The Dealer (Movie) by American Curator & Filmmaker Homa Taj

The Dealer Movie by Homa Taj - MUSEUMVIEWS

Connect with HOMA TAJ (IMDb) on Twitter Facebook

THE DEALER is a feature about a mid 30 year-old idealist art dealer who struggles with the contemporary art world and art market’s rapidly evolving structures.

THE DEALER is a third generation art dealer whose father, uncles and grandfather had sold art to some of fin de siècle’s most prominent figures, from European aristocrats to American industrialists.

THE DEALER is conceived by American curator and filmmaker, Homa Taj(IMDb). The film is inspired by Homa’s many years of experience working with art dealers, as well as art collectors, museum curators, and academically trained art historians. Daughter of an artist mother and a collector father, Homa was trained as an art historian and museologist at The Courtauld Institute of Art, Harvard and Oxford Universities.

To stay up to date with the film’s development (in treatment), follow THE DEALER on Twitter | Instagram | Facebook

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Homa Taj in Conversation with Artist and Film Producer Joe Fisher

Homa Taj in conversation with artist and film producer Joe Fisher - filmmaker, filmmaking, visual arts, curator, film director, film producer - 1

Homa Taj (IMDb)  in Conversation with Artist and Film Producer JOE FISHER | Connect with Homa on Twitter Facebook

Homa Taj – Can we talk about your background a little? You were born in Cyprus, came to this country at age 12 I believe? You are now distinctly a New York artist. Is there anything in your background which influences you today?

Joe Fisher – Homa, thank you for doing this interview. I was 10 when I came to NY, so you are pretty close. I was born in Cyprus, but my parents left with me when I was six-months old. You know, it was really a detention camp for WWII refugees. It’s actually had a very strong impact on me that terrible injustices happen to good and decent people. Other than that, I had a pretty standard life. At a teacher’s suggestion, I studied art probably to get around my lack of English. She also encouraged me to go to the Music and Art History.

You know now that you asked about my past, kind of funny in hindsight, I always hear artists talk of expressing themselves, I guess I was doing that in lieu of speaking English?

HT – You’ve worked as a producer for quite a while, working at times with pretty famous people, but I notice you worked with some who are also artists, like Andres Serrano, Larry Clark, and John Waters, did you feel a connection because of your being a painter?

JF – I was executive producer, which in this industry is not the same thing as producer, hence more in the business end. Fact was, I started realizing I wanted to focus more on art, and felt I had abandoned it. You see, initially I saw film as a creative outlet, but as time went on it was more business. Most of the interaction was production oriented and very little personal back and forth. Time is expensive in this field and there are many people and distractions, so it’s not an ideal environment to chitchat. Having said all that, it was a rewarding experience, and I did feel some connection, sometimes it meant color correcting a Serrano picture, sometimes making sure a prop works for John Waters.

Homa Taj in conversation with artist and film producer Joe Fisher - filmmaker, filmmaking, visual arts, curator, film director, film producer - 2

HT – How did you choose to become a painter? You come from a family of artist-filmmakers but who started it first …

JF – Easy, my father. I was the first in my family, but I say my father because he was a fastidious pattern maker for fashion designers, so I think he planted the seed. He was a perfectionist and fastidious, doesn’t that sound like an artist? I told my family that my intention was to go to Pratt, which had a professional career approach by teaching graphics, design, and typography in addition to painting, so that you’d come out with skills to earn a living. It was my way of getting their approval to go to Pratt, but I paid “my own way” with grants, loans, summer work, and when the tuition was doubled I transferred to Cooper Union, which had free tuition.

HT – What did you learn from each of the artists with whom you have worked … about being a visual artist? Here are the names of the ones that come to mind — Nicholas Ray is mostly famous for directing Rebel without a Cause. You participated during – Wim Wenders’ filming of his end of life, “lightning over water,” in fact one of your paintings Nick Ray owned is in that film. The controversial artist Andreas Serrano did a documentary about “History of Sex” based his provocative sex photos. Larry Clark was slated to direct one of your film projects, did some commercials, and then, my favorite, the one and only John Waters, who directed and wrote “A Dirty Shame.”

That should get you started? Can you describe what was it like and how did it impact your art?

JF – It’s kind of intimidating when you put it all together like that. Keep in mind that these are professional alliances, not friendly gatherings, and invariably famous people come into the scene because of the nature of the industry.

Nick Ray was a personal friend along with Susan, his wife. Wim was an admirer of Nick, who made, in addition to “Lightening Over Water”, another film called “The American Friend” which starred Bruno Ganz. They were supposed to use my paintings and studio because the character was an art forger; some things were changed so that didn’t happen. Nick had a couple of paintings of mine, so they ended up in Wim’s first film. They were friends and it was not a business.

