Walter Pfeiffer is recalling the period of his career in 1980s Zurich. "I call them ‘The Budget Years’ but they were so-called ‘Golden Years’ too," he explains. Working cheaply and prolifically, casting Swiss youth from the street or word-of-mouth, the photographs he created at the time – pictured below – were a celebration of spirit, focused on "young, exploding people" finding their way in the world. Revisiting three works from this time for Helmut Lang Seen By: The Artists Series, Pfeiffer shares an insight into the making of each image.

UNTITLED, 1982 © Walter Pfeiffer:

“His name is René and I did a lot of great things with him, including a play featuring him and a girlfriend of mine. He worked in dentistry and has a print of my lips in orthodontic clay. We did a kissing picture that’s in my book Welcome Aboard – I put the camera on the shelf and that was it. You wouldn’t know if an image was good until days later and that was so thrilling. That’s why I love analogue photography. But this era is gone.

I bought the whip from a fairground that had a merry-go-round. I thought ‘I’ll take it!’. I always had props with me and I’d let the models play – you can’t do the same picture with every boy because they are complicated. I’d never used a whip before in my photography. Or since – it never works if you repeat an idea again. I come from the classical and studied the Greeks at school. I’ve always been fascinated by things that last longer, I want my pictures to survive and stay special.

On the contact sheet it was only five or six clicks. I even showed it to my mentor, a teacher of mine, and he told me it was good. I like people telling me what’s good because I’m too close into it.”

UNTITLED, 1982 © Walter Pfeiffer:

“I’d been shooting colour but because of budget I had to print monochrome for my first book Walter Pfeiffer: 1970–1980. So I started photographing in black and white. I call them ‘The Budget Years’ but they were so-called ‘Golden Years’ too.

It was the mid 80s. The models came and brought hair clippers, which they used to cut their hair and even mine. The boys dyed their hair blond and went straight up: ‘buzz!’ It was a popular Style.

In the picture he’s happy, even proud. Another model learning to cut hair did it. I said ‘show me from behind’ and that was it. I don’t think too much, because if I do, it’s gone. You have to train your eyes and mind to be quick.

Models would bring me cassettes – ‘you should listen to this!’ – and I’d let the music play. This was the time of nightclubbing. I still have them, but I’m not nostalgic as I like to hear the new, the beat of now. I can always go back to the classics.

The photo was discovered going through my archive for the Fotomuseum Winterthur exhibition (2008) and is only in my In Love with Beauty book.”

UNTITLED, 1984 © Walter Pfeiffer

“The model told me about a trick he could do. He said ‘look at this and take a photo’. I sighed and pressed the button – ‘Do I have to photograph this?’ Then I forgot it. It was one frame. When I did the Welcome Aboard book I found it.

I hadn’t seen anything like it before. Now I’m so happy that I did it. Models can feed you with ideas and you have to indulge them. I’m still like this. You have to be patient and always ready for the moment. They were always training to do something else or doing something else, found from the street or through friends. I like natural models, who haven’t learned to pose. What I like is that they don’t care. It’s always the same age I’m interested in, 20 or 25, these young, exploding people.

This picture was shot at my home in Zürich. I never had a studio because I hated those photographic lamps, I didn’t want those things around me. I never bought all the professional equipment.”

HELMUT LANG SEEN BY: THE ARTIST SERIES is a year-long program featuring 12 visual artists, selected by Editor-in-Residence ISABELLA BURLEY. This project, inspired by HELMUT LANG's legacy of artist collaborations, uncovers and re-contextualizes cult artworks as limited-edition posters, T-shirts and special products. Each month will focus on three works from each of the invited artists. The first collaboration with WALTER PFEIFFER will be released in October, 2017.


For a certain bleach-blonde, neon-lit, fuck-you period of time in American pop culture, Traci Lords was queen of the universe... READ FULL POST
Text Patrik Sandberg

For a certain bleach-blonde, neon-lit, fuck-you period of time in American pop culture, Traci Lords was queen of the universe. While some actresses broke out on soap series like Saved By the Bell and Beverly Hills 90210, Traci’s entrée into the cultural conversation happened on tabloid television newsmagazine shows like Inside Edition and A Current Affair—not as a host, but a subject that no one could stop talking about—or take their eyes off of.

First appearing on a cover of Penthouse in 1984, TRACI WENT ON TO BECOME THE HOTTEST STAR IN THE ADULT FILM WORLD. TWO YEARS LATER IT WAS REVEALED THAT THE “ADULT” STAR WAS IN FACT AN UNDERAGE TEENAGER. AS THE INDUSTRY SCRAMBLED TO PULL ALL OF TRACI’S FILMS FROM CIRCULATION, Traci decided to pursue her dream, enrolling at the Lee Strasberg Theater Institute and studying method acting. John Waters championed the underdog and gave her the role as Wanda Woodward in Cry-Baby, which led to a slew of memorable roles throughout the ‘90s on shows like MacGyver, Tales From the Crypt, Roseanne, Melrose Place, and Will & Grace. She also co-starred in films like Blade, Virtuosity, Serial Mom and made a now-iconic appearance waiting at a bus stop alongside Shannen Doherty and Rose McGowan in Gregg Araki’s seminal underground teen comedy Nowhere. Somewhere in between all of those jobs, Traci also managed to launch an electronic recording career, releasing her album, 1000 Fires on Radioactive Records/MCA Capitol Records in 1995.

Twenty years on, Traci has propelled herself into a rapid-fire succession of independent film and TV roles. She also released a memoir, Underneath It All, with Harper/Collins. Today, she is as frank and funny as ever. Reuniting with the Helmut Lang brand for the first time since the designer dressed her for her record promotion cycle, Lords catches us up on moving into comedy, fashion in the ‘90s, and when it’s important to ignore other people’s advice.

Do you still live in LA?

I live in LA. I’m currently shooting season two of the comedy series, Swedish Dicks—which is not a porno! It’s a comedy that’s being described as a cross between Twin Peaks and Monty Python and stars Peter Stormare and Keanu Reeves and Johan Glans. It became a big hit in Sweden. Season one is gonna premiere on Pop TV on August 9. You can binge watch it. I play this fabulous, boss-bitch, razzmatazz, all-the-balls-in-her-purse broad. She’s pretty outrageous. Speaking of outrageous, reuniting with Helmut Lang to do this campaign has been an epic ride for me. The first time Helmut Lang was on my radar was when I promoted my techno album 1000 Fires.

That’s such an important record cover!

Yeah, the clothes for the new Helmut Lang campaign are very reminiscent to me of that time in the ‘90’s when Albert Watson photographed me for the cover of Details magazine. Helmut designed the pieces I wore for that shoot. I later learned that he misspelled my name on the T-shirt, so he just crossed it out and corrected it. I wish I had kept it but all those clothes are part of the archive now.


What do you remember from working with Helmut back then?

Back in the day, a lot of the fashion stuff was done in the meatpacking district when there really was blood in the street. It was just so different! Everything is different. Driving here to the location today, I’m flashing back to those crazy fun times.

