As I walk through this world with my camera, I document glimpses of the artistic practice that would otherwise remain a mystery. This is a personal look at some of my favorite moments visiting artists’ in their studios. The places I find are special to me, labs of ideas and expression where the people are always multi-layered and always interesting. This is where I long to be with my camera, where we feel at home.
I worked with Mark Grotjahn for a feature in L’Uomo Vogue. I arrived at his studio in Little Armenia in Los Angeles. I was not only drawn to Mark’s work, but I was really fascinated by his persona. He came across as powerful and insecure at the same time, it was one of those shoots were magic occurred without even trying. We put on some hard rock music, he was up for pretty much anything so I asked him about his favorite spot. He pointed to a baby rocking chair that he uses to relax and to reflect on his work in progress. So that is where we shot!
This image of Alois Kronschlaeger was taken during the construction of his large-scale installation called Allotropisms and first solo exhibition at Cristin Tierney Gallery, New York. I hung out with Alois, who is a good friend of mine, while he was putting this piece together. This particular evening, the construction was finally finished and it was time pour the white colored paint over the mesh. We witnessed the magic of a long-planned project coming together, one pour at a time. Alois was in a trance, climbing and pouring and losing himself in his artwork. I was one happy man with the camera.
Theresa Byrnes and I were neighbors in New York. Both of our studios were in the West Chelsea Arts building. We worked together for numerous projects, but this one always stuck out to me. The performance took called Dust to Dust took place in her studio/gallery on the Lower East Side. She used her entire body to paint a 30 foot piece of paper with hair, dirt, Earth pigment and water. There was a limited number of invited guests watching as she made her way from one pool of mud across the paper to end in another pool of mud, symbolizing our life journey that starts and returns to dirt. We all were watching in a state of quiet amazement, as she pulled herself across the distance, while water sprinkled down on her. She also cut some of her hair and tossed it in pigmented dust and spilled colorful ink. She was in a zone and the atmosphere in the room was electric. When she reached the end and curled up in the mud, I felt humbled, witness to something primal, short for words.
I visited Daniel Desure in his Los Angeles studio for a feature about the city’s design and art scene. He was very welcoming, showing me around the building that holds his apartment, runs a gallery/project space, and shares a large loft office with his team and where he works as the Creative Director of Commonwealth Projects. Daniel for me is a new kind of artist, not just a talent with self-expression but a man called by artists and museums to help them visualize and present their vision. A visionary for the visionaries.
This was the second time I worked with legendary Llyn Foulkes. He had requested that I arrive at his studio in the Brewery at 8:30pm. When I arrived he was a bit grumpy and I had remembered he had a similar demeanor that last time I visited his studio. He quickly opened up and revealed himself as a man with a critical mind but open to conversation and collaboration. He created The Machine, on which he performs as a one-man band, and after taking some portraits in his favorite chair, he was eager to shoot with his creation. This is where he feels home, where he can be himself and entertain, this is where he wanted to be. He started into the first song, and the longer he went on the less he cared about me and my light, he zoned out, and when he arrived at the other end he was glad that I told him that I got it and would leave him alone now.
Gregory Siff for me is more than an artist, he is a force of life. I visited his studio, that he lovingly calls his “treehouse studio.” We had met at Ryan McIntosh’s studio of Intellectual Property Prints a few days earlier. His place was full of work in all stages- some finished pieces and work in progress all over. He told me about different projects and then pointed out a flag painting on the floor, the last one of a series. He had been wondering what to do with it and my coming by triggered a session of art making that I could capture while having a beer. After he declared the piece done we took a quick portrait to document the happy fact, cheers brother!
Anytime I receive a call from the German ZEIT Magazine I know that the project will be amazing. Photo editor Michael Biedowicz sent me to Wolfville, Canada to photograph realist painter Alex Colville in his studio. I flew up to Halifax from New York, without an assistant, and had an afternoon to explore the capital of Nova Scotia. The next morning it took about an hour to drive up to Wolfville, where I had two hours with Mr. Colville, who was as old school as it gets, a gentleman and an accomplished soul. It felt like traveling back to a different time, a reflection of the past recorded through my viewfinder. We worked through a couple of spots before he leaned on his desk and we both realized that this was it, we got it!
Gary Baseman is a real LA legend! I was lucky to be invited to photograph at his house, where he lives and works, as part of the Intellectual Property Print project. Daniel Rolnik had done his usual amazing introduction and Gary agreed to a visit while being in preparation for his show at Skirball, which was opening in less than a week. I had 45 minutes and he managed to tell me everything about the show, his new book and more or less his life story, including war stories about his father. His place was loaded with his amazing colorful art, full of pink and reds, four interns working on computers and a man as full of life as one can be. At the end I asked him for a seated portrait and he agreed, not because he really was keen on doing it, but he did it for me. I took five shots and this one was my favorite, I left the house and felt like Gary had shown he is for real: the door is always open!
The Wall, East Village NY
There is an apartment in the East Village that has a wall that is legendary in the graffiti world, a real gem, pure art, but nearly unknown to the art world. Some think it is just a myth. Let me give you a list who is on there: Keith Haring, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Haze, Futura, Revolt, Fab 5 Freddy, LSD OM, Dondi, Lady Pink, Lee 163, Zephyr and Patti Astor. The place was a hangout for the scene back in the day. Futura and Gerb were roommates and used the wall as a sketchbook. Decades have passed and Gerb is still there and the stories are told, the wall still stands. I really wonder what will happen with it…
I have been to Mexico City four times and totally love this city. Marco Rountree is one of the young artists that was selected by late curator Lioba Reddeker for a group show in Austria. Marco showed me around his city and invited me to his house with an amazing proposition. Since none of his wall pieces, done with blue or black tape, were available to photograph, he would make one just for the shoot. He did not tell me anything while working freestyle with my camera clicking, 30 minutes later the ant was done. When I asked him for a portrait with it, he agreed and smiled when he found his position, inspired by soccer team photos. Viva Mexico!
I met Dasha Shishkin for the first time when she was still studying in New York. I photographed her at her studio at Columbia University and we stayed in touch over the years. I had been asking her for a another studio visit for a while, when she agreed to come to see my studio in Chelsea. I knew it was a rare moment because Dasha is usually camera shy. Over the years I continue to receive requests for images from this session. We took some close ups first but my favorite portrait is the one with her just sitting on my old couch. Sometimes simplicity is best!
All images © of the artist