Larry Clark was supposed to direct a treatment of Susan’s book about Nick Ray, from a script by Oren Moverman, but it just didn’t materialize. Larry Clark was really big with young kids. The company VANS seized on that, so he filmed their commercials with skateboarders on top of a roof. John Waters is a genuinely nice guy, generous and loyal to his friends and workers. When riding in an elevator with him, someone would hesitatingly ask, “are you…” and he would finish it off saying, yes I’m John Waters with a reassuring smile. When I hurt my foot on the set in Baltimore and had to go back to NY, while driving I got a phone call on my cell from him. He heard that I got hurt and wanted to make sure I was OK and he was concerned. That gives you some idea about his nature.

Andres was a very nice, polite guy. He was very moved by his friend’s passing from AIDS, and so he was assembling the friend’s footage into a documentary about the photo shoots of “The History of Sex” series. I enjoyed color correcting his photos for the film, but that’s it. In all these contacts, there was no further personal involvement, just one very unusual Christmas gift from John Waters.

HT – I’m curious about the Christmas card, what was it?

JF – Well, it was a big cockroach inside a glass Christmas tree ornament.

HT – You mentioned Susan’s book, this was Susan Ray his wife?

JF – That’s right, she wrote a book called “I was interrupted” about Nick which would’ve been the title of that movie.

HT – … Now you have committed your painting to full time. What was the call to dedicate your time on a full-time basis to painting?

JF – I never left it entirely, it’s not just making up for lost time. I feel energized and glad to be painting full-time again.

It was always a balance between supporting myself, with a family with kids, and doing art. By working in films, I felt connected to visual art so it took the place of art. But then, it got to the point that unless I became a director, or writer, or found some way of expressing directly, it wasn’t enough.

HT – Given your past experience, have you thought about doing video art?

JF – Yes, I have friends who do this, though they call it film. In the business, videos meant TV programming, which is what we did. The technology has advanced so much they don’t need all that expensive gear which is liberating. I can see why you ask, perhaps because I mentioned I liked to see motion in my art. I don’t see going that way, but who knows.

HT – Do you miss making films?

JF – Not at all, again, being in the business end is very consuming and gets away from creativity, so actually I’m relieved. The idea of film as my own project is intriguing, but not at the moment.

HT – Let’s talk about your work more, I notice different media – paint on paper, acrylic, drawings and what you refer to as “paper constructions”… – can you tell me about the differences? Do you have a preference?

JF – It’s not about preference, the results are different and complement each other. I really like paper constructions, don’t think of them as collage. While they start out as studies, they’re stand-alone pieces. The idea was to block out colors without having to paint it, thus being able to move quicker. It also allows me to overlap and layer shapes, something which creates depth, perhaps a bit of illusionism, but still flat and respecting the physical surface. There’s no drawing or gestures in them so it’s mostly about shapes, positioning and overlapping.

I call it ‘painting on paper’ because I use acrylic paints. It disciplines me from too much buildup of paint, maintaining freshness. Painting on canvas is different, allowing more buildup, and process. The big difference in all of this is the size. Large, say 5 to 6 ft or more, allows me to move my entire arm which affects drawing in color and painting strokes, drips, spatter and stain. I work either pre-stretched or un-stretched. Smaller paintings change things because body motion is confined to the wrist, so it looks more like the paper constructions in paint, more studied and careful.

With regard to different media, I’m thinking about doing sculpture as an extension of the paper constructions, but for now I’m painting.

Homa Taj in conversation with artist and film producer Joe Fisher - filmmaker, filmmaking, visual arts, curator, film director, film producer--

HT – You use a combination of geometric shapes and gestural painterly, or drawn in paint interwoven with these shapes. Talk about your compositional choices …

JF – I seem to be drawn to dynamic things, which allow for conflict, which makes things more alive. This “implied motion” is not such a new idea. I’m not changing any perception nor innovating in this respect, but I feel more challenged this way. In the past I did try to do more balanced work, which I felt, was good, but, I came against a wall where I found myself painting the “next” painting which was going to be a variation and further exploration of a focused idea. I guess it was a choice, either put down the brushes, or take a chance on screwing things up, combine things that are not harmonious, without a specific target. That meant that every piece would be different. As far as the geometric shapes, it goes back to a time when I worked in a more minimal style and it continues to be an important thread throughout my work. It also stems from my recent studies cutting out shapes from stock colored paper – so even random pieces keep a certain geometry.

HT – Aside from your work containing these disparate elements as you describe, they seem to differ at times from one another, is that your intention?

JF – I’m glad you mention this. Back when I got out of art school, the trend was to do a “body of work” which really meant creating a recognizable brand stylistically, so one painted z shapes, another painted circles, on and on, you could tell immediately who did what. We’ve all been through innovations, artists who knock us dead with incredible installations, and I could go on. For me, it’s about doing something that interests me at the moment. Therefore, the next time may be different, or look like a departure.

Personally, I see some familiar traces in all the work, sometimes it’s the color, sometimes it’s this need to contrast techniques, or shapes. I’m not as concerned about ‘branding’ to create a distinctive style.

