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The Questionnaire : Torrick Ablack by Carole Schmitz


Torrick Ablack : From a different point of View…

Born in the Bronx to a Caribbean and Indian family, Toxic (his artist name) began at age 13 to take over the streets of the Big Apple by tagging walls and subway trains. A member of the Tag Master Killers collective alongside Rammellzee, he was more of a brother than an artistic companion to Jean-Michel Basquiat. As if to seal this friendship, the three artists are united in the band of “Hollywood Africans” immortalized in 1983 by a triple portrait signed Basquiat and kept at the Whitney Museum in New York. Toxic is today the last survivor of this powerful and extremely influential group on the graffiti scene of the 80s.

Colors, symbols, cabalistic references and personal memories all find their place in his creations and their particularly sophisticated abstract pictorial space. His works are exhibited in several international museums and are part of private collections around the world.

But today it is about photography that the artist talks to us.


Instagram : torricka_aka_toxic


Your first photographic trigger?

Torrick Ablack : I have always loved photography. Of course I knew the work of Avedon, Antonio Lopez, Gordon Parks, or James Van Der Zee to name a few, but never before had I seen portraits like Diane Arbus did. Discovering her work was a real trigger for me.


The man or woman in the pictures who inspires you?

Torrick Ablack : The images of Annie Leibovitz and Robert Mapplethorpe inspire me a lot.


What image would you like to have made?

Torrick Ablack : The portrait of Georgia O’Keeffe in her studio in New Mexico.


The one you regret not having made?

Torrick Ablack : I remember when I was living in New York in the 80’s, the crazy parties I had with my friends, and even though I always had a camera with me, I didn’t take any pictures. We weren’t just good kids, there was a lot of drugs, money and weapons going around, although it was part of an era, I didn’t want to freeze my friends in those moments. Nowadays, we sometimes see much worse and I sometimes think that maybe I should have taken some pictures of those incredible moments.


Which one moved you the most?

Torrick Ablack : The image of Che Guevara when he was executed in La Higuera, Bolivia.


And the one that made you angry?

Torrick Ablack : All the images taken in Alabama during the civil rights protests really made me angry.


A key image in your personal pantheon?

Torrick Ablack : It’s a picture of Rammellzee sitting on the steps of the Grand Palais wearing a camouflage smocking jacket and a mass on his face.


What is the necessary quality to be a good photographer?

Torrick Ablack : To be curious, and maybe to know how to constantly question yourself.


The secret of the perfect image, if it exists?

Torrick Ablack : It’s something impalpable and uncontrollable. It is the moment chosen by the gods.


Who would you like to photograph?

Torrick Ablack : I would love to be able to spend a whole day in the kitchen of Guy Martin’s Grand Vefour.


An essential photo book?

Torrick Ablack : It’s not limited to “one”… Man Ray, Richard Avedon or Mapplethorpe’s books are essential for anyone who loves photography.


What was your first camera?

Torrick Ablack : A tiny Konica. And then a Canon.


The one you use today?

Torrick Ablack : I have several, always my Canon of course, a Minolta X700, but also a Leica and then my IPhone.


Your favorite drug?

Torrick Ablack : Food. I love to eat and especially to cook. Dinner by the fire, with good wine and good music, what could be better!


The best way to disconnect for you?

Torrick Ablack : Cutting myself off from everything.


Your greatest quality?

Torrick Ablack : Impatience (laughs)


An image to illustrate a new banknote?

Torrick Ablack : A shell.


The job you would not have liked to do?

Torrick Ablack : Curator.


Your greatest extravagance?

Torrick Ablack : Inviting my friends in Paris for 10 days for my 50th birthday.


For you, what is the link between photography and painting?

Torrick Ablack : The space between what you see or imagine and what you get in a rectangle.


What values do you wish to share through your artistic work?

Torrick Ablack : Loyalty.


What city, country or culture do you dream of discovering?

Torrick Ablack : I love discovering a world of love, country and empathy, rediscovering the history of my country… safe for everyone. It’s utopian I know, but it’s what I dream of. It could be a Hip-hop country.


The place you never get tired of?

Torrick Ablack : I never get tired of the seaside anywhere.


Your biggest regret?

Torrick Ablack : I try not to have any.


Instagram, facebook, Tik Tok or snapchat?

Torrick Ablack : I try to disconnect from social networks and the virtual, to be more in the real.


Color or B&W?

Torrick Ablack : Color.


Daylight or artificial light ?

Torrick Ablack : Daylight.


The most photogenic city in your opinion?

Torrick Ablack : Florence.


If God existed, would you ask him to pose for you, or would you opt for a selfie with him?

Torrick Ablack : I would settle for a good conversation with him.


The image that represents the current state of the world for you?

Torrick Ablack : An image of nature suffering, to remind people that we shouldn’t mess with our planet.


What is missing in today’s world?

Torrick Ablack : Humanity.


What if everything had to be redone?

Torrick Ablack : Oh my god ! I’d probably do things differently, but who knows!


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