Ari Marcopoulos’ latest book Directory (Rizzoli) does not only share the size, shape and quality with a phone book – it actually has the same printer as well. Magnus Naddermier talked to the Dutch-born photographer about his new book, fashion and camera bags.
Ari, your latest book, Directory is a massive piece, 1200 pages and almost as many photographs. Why did it become so big?
It was always meant to be big. So it was not really a process that lead to the size.
The editing must have been enormous. Was the amount of photographs and pages important to turn the book into an object with it´s own value?
Directory is really about NOT editing in a way. Of course choices were made but it isn’t really an edited book. It is basically visual noise, the sheer amount makes it difficult to address a single subject.
The book does not have a subject – it is not a narrative.
Last time we met, when you where exhibiting at Frank Elbaz gallery in Paris, you told me that you had the same printer as the phone book – is that true?
Yes, I used the same printer that prints phone books in the United States
When looking at your photography, it seems very ”un-authoritarian”. It´s a lot of snapshots from youth- and subcultures (skateboard, graffiti etc) and in this book the reproductions looks like they were torn from a Xeroxed fanzine. At the same time, both you and Neville Wakefield are comparing your images to old Dutch masters, making references to art history… What are your thoughts about these seemingly contradicting approaches?
The photos in the book are reproduced from photocopies. Some are arguably snapshots but most of them are more formal and deliberate than a snapshot. The references to old Dutch masters or art history are logical since that’s what informed me to begin with.
So if your images just looks like snapshots while they in fact are formal and deliberate, are you then making a point out of putting subculture aesthetics on the same pedestal as a painting at the Rijksmuseum?
No I am not trying to make a point. Or at least that’s not my point…
Can you tell me a bit of your background: when and why did you begin photography, do you have an art school background?
Photography was and early interest, my mother was model so there were a lot of magazines around the house. I didn’t go to art school (but i did teach in art school).
You started taking pictures when you were kid. When did photography become your profession?
It became a profession in 1986 after having worked as an apprentice with two different people.
Your work is often seen in a fashion context – in magazines like i-D, Purple and W and in collaborations with labels like YSL and Adam Kimmel – are you interested in fashion?
All clothes are fashion so I care about what I wear, but that’s about it. Fashion editorials do allow for interesting dialogue sometimes, but anything done as an assignment I never consider it my art.
Last year you created a camera bag for Incase. Where did that idea come from?
The owner of Incase once asked me what camera to get. I recommended him a camera that he really liked. Then he asked about what camera bag to get and I told him that I honestly don’t know because most of them suck. So he said, why don’t you design the bag you want for Incase. I thought he was joking but he was serious.
Can you tell me something about your forthcoming projects?
I have a book coming with Dashwood Books and a book with Kodoji Press. Then there is an exhibition at Ratio 3 Gallery in San Francisco this fall.
Wow, so you can already think about more books, what are they about?
The books are continuing in the same way… unpredictably!
by Ari Marcopoulos
with text by Neville Wakefield
Rizzoli in collaboration with Nieves