HT – You will exhibit your work in Industry and Arts buildings in Brooklyn, will this include any earlier works, or only recent work?

JF – It will be only recent work, current within 2 years.

HT – Which artists have influenced your work, and how?

JF – Very early on it was the expressionists, I saw something in all of them. At Cooper Union I studied with both an abstract expressionist, Nicholas Marsicano, and an expressionist pop artist, Nicholas Krushenick, if that makes any sense, who pushed me out of expressionism and into more minimalist work. I think Frank Stella was important to me; he was really pushing painting into a new era. At the time, conceptual work was popular, but then painting took on new life with “lyrical abstraction”. These painters, reminded me that it’s OK to follow what’s inside. It’s hard to pick out one of them, but I knew Jack Seery, who impressed me. I saw his loft full of paint and canvases on the floor and I got hooked. From then on, it was all about paint, color, drawing, airbrush, whatever flowed. My favorite quote is by Barnet Newman who said, when asked why he paints, “I like to have something to look at when I’m done.” It’s so simple.

HT – Where do you find inspiration for your work? You paint abstract pictures which are fairly cerebral … How do you know when or where to begin… and, when to stop? When is the picture complete… ?

JF – I don’t wait around for inspiration, that really comes from the work process, by reacting to what’s evolving. You know that statement “inspiration is mostly perspiration?” I wouldn’t say cerebral, it’s actually visceral, gut instincts at first. That’s why I start loosely, drawing, sometimes random, not fixated on one thing at the beginning. When is it complete? – is a tough question. There’s a balance between overstating and overworking versus a fresh “one shot” painting approach, and I go back and forth. There are many paintings that I ditch cause they went dead from overwork, but you have to be willing to destroy the art to get where you want. I stop if I like what I see and don’t think I can add.

HT – What technical process(s) do you use to create your paintings?

JF – Paper cutouts to model the overlaps and create a study, drawings to get the essence of what’s in my mind, brushwork, pouring paint, reworking those processes, and allowing a process history to remain as a part of the work. The smaller works require a more disciplined approach and tend to be more finely detailed. Pretty much all the work is acrylic although I’ve used oils, usually on top, when I needed brighter colors that I felt oils provided.

HT – You are a New York artist, the NY art scene, and art market, were different back in the early 1970’s when you began painting. In what ways do you think the art world has changed?

JF – It no longer matters where an artist lives and works, but somehow that New York artist identification sticks, though less and less. It’s very expensive to live in New York and many have moved out – to upstate, or to other cities – yet their work and commitment has remained the same. One of the main differences between now and then, is that today there are more separate communities. It’s not one watering hole for all, like Max’s Kansas City was; there are groupings all over the map, Bushwick, Williamsburg, Gowanus and Sunset Park, where I will be showing in the Industry and Arts building. Another difference is that the volume of artists is enormous compared to back then. Now, galleries will almost never look at any walk-in – they call it “unsolicited.” It wasn’t like that before. There was no guarantee, but at least you could leave your slides, and maybe get into a group show to start. To counteract that today, there are “open studios” all over the map; they are friendly events with more of a party-like feel. There are also lots of galleries in remote sections, some very small, so it makes up for the tight competition for galleries, but it looks like there are still many unrepresented artists.

HT – There are many filmmakers (mainly directors whom I know of) that have been visual artists – David Lynch, Pier Paolo Pasolini, – But, I don’t know of any producers? Can you think of any?

JF – I haven’t thought about this distinction, producer vs. director, but from what I’ve seen, the director is sometimes the writer, or the one with the idea or story, and wants to make things happen according to their vision. If the director gets mired in production, pre-production, funding, or anything like that, it can deflate their enthusiasm, and some just can’t do that by nature. BTW, there are also artists who are filmmakers in parallel to their art, not just those who moved on to film as you say. Robert Longo was doing it many years ago, and more recently Julian Schnabel has done amazing films all while working steadily on painting. Larry Clark remains a photographer, and there are probably many others.

You’re probably asking questions about films because I was executive producer on films and spent a part of my life doing that. As an executive producer it’s more removed from what you call the artistic part than even the producer. There’s no connection to my painting. There were some smaller films done as artworks themselves, by friends, which are intriguing and would make me consider doing films like that. One friend has made very personal films with graphics and light effects, in an almost painterly way. He submits these to many festivals, but there’s not much money in that, so he works as a film editor. Another friend is a full time journalist photographer who makes film documentaries stemming from his photography, so his film is an extension of his photography. BTW, thanks for bringing this up, it makes me think more about film possibilities.

HT – Being a painter – visual artist is like being a poet. You can stay in your studio and create works. Being a film producer, however, is a bit like what the Norwegian filmmaker Joachim Trier once told me, “is like being half-way between a military general and a poet.” Your thoughts.

