BLINK, a magazine out of South Korea has just released it’s 4th issue…..It is a photography magazine with great promise and ARam Kim, the young and talented editor found enough in my work to included me in it’s fourth issue… keep an eye out for BLINK and support her effort as they are well worth it….
1. Introduce yourself.
My name is Olivier Laude, I am of Corsican descent and grew up in France until I was 15…I migrated to the US to escape the tyranny of the French educational system…. Need further introduction go here or print it along with this interview…http://olivierlaude.com/about/ . Besides that here is the short version:
Meanwhile, he traveled the world and managed, at gun point, to convince numerous magazines to publish his work. Well known publications like The New York Times magazine, National Geographic Adventure(RIP) and Time enjoyed his folksy ways and plain talking and along with Newsweek, US News and Fortune showered him with commissions, awards and high profile assignments which resulted in numerous assistants calling and offering their services.
In the meantime Olivier fathered two boys and one girl and permanently settled in San Francisco, comfortably nestled amongst the many trinkets and certificates of achievements he collected on his travels. His global empire of net properties (mexicanfoodmuseum.com, atlasmagazine.com and askjehovah.com) continue to flourish and charm millions around the world.
2. Where is home? and where are staying for now?
As mentioned above, I live in San Francisco, California, strattling the North American and Pacific plate, I am impatiently awaiting for the upcoming May 21st rapture and my subscequent dispatch via sea burial…. Regardless, I am getting tired of living in San Francisco, Central Asia and South East Asia would suit certain nefarious acts I might like to perform and which will be discussed in greater detail during the course of this interview.
I officially became a professional photographer January 1, 1993. I first started in photojournalism because I wanted to continue traveling throughout the word, as I had previously been doing from the mid 80’s onward. After not graduating from university (then graduating, long story) I spend a year in New York City enriching myself and my peers. This cash was subsequently used to travel in Asia for a year and a half…. Despite afore mentioned assertions, I did not have much money so I tried not to spend it on film which did not stop me from needlessly carrying a Pentax 6×7 during all these months…. After returning to the US in 1989 I began having a very hard time adjusting to the routine of being back in North America. Within a fortnight, I decided to live cheaply and save as much as possible in order to return to China and escape a life of inpending drudgery.
During my earlier travails there, I had noticed that there were many completely unknown vernacular rural architectural styles all over the Middle Kingdom. As one of my goals at this time had been to enter architecture school, I needed to prove to my future graduate school mates, that despite my mediocre grades and lack luster academic credentials, that I was man enough to enter academia; if only to subcequently ignore the curriculum and skip classes as is has always been my academic predilection.
4. When did you become interested in photography for the first time?
My brother introduced me to photography when I was 11 or 12 years old, he is 3 1/2 years older than I am and was always a bit compulsive as far as his interests and hobbies were concerned. As a teenager he took up photography with a vengeance for a year or so and I dutifully followed in his foot steps; but I stayed with it for lack of a higher IQ which would have, under normal circumstances, pulled me, like him, towards a distinguished and prominent carreer in surgery…
5. Tell us about your background which affect your life as artist. What makes you an artist?
Firstly, I do not consider myself an artist. The very mention of that word, at least in the West, is riddled with ridicule and stinks of dilettantism. But, as an artist, we may not have enough space to cover it all, especially since it is always changing, but, and I rarely mention this in interviews(I hope this one is only in Korean), I had a difficult childhood, a very aggressive, abusive father, both physically and emotionally. Those days are long gone and I have made my peace with them so I am certainly not mentioning this to garner any kind of sympathy; but simply put, those early days, especially because I was a child, were extremely important in shaping my future vision.
Nevertheless, I do not want to make it seem like my life was horrible, I did have one great saving grace. Every summer break, my brother and I, were dispatched to Corsica to live with my maternal grand parents, and that, was heaven….on earth..!
I think to this day the combination of those two worlds still shape me…. I have learned numerous lessons from both, but as an artist, I still embrace that escapism and into a more perfect world, but one with the perceptive and the emotional strength of an adult, born out of the self confidence of surviving hardship, and doing well by it…
6. Why did you choose photography? what’s photography for you?
Photography is both a means to an end, a need, diminished by a sense of itself. A very small spark into expressing how I think and who I am. Photography is both a job and a curse, I dislike it’s financial aspects but cannot in good faith also dismiss it’s appeals, both financial(at times) and personal. It is a path I have taken long ago and which like an arm cannot be cut off… It does not define me nor would it diminish me should I be forced to abandon its practice it tomorrow…hum, well, may be..!
