I have a distinct individual personality. When I look at the pictures I take
I never think about myself.
I take portraits of people. When I take these portraits I'm not interested
in who the people are as much as I am in who they might be when they are in a
photograph. (in a picture of themselves)...
I take portraits of people who already have lots of photographs of
themselves. I take portraits of people who are entertainers, or artists or musicians, and I take portraits of friends.
I take portraits of people who live in Los Angeles. I am taking a portrait
of an actress. Her name is Mary. I've never met her but I've talked to her
on the phone and I've seen her at an opening, (across the room so to speak)
and I've seen her in a couple of movies.
I don't know much about her except how she's already presented herself in a
couple of roles I've seen her in. How I've seen her so far is kind of like an
introduction. A protasis. Right now there's nothing there about her except
what I might imagine her to be.
She left about ten pictures of herself with my dealer, Richard. I told
her over the phone to pick out the pictures that she liked of herself.
"How do you want to be seen? That's all. It's up to you", I told her.
"Ones that you like. For whatever reasons. Your own reasons. It doesn't
matter. Your choices are the ones I want to look at. Pick out the ones that you
like from age thirteen on. If you can try to leave about ten to fifteen
shots, that's what I'd like..."
When I opened up Mary's package of photos, my reaction was physical.
Physical and brainy. Looking at someone in this way, someone who had just handed
over a big part of themselves, their photographs, pictures of themselves, their
favorites, I think has something to do with trust. Mary trusted me. I got very
excited, but I bailed out of the excitement as soon as possible. I didn't
want the excitement to get in the way. I wanted to give myself a chance to be
the person I thought I was looking at.
I had a hard time picking out one of Mary I wanted to rephotograph. The
choice can either take days or a couple of minutes. Sometimes its like a
choice between door number one, two, or three. Like, let me see, I don't
know, there was one, compared with the others I think it had more to do with me than
When I'm doing someone's portrait I always ask myself is there anyway you
can get around yourself? I say probably not. Then I say, you try. Your
stuck. Your stuck with yourself. So what do you do? I say, you stick to
When I take a portrait I choose somber, serious looking facial
expressions. Expressions that I hope will make the portrait look like a real portrait.
A normal looking portrait. Not that different looking from anybody else's.
A lot of times what will happen is that I'll meet the person after I've
done their portrait.
The meeting is looked forward to and at the same time looked upon with
reservation. There's anticipation. Mixed emotion. Yes and no. Should I go or
should I stay. Something to do with the literalness of being face to face.
There's surprise, reaction, and I kind of wonderment of whether I'll blurt out
something spontaneously, something I can't take back, the loss of control,
from cool to hot.
Over the phone I say I'll be in a black suit jacket. White shirt. The
shirt will be buttoned up all the way.
She'll say, "I'll be in a yellow sweater".
I'll say I'll be carrying a bag. A shopping bag. From Bullocks.
We'll agree on two o'clock. At Cantor's, on Fairfax.
On the way over I'll be thinking about rendezvous, The Third Man, frog
men, jap islands, yellow blinking lights from the shore, getting back to the
When we meet, I won't believe what she actually looks like. She'll look
nothing like her portrait. I'll be thinking that's just the way it should be.
We'll talk about ourselves. Our backgrounds. Our families. We'll talk about
what we're doing now and what our plans are. By the time that our meeting is
over, we'll have both realized we've been on a new kind of blind date.
I took a portrait of my assistant when she was fifteen. She was
twenty-six at the time I took it. She gave me more than twenty pictures of herself
taken over a period of twelve years. About her portrait I've said, "It's like a
time machine without the machine".
I took a portrait of a friend of mine when she was eighteen. She was
thirty-five at the time I took it. She had a 1969 Edgie Sedgewick type haircut when
she was eighteen. After she saw my portrait of her, she went out and had her
hair re-styled the same as it had been in 1969. About her portrait I've said,
"It's like the science in science fiction".
I took a portrait of a sixty-five year old woman. I spent the day with her.
At her house. I looked at all her photographs, photographs that had been
taken of her since thirteen. Her life in photographs. I picked one out when she
was about thirty. I said, "This is the one I want to rephotograph". "Why?",
she asked. I said, "Because what it looks like is what it is."
Sometimes I'll take a person's portrait from a picture that has appeared
in a magazine. Since many people appear regularly in mags, it can be seen
like there's a separate or "other" life happening with these people. For some,
this "other life" has been a pretty steady notion of what a photograph can be
about. But for me, the notion of the photo pic in a magazine has nothing to do
with life or separate lives. For me, magazine life is another accessory.
It's like a hat or a glove, a ribbon, a bow, a watch, or a pen. It gives
regular life a highlight, a touch, an added color, it smartens it up or depending on
the slant,(or the look of the picture) deadens it down. These "pics" are
like a supplement. The shine, (or dull) lasts as long as the next time you
appear. Magazine life can last anywhere from twenty-four hours to four weeks,
depending on how often the magazine is published. Magazine life is supernatural.