It feels really satisfying to see that you’ve gravitated toward doing more comedy. I’ve always found you to be a natural comedian, even on Melrose Place and in Cry-Baby.

People don’t realize that I’m a goofball at heart. Wanda Woodward from Cry-Baby is the most iconic role I’ve ever played. I did not know that at the time, but of course John Waters is a creative genius and he knew what he was doing.

You’ve also appeared at events with John Waters and Mink Stole. What is that like?

It’s funny, we meet on the road in strange places! These big horror, pop-culture events are like summer camp reunions. They’re an interesting barometer of one’s career. You do a panel, a Q&A, and you find out about people and the things that they really relate to, and they’re usually films that were maybe a bit more obscure, but they have such huge lives.

Do you have a “thing” for playing psychos?

They’re certainly a lot of fun to play! I audition for a lot of different roles. I’ve never said “I just do crazy!” Or “I just do comedy” or “I just do drama.” Ultimately, you hope that you end up in something that people want to see. For whatever reason, my fans like to see wicked, strong, funny Traci. They like naughty Traci. I try to amuse myself, that’s priority number one.

You’ve always been unafraid to embrace “B” movies. What draws you to genre films?

I wonder if there are any other types of movies now. What are “A” movies? They’re really prequels and sequels and Marvel-type movies being made.

I suppose those do feel like “B” movies as well.

The first really mainstream hit Marvel movie was Blade—the original Blade—and I had the opening scene in that film! I still think it’s one of the most iconic opening scenes of any film that I’ve seen. It very much had to do with the vibe and the way that Stephen Norrington, the director, was brilliant. That movie has a rhythm like none of the others—sorry Marvel. I don’t know. Is Blade a “B” movie? Sort of. Kind of. But not really.


What was it like being directed by John Waters in Cry-Baby? Your delivery of those lines is so aggressive and funny, I can imagine him egging you on.

He wanted Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! And that’s what I tried to give him. A lot of girls and women really love Wanda. She was the ultimate bad girl. She had an attitude, but it was really just all a cover. She was gorgeous, she was tough, and she was a bitch, and she was sexy, and she was really an outcast, but she was a bad girl beauty. She didn’t take any nonsense from anyone.

Bad girl beauty sounds like it could be the Traci Lords genre. Would you agree?

Well, I can be a bad girl. And I’ve been called beautiful in my life. I don’t know. You tell me! I’m not all bad. I’m like Jessica Rabbit...I’m just drawn that way. What is bad? I mean, I’ve smoked cigarettes, hung out with fast boys, and taken racy pictures. I didn’t destroy the world! It’s not like I hurt anybody. I’ve just lit 1,000 fires, but some needed to be lit.

This reminds me of the scene in Melrose Place when you destroy the bar.

And had a three-way with the cult leader? ? Yes, I did some wicked things in primetime!

What is it like working in TV now?

Well, the show shooting now, Swedish Dicks isn’t network. Everything is Netflix, Showtime, and HBO. I feel like I am given more room to improvise now. Honestly, I don’t know if it’s because of where I am in my career or if that’s just the norm. I can tell you that I’m having more fun than ever and I’m definitely the queen bee. My character is still the bitch, but she’s got a sense of humor. She laughs at herself a lot more. She actually laughs at her own jokes. She thinks she’s the most fabulous thing in the world and she usually is.

Back when you were transitioning out of adult films—out of scandal, really—and into being an actress, did you have any idea that you would have had this type of longevity, and so much work in films and TV?

I felt like if I had listened to the chateratti around me, I would have never would have been brave enough to do anything. Fuck the critics! I think that still applies in my life. And no I didn’t get the memo that once you turn 40, you’re finished in Hollywood. I think I’ll just kind of proceed.

Fuck everybody.

Fuck them! I don’t give one fuck. Not one. Not one single fuck! And I will live happily ever after...that’s the only way to do it.



Chris Kraus is an interrogator. Upon meeting her, she comes off frank, curious, and enunciative, often answering questions with more questions… READ FULL POST TEXT PATRIK SANDBERG

Chris Kraus is an interrogator. Upon meeting her, she comes off frank, curious, and enunciative, often answering questions with more questions. In her work—which has spanned films and performances in the ‘70s and ‘80s and novels from the ‘90s until now—she is driven by a skepticism so entrenched that she applies it across and through every level of her practice. She doesn’t simply pose questions or investigate overlooked realities and points of view within her novels, critiques, and essays—which she does—she questions the very form in which her findings are conveyed. Not only that, but she does it out of respect, not resistance. She dives deep into each form—letters, prose, essays, diaries, novels—and once she’s mastered its functions, she forges her own way forward. That’s what makes her a writer’s writer.

In her novels, like I Love Dick (1997), Aliens & Anorexia (2000), and Torpor (2006), she thoughtfully blurs her own life into fiction, in a way that subverts the traditional roman à clef, analyzing her relationships with ironic distance and self-critique. When it comes to nonfiction, she carefully and meticulously ventures down rabbit holes to reveal new stories—artifacts that reflect our society in a light we haven’t seen. As the founder of the Native Agents imprint with Semiotext(e), Chris has extended that practice to unearthing groundbreaking work, both new and newly rediscovered. Through Native Agents, Chris and her partners Hedi El Kholti and Sylvere Lotringer have published work by William Burroughs, Gary Indiana, Penny Arcade, Bruce Benderson, Eileen Myles, and Kathy Acker. Recently, the imprint published Surveys, the debut novel by New York city writer Natasha Stagg. In August, Semiotext(e) will release Learning What Love Means, Mathieu Lindon’s autobiography chronicling his friendship with the late Michel Foucault, as well as Chris’ next project, a long-gestating biography of Acker.

But if you’re used to seeing Chris’ name, it’s likely because her work hit the big time this year. Amazon released Jill Soloway’s adaptation of I Love Dick this spring, a comedy series starring Kathryn Hahn and Kevin Bacon. Chris sat down to discuss the surrealism of advertising, subverting text, rediscovering Kathy Acker, and making a living as a writer in 2017.

Is it weird, driving around seeing these giant I Love Dick billboards?

Well, the first time I saw it in my neighborhood, I was in MacArthur Park and posters were plastered all over the bus stops. Yeah, that was weird. Two blocks from my house.

You’ve made it in Hollywood now!

It’s a TV show, right? Of course they’re gonna promote it all over the place.

How involved were you in the development of the show?

I wasn’t really involved in the development. I more like a spiritual godmother. They were extremely welcoming and respectful, but at the same time they didn’t need my help. I don’t know much about writing scripts. When I agreed to let Jill [Soloway] take the material, I just assumed she was going to do something else with it—and she did. I’m really happy with what she did. I visited the set a few times and I was consulted in a general way, but not in a very nuts-and-bolts, episode-to-episode kind of way.

What has the experience been like, seeing your work adapted in that way?