JF – I’ve got to see your interview with Joachim Trier. I think you’re commenting on a film producer vs. a director again, and from what I’ve seen that’s pretty much true. For the painter artist it can be a lonely experience at times, but there are struggles and satisfactions in both producing and directing. Film is collaborative with many different types of people – actors, writers, producers, electricians, etc. This doesn’t mean that the director doesn’t reach inward, much like the artist or poet you mentioned. Certainly there is far more noise and distractions during productions. The producers really have their hands full no question about that.

 

* JOE FISHER will have a private exhibition of his new paintings at the FilmRise Gallery, 34 35th Street, 4th floor, Brooklyn, NY 11232, info 718-369-9090, Feb 25 to March 25. By appointment only.

 

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Homa Taj in Conversation with Brooklyn Art Dealers Robert Henry Contemporary

Sharon Lawless, Tabletop, Collage on museum board (13 x 11), 2014
Sharon Lawless, Tabletop, Collage on museum board (13 x 11), 2014

Henry Chung is a Brooklyn based artist working in photography and mixed-media. Henry attended Columbia University and NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts and currently maintains a studio in Red Hook where he builds his pinhole cameras and programs obsolete computer equipment.

Robert Walden attended the Atlanta College of Art (BFA, 1994) and received of a grant from the Pollock-Krasner Foundation (2003), participated in Emerge 2001 at Aljira, A Center for Contemporary Art, Newark, NJ and was a fellow at the Edward Albee Foundation (2005). Walden’s work has been seen in galleries and museums throughout the United States and in Europe, including The Berardo Collection Museum, Lisbon, Portugal and the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, Kansas City, MO. Robert Walden lives and works in Brooklyn, N Y.

Homa Taj – When did you open your first gallery of contemporary art? And, in what year did you move to your present location in Bushwick?
Henry Chung – We first opened our gallery in 2009, and renaming it Robert Henry Contemporary when we moved to Bushwick in 2012.
Robert Walden – [First it was] in a storefront space in South Park Slope and moved to our present location at 56 Bogart St, in June (2012).

HT – How would you define – if that’s possible – emerging art that is coming out of Brooklyn? I think of Brooklyn as the Berlin of the American art market…
HC – I don’t know if I can characterize emerging art that is coming out of Brooklyn. I think there are connotations of “street art” that is associated with Brooklyn and Bushwick, but I don’t think most emerging artists working in Brooklyn come from this tradition. Brooklyn is very, very big with disparate and disconnected artist communities throughout the borough. Like New York in general has always done, Brooklyn is attracting all types of artists from everywhere as a place where artists can find and develop a voice.
RW – Defining what is being made in Brooklyn today is impossible. There is more diversity than words to describe what is being made in Brooklyn. However, there does seem to be a significant amount of painting. Also, art is being made all over the borough of Brooklyn not just in Bushwick.

HT – Given the dramatically rising real estate prices in Brooklyn, how do you see the artists’ demographics changing? On the one hand, this may be a good thing since there is a growing population of affluent residents who can buy art. And, on the other hand, these developments are pushing artists even further away from NYC, etc…
HC – Rents for apartment and studio spaces are rising astronomically in Brooklyn, and especially in Bushwick. It is no secret that artists have been pushed ever further and further into Brooklyn and even into Queens to seek affordable work space. Whereas artists in the past came to Brooklyn for the less expensive large loft spaces, artists come today for affordable small, shared studio spaces. One effect on the artwork is that it is increasingly difficult to create large-scale projects, since the studios often are merely a semi-private space in a corner of a room shared with a half dozen other artists. I do see also that artists come to Bushwick to be part of the arts community here, which is pretty active and social with plenty of venues and events where artists mingle and meet one another. In the past the pioneering artists who set up studios deep in Brooklyn were generally loners not necessarily interested in community.
RW – [That’s] a constant problem in New York City and have been for generations…this is nothing new. What seems new is the pace at which things are changing. There has been a lot of coverage in the news media about the problem of rising cost of living in NYC and Brooklyn, in particular, but no one seems to have a solution. New York City is increasingly more a market for selling than a center for art making like it became in the 20th Century…that market is a tightly closed society too.

HT – You are both artists how do you find the artists whose work you exhibit? Or, they find you?
HC – There certainly is no shortage of artists in Brooklyn, and one can find just about any kind of artist here. The artists that we show are generally people who we already know, or come from recommendations from people that we already know. Like any field, we rely heavily on networking. As we are both artists, Robert and I have a very large network of artist friends. As we are also gallerists, we have developed a nice social network of like-minded dealers and gallerists. When we have rare slot open for a group exhibition, we tap into our network to find the right fit. Although we had in the past, we currently do not accept unsolicited submissions.
RW – So far, most of the artists we show come from our network of friends and friends of artist friends…there are a few exceptions: Pancho Westendarp for example, came to us through an open call for submissions…which we accept periodically, usually in July and August through our website. We have not accepted submissions lately because we are more than too busy with the artists we are working with now.