Regardless, and ever since I was a child, everything I do, I do with as much perfection as I can muster. Something else I know is that I cannot do anything I do, poorly(at least as I subjectively see it and funfortunately I have failed numerously ), it is a personal impossibility, in theory. We make decisions which become us, almost thoughtlessly, and photography was and is one such adjudication.
Earlier in this interview I poked slight fun at my brother, but I am my brother…. I am extremely proud(for better and for worst), focused and intense, yet, I am much enamored of making fun of myself, which today, does not seem to be part of my agenda….so please include this link if you can… http://olivierlaude.com/about/ !
7. How would you describe your photos to someone whose never seen them?
That is a good question because I have no real answer. Some of this also depends on who might be asking. A gallery owner might receive the convenient answer of the day, a friend, quite another, or both…but most of the time I would probably turn the question back on itself, and not always without a great deal of sarcasm, or even contempt ….. but since you asked and since I am, strangely enough, inclined to respond, I might tell them that they were the tip of my spears when it I had them in hand, but which have long since vanished to different beasts, or missed their mark entirely….
8. What image or project have you been happiest with? What are your favorite images from the series and why?
I do not really think in terms of projects at all, they are all part of a personal dialogue I am rarely aware of. At best, projects are consumption based, meaning that they are defined for the viewer to better understand, or for the artist to get a grasp on what it is she or he is doing; a framework, a convinience. Defining an idea within certain, easily absorbed parameters, is not my interest, nor am I particularly good at it. I quickly become bored and agitated with following pre-conceived, self imposed dictates….
The present has always been what mattered most to me, the past and the future are either too hard to recall or too fuzzy to imagine as anything else but delusional hearsay…. But to answer your question, my favorite image is the one I am working on internally…. and I am also fairly certain that I have no idea what I’ve just said….!
9. What would you do if you could not make art?
10. What artists have influenced you, and how?
They haven’t, or at least, not in ways that I am aware of, or better yet, I do not give much thought to it either. I think may be young artists think about that, but I am middle aged and mostly concerned with aging ungracefully…. but I am often moved by the vernacular. Those works which are done without artistic intent and often public merit…. I love vernacular photography and architecture in particular but also native fashion for example; in essence, the artist within humanity which surfaces without being consciously summoned, culturally elevated.
11. Favorite living and deceased artist? It changes every week/month.
That’s easier, well, may be not, it’s sort of endless: The cro magnon, Jan Van Eyck, Quentin Metsys, The Northern Renaissance, Chinese Rural architecture, the country of Mali, Zimbabwe, everywhere I have ever been, even the DMV(Department of Motor Vehicles), my boys Raphael and Gabriel and my little girl Persephone, Oliver Mtukudzi, Mozart, Amadou and Mariam and just about everything form of art, science, thought, history….the cro magnons; the list goes on and on and keeps getting bigger… changes everyday, but, this I know: I freaking hate Salvatore Dali and Magritte….!
12. Where else do you find inspiration?( films, books, movies, music etc.)
Astronomy, science, non-fiction, history, fiction(mostly when I was younger), The Coen brothers, comedies of all kinds; I am a huge fan of comedy and for me it comes as close second to music…. but for some reason, music is rarely ever funny…. The Western US is also a very important place for me but land in general, and often how music and geography are inseparable .. I am almost at a complete loss to follow thru with this question, the paths are so numerous, inspiration endless, but more often than not, I really don’t give a conscious shit… Friendship is extremely important as a source of inspiration as well, biology, natural history, using my hands, bipedalism…..
13. What do you do for fun (besides photography)?
I enjoy marksmanship, a hobby I have taken up only in the last 4 or 5 years. I won’t even attempt to justify myself, that is subject you either understand or do not; mostly shaped by people’s political herd mentality(I am neither on the left nor the right, I am “just right;-)” ). I am fascinated by firearms as objects of beauty and aggression(“A fear of weapons is a sign of retarded sexual and emotional maturity.” (“General Introduction to Psychoanalysis,” Sigmund Freud; much ado about misattribution, which is to say that Freud might never have said this…).
14. What has been the biggest challenge(s) so far in being a photographer?
Right now, answering your questions ;-)…! In a word, promoting myself, I freaking hate every minute of it, it makes me sick to my stomach…. other than that, garnering enough cash to work as often as I would like….which was very often until I got hurt. Don’t believe what I told you earlier in this interview…. I would like to work more regularly…but I have too many kids and must begrudgingly admit that they are far superior creations than anything I can ever or anyone else have imagined…..
15. What camera are you currently using and why? And what camera and film did you use for the work?
I have one 8×10 Toyo studio camera, a tripod and one f 5.6 240-mm lens, that’s it….! Kodak Portra 160…. A camera has to have a personality if I am to use them at all, most do not…like people, they just dress like they do.