It’s...fine. A big pleasure, I think, was seeing episode five, the way they adapted it. That’s the episode when the three women in the ensemble write their own ‘letters’ to Dick and they speak directly to the camera. I felt like, in that episode, they were stepping out of the book and more into the phenomenon of the book. Since it was reissued in the mid aughts, it has kind of a community of young women around it. That episode really reflects that. Not so much the book, but the community of the book.

You’re known for subverting conventions in your work, whether in the form of a book or simply within a narrative. It’s interesting the way that television can also take a source material and subvert it in its own, somewhat formulaic way.

Yeah, definitely. A great thing that Jill does with the show is that pushing the boundaries of how experimental TV can look. You see it with the inter-titles.

Even the advertising is kind of like that, too. Something that you’ve always supported is women who write. What has been fulfilling in the work that you’ve done with Semiotext(e) and helping discover women writers and giving them a platform?

When I started the Native Agents series, the idea was that it was going to be mostly women. We would make exceptions—there were a lot of gay men, there was one straight man—because, you know, women-only is too boring. But it was because I was mostly reading women. So, it’s not just me doing the fiction list anymore. I work with Hedi El Kholti especially, and Sylvère [Lotringer]. It’s not exclusively women, but there are a lot of women. The whole list reflects both our shared aesthetic and also kind of a larger community—the Semiotext(e) community. What’s especially great is the way that things kind of dovetail and reinforce each other. You know, we’ve published dozens and dozens of people and they’re not necessarily alike at all, but there are all these different points of connection where things on the list animate each other and speak to each other in really great ways. A novel we published inn 2015, Surveys by Natasha Stagg, amplifies ideas about semio-capital explained by Franco Berardi, in one of our theory books. We tend to make a commitment to publish someone more than once. We’ve worked with Kate Zambreno, The Invisible Committee, Ariana Reines, Franco Berardi, Jackie Wang, several times - it’s an extended community.

Can you tell me about the biography you’re writing on [radical novelist and queer feminist writer] Kathy Acker?

I finished it! It’s coming out on August 25th.

She’s sort of become this mythic figure. What is it like having to take someone of that kind of status and write a book about them?

Kathy was such a great self-mythologizer. So one of the challenges of writing her biography is to take mythologies apart. The point is not to call her out as a liar, the point is more to see what is the narrative that she was creating and why did she create it—what purpose did it serve? I waited a long time to write the book. I thought in ’98, after she died, that I would write the book. Luckily, I did a bunch of interviews at that time with people who had been close to her, before they got all sort of nostalgic and forgetful about things. I put them in the closet because it wasn’t the right time. It would have been too “fangirl” and too incestuous if I’d have done it in ’98. I really needed to have written other books and for some time to go by, so that there was a distance. Some people who’ve read it have said that they were surprised that the book was so not personal on my part. I hardly ever say “I”. But, in a way, I think it’s even more personal because of that restraint. I’m trying to access her through the distance of time and space. That allows you to come very close.

"I work consistently, but I don’t feel a pressure to bring a book out every two years at all….Before I Love Dick, it never occurred to me that I’d make any real money as a writer. So, my writing has been pretty separate from what I need to do for money.” - CHRIS KRAUS

How do you find the experience of allowing an idea to gestate like that for a long time before you actually sink your teeth into it?

That’s how all of my work is. It all needs to marinate for a long time. You know, you have the flash of the idea that peaks, and then it peaks again, and again, and again, until you are so sick of it. [Laughs] But then you have to execute it. There’s that flash of the idea, then there’s all of the time it takes to map it out for other people.

Do you ever feel a pressure to put out content? Do you think that we should think about things longer? When do you know that it’s time to stop thinking and start doing?

You have a really hard job because, as well as being a writer, you’re doing journalism and other things. I don’t think I could do that. Hace you ever told heard of the poet Lew Welch? He’s a poet of the mid-20th century. He worked in advertising. He had an idea that poetry and advertising copy and animate each other.

Advertising can be fascinating. But you can’t do too much of it or it just eats away at your soul. You have to make time for your own projects.

Yeah. I don’t make that much content. My last book came out in 2012. That’s five years since I last published a book. I work consistently, but I don’t feel a pressure to bring a book out every two years at all. That’s the trap that Kathy Acker fell into in the second half of her career, after she’d started being commercially published. She felt the need to sustain her career, she had to keep touring, and to keep touring she needed a new book out every two years. So, she was putting out books even when she wasn’t ready—just from the pure pressure of generating content. Early on, I decided I wasn’t going to do that. I looked for other ways to support myself. Before I Love Dick, it never occurred to me that I’d make any real money as a writer. So, my writing has been pretty separate from what I need to do for money.

"Some people who’ve read [Kathy Acker’s biography] have said that they were surprised that the book was so not personal on my part. I hardly ever say “I”. But, in a way, I think it’s even more personal because of that restraint. I’m trying to access her through the distance of time and space. That allows you to come very close.” - CHRIS KRAUS

Is the show I Love Dick the first time that one of your books has been optioned?


Isn’t that shocking? It seems like everything gets optioned now. If something has any shred of buzz, Hollywood pounces on it and scoops up the rights.

They tie it up for a couple of years, until nobody else is interested. Then they drop it.

Exactly. But don’t you get paid when that happens?

I believed that something like that was gonna happen with Summer of Hate, that felt really timely and cinematic – but not yet.

Hollywood has a very short-term memory. I wonder if the attention of I Love Dick will suddenly put a spotlight on your other work.

That would be a good thing! If that spotlight attracts the right people.

Diving into Kathy Acker’s life and work, have there been things that you learned that surprised you?

I ended up being most moved and inspired by her discipline and her work ethic. I wasn’t necessarily looking for that, but my book starts when she’s 23, not when she’s born. It’s more of a career biography: how she invented herself as a writer. I found diaries and letters and other stuff. It was 1971 when she was moved back to New York. She was 23, and deliberately training herself as a writer. You can see it in the little changes she’d make in her diaries, making them more active, concise. I did a very close reading, trying to understand how her work works. You know? Some people go to MFA programs to learn more about writing, but she taught herself.

So it was more methodical than one would imagine.

Oh yes, absolutely. And being so academically brilliant, she was extremely of literary forms and what she was doing in her work.

To look back now, what she did is more and more impressive. It’s so hard to make a living as a writer.

It’s impossible. Even a very critically successful writer doesn’t necessarily make a living off the work. They did a survey in the UK: The average established, published writer makes something like £15,000 a year in royalties. You can’t live on that.

I was wondering, for a young writer who might look up to you, what would your advice be about making a career as a writer?

It varies so much between people and temperaments. It’s fraudulent to tell anyone that they can, just because they have an MFA, expect to make a living as a college teacher or as a published writer. But, there are a lot of other things that can happen. I think people have to look toward what they can live with. What’s easy? You want the way that you make your money to be easy, because writing is really hard. You have to look for the thing that’s not gonna be too hard.

Whatever doesn’t crush your spirit!