HT – Is there a conflict of interest between you being artists, and art dealers?
HC – We keep our artist side separate from our gallerist/dealer side. Not so much because there is a conflict of interest (which there of course may be), but more so because of the perception of the legitimacy of the gallery. There is an unfortunate stigma with “artist-run” spaces in that they are are merely vanity projects. In order to grow our gallery and have it reach its full potential, we had to make the hard decision to keep the two worlds separate.
RW – No. We do not exhibit our own work. So, there is no conflict. I feel being artist gives us particular insights and advantages into what art is and how it is made that we can offer to our clients. Most people don’t go to a proctologist for a root canal, so why would anyone go to someone to buy art when that person doesn’t know anything about what art is?

HT – Your gallery’s program is very strong in representing conceptual art. But, from what I have observed over the years, your idea of conceptualism is balanced with an equally engaging appreciation for aesthetics – rather than concepts and ideas for their own sake with little regard for beauty…
HC – For me, the best artwork tickles both sides of the brain. I feel that strong and successful artwork often offers the viewer multiple levels of interpretation, and can appeal to a range of audiences and moods. I like that one can delve deeply into the conceptual underpinnings of certain artworks one day, and then think about how beautifully the shapes and colors suit the room the next. Conversely, I delight in the seeing the joy of someone who is attracted to a piece because of its aesthetic nature, but discovers an entire world of conceptual reading afterwards.
RW – There is nothing wrong with beauty. I am interested in work that is equally visually and conceptually or intellectually stimulating. This stems directly from Marcel Duchamp’s ideas on what he called ‘retinal art’ and “non-retinal” art…essentially, I am interested in work that is a combination of the two…or at least presenting what we show as both a visual and conceptual experience…work that delights the eye and engages the mind. I try to avoid what I call “I get it art” which is essentially work that is a one-liner…or work that makes statements rather than asking questions. Questions are more engaging than answers.

HT – You are now back at Aqua Art Fair at Art Basel Miami Fair. I have to say Aqua is my favorite satellite fair in Miami since it takes place in a most unique location: it is a distinctly Miami experience which cannot be emulated anywhere else in the world. Well, perhaps somewhere in the Mediterranean region. What was it like to exhibit your artists’ works there?
HC – We love the setting at Aqua! The hotel is unique in that it is one of the few left where the rooms all face the common courtyard. It feels to me as if one were at a town square, and all the shops are art galleries. Unlike fairs that are in large tents or in a convention center, the intimate setting of Aqua affords a certain casualness with our guests and fosters great conversation with potential clients. Unlike other hotel fairs, the rooms open out to the open air, not a hotel hallway, and we get to spend a week in the beautiful Miami weather. The atmosphere is festive and lets the guests experience art in a very “Miami” setting.
RW – That is one of the reasons we like the Aqua Fair…the venue itself. Because the hotel is only 2 floors and centered around an open courtyard with palm trees, etc…so, that it feels a bit like a town square of a small beach-side village but all the stores happen to be art galleries. There are challenges of course, the walls are plaster and not drywall, for example. However, the atmosphere is relaxed and unpretentious. Visitors are less intimidated and conversations about the work happen more readily. It is like no other fair for exactly the reason you suggest in your question.

HT – I understand that you were invited to participate in the Aqua’s first Selection Committee. What was that process like?
HC – We were honored to be part of making Aqua the best that it can be. Aqua already has a great reputation as an independent boutique art fair, and it was good to see that there is an effort to maintain a strong showing of galleries. Both Robert and I tried to consider not only the proposal in the application, but evaluating a gallery’s program as a whole as well as criteria for selection.
RHC – In 2012 Art Miami bought the Aqua art fair from its founders Jac Chartier and Dirk Park and the new director Jennifer Jacobs has gone about a process to grow and change the fair…essentially to make a great fair even better. Part of that process was to establish a selection committee to help expand the quality and geographic diversity of the fair. We were pleased to be invited to help this process as best we could.

HT – Which artists are you showing in Miami, this year?
HC – We are showing a selection of gallery artists curated to represent our narrowly focused programming:
Derek Lerner – ink on paper drawings using thousands of lines to explore the conflicting ideas of his urge to create and its effect on the environment.
Jerry Walden – investigates the nature of the aesthetic experience by combining Formalist compositional elements of color, line, pattern and direction with personal emotions and memories
Liz Jaff – obsessively cuts, folds and sews paper and string with exacting consistency to explore ideas of love, commitment, sacrifice and memory of time and space
Elise Engler – obsessively documents minute details of larger experiences through small, whimsical drawings, lying somewhere between art, taxonomy and natural history
Richard Garrison – analyses ubiquitous materials, objects and places from the suburban, often consumer related, American landscape
Pancho Westendarp – drawings and sculptures that analyze relationships between time, space, memory and movement
Robert Lansden – highly obsessive drawings built upon algorithms, focused on explorations of chance, discovery and time
Sharon Lawless – explores the tension between the planned control of rational thought and the random accidents of chance and irrationality through collage and “ready-made” imagery.

