(Interview en anglais)
Are you a self-taught photographer and video director? And what is your educational background?
I started taking photographs when I was six as my father was a 16mm man. I followed him around and documented my life. I still have all those negatives as well as everything I have shot since then. I took two courses of photography in college but I have an eye for images and I am not afraid of capturing intimate images of what is going on around me. I am able to set up shots within seconds of seeing them and I am not intrusive with my camera. I am basically self taught and since I have also documented life around me with film and video, I was able to grow into being a film maker and when I was challenged to make a film about the Sixties it was second nature to me. I had made a film of my involvement in the Woodstock concert, shot it with a super 8 camera. That footage is still licensed today for many documentaries of the era. I basically never let anything stop me from all challenges in the film making and photographing realms.
Why do you take pictures?
The main reason I take photographs is because I enjoy what I see in front of me and I want to share those images with others. If it is a protest, I want others to see what really went on and it can be proven by the intenseness of the images I capture. They say “A picture is worth a thousand words” and that is true with me. The reason I am so popular with historians in all fields is that I take intimate photos that move the soul of the viewer which keeps them looking at my images. (I have noticed this with people who come to my Sixites exhibit that is on display in Santa Fe right now. Some people stand in front of a photo for more than five minutes checking out every aspect of the image.)
Do you really consider your camera “as a peaceful weapon to raise people’s awareness"?
I certainly do and the woman who wrote those words is very familiar with my work.
What are your influences?
I would say that Dorthea Lange’s photos of the dust bowl days have influenced me the most because she was able to capture the intensity of the people suffering from the depression and was able to go right into their homes without hesitation. I also believe that mother nature gave me that talent to carry on as I do. It is what I was put here on earth to do and to this day I keep taking pictures, now with my cell phone most of the time. (What a difference from big heavy cameras.)
Were you friend with The Velvet Underground?
The Velvet Underground rented rooms from Tom and John Law at The Castle and therefore we became friends and we later visited Andy Warhol and Nico at the Factory on our way to the town of Woodstock. We became fast friends. In that last 10 years I have visited with Gerard Melanga and Lou Reed. (God bless Lou Reed).
Can you tell me more about that day you shot the Velvet Underground at The Castle in Los Angeles?
The Velvet Underground were staying with us at The Castle. They rented rooms. I would photograph them hanging out and visiting with other residence there. I never set up a shot but I wish I had and then I would have had them all in one photo with good lighting. The night they opened at the Trip, Tom and I went early and they were having a fashion show of Sixties clothes before the show started. I kept photographing everything that was going on which is my modus operandi. Then when they started to play I took the pictures with no strobe light and that is why my photos stand out at this performance. I was able to capture the screen tests that Andy Warhol was projecting from the screen behind them which were quite evoking. Nico would be singing and playing the tambourine and behind her was an image of her face, full screen. When Gerard Melanga got in front of the strobe light my camera saw 4 images at once which, to me, was quite spectacular and emotional. The secret was to hold the camera as still as I could. That was such a dynamic performance and to think…