The origins of blogging, found in the 1973 Dr. Seuss book “The Shape of Me and Other Stuff.”
The origins of blogging, found in the 1973 Dr. Seuss book “The Shape of Me and Other Stuff.”
The current issue of ESPN The Magazine features a strange story that appears to be documents related to a biopic on the great Kobe Bryant. There are screenplays describing key episodes of his life, storyboards, and even a block-buster movie poster; featured alongside all of this are my “behind-the-scenes” photos related to this film (we ordered a live-sized standee of the man, as a stand-in). The package is beautiful, magical, and just absurd. I’m very pleased that Karen Frank and the ESPN photo team invited me to be part of it.
I’m especially excited to be doing more complex group photographs. My background largely consists of single subject portraits but I’ve always loved elaborate group pictures (like this, and this) so I’m taking on assignments like this with a verve.
I’m keen to develop my motion portfolio right now so I invited Rhys Ernst (who shot my Patton Oswalt Wired video) to shoot some footage, allowing us to make a promo teaser for the issue. It’s a bit Charlie Chaplin, with Luis Bunuel thrown in (with all due respect to both figures).
With North Korea posturing in war-like ways one can’t help but think of the genius of Vice. In fact, Dennis Rodman had just returned from his diplomatic liaison with Kim Jong-un when The New Yorker sent me to photograph the principle figures of the company.
I had shot these same three five years before for Wired Magazine, with great results. This is both bad – a lot to live up to with the new session – and good – the Vice workers are respectful and helpful, calling this portrait, “the only good one that’s been done of them.” Helpful means escorting me around their oddball and intertwined offices to find shooting locations, cast staff with suitable haircuts, and stockpile weird knickknacks as possible props.
DPRK may collapse, bringing instability to East Asia, Vice Media may implode, in a glorious self-inflicted way, bringing sadness to HBO, but we’ll always have the photographs from that balmy day in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.
Much appreciation to Jessie Wender and Whitney Johnson at The New Yorker for the fantastic assignment – and running the best shot from the session!
There are a lot of great photographers working today but Asger Carlsen is one of the very few who’s pictures are truly a revelation for me. Charming and disgusting, magical and frightening. Thank you Mr. Carlsen.
We met a few years ago when we shared a commercial agent. Once we became acquainted we seemed to cross paths often. At the agent’s office he’d quietly approach me, with a shy but mischievous smile, inviting me to see some new photographs that he’d just finished. The work would inevitably be bizarre, but presented in a quiet and dignified way. I’d never seen anything quite like this before.
As we both live in Chinatown we began to see each other there as well, and were soon meeting on Hester Street to go for runs across the Manhattan and Brooklyn Bridges. During our run we’d often talk about art, the photo business and dating. The following interview though was done while sitting down, at the Oro Café in our neighborhood, on the occasion of the release of his second book, Hester.
How did you move from what was, at that time, your traditional shooting style to starting the “Wrong” and “Hester” collections? To be clear, I don’t want to know how you actually make the work, I just want to know more about how they came together as series.
I’ve been known in the past for overworking my images in Photoshop. I keep on searching for something, and looking and looking. I really had extreme patience when it came to editing and post-production. The actual shooting is such a small part in the process of the finished product with this work.
Were there shoots where you’d been shooting something conventionally and then you started playing with the images afterward to see what would happen. How did you move into what became “Wrong”?
It was almost like a copy and paste kind of thing with the stamp tool. There were some eyes that I moved up and it became like this weird face, and that’s how it started.
I was confused about it for a long time. I did these images and I was like “This is disgusting. What the fuck is this?”
I did the images and I didn’t really like them because it didn’t seem very current with my style at that time. It was quite different. I didn’t feel right away that I’d even consider this a photograph. It’s not a photograph in the sense that I go out and set up my light like some Master of Photography who is like, “That’s the image!”
Right (laughs) – in the sense that it’s not made in the camera.
It didn’t feel like a photograph. And I was pretty sure that it was not a good idea to show this to my agent or someone like that because it was so different. This was almost destructive to what I’d been doing prior to that.
Once you started making the “Wrong” work and collected it in into a book it seemed to change the way you thought of yourself as a shooter and how you perceived your connection to photography.
It changed everything. Even my personality was altered (laughs).
A little bit, it really became part of my way of thinking because I was thinking about it all the time. Not that I became insane, but I was trying to be something and all the sudden I am going the complete opposite direction.