HT – What comes next – after Miami? What is your next big event/fair, etc?
HC – The next art fair that we hope to be participating in will be Volta NYC in March. This year, Volta will be located at Pier 90, which is a departure from the Soho location of the past two years. Although we will miss the chic Soho location, we are excited about the new location. What we lose in “chic”, we gain in proximity to Pier 92 and Pier 94 of the Armory.
RW – We continue with our gallery program of course…[but, yes] we are very excited to show Derek Lerner Volta NY in NYC in March and are very excited about their new location on the piers just next door to The Armory Show.

 

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Homa Taj in Conversation with Legendary French Photographer JEAN-DANIEL LORIEUX

 Isabelle Adjani, Le Maître et Marguerite by Mikhaïl Boulgakov, Moscou, 2008 (c) Jean-Daniel Lorieux
Isabelle Adjani, Le Maître et Marguerite by Mikhaïl Boulgakov, Moscou, 2008 (c) Jean-Daniel Lorieux

Seducing the Lens is on view through Saturday, December 6 at French Institute Alliance Française (FIAF) Gallery, 22 East 60th Street, New York.

Homa Taj – Your new show Seducing the Lens opened at French Institute Alliance Française (FIAF) Gallery, late in October. What is it like to be back in New York City [after how many years? When was your last exhibition, here?] at this prestigious institution?
Jean-Daniel Lorieux – I was in New York just a year ago, and it reminded me of my very first visit to the city, when I came to work with the Vogue editor Diana Vreeland. This first photo shoot with her was truly a gift from heaven. It was an homage to a photographer who had always stirred my imagination and had made me want to become a photographer myself, Richard Avedon, still a young man at the time. New York has always been in my head and in my heart because this wonderful city inspires enthusiasm, combativeness, and joy!

HT – You are a native Parisian and have worked, literally, all over the world. How would you describe your experiences of working with American fashion editors?
JDL – I am still in touch—in fact just half an hour ago—with Anna Fauconnier, one of the editors of American Vogue with whom I worked, who was the assistant to Susan Train. Still alive, very pleasant, I first them met them both 40 or 50 years ago. I have enjoyed great friendships with these American editors who are always so professional and cheerful. Sometimes, when we were shooting on the beach, people mistook the editors for models because they were so elegant and chic.

HT – Also, how are your American collectors different from those in Europe or Asia? If at all different? [Btw, do you have an American dealer/gallery?]
JDL – Yes, I have a French gallery that represents me in New York, Galerie Dumonteil. American collectors are more enthusiastic and direct. Either they like the photo or not. In Europe, collectors see a photo and say that they like it a lot, but sometimes it takes them a month to decide if they want to buy it.

HT – Your new book Sunstroke was just published in France. It surveys nearly four and a half decades (1970-2014) of your photography. What was it like to take time away and review your vast body of work whilst you continue to create new images?
JDL – It is important to take the time to look back at the past in order to improve the future, to continue developing one’s work. Sometimes when I look back at photos I have taken, I want to recreate the spirit of an image, but to update the style.

HT – As a fashion photographer, you have worked with some of the greatest talents in modern design history: Christian Dior, Pierre Cardin, and Yves Saint Laurent. How do you think contemporary fashion designers’ notions of elegance and eroticism (as it relates to feminine sexuality) have changed?
JDL – I think that in France Azzedine Alaïa is still very contemporary, and Elie Saab’s styles remain absolutely classic. However, I believe that the evolution of a designer’s style is also an adaptation to the times. Coco Chanel’s designs helped shape her era.

Designers define contemporary tastes, but their style also adapts to life, which is different today from the 1950’s. In haute couture, class and elegance are not the same as eroticism. Jean-Paul Gauthier always injects a little whimsy into his styles, a little spice. I find it more erotic to see a woman a fully dressed than when you see too much of her legs or her décolleté. For a man, we like to dream about what is behind the pretty dress, to fantasize about undressing the woman and discovering her, rather than seeing everything right away.

HT – In 2008, Russian businessman and philanthropist Evgeny Yakovlev commissioned you to create a series of photographs inspired by Mikhail Bulgakov’s dramatic novel The Master and Margarita (1967). Was it your or his idea to cast Isabelle Adjani?
JDL – Actually, this gentleman wished to bring the novel to life, and decided that Isabelle Adjani should play the role of Margarita. He saw in the novel parallels to Isabelle’s performance in the film “Queen Margot.” And in fact, at Isabelle’s suggestion, I hired the costume designer from “Queen Margot” to create the colors and different tones of muslin for the scene of the satanic ball. I am happy that Isabelle is currently performing in the new play “Kinship” at the Théâtre de Paris.