I tried very briefly at one point to make a living as a freelance writer. The time that you spend pitching things and the time you spend trying to get paid, is so much greater than you spend even writing them. It doesn’t work out.


Kembra Pfahler is one of New York’s most recognizable fine artists, and not just because of her signature dark eye make-up or the hair-raising wigs and technicolor body paint she employs as part of her punk band, The Voluptuous Horror of Karen Black... READ FULL POST Text Patrik Sandberg

Kembra Pfahler is one of New York’s most recognizable fine artists, and not just because of her signature dark eye make-up or the hair-raising wigs and technicolor body paint she employs as part of her punk band, The Voluptuous Horror of Karen Black. Her work, dealing with themes of rage, protest, and our deteriorating planet, has been shown in galleries and museums all over the world in the form of photography, films, performances, written manifestos, and more. She’s also quite the charismatic actress: this year, she co-starred in Bruce LaBruce’s bonzo lesbian terrorism comedy The Misandrists.

This year, Aarhus, Denmark has been named the European Capital of Culture, with Anohni serving as the city’s resident artist. For seven weeks, she has invited Pfahler and collaborator Johanna Constantine to launch a Future Feminism initiative, reviving a 2014 show and residency the artists held at New York City’s Hole Gallery. As she prepares to take her show to Europe, Pfahler reflects on the collective’s 13-tenet manifesto, how fashion helps artists, and fear in the age of climate denial.

I’ve been in New York for about ten years, so I’ve been to many of your performances, the last one being Future Feminism, at the Hole Gallery.

Future Feminism was with Anohni. We had all of these women like Laurie Anderson and Marina Abramović and Lorraine O’Grady—all of these iconic artists came and joined us for the art show at The Hole. We wrote a manifesto of thirteen texts for future feminism. Now Anohni, Johanna Constantine, and I are doing a seven-week stint in Aarhus, Denmark, the cultural capital of Europe.

So you will be there for the full seven weeks?

Yeah! I want to meet the people of Europe and see which women we can ask to participate. We wanted to have indigenous people from Denmark come and speak, to share their experiences of what it was like to be in that part of the world. How did they live? How did they survive? How did they function? We are also bringing in Femen, which is a feminist organization from Paris. They’re a little more militant and aggressive and I identify with them a little bit more than other feminists I’ve been exposed to. We also want to invite young children from Aarhus to come and talk about what their lives are like.

Can you explain what Future Feminism represents, in terms of ideology?

Essentially, Future Feminism requires the participation of all men and women. Everyone is included. It’s not an exclusive kind of feminism where we just talk about our bodies. We’re not really caring about our bodies as much as we’re caring about the one body of mother earth. It’s about the proliferation of plants and animals and species. It feels to me like things are drastically decaying. I’ve never felt afraid like I have in the last few years, just because of climate change. Our feminism isn’t so much personal experience, as much as trying to find out how everyone wants to change the world and how we can get together and survive. We’re moved by nature, that sounds really corny but it’s real. Nothing else makes sense to me.

If you think about it, it’s the most important thing.

None of us will be able to live here! There will be no place to argue.

Have you always been interested in these types of subjects?

I lived in Mill Valley and Hermosa Beach. I grew up on the West Coast so I’m a beach person. I was a gymnast in that part of the world. My philosophy and my lifestyle and my whole way of being is very West Coast. My brain doesn’t function like East Coast at all...I have a different agenda. To me, to be able to do this [campaign] is like taking a glamorous vacation. My life is filled with fighting and chaos and struggle. I only wear men’s clothes usually. I never wear dresses, but these are dresses I would wear. I’d need to feel like I can run from the police or a fight. I need to be able to run fast. You can’t run fast if you’re in stiletto heels that are seven inches tall. But doing photo shoots is interesting and fun, I get to work with people from all over the world, and I love the make-up artists. Most of the people working in fashion now, I find to be interdisciplinary artists. It’s a pleasure. I’ve always loved Helmut Lang’s men’s clothing. I always wanted to wear those T-shirts that had no fabric, they were just the outer rim of the lining. It’s a pleasure to work with photographers who are artists and who have the same kind of attitude toward fashion. As a feminist and as a lady, I never wanted to be terribly ugly, or wear no make-up just because I was a serious artist. But if you like to wear a lot of make-up and you like to dress up, quite often you’re not taken as seriously as an artist—unless you’re 70 or 80 years old. As a female, it takes a whole lifetime. With fashion, there is an interesting pollination of, “Yes, you can be beautiful, you can be dressed up, and you can be taken seriously as an artist.” Why not be beautiful in your own way?

"As a feminist and as a lady, I never wanted to be terribly ugly, or wear no make-up just because I was a serious artist. But if you like to wear a lot of make-up and you like to dress up, quite often you’re not taken as seriously as an artist—unless you’re 70 or 80 years old. As a female, it takes a whole lifetime.” - KEMBRA PFAHLER

I think there are two kinds of artists in fashion, the ones who want to mould you into something else, and the ones who want to emphasize the unique glamour that you already possess. Helmut Lang was the former with the clothes, and the latter when it came to people.

It’s such a privilege to spend time with hair and make-up and beautiful clothes—it really is! A lot of the stuff I wear when I have to get dressed up and go to jobs is like armor. I have to get dressed really quickly with the work that I do. Right now I’m wearing a children’s pajama set that I got when I had a film show in Los Angeles. I had an hour to kill so I bought all these children’s pajamas. I wear a lot of boy’s—children’s—clothes, like suits. My niece told me that in her high school in San Francisco there’s a class called Dressing for Job Interviews, because all the punk rock kids would just not get the gigs. You have to find a little bit of compromise when you’re dealing with other people.

It’s a survival skill.


Alek Wek changed everything. From the moment she arrived on fashion’s radar... READ FULL POST Text Patrik Sandberg

Alek Wek changed everything. From the moment she arrived on fashion’s radar, shooting with Steven Meisel and Herb Ritts in the late nineties, Alek has paved a confident path through the business of fashion, serving as both an ambassador for African beauty—she was the first African model to be photographed for the cover of Elle—and an ambassador for the UN Refugee Agency, raising awareness and funds for refugee response efforts around the world. Born and raised in the South Sudan during the atrocious and devastating second civil war, Alek escaped to London where she taught herself English and studied history and art, before being scouted in 1995. Hers was a supreme elegance, a statuesque, superhuman beauty that stood out from other black models of the era, captivating industry power players like Ralph Lauren, Isaac Mizrahi, and Anna Wintour. Her eyes beaming and smile dazzling, anyone who was around remembers seeing her face gracing the covers of top magazines, in what felt like a watershed moment for diversity and empowerment in fashion.

It’s no wonder that Helmut Lang was drawn to Alek’s presence—breaking with convention was one of the designer’s raisons d’être—calling on her to open his Spring 1999 show. Though reticent at first, Alek seized the spotlight and every opportunity that has come in its wake. It’s part of a mission that has guided her over the course of her career, to change perception and shed light on the refugee experience, which is something she has lived firsthand. Two decades on, Alek has the same contagious joy and transportive magnetism. This season, she returns to Helmut Lang. To celebrate, she sat down to discuss ageing gracefully, memories of working with Helmut Lang, and using her platform to make a positive impact.