I was initially focused on being a commercial photographer and then this new work became my full focus. I didn’t become insane but I was just influenced by it.
When you do this sort of work you have to be open to outside things that are happening.
Give me an example.
I don’t want to get into deep water here…this might sound gross. One time I went to the hospital because I had like this thing in my head, and I had it removed.
Like a cyst or something?
Yes, something like that. There was nothing dangerous about it, but shit like this happens as you get older. I was photographing it, and talking to the doctors like, “Whoa, this was on my head”.
But the funny thing is, I’m looking at it, and it has this very certain structure and pieces of hair coming of it. It was really gross. Not long after though, I’m making an image that was like this plastic shape merged with this skin and hair and I realize that this image completely came out of that experience. It wasn’t something where I was thinking about this experience and saying, “Oh I want to make an image like that” but most of it comes out of that place.
I love that the photographs are in black-and-white, it takes them out of our time. I can’t tell if you’re working with existing photographs, and changing them, or whether you’re making photographs and combining them.
I can tell you I decided to not be a photographer going crazy looking around for subjects. I wanted to work 100% creatively all day in my studio. Does that make sense?
I just wanted to work with the images, I’m a control freak. I don’t want to be too much a part of the world so it’s perfect for me to stay in my studio.
Last Wednesday I had a bizarre and wonderful time appearing on Chase Jarvis Live.
As much as it was an honor to be asked on the real treat is seeing a colleague branch into new territory. Rather than being daunted by the changes in the media landscrape Chase has embraced them – no, he’s actually stepped up and helped shape them. I am impressed by his relationship to the sponsors, his passion for the creatives he invites on and the team that he’s built around himself.
But, of course, the genius stroke is that the show is broadcast live – allowing for a social media build up, and most importantly, an urgency and focus for all on set.
Please enjoy Chris Buck and musical guest Hey Marseilles on Chase Jarvis Live: http://www.ustream.tv/recorded/29431950
There are times when I wonder why I shoot for The Wire. This English magazine that showcases “difficult” music will not be seen by prospective clients in the U.S., and if I’m to be honest with myself, probably not my British ones either. But I understand why when the issue arrives in the mail; with great design, an excellent edit and well printed, my work feels very much at home here – The Wire reminds me why I became an editorial photographer in the first place.
The current issue features Oneohtrix Point Never; my sixteenth story for them, and the sixth cover. I first worked with Design Directors Jon Forss and Kjell Ekhorn, and now with Ben Weaver. All along headed up by publisher (and guardian of the institution) Tony Herrington.
I’m pleased to announce that this Saturday I’ll be on hand at the Foley Gallery to discuss the Presence exhibition with Conor Risch, Senior Editor at Photo District News. The conversation will begin at 4PM, February 16th, and will be followed by a book signing and libations.
FOLEY is at 97 Allen Street, on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. The seating will be limited at the gallery, and there are few copies of the book available elsewhere, so this will be a unique event in a number of ways.
Hide and Seek: CELEBRITY SIGHTING, Conor Risch’s article in the August 2012 issue of PDN, was one of the first stories about the project and certainly set the bar high for future pieces. I’m excited to continue the conversation with Mr. Risch.
And, this except from a recent review by DKL Collection frames the exhibition well:
My first, and admittedly infantile reaction to these pictures was to try to break the code, to locate the place where in the bathroom where Robert De Niro was concealed or to figure out how Jay Leno hid behind his car in the parking lot, my brain still wired to maniacally search for the star, to hit the button for the endorphin reward. As I circled the gallery and frustration gave way to failure, I began to see the real power of the images. We subconsciously attribute value to places graced by the presence of celebrities, going all the way back to the George Washington slept here phenomenon. Somehow David Lynch’s back yard, John Hamm’s cinder block parking space, or David Byrne’s office (complete with a flat packed Big Suit) seems full of some kind of special essence; we care more about a hotel foyer because Russell Brand is hiding there or are suddenly more interested in a striped curtain because Weird Al Yankovic is standing behind it.
I think Buck’s inversions are clever and will likely be durably insightful; I can certainly imagine a big museum exhibit of celebrity portraiture ending with one of Buck’s images, deftly pulling the rug out from under the previously contented viewers. It’s a great example of photographing the unphotographable, exposing the quirky passions and fixations that lurk in our minds.