HT – Also, The Master and Margarita is a very cinematic series. Have you ever thought about making a movie – either as a director or a cinematographer?
JDL – Actually, I began my career as a mechanical engineer on film sets. I worked as a film assistant, and even wrote a few screenplays. One of them was a beautiful story that was supposed to star Marcello Mastroianni, who had signed on. Universal Films put up a million dollars to finance the film. I wanted to change the story though, and Mastroianni wasn’t happy with the changes, so he turned down the role. An actress friend came to see me and said: “My boyfriend loves your screenplay.” It turned out that her boyfriend was named Milos Forman; he wanted to help re-work the film. The film was called “La forêt des papillons” (“The Butterfly Forest”), and took place in a forest in Greece with an abundant population of butterflies.

While I began my career in cinema, unfortunately I have trouble focusing on one project over such a long a period of time. In photography, you click, and the image is created in two seconds. Of course in reality, preparing for a big photo shoot can take 8-10 days of preparation. Photographing the “Master and Margarita” series with Isabelle Adjani took almost a month. But there remains, in my heart, a certain nostalgia for cinema.

HT – Speaking of movies, in 1978, you produced a film called Les années SEA, SEX and SUN. Were you inspired by Serge Gainsbourg’s song (of the same title)? Is the film available to watch…?
JDL – In reality, it was a documentary television network that chose the title. Unfortunately I did not know Gainsbourg well. I did a few “clicks” with him though. Another film I produced was called “Ecran Total” (English translation: “Sunblock Cream”). In my life, I always love the sun, the sea, and the blue sky—not too many clouds. I would rather make people dream than bring sorrow. It is important to dream and laugh; one should always feel that there is sunshine down the road…

HT – You have photographed such historic and pop cultural figures as Nelson Mandela, Brooke Shields, Frank Sinatra, Farah Fawcett, Jacques Chirac, Charles Aznavour, James Brown, Mick Jagger, Glenn Ford, David Lynch and countless others. Which of these (or others) was the most memorable
JDL – The next one…

HT – You have photographed screen beauties from Claudia Cardinale to Sharon Stone and Isabelle Adjani. I think there was a greater sense of feminine maturity in actresses of the 1960’s and 1970’s. I recently re-watched Faye Dunaway and Steve McQueen in The Thomas Crown Affair (1968) and was surprised that she was only 26 when the film was made. How do you think representations of women & beauty have changed in today’s cinema?
JDL – Today there is less mystery and fantasy around actors and actresses because the world has changed. You can have coffee with George Clooney [in the Nespresso commercial], and the tabloids publish photos of Madonna shopping and jogging at the Place de la Concorde…

HT – 2015 is a very busy year for you since you have a series of exhibitions opening in Shanghai and Palm Beach [anywhere else?]. Does this mean that we will be seeing more of you in the United States?
JDL – I have an exhibition coming up in Berlin, and there will be a large exhibition in Shanghai. In 2015, there will be an exhibition featuring my work called Photo Med that will tour several Mediterranean cities: Beirut, Casablanca, and Nice. Then, they are planning to show it in Los Angeles and Paris. Sadly, my work has been shown very little in France. Perhaps my photos are too sunny, and in France my sky is too blue…

 

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Homa Taj in Conversation with #Filmmaker of Calloused Hands Jesse Quinones

Calloused Hands - still 4 Josh (Luca Oriel) at his bar mitzvah photograph copyright Martyna Przybysz
Calloused Hands – still 4 Josh (Luca Oriel) at his bar mitzvah photograph copyright Martyna Przybysz

Jesse Quinones  Calloused Hands is about a 12 year-old mixed race boy who is a promising baseball player. Josh is abused by his mother’s boyfriend Byrd, and neglected by his mother Debbie. He forges his own path in life when his estranged grandfather insists he study for his Bar Mitzvah. The film opens in Los Angeles on November 14.

Homa Taj – Calloused Hands is a very personal film. What gave you the courage to make it?

Jesse Quinones – Calloused Hands is a story I’ve been trying to make for a long time. I started working on it in 2000 as a book. At first it was just a story I wanted to write for me. I didn’t really have any audience in mind, I just wanted to release this story. But over time I started to realise that this is a story people can relate to. At its core Calloused Hands is a film about following your path, or better yet, about letting your path find you. I think everyone can relate to that. And I just felt that would be a nice message to put out into the world. Everyone out there has a path, it’s just we haven’t all found it yet. I include myself in that.

HT – I had a hard time watching it … at some point I was choked up and wanted to cry and I think it was because of Luca Oriel’s performance – under your direction. His strength in the face of so much difficulty was truly touching. Was that how you dealt with your problems as a young boy… or was the directorial decision in retrospective and in the light of maturity…?

