized that there wasn’t going to be much more in terms of what I was experiencing there … maybe it’s less ugly because I’m not in a room with total strangers coming and going and however much you can kind of withstand, but just the general wear and tear on yourself of just the exposure to different people. If you decided to date a different girl every night and try to have sex every night. Even if you go out seven nights a week, maybe the best you do is two or three, but that’s pretty damn good, and nobody should feel like they’re coming up short like that. At the same time, that’s going to take you apart little by little, stepping up to the plate that many times, with all that intention packed in it. It’s not dream like; there’s still another human being on the other end of this equation; they’ll hang you up at the last minute. The one time is very exciting. After that, the second time might have been as secure as the first time, but I guarantee you that by the third time, a lot of people were starting to feel like they had to bring a lot to the table. It was kind of mentally and physically exhausting, and knowing that they were going to have to top the last two times was additional baggage. By that time, they didn’t have what it took to step up like that. I could do it, because I’m doing it in a very measured way. I wasn’t just allowing my own psyche to overtake me. In a way, I just felt like they gave in sometimes with less pressure, all self-imposed, but they would just throw the towel in that much sooner because, it was like, what am I doing it for?
There’s a fine line between doing something and not doing something, a very fine line. It’s literally as fine a line as saying yes or no, but if you don’t push yourself, you’re not going to do it. Sometimes it was easier to blow it off because in their minds, they made it out to be something that was much bigger, then it really was. All they needed to do was get themselves here and the rest just happened. It’s packed with a lot of issues … somebody taking their clothes off and having pictures made of it. Where are those pictures going to go? How are they going to haunt me in the future? Am I married to this moment in my life? Do I want it to become such a defining aspect? It even happened to me on the other end of the camera. How much of this do I want to leave behind in my work? How much do I want to commit this moment of my life to?
All that started to wear on me and I was thinking, what is my real agenda? What am I really trying to do? Am I cutting myself short? Am I just trying to see a lot of girls with clothes off? Whatever it was, lots of things go through your head. It’s not necessarily that you’re playing games with yourself, or your mind’s playing games. You’re just going through it. Do I need this? Is this constructive? Is this productive? Am I making a fool of myself? Am I actually going to show or share this work with the world? Is this something I’m proud of? What am I trying to say with it? The other thing is, what are people getting from this? Am I putting out one message that the world isn’t going to have the capacity to appreciate, or are they going to write it off that I’m just a pervert or whatever? Are they going to reduce everything I try to do with this work to what they can handle within their own capacity? Yes, of course they are. That’s a big problem because, the minute you put that out there in the world, you’re treading on unknown territory. People have issues with sex and nudity, with their own sexuality and their own nudity; you’re tapping into all these heavy issues. It teaches you a lot. One thing that I learned when I was standing in those strip clubs against the back wall, just observing in the shadows, is that these girls were being victimized by this setup. Then I sort of slowly realized that the true victims were the patrons, the people who would pay and come, and think that they would get something for their money and got nothing. That was confirmed by the manager at the club who said that it was no different than an amusement park ride at Coney Island. They keep rotating the girls and keep the music going, the lights going; the whole thing is a complete distraction and meanwhile, you’re just paying to keep the thing going. The truth is, nothing’s going, nothing’s changing; it’s the same ride. When you’ve had enough, you’ll get up and walk out a certain amount of dollars lighter. That’s the whole purpose of this thing: to make money.
I started to realize that the power was really in the girls’ hands, but the power came from the vulnerability that people really get off on. The funny thing is that the most vulnerable person in the room was the most powerful one, so in a way, it was the girl who was completely naked in a room where guys were completely dressed, who had all the eyes on her and all the power. If they really learned how to work the runways, they could get more customers paying for different views of their bodies. It became so much deeper into how they were going to maximize their time in this position. I thought that was brilliant. I guess that’s a way to sort of get out from that first level of a grinded down or worn out feeling from it. At first, I think you get nothing out of it except money. There’s a lot of wear and tear, then it becomes survival to find a way to maximize the money to make it seem worthwhile until the wear and tear overtakes the whole thing.
Earlier this year I was in a relationship with a dancer. I agree that the false illusion of those clubs affects the patrons but it ultimately destroys the dancers. I watched it: when I was there, our time spent away from the club, the way it affected our personal relationship, it became difficult to make sense of the illusion.
It’s true. And yet, I have to say that the minute you walk away on both sides, you can find normality again. You have to really walk away, you can’t keep visiting again. It’s over. It’s like, I went to a bachelor party, I called the manager of this club that I was tapped into. I got us VIP’d out, but you’re not coming in for free; you’re going to spend money; you’re just establishing that you’re going to show up with a certian amount of people. We had a great time. It was one of those things where I felt a lot had washed off after years had passed and I could actually enjoy it. I was a little cold to it, but I could enjoy it as a customer from the street as what it was, instead of feeling anything of it from the past.
I’ve been jaded to that world through my experience but am truly grateful for all the lessons I learned …
It’s sort of funny. I started out walking into a strip club looking for one thing, and it was coming from a real, innocent place. When I was on my way out the door of this project, I had been approached by a big porn film company who was looking for new directors. Their interests were directors coming from music videos. A friend of mine who had a music magazine, had just done a big story on the porn industry, mentioned to them that he would get in touch with me, because I had been doing all of these nudes. He contacted me and I agreed to meet with the owner of the porn film company. He suggested that I go on some sets and watch. It took the whole thing to the next level for me, because even girls who dance in clubs or perform in sex shows, those were benign to the porn world; it was just the end of the line. It was hardcore. Even though those people seem ok and relatively healthy, it just felt to me that, next to prostitutes, porn actors have a real different construct to their souls, the way they are as people.