16. What do you listen to when you are working?
I have always been a huge fan of African music, particularly of the 60s, 70s, 80, and 90s…. Recently music out of Africa is being overly produced and this has made me very unhappy. African popular music is very much a vernacular art, with a great many unsung heroes and geniuses which will remain unknown to the greater world at large….I love all of Mozart’s operas…but some pop too… I go thru phases and I always buy CDs when I travel…. For example, if I came to South Korea I would visit a local store or get local recommendations…both new and old…hum, let’s see what’s on You Tube…! This is nice… http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ACnr_nDiBII&feature=related or this http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hH1K0RTL0TM&feature=related or this http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FeAXy13XEao&feature=related
ABOUT your work
1. share some trivia or interesting episode during shooting or preparing relate with each images from the series, tell us about it. (it really could be anything)i really want artist share anything with people. like artist talk at gallery. so you could tell us anything you want. (it really could be anything)
My best stories come from my photojournalism days… Believe or not, I like getting shot at, but that’s probably because it did not happen too many times and I am still here in one piece to rattle off this peculiar idiocy…. My recent work is very involved and I go to great length to make sure I get the right location. On one shoot which ultimately failed I carried hundreds of pounds of equipment through a marsh nearby the Sacramanto river. The models had to go knee deep thru the mud to get to the location and were sun burnt and covered in mud by the time we were ready to shoot… I managed to put a nail thru my foot in the process and ended up with nothing; the picture sucked and I knew it before we had to make our way back to the parking lot….but it was fun and certainly marathonian in nature. You would think a event like that would give up some good images but no such luck…
Another shoot I had wanted to do was called “Jamon Piñata” which mean “Ham piñata” where a masked man was supposed to be hitting a whole proccuitto ham with a bat. Neighbors became frightened by the half naked man in a balaclava smacking a smoked pig’s behind. Despite being at least a mile or two from any homes they called the state troopers to make sure we were not terrorists or confused islamists…but thankfully quickly, looking bemused and somewhat entertained by those artsy city folks… Of course, and most importantly, meeting Adrienne: Her portrait, which was shot about eight years ago and which I have included at your request represents the day we fell in love with each other. We are still together and have a daughter, Persephone, which is the little munchkin in my contributor portrait….
2. How did the idea for the shoot come about?
They magically appear in my head…really..! I often just lie on my back and day dream, as I am able to focus more and more images appear as visions, I accept some and reject others. It is essentially a process of editing the flow of images my mind produces when in a state of rest, or sort of meditation whcih rather than emptying my mind, serves to fill hard drives with scanned 8×10 files and cover the wall of my home…most of my work is done this way…
3. How come did you title it for the series?
4. How did you find your models and location?
Friends, on the streets, like my girlfriend Adrienne(AKA wife), and on Craigslist, sometimes real people modeling agencies..but rarely…! One of my favorite model is the older gentleman in many of my images. His name is Charlie and I met him many moons ago in a San Francisco coffee shop. He is a very Republican leaning gay man who works at the Haight-Ashbury recycling center…. He is a very smart, opinionated, interesting friend who is very much himself. A quality I appreciate greatly. He grew up in a German religious cult in Vermont called the Bruderhof http://www.apologeticsindex.org/b16.html and has led a full and varied life, not to mention is a very willing and wonderful model…. I cannot comprehend his love for Fox News but thankfully the breadth and richness of his personality makes up for this perceived anomaly.
5. Can you talk us through the process(preparing) of this photo shoot for the series?
I do everything on my personal shoots, from lighting to location scouting and styling…. Once i have an idea for an image I shop for clothes in San Francisco or prop houses in Los Angeles. I scout locations that might fit the image or sometimes an image appears to me when scouting… Once this is done I gather it all up and drive models, props, wardrobe and equipment to the location and shoot on average about ten sheets of 8×10. If I cannot get it right in ten sheets, I probably cannot get it at all, at least on my budget…. I sometimes try a couple times to get it right but most of the time if it does not work out the first time out, I move on to the next episode….
* do you have anything else want to talk about the work and yourself only for BLINK*?(if i did miss something. Let me know.)
1. artist statement(introduction) of the series
Comedy is only the work’s surface, though. Its depth is, as is that of most humor, in the elusive pain that subtends it. For the cast of characters captured here (there is something distinctly cinematic about the collection), the real world is too painful – too abstract, bureaucratic, spare, or perhaps simply ordinary – to support life, so they have constructed their own set-piece within it to avoid extinction. Starved, they create in order to survive.