You don’t seem to age. How do you do it? Were you created in a lab?

I take these hormones…[laughs] But no, it’s my genes. I really think that helps. I try to just take it easy as well. I do a lot of yoga, walk my dog, I’m very active, and I eat well.

Are you still based in New York?

Yeah, in Fort Greene. I bought a house here in 1999. It’s one of the best. I really love our neighborhood as well. It’s nice to have a back garden where I can plant flowers and bamboo. And there’s Fort Greene Park. That’s what really made me move out here. A friend of mine used to live around the corner, and I would come from the East Village and take the train. That’s the fun thing about New York: there are so many sights.

How did you come to pursue modeling, and when did you meet Helmut Lang?

Oh, God...that was ‘99, I want to say. It was a really pivotal moment in my career. I had left South Sudan in 1991 at age 14 during the Civil War. It was just too dangerous being in South Sudan at that time. My mother came two years later. Not being able to speak, and being in a completely different culture, I went to secondary school in London, then I went to college. I really enjoyed art and history. One day a friend and I went to Hyde Park, where there was a big fair going on. This scout came up to me and said, “Would you like to be a model?” I said, “Don’t be daft.” [laughs.] And she was like, “No, I’m serious!” After a month came and went, she kept calling and asking to take polaroids of me. I asked my friend to come with me, in case it was dodgy. That’s how [modeling] came about. And then Eileen Ford came along…

What was it like working with Eileen? She was notoriously strict but also very funny.

So funny! I thought she would be really serious and she wasn’t. She had such a great sense of humor. That’s what I love about her, and that was what made me come to New York. She said, “There are agents who would really like to represent you. You don’t have to quit school, you can come in the summertime and if you don’t like it, you can go back to school in September.” So that’s what I did. I came and went to about fifteen appointments in the hot June of 1996, seeing everybody, but a lot of people were out of town, you know. It was almost July and everybody was on holiday. By the time they came back, I was in London.

So you kept missing people?

Yes. By the time they came back, they saw the polaroids and they were like, “Where is she?” [Laughs.] And Eileen was like, “She’s on the plane, she went back!” So I came back to New York and I opened Ralph Lauren and Donna Karan and I closed Calvin Klein and Isaac Mizrahi. It was just so much fun. I got to do shows with the supermodels like Cindy Crawford, and those girls were so sweet. They were still doing the shows at the time, and it was really humbling. And it was around that time that I opened Helmut Lang.

What was significant for you about working with Helmut Lang?

For me, I really liked the clothes, and just the person that he was. At that time, I had just started modeling and he was a very important person in the industry. It was organic, I felt. I didn’t feel like I was a thing or an object. He appreciated the woman that I was, not just how I looked in the clothes...and the clothes were fabulous. I still can’t really see anyone who can do the same cut of a suit. For me, I like to feel like I am a woman, but still beautiful and cool. He really made that happen, not just for women but for men as well. You could be an artist, you could be a businessperson, and you still appreciated his clothes. His was the only sample sale where I saw us models lining up like regular people! I still have those clothes.

That’s what everybody keep your Helmut Lang.

Yeah! So whenever I heard the words Helmut Lang: “We’re gonna be shooting this,” I jump up and down in my office. It’s because I have such fond memories of the clothes, but in particular, the essence of him as a person. That was really something.


Do you have a favorite memory of walking for Helmut Lang?

It was backstage, when I opened the show. When the show finished—I was just learning about fashion at that point, you have to understand. In South Sudan I never knew anything about magazines, or designers, but it doesn’t matter where you grow up. You feel what you feel. But I remember, that’s when Anna Wintour came backstage and said, “You look absolutely amazing.” And it was from that encounter that I got my first American Vogue editorial.


I remember when I first got to the agency, they were like, “She’s not commercial. She’ll never make it past a certain level.” For me, the way that I was raised, and the way that I feel about myself, nobody defines Alek but Alek. So I said, “Obviously, I can work with the clothes, so if that’s what you think, you have your own preference.” So that was really an amazing moment. I felt that Helmut saw something in me. There’s an old saying, it’s good to be around people who see something that you don’t see. They see the best in you. I thought it was so beautiful how he could celebrate not just a woman’s body, but a woman’s style: who they were. Then, to have been able to do an American Vogue story after that was really fantastic. Helmut Lang and his clothes, they do inspire so many. It’s a testimony after two decades.

Would you say that Helmut Lang had a knack for recontextualizing beauty?

Even if people don’t get it, he got it. He felt it. For me, I am a very emotional person. Not emotional like [pretends to cry]. Yeah, I cry, but I like to feel something, and not just because somebody else said it was cool. I feel like Helmut got it before everyone else. That’s why I’m humbled to have been a part of it at that time.

"Refugees can be turned into a stigma, but they’re not one. It’s real. I didn’t want to come and be a burden, I wanted to work hard. I went to school, I educated myself. That’s what made me want to work in fashion, to use this platform and shed light.” - ALEK WEK

You rose to prominence at a time when there wasn’t anyone else in the world who looked like you appearing on the covers of fashion magazines. Back then, it was so refreshing to see models from Africa, like you and Djimon Hounsou, appearing in all of those beautiful Herb Ritts photographs. Since then, the industry has gone through downs and ups when it comes to diversity. What is your perspective on these aesthetic shifts?

I feel like social media and the Internet have connected us as people, so that we can be like, “What is this? This is not what people want. This is what people sitting in a room somewhere have done in a casting and they’re forcing it on people.” In the end, the consumers speak. I think it’s important to show images that represent people in general. I feel that, slowly, we are finally getting there. Helmut did that, way back when. Herb Ritts, too.

We’re seeing more diversity in terms of age, gender identity, and size as well.

I just remember some agencies being like, “Oh, perhaps you’re not [relevant].” Now they’re like, “’re not ageing!” I want to age. I don’t want to be 21 again. [Laughs.] I love my maturity. It is the most beautiful, humbling experience that takes place. I feel if we can embrace it, we can age gracefully. You can see that some of the other women have aged beautifully as well, and they are doing wonderful things. Just don’t mess with your face, because you’re not gonna come back from it! If it’s not broken, don’t fix it.

You have been an outspoken advocate on behalf of the UN Refugee Response program. Would you like to say anything about what is taking place now in Syria and Europe?

