As CARBON 2014 approaches, we’ll be sharing our interviews with the speakers appearing at the creative culture festival. March 29 and 30 will see a whole host of mavericks and trailblazers converge on Melbourne to share insights from the worlds of art, photography, design, style, music and more. The first cab off the rank in our interview series is boundary-pushing camera-slinger Richard Kern.
CARBON festival 2014 is on March 29 and 30 at RMIT’s Storey Hall in Melbourne. You can get tickets from the ACCLAIM online store.
Initially making his mark in New York during the 1980s, photographer and filmmaker Richard Kern played a large part in the underground film movement the Cinema of Transgression. In addition to his film work, Kern developed a widely celebrated photography portfolio that featured groundbreaking erotic images. Still active 30 years later, Kern has a slew of short films, publications and exhibitions to his name. He is also a respected contributor at Vice, among other media organisations, and offers a behind-the-scenes look at his current-day work in the video series, Shot By Kern.
Describe your typical workday.
There are no typical workdays. There are days that I have projects to complete and days that I have to think about projects. The easiest days are shoot days because I don’t really have to think about what I’m doing – I’ve spent many days leading up to the shoot day thinking about what I’m going to be doing.
The hardest workdays are spent coming up with new conceptual projects or fresh ideas for visuals.
What inspired you to become a photographer?
My father was the managing editor of a small town newspaper. As part of his job, he took photographs to accompany the stories he covered. Occasionally he took me to some weird event that he had to photograph like a drowning, a KKK rally, or an automobile accident. He used a giant Speed Graphic camera. The process of turning the thing he took off the back of the camera into a print on paper seemed like magic to me. He taught me how to make a camera and how to print.
What are you currently inspired by?
Right now, I’m looking for some new kind of inspiration and a way to fill the void.
What do you love about your job?
That I never know what is going to happen and I can work whenever I feel like it. This is both a curse and a blessing.
What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned in your career so far?
Success is an illusion that is always just out of reach.
What mantra do you live and/or work by?
“Has this been done before?”
What’s the biggest industry change or development you’ve seen in your time as a photographer?
Obviously the biggest change has been digital technology and the importance of computers for business. I’m old enough to have had to keep paper records of every print I sent out so that I can get it back and to have a one large room full of slides, negatives and contact sheets.
Record keeping, retouching and delivery of media – all of this is so simple now.
The downside of the digital age is that piracy has killed many old models of making money.
What type of image captures your attention?