March 16, 2012
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Meet the Photographer: Andres Serrano

 

Andres Serrano

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Andres Serrano is a photographer who creates work that confronts his audience with portraits that are controversial, metaphorical and eye-shocking. Since the 1980’s his work has been applauded and denied by the public. Whether it’s the politics the image battles or the statement the image makes, Serrano’s works attract an immense amount of attention. Some believe his provoking images are produced simply for the joy of shocking his audience, frequently sighting his work “Immersions (Piss Christ)” (1987). Receiving mixed reviews, Serrano has been condemned by conservative Christian groups and at the same time praised by the arts community for his bold statements. Serrano’s work has exhibited at many galleries internationally. His oeuvre often incorporates bodily fluids such as blood, urine, female breast milk and shit. Serrano currently lives and works in New York City and Paris.

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What is the smartest thing you have done for your career?

Believed in myself even when no one else did.

In what way has your work improved or evolved over the years?

It’s changed and yet it’s remained the same. I use pretty much the same camera, lighting and film I used twenty years ago. I also shoot in the studio as I always have. The only thing that changes is the subject matter and the picture.

What is the biggest mistake you have made in your career? (That you would admit to.)

Not pursuing other creative fields like film and writing.

Do you work quickly or slowly?

I prefer faster than slower. The only reason I work slow is when I can’t get what I need right away

How important do you think graduate school is these days for photographers?

I don’t know, I didn’t go to graduate school. I dropped out of high school to go to art school when I was a teenager.

What is the biggest difference in your process when doing commercial work compared to your art work?

I’ve never done commercial work. I’ve done some editorial work for magazines like The New York Times Magazine, New York Magazine and Wired. The only difference is I have to work faster.

Do you care more about the communication or aesthetic of your work?

Both. It’s important to say something and to say it well. I like to make a visual impact.

What is your advice for an emerging photographer starting out?

Same thing Hiro once told me when I told him I hocked my camera. He said never stop shooting.

What do you want your art to achieve when people look at it?

I want it to be strong and memorable.

How much of an influence do you think your Catholic upbringing has had on your work?

A lot although I didn’t know it at the time.

How did you get your first break?

After getting turned down by twenty galleries, one person put me in a group show and then another one put me in another.

Who were you influenced by the most in your career?

Marcel Duchamp.

What is your advice for an emerging photographer starting out?

Same thing Hiro once told me when I told him I hocked my camera. He said never stop shooting.

Do you get funding for your projects or do you fund them yourself. How does one go about getting funding for a project?

I fund my projects. The days of getting grants or fellowships are over. But some grants they give to you by applying. Others like the McArthur Award, they just give you.

Have you received any death threats since your work is so controversial?

I have, for Piss Christ years ago.

What has been your most successful show and which work do you feel closest to?

I can’t answer that since I feel close to all my work. The Morgue was a favorite for some and The Klan and Immersions for others.

When will your new project be completed and available to the public? 

I will have some new work soon to tell you about.

Does your work have more appeal in the United States or abroad?

I’m known in America as a controversial artist but in Europe I’m known simply as “Andres Serrano.”

How important do you think publishing books are to an artist’ s career?

Not sure. They’re good when you have them but it doesn’t much matter when you don’t.

What made you want to be a photographer?

I never wanted to be a photographer and have never considered myself one. I attended the Brooklyn Museum Art School where I studied painting and sculpture. I’ve always thought of myself as a conceptual artist with a camera.

What does art mean to you?

It’s what I was put on earth for!

Is there an artistic field you have not tried but would like to?

Television.

A lot of your work seems dark. Can we ever expect you to photograph for example, angels?

Some of my new works will be light.

How closely associated is your “image” to your work? What influence does it have with the subject matter of your work?

My work is me. I identify with what I photograph.

Who helped you most in your career?

Julie Ault and Irina Movmyga. Julie is my first wife and Irina is my current wife.

You say that when you do commercial work it spawns ideas for your art work, can you give an example?

I don’t consider editorial work commercial work. But an editorial assignment might become a body of work. It’s not that it spawns ideas, but it can become a series. For instance, I once shot a series of “Cycads” or rare prehistoric plants for The New Times Magazine. A dealer in Italy loved them and he presented them as a series.

 

 

 

 

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