It’s really painful. The good thing is that you can go on the Internet and see how you can help. [Volunteers and advocates] are really the only way that they are able to raise funds. That is how I try to help, to raise funds for the ongoing Syrian refugee crisis. It’s a catastrophe, it’s terrible. Even in South Sudan, after our independence five years ago, now people want to start another war. It’s about who wants to be president. Not everybody has to have a president. There needs to be infrastructure. What I understand now, having been outside of it and then going back, is that it’s the men who’ve fought the war and they’re very traumatized. They have a lot of war trauma, and they have no mental health care. Even the most sophisticated army, whether it’s in Britain or the United States, they come back and they go back to their families all messed up in the head. They need help. When the war is over, it’s still challenging. Their friends have been killed and they’ve had to kill others in the line of duty. They need to be compensated. There needs to be unity. I advocate to the young generation through education. That’s where we have to start so that it doesn’t keep repeating itself. Right now, with the refugee program, the funds that people contribute go directly toward food, shelter, water...survival: the most basic right any human being has.

The story so often gets reduced to religion, terrorism, or that immigrants are coming to steal people’s jobs, when really they are just trying to escape being murdered.

They’re just like you and me. Refugees are very, very vulnerable and there’s nothing to protect them. You have young girls who get raped in refugee camps, which is the most devastating thing. All we need is safety, shelter, food, and water. The most basic necessities. All these funds are important. Not every refugee gets a chance. I know it first hand. When I arrived from my small town, those were the first people I saw, in those blue vests. If they were not there, I don’t know that I would have survived. There was no government and the whole town was burned down. How were we going to survive? Refugees can be turned into a stigma, but they’re not one. It’s real. I didn’t want to come and be a burden, I wanted to work hard. I went to school, I educated myself. That’s what made me want to work in fashion, to use this platform and shed light.


Twenty years ago, The New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority attempted to shut down Ozzfest when it was announced that the metal festival would be headlined by shock rocker Marilyn Manson... READ FULL POST Text Patrik Sandberg

Twenty years ago, The New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority attempted to shut down Ozzfest after it was announced that the metal festival would be headlined by shock rocker Marilyn Manson. Suing on the grounds of the First Amendment, the festival’s founder, Ozzy Osbourne, fought the state and won. It was one of a litany of parental efforts to stop Manson and his band from performing across the country, usually carried out in the form of protests and letters to the media. Democratic senator Joe Lieberman referred to them as “the sickest group ever promoted by a mainstream record company.” The band’s 1998 album Mechanical Animals was famously rejected by K-Mart, Wal-Mart, and Target. Schools even threatened to expel students caught attending their concerts. Accused of promoting drug use, Satan worshipping, rape, murder, bestiality, suicide, bible-burning, and of generally corrupting society, Manson became a social lightning rod in the late-’90s. He was even accused of inspiring the Columbine High School massacre. A New York Times article at the time referred to Manson as a 'bogeyman in reverse.' “Children use him to scare their parents,” wrote Neil Strauss. “Then their parents use him to scare other parents. And it seems to be working.”

If you’re looking for any indication that times have changed, look no further than Unlocking The Truth, a hard rock trio from Brooklyn made up of teenage friends Malcolm Brickhouse, Jarad Dawkins, and Alec Atkins. Not only did they begin playing metal music as pre-pubescent kids, but Brickhouse’s mother championed the idea, taking them to Times Square to perform in the street for tourists and bystanders. Fast forward to now, and the band has signed—and subsequently emancipated themselves from—a million-dollar-plus deal with SONY, become the youngest-ever band to play both Coachella and the Warped Tour, and opened for Guns ‘N’ Roses, Queens of the Stone Age, Motörhead, and—yes—Marilyn Manson.

The notion that three black kids from Flatbush would even be interested in heavy metal is almost quaint in an era where hip hop has all but run rock and roll out of the industry. This is partially what led the group to Internet-era prominence, earning them performance spots everywhere from popular festivals to network TV. To hear them tell it, they’re just following their passions and being themselves, reacting to an uncertain world with the same confusion, chaos, and rage they see reflected around them.

What’s the fucking problem with the stupid fucking world?

Malcolm: Donald Trump.

Alec: The problem with the world is these established institutions that keep us held in place, such as monetary, governmental, and religious institutions. They lie to us constantly in order to keep a lot of people from seeing the truth. It creates a cycle of slavery passed down from generation to generation. Monetary and religious slavery are interconnected. We don’t have a proper understanding of the way life is supposed to be lived.

How long have you guys known each other?

Alec: We’ve known each other since the age of two.

Malcolm: One of our members [Jarad Dawkins] is missing. I forgot where he went. He must have gotten lost or something.

How did you get into metal?

Malcolm: I was really into anime and wrestling when I was younger, and I would hear a lot of metal in the background. That’s how I got into metal. Our drummer Jarad has always played the drums, since he was two years old—he played in church and everything. He started coming over to my house and hearing the music that I was listening to. My mom was always trying to find things for me to do—she’s still trying, even at this age—but guitar was one of the first things that stuck with me when I was younger. So, since he played drums and I played guitar, and we were listening to metal, we just sort of happened into it. We were a pretend metal band. You know how when you’re a kid and you play wrestling and you want to be ninjas? That’s how the band was. But then my mom heard us and we were getting better and better and she was like, “Okay, this could be something really serious.” So she started putting us in Times Square to perform. Then the buzz started building.

Who were some of the bands or guitar players that you looked up to?

Malcolm: When I first started playing, I focused on a band called Disturbed and their guitarist, Dan Donegan. I don’t like a lot of guitar, I like music in general. I think that guitar makes it easy to express how you feel with an instrument. It’s so expressive. I feel like I focus more on making good music than on getting better at guitar. But while you’re making music, you get better at what you’re doing.

"at 13 years old, in the winter, with your fingers freezing, still playing... We weren’t even sure if we were going to go anywhere. We were just doing it for the love of the music.” - MALCOLM, UNLOCKING THE TRUTH

What appeals to you about metal?

Alec: Good musical content. It doesn’t focus on mainstream things.

Malcolm: I can connect to it. When I was younger, I wasn’t connecting to rappers talking about money and sex and drugs all the time.

Alec: Why would you want to hear somebody talk about how fantastic their life is? I remember around eighth grade, I went to school in a Spanish neighborhood and every person would be bumping this song called “Bugatti” from their car. These dudes would be driving Hondas and Toyotas and they’d be like, “I woke up in a new Bugatti.” They was blasting! Like, are you serious?

Malcolm: I need something to relate to sometimes. I’m not going to lie, I listen to a lot of rap music now. I think nü metal is really corny. I went from liking metal to hip hop.

Do you feel that people are trying to escape too much with music? You can see the same pretense in Instagram that you do in rap music.

Malcolm: It’s always a competition.

Alec: People search for other people’s approval. People only want to put out their best and let people judge that, so when people hype it up and say “Oh your life must be so fantastic,” people use that as their own mental therapy to convince themselves their life is fantastic.

Malcolm: But I do the same thing, I won’t lie. But you don’t gotta be blind to it.

How did you end up opening on tour for bands like Marilyn Manson and Motörhead? Did you ever expect to come this far this fast?

Malcolm: I’m nowhere yet. I’m still on the way there. But I hear what you’re saying. I think it happened really fast and we haven’t really had time to process it. We’re pretty lucky, we just don’t feel like it.