JQ – I love Luca’s performance in this film, I think he brought such power and wisdom to the role. Having said that I wouldn’t say that his behavior resembled mine a great deal. My approach working with him, I knew he was a young actor, and that this was his first time as a lead in a feature film. So I didn’t want to add to that pressure. So my main goal with him was to really tap into who he was as a person, and to try and draw that out into the film. We definitely have a lot in common, and he reminds me a lot of myself when I was that age. But I was a very moody pain in the ass back then (perhaps I still am!), I think Luca’s a lot sweeter.

HT – Speaking of personal, just how biographical is Calloused Hands?

JQ – It’s hard to put a stat on it. I always say somewhere between 70 to 80% percent of it is autobiographical. But I did change a few things in order to make it work as a 90 minute film.

HT – Did your mom see the film? What did she think of it?

JQ – She did indeed. She went to our World Premiere in Miami, and has been to a few other screenings. It’s always funny because in Q & As people always ask me what she thinks of the film, and then I just point to her and say, ‘What DID you think mom?’ My mom is a writer herself, and has written about her own life in a book. So I think writer to writer, she’s really proud of me for making art out of some tough patches we went through. But as a mother, I think she feels I took a great deal of poetic license, and perhaps bent the truth a little more than I let on. According to her the film is 50% autobiographical. But hey, she herself is a life historian, and she always likes to say, ‘there is a big difference between history and memory’.

HT – How about your grandfather?

JQ -My grandfather passed away in 2006, so never got the chance to see it. I think he’d be proud though.

HT – I am sorry if I am asking so many personal questions, but I have to say I am in owe of your courage to have made such a personal film. So, I am curious if you’re in touch with your dad – and, what he thinks of the film?

JQ – I am in touch with my dad. He’s never seen the film. I’ve got a lot of love for my dad. I just don’t think the arts is his sort of thing. Maybe one day I can bring a copy over and we can watch it together.

HT – Andre Royo’s character, who plays (your) mom’s boyfriend went through quite a dramtic change in the film. How much of that was true to life – or was it a cinematic and poetic choice on your behalf as a filmmaker?

JQ – Oh that was pretty accurate. Again, there was some poetic license in terms of moving dates around, but his journey was there. He never actually showed up to my Bar Mitzvah. In fact, by the time I had a Bar Mitzvah he was already out of the picture. But he showed up a few years later, when I was 16. He came to one of my baseball games. It was a real important one as there were lots of scouts there. By that time I had turned into the prospect he always wanted me to be. He came to me in the dugout and started taking my picture, and calling me Killer Q. That was his nickname for me. He was real proud, and we shared a real nice moment. As far as I know he has been clean for a long time, he completed an MA degree, has a couple kids. I hope he’s doing ok. HT – Has your mom met Daisy Haggard, who plays her? Do they get along :) JQ -My mom met Daisy at the London premiere. My mom’s a real straight shooter. I remember Daisy went up to her after the screening and asked my mom what she thought of her performance. And my mother said, ‘that wasn’t me up there’. I think my mom felt she was way tougher, and more of a fighter than what was portrayed on screen.

HT – How did you cast Luca? He played an adorable ‘you’.

JQ – I had a staged reading in LA about a year before I shot the film. And we had about 50 or 60 kids come in and audition for the role of Josh. There were some real solid kids that came in. But there was just something about Luca that grabbed me. He was just so present in the scene. Then later when we did the staged reading, we had a couple actors that were improvising all over the place, and he didn’t bat an eye lid. He was just so confident, and so fluid in his performance. That really stayed with me. So when I started casting for the film, I called his parents. Turned out he was on the verge of quitting acting. He’d just gotten real tired of the whole industry and wanted to play football. I had to really plead with his parents to get him on board. But thank god they gave their blessing. The film wouldn’t be the same without him. And last I heard, he’s doing great things now, and has landed a regular role on Shameless. I think he’s going to be a big star. I just hope he answers my calls when he does!

HT – Calloused Hands was your first film. What’s ahead – can you talk about your next projects?

JQ -I have a few projects in the pipeline. I’m working on a British set fight movie about a Cagefighter who has to fight his demons both in and outside of the cage. That is being produced by Paula Crickard, who also produced Calloused Hands. I’m also working on a romantic comedy called Carlito y Jane, which is about a British playwright that goes to Cuba and ends up marrying a young Cuban playboy. That has the Cuban ballet dancer Carlos Acosta attached. And then I’m attached to direct a project called The Nanny, which was written by Braulio Montovani, he also wrote City of God. Also working on some short form stuff, I just shot a music video for a great singer named Kathrin deBoer, and recently was signed to the agency Irresistible Films, who represent me for commercials and documentaries. So at the moment just trying to stay busy and creative!

HT – Lastly, you already have a distributor in the US (Kino Lorber). How about foreign distributions – say, in Britain where you live…?

JQ – I’d love to get distribution in the UK. All I can say is we’re working on it :)

 

Calloused Hands Trailer from Woolfcub on Vimeo.

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