What afflicts them? This is the mystery to which the work provides abundant clues but no easy solution. The situations are ambiguous. In “Papa Bear” for example, the background is dominated by two forms: an electricity transmission tower that bisects the image, and a vast grain field that has been charred to a pure black carbon. Think of the hazards of agro-industrial monocultures, or the environmental damage caused by centralized fossil power generation or deforestation, but these are at best subplots to another drama unfolding in the foreground where a man in lederhosen is, with his chainsaw, putting the finishing touches on a stump-sculpture of a bear clutching a salmon. The man has on his face an expression that suggests concern and urgency – a mute, desperate to communicate a message through the howl of his chainsaw and this life-or-death game of charades. All is fastidiously arranged- within the photograph, certainly, but also behind (or before, in space and time) the photograph. for “Papa Bear,” the log from which the totem is carved was discovered in golden gate park in san francisco, then dragged by the artist to Berkeley, where a chainsaw artist half carved the bear and salmon for $200, then transported in the rear of a pick up to the scorched earth near the convergence of 580 and I-5 where the image was ultimately shot. The work is an artifact of the artist’s own therapy, evidence of the lengths to which not mankind but one individual must go in order to be understood, to breathe easily, to come home. Most of the images are shot on 8×10 film and printed as large as possible, nearly life-sized, an attempt to supplant life itself.
Laude’s work is deliberately compositional, technically astute and fundamentally aesthetic. At the same time, the series contributes to the intellectual discourse on a number of matters that preoccupy contemporary art. First, while subject and ground are visually distinct in his images, they are imbricated in the sense that the subjects are in the process of expropriating their surroundings, metabolizing them to create their own environs. This is a complex visual ecology in which the organism cannot be understood without reference to the environment that has been selected, altered, decorated and ultimately occupied as habitat. Second, while the scenes are presented in two dimensions, the characters’ gaze at the camera and the absurdity of the situations in which they find themselves ultimately pull the photographer into the piece. “How did this come to exist?” Laude captures not “le moment decisif” in the timeline of the world as the photographer found it, but “le moment dernier” – the last of a series of decisions forced on the world by the artist as laborer, carpenter, tailor, taxidermist, photographer. Finally, the attempt to comprehend Laude’s work as political art ultimately ends in frustration. While the series may encourage dialogue about land use, the environment, technology, women, race, homosexuality, the central theme is not political but human, not identity politics but identity itself – individuality and the fierce, heartbreaking, surprising, and soaring ways we protect and project self.”
I’ll have to admit that I am not a big fan of portraits as a whole. They are over valued as works of art or as general gallery and magazine fodder. Portraits usually feel staged and temporal, because they are, by their nature meant to be illustrative and propagandistic. The myth that the portrait, the good ones, the bad ones and everything in between, are an important and enlightening window into the soul of the sitter is just as much of an insipid cliche as the soul itself.In a vacuum, what makes a portrait interesting and successful is the subjectivity of the photographer towards his or her subject. The idea that a great portrait can, and should capture the essence of a human being, is as absurd and deifying as to ascribe god like qualities to any human being, photographer or subject alike.Portraits for the most part describe an edited moment within a window of personal and theatrical opportunity. Nevertheless, there is a style of portraiture which comes close to achieving the portrait’s mythological goals and that would be the vernacular portrait. Those images taken without pretensions and with minimal expectations on the photographer’s and the subject’s part. These kinds of images are very rare and only seen when you see them.Like the old adage about pornography, which is that you know that it is, when you see it, the portrait works in much the same way, you see a great portrait when you see it, and then again that is as broad a description as the myth of the portrait itself. The great portrait is only as good as the last pair of eyes which gazed upon it, and where ever that may be.There is an old trick in photography which dictates that in order to please the sitter with a portrait they will find pleasing or personally revealing, you should flip the image horizontally to mimic the image of themselves they would normally see as if gazing in their bathroom mirror. That trick says much about the portrait itself, as an artifice of photography, it manipulates reality to please, judge or deify the subject in order to aggrandize, demean or mythologize ourselves. To my mind, the portrait lacks depth for those very reasons and for these very real and incapacitating barriers.As for myself, there is a great quote by Fellini which states: “Don’t tell me what I am doing, I don’t want to know”. Consequently, don’t ask me what I am doing, I don’t want to know. But it just so happens that everyone wants to know, present company excluded. Me don’t need to know. Experience trumps reason. I like standing on a summer day in the San Joaquin valley and feeling the sun’s rays; the way I loved light when I was six years old but did not need to think, or convince others, to think about it or profit from it. Nevertheless, I am often accused of being a portrait photographer. A bit like accusing your reflection of being a mirror. My people may be staring at the camera but they are not portraits. They are not staring at you; I am.
3. Credit lines(include in titles, series titles, size, print, editions, year, galleries you represent etc.).