Alec: We’re in it. People don’t see the time: but we know the amount of time and all of the work we do. We put in 90 percent, but people only see the other 10 percent.

Malcolm: People say we came up really fast, but they don’t consider that from morning to night we would be playing in Times Square. That takes dedication at 13 years old, in the winter, with your fingers freezing, still playing, and still trying to make this happen, boy. We weren’t even sure if we were going to go anywhere. We were just doing it for the love of the music. Then things happened.

Alec: I got sick too. I was so sick. You could take the glass of your iPhone, put your thumb up to the glass, and see the whole screen fog up. That’s how hot my fever was. But we kept playing. You’ve gotta do what you’ve gotta do. People don’t see that. They see that we got Coachella and they think it was something that was just handed to us.

What has been your craziest live experience performing?

Both: Bonnaroo.

Alec: I signed boobs at Coachella.

Malcolm: That’s corny though. You’re past that point. You were 13, you weren’t getting girls. We’re past that point. That’s not cool anymore.

Alec: But it was cool...I was 13! But Bonnaroo was the best, they had the best crowd participation. The crowd there was very, very active. I just wish we had the wall of death.

Malcolm: We did have a wall of death, I’ll show you. We had two! They did it and I said, nope, they just didn’t do it at the right time.

What is a Wall of Death?

Malcolm: It’s when people in a crowd split down the middle, and then they run at each other. And now rap fans are doing it. They’re doing everything that metal was doing first.

Alec: But at the same time, they are paving the way for us to make it into the mainstream. I feel it. This is the way.

Malcolm: Metal is so dead right now, and I feel like we can revive it. We’re so new and fresh.

Alec: But if you were to listen to the Times Square videos, you would think that we’re corny. But when we come out with this next album, you’re gonna listen to the CHAOS.

What do you think of people who wear heavy metal T-shirts but they don’t listen to the music?

Alec: It bothers me. For example I’ll see people and they’ll have a Metallica tee and they don’t even listen to Metallica. I have a friend named Raven. We go around school and if we see someone in a band T-shirt, we expose them. We say, “What’s your favorite song?” and we wait for the person to say “Uh...uh…” and they stutter, or they say “I don’t listen to them” and we ask them, “so, you’re just riding the wave?” and then they don’t say anything because they’re embarrassed at that point.

Malcolm: But I ain’t gonna hold you, I be wearing my mom’s old stuff! She be having some Michael Jackson tees and vintage stuff. I don’t listen to half the stuff I be wearing from that closet. I used to think about it like, “Oh, they don’t even listen to metal.” But they’re all sheep, they just follow each other.

Alec: People wear Metallica T-shirts with Jordans and it’s so off-set. Those two things do not go together. You can’t listen to Metallica and wear Jordans.

Malcolm: You can, but the way that they do it is just a trend. But people who don’t even listen to metal can listen to us! When they listen they’ll go, “Oh wow this is way better than metal.”

Alec: A lot of artists break through because they sound different. Back in the day, people looked for something that sounded similar to something else. But now, anything that’s off-set or just different, people gravitate to that.

Malcolm: I used to be embarrassed of my black nail polish and all my rock stuff. Then I realized there’s never going to be another Malcolm. So why would I lessen myself to please other people? Now I’m realizing the only way to make it is to be me. Boy, just being yourself makes you so much happier.

"I used to be embarrassed of my black nail polish and all my rock stuff. Then I realized there’s never going to be another Malcolm. So why would I lessen myself to please other people... just being yourself makes you so much happier.” - MALCOLM, UNLOCKING THE TRUTH

There have been many black musicians in metal bands, but the scene as a whole has been very white. Is it ever weird for you?

Malcolm: That’s the best part. If the metal scene were black, we wouldn’t even be famous. That’s what makes us. Our music sounds different because we are black.

Alec: I think we’re just making our own lane. It’s not even like we’re on par with these Warped Tour bands. Our sound is just so far out there. But people are going to eat it up soon.

Malcolm: We came up partially because of the gimmicky part of us: we’re young and black and playing metal. That’s cool and everything. Now it’s time to prove that our music will stand the test of time. Our first album is out and people love it, right? But when this second album comes out, it’s gonna be crazy.

Alec: We are not a Mindless Behavior. We’re not people who have been put together—we’re legit friends. We hang out, we have band practice, we laugh, we smile and crack jokes. It’s all brotherly, man.

Malcolm: And I don’t know who our competition is because I don’t know of anyone making music this good at 15 and 16. I like the gimmick part and I’m going to embrace it, because the thing is that it’s original. And then the music is going to be original on top of it.

Larry Clark is something of a singular torchbearer for radical American moviemaking. Known for his provocative and unsettling cinematic portraits of youth over the edge... READ FULL POST Text Patrik Sandberg

Larry Clark is something of a singular torchbearer for radical American moviemaking. Known for his provocative and unsettling cinematic portraits of youth over the edge—in seminal films like Kids (1995), Bully (2001), Ken Park (2002), and Wassup Rockers (2005)—Larry fixes a voyeuristic lens on finely-drawn characters that hew dangerously close to real life. In fact, his film work often blurs fact and fiction to an immersive and disquieting end. To wonder if it’s by design, if situations are real or staged, is part of the spontaneity, and it’s a style that has earned Larry his rightful place in both arthouse cinemas and major art museums around the world.

It’s wild to fathom that Larry began his career as a baby photographer in a department store. Trained by his mother in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where he grew up, Larry had an affinity for taking photographs throughout his adolescence. His black-and-white photographs documenting the drug use of his friends eventually made up his first body of work, Tulsa, published in 1971. In the early ‘90s, a renewed interest in that work, as well as his 1983 follow-up Teenage Lust, led him to investigate the idea of directing films. By the time Kids broke out at Sundance, Larry had secured his place as a bold and unprecedented auteur in the indie film firmament. To date, minors have been prohibited by authorities from attending some his photo exhibitions. Ken Park was banned in the U.K. and Australia, and has still never been released in the United States, becoming a rare collectible if you can get your hands on it.

Currently, Larry is wrapping up post-production on the sequel to his 2012 film Marfa Girl, and also releasing the director’s cut of his 2014 movie The Smell of Us. After five decades of making work, Larry may be more prolific than ever.

How’s work?

I just finished editing a new film, Marfa Girl 2, the sequel to Marfa Girl. It’ll come out this year. Then I have another, a French film, The Smell Of Us, the director’s cut, which I’m also going to release this year. So I have two films that are in the can, and then I may do another film this year. I don’t know. I have a lot to do.

How has making movies changed since you made your first feature (1995’s Kids)?

It’s always difficult. Every film is different. You always learn something from each one. Any film that gets made—or gets finished—is a miracle. I’ve done about ten features now.

Do you have an okay time when it comes to securing financing? changes. I’ve been very lucky to make my movies. Having final cut as director, no one can fuck with my films, which makes it difficult also. I mean, the Hollywood films, they make the film and then the studio and the producers can take it and cut it like they want to. They can really change it. They show it to an audience, if the audience doesn’t like the ending then they’ll shoot a different ending and all that. But not with my films.