I worked on a documentary on prisoners in a couple state penitentiaries. I put some time in those places, and I realized that there’s a certain part of people that dies with committing some of those crimes, like murdering somebody. There’s something that dies with the people who work with the sex industry on those levels where, they cross the line of fantasy to full reality. When I saw that I was thinking, is this the step I want to take? You’re looking over the edge into whatever people describe as the abyss. It’s not the abyss, but it’s just a darkness, and if you want that or need that. At a certain point, you’re the only one who can save yourself; you can’t turn back from certain things. I’ve always kind of walked to the edge, looked over and thought that I don’t really want to go to the edge. I really do want to see my whole life through to the end in a healthy way. I don’t need to prove to anyone or myself that I’m tough enough. I think people do that too early in life, or take too much of a running head start into that kind of thing. These are all social studies, and in the end, I had to remind myself that there’s no reason to push so hard into it that I won’t return as I entered.
Why do you think portrait photography tells the stories of these individuals through a single photograph?
I think I’ve sort of accomplished a lot of my dreams: wanting to tour with The Rolling Stones, or be a fashion photographer, or make pictures of naked girls, album covers … everything that I’ve set out to do, I did it. Those were places to explore and, photography is kind of a passport to get myself deep into those worlds. I think now, I’m more interested in celebrating photography itself, and didn’t think who was going to be the subject matter in these portraits. I think what’s happened is that in a sense, I’ve connected with these people in the way that, there was some kind of respect that I had for them, and really wanted genuinely to make a portrait of them: it’s not a collaboration, it’s a dialogue, it’s not a one sided thing. I’m not collecting them like butterflies in a box. They’re very organic in the sense that I don’t think about who I want to photograph, it happens in the moment that I meet somebody and decide I’m moved…or I can’t even say I make a decision, I’m just moved to want to do it, and I make the gesture to ask when I feel it. The making of the pictures is just that, it’s serving the medium. It’s a very difficult format to work with and I’ve been working with it since 1978 when I first got the camera. It’s always felt like the best medium to work with for me. Other formats, like the square, medium format felt really good, but they were the perfect fit in other situations. Now, I feel like after working with photography for 45 years, I feel like this is a good moment to work with this format where I felt like I couldn’t work with this format exclusively. I gave myself the opportunity to do it; it’s something you have to take. You can’t wait until you’re dead or too old…it’s just better to do this when it feels like it’s important to do it. You decide what you want to do and you have to stick to it; it has to be your decision. At a certain point, we all have to step up and have the courage to do what we want to do. Other great photographers have used this medium, this format, and they make definitive statements with it. It doesn’t leave a lot of room to be passive with it. I’m not afraid to be perceived as imitating their work, it’s not my intention. I have to get through that to get to where I find myself, and that’s where a lot of people probably fall apart. It’s just something that you have to put the time in if you really want it. It separates the people who think they’re going to get a free ride off of that format versus someone who really believes in it. I’m not trying to be anything, I’m just figuring out the rest as I go.
One last question … It was Nietzsche who said, “The existence of forgetting has never been proved; we only know that some things don’t come to mind when we want them.” Do you think photographs are a way of bringing those memories that are forgotten, to memory?
Probably. Who knows what we’ve been through? Whether we’re just going through something we’ve been through already. If everything’s already happened, and now we’re just going through it, we’re kind of standing in our own way at times. It’s hard to say. I contemplated it from time to time, maybe more often recently then in the past, but I don’t get obsessed about it, because I think that somehow just living my life and trying to stay out of my own way is more than enough in the moment to moment. I’m trying to think less about things and just do what feels right. Be more tuned into that then thinking too much about why things happen, where they come from. Although I do consider that, I’m not just living oblivious to the mechanics of things. We live in a big mess, and there are a lot of things going on all over the place. We only have what we see in front of us to deal with. You’re probably lucky if you make it through every day in some kind of peaceful way. I think we sort of determine our own fate in that respect. You can wrestle with…. I think that a lot of my feelings about what works or what is perceived to be…what resonates with people as what works, the idea of what’s cool, is very much something I’ve thought a lot about in my work. It’s not what’s cool in terms of something that’s outside of me, it’s what’s cool to me: that’s what it’s all about. When I see something that’s cool, I make a picture of it. I think if somebody hears something that’s cool, they make a song of it, but I’m not making songs, I’m making photographs. At the end of the day, where that comes from, whether it’s coming from the future or coming from the past, I’m traveling through what’s in front of me in any given moment. Sometimes I don’t take the camera with me, sometimes I do. It doesn’t bother me. If I have the camera, I’m making pictures, if I don’t have it, no regrets. I don’t know if everything is predetermined, I just know that I have been able to communicate some of what I’ve seen through the images I’ve made. It’s in all of these images; in the moment, a chemistry happened between us and this picture was made. Part of that chemistry is the way I see things, which comes from all the experiences of determinations that I’ve made in my life from experiences. A lot of it is based on what’s cool and what’s not cool because that’s been a big factor. I don’t know what rules that; I just know that that has to become more and more articulated in the work. As I look at my own work from the past and learn from that, I’m just learning about who I am and what I like, just taking from that those aspects. It doesn’t really matter what doesn’t work, because there’s nothing to be gained from that. There’s only something to be gained from what works and just improving on that. So, I just take the good stuff and keep moving on.