Do you think that’s because you started out as an artist?

I’ve just always insisted on it, you know. I wouldn’t make a film otherwise. I’ve turned down films—a couple of big Hollywood films—because I couldn’t have final cut. It’s just my work. It’s just an extension of my work, as an artist.

You’ve discovered a lot of young actors and stars. What’s your process when it comes to casting?


I’ve been told that my casting process is quite individual, quite unique and different. I bring people in and I just want to know about the person. I don’t really have them read the lines for the role. I just talk to them about their life. I’ve been told it’s almost like seeing a psychotherapist or a shrink. I’m interested in people and what they do and who they are. I decide that way. I know what they’re gonna be like, visually. You can tell if the camera is gonna like someone or not, which is a big help. I’ve discovered people just by looking at them, walking in the street. I’ll say, “Oh, the camera’s gonna love that person.” It’s kind of like that. It’s always different.

A lot of reality seeps into your productions, or maybe it seems that way by design. Have you ever gotten into any risky situations?

I’m sure there have been, I can’t think of what they were though, off the top of my head. Let me think about that. Yeah there have been some dangerous, risky things during fights or violent scenes that get kind of out of hand. You have to be very careful because you don’t want to hurt anybody.

What has been the most unpredictable thing that has happened on the set of one of your films?

Something always happens where everything hits you. You’ve been aiming for it—hoping and dreaming—and then you finally set up the shot and everything falls apart. Then you either take the ball and go home or you keep going. I just keep going. If something happens that destroys everything you wanted to do, or that you thought that you were going to do, it gives you a freedom. It’s almost like there’s a blank canvas all of the sudden. As an artist, that’s very exciting for me, because then you can do whatever you want. There are no limits. Something happens that way in every film, where you can’t do what you planned on doing. It’s what you do then which is important. I always know that’s gonna happen, so when it happens I, as I said, I think of it as a blank canvas.

So you don’t have to stick to a plan necessarily?

I’ve had actors say: “Larry, I’m used to a director just saying stand on this mark and say this line.” I don’t work that way. It can be frightening for the actor. Freeing also. On an independent film, everybody is taking chances and taking risks. And the thing about film is that it’s best when the audience can relate to it in real life. Maybe it’s not them, maybe it’s somebody they know, but they relate to it. Those moments are the best in film, I think. When people go in for an hour and a half and they forget their life, their world and everything. You draw them into this world for an hour and a half and they’re totally caught up in it.

Do you feel that you’ve courted controversy or has it just been a by-product?

It’s been a by-product. Truthfully, I’ve never tried to be controversial. If I look back on the work I’ve done, through all these years—56 years is a long time—it’s like I’m always photographing or filming or working with small groups of people that you wouldn’t know about otherwise. If I didn’t make these films you wouldn’t know about these people. I’m drawn to that I think. Like Wassup Rockers is about young Latino kids in South Central Los Angeles, which is all black and hispanic. No white people go there. But I went there. I met these kids and was fascinated by their life and made a film about them. If I didn’t do it, you wouldn’t know about these people.


Do you feel like your work is reacting to anything, in terms of the political realities that come with living in America?

It doesn’t start out that way, no.

Bully was based on a real story, a case that happened in Florida. It was powerful when it was released but it still feels relevant now.

All the dialogue is dialogue that the kids actually said in real life. I was actually shooting from a book. My script came from the book by Jim Schutze, a crime reporter. He found transcripts that the defence attorneys had actually made with the kids, so the dialogue is actually that. Based on real-life, true dialogue. That’s a good film.

That must be like striking gold, finding those real moments and getting to translate them to screen.

Yeah. It was a tough film to make, we made it very quickly. All my films have been shot pretty fast, just because of money.

Are there any stories that have happened recently you think would make a good movie?

I’m sure there are. I just follow everything. It’s not like I’m looking for true crime movies to make. They’re all, in some way, personal films you can put yourself in. There’s not a lot of planning, it just kind of happens.

What continues to motivate you to make films, given that it can be so difficult?

Well, I always work and I’ve always worked.

Films are such hard work that many directors find it hard to keep going, so they take breaks to write, to take photographs, things like that.

I’ve been painting a lot lately, which I like a lot. It’s very solitary. I was a photographer, an artist. You work alone—you don’t have to talk to people. Then all of the sudden you’re making a film and you’re collaborating with 100 people. It’s a totally different way of life and of working. I always wanted to make films. When I decided it was now or never and made my first film, I had a very clear vision. I knew exactly what I wanted to do, and exactly what I wanted it to look like. Certainly, it’s a big help if you know what you want exactly. Then you have to bring everyone along with you. You have to teach everyone else what to do and how to do it. There are no rules. I’ve made films with people and they tell me “This isn’t the way it’s done. Nobody does it this way.” And I’m like, “Well, this is the way we’re gonna do it.” You have to bring people along, sometimes kicking and screaming, but you bring them along with you. That’s why I’m satisfied with movies.

Do you have any dream projects you’re still interested in making, ones you’ve never gotten to do?

It’s interesting when I look back at my work because I’ve done everything that I wanted to do. I think that’s just amazing. Who would think that could happen?

Do you go to the movies a lot?

I don’t see so many you know. I used to see a lot than I see now. I like a lot of things. There are a lot of good filmmakers. But I haven’t been to a movie theater in months now. But I do see them online.

What do you make of that, people watching online?

Well that’s just the way it is now. It’s certainly different. It’s not as good. There’s nothing that can be beat big screens and seeing a film in the theater on film. That’s kind of going away now. Kids watch films on their watches, you know.

Do you think about that when you’re making your film, how people will see it?

No. No. I’m kind of used to it now, but I thought it was very strange to see a kid watching Titanic on his watch.

On his watch?

[Laughs] On his watch. Pretty crazy. That’s just the way the world is now. Kids don’t watch TV. They download everything and watch it later. It’s a completely different world.

A lot of auteurs have started moving into making television because the money and the opportunities are so much greater. Would you ever consider making a television series?

Sure, yeah. I would.

What would it be about?

I’ve been asked to do something but I can’t really talk about it. But I would.

What sort of advice would you give a young kid, like someone from one of your movies, on the topic of making art?

You just have to do it. I mean now, you just have to do it. There’s no excuse for not doing it. Even if you wanna make films, it’s not like it used to be, where you had to have all this money. People make films with their phones. They have incredible cameras now. You don’t need anything. You just can’t have any excuses. If you’re an artist, you’re an artist. Whether there’s money or not, it doesn’t make a difference. If you really want to do it, you just have to do it.




Photographer: Ethan James Green
Editor-in-Residence: Isabella Burley
Styling: Robbie Spencer
Hair: Holli Smith
Make-Up: Kanako Takase
Set Design: Julia Wagner
Casting: Establishment
Creative Advisory: Framework