Kerry
Kerry
Jannie
Amy
Angelique
Angelique
Charisma

GIRLS’ Emails:
SHOOTING WITH RICHARD KERN

Images by Richard Kern

 

Questions:

1. What is your day job now, and when you shot with Richard?

2. Why were you interested in shooting with Richard?

3. Did you have any concerns with the nudity and/or being the subject
of sexually explicit images?

4. If so, how did you resolve them?

5. Were you satisfied with the experience?

6. Would you recommend this experience to other girls? 

Richard Kern
came to New York in the late 1970s, lured by the charm of Manhattan women. He became a cult figurehead of the Cinema of Transgression film genre with his racy films, which can be found in a series titled The Hardcore Collection. Richard shot numerous music videos for artists including Sonic Youth and Marilyn Manson while publishing the photography books New York Girls, Model Release, XXGirls, and Kern Noir. He has had solo exhibitions at numerous international venues, including Feature, Inc. in New York and at the ICA in London in 2002. Richard now shoots editorials for Index, i-D, purple, and Self Service magazines, among “others,” while continuing his own photographic projects.

Kerry
1. WHAT IS YOUR DAY JOB NOW, AND WHEN YOU SHOT WITH RICHARD?
I’m a student. I’m at Oxford reading philosophy and physics, so I don’t have a job right now. The first time i shot with Richard I was just working as a barmaid I think: the last time, I had been at uni for a while.

2. WHY WERE YOU INTERESTED IN SHOOTING WITH RICHARD?
Richard and my sister are very good friends, and he had shot her a lot, so that put the idea in my head. I was interested because I was broke, wanted to go to NYC and I didn’t really give a shit about any of the “issues” round it: you know, why not? I had gone to NY to get out for a few weeks before moving to a repressive university town, and also to get out of my boyfriend’s hair while he sat some exams in Glasgow … we were kind of a bad influence on each other

3. DID YOU HAVE ANY CONCERNS WITH THE NUDITY AND/OR BEING THE SUBJECT OF SEXUALLY EXPLICIT IMAGES?
I didn’t have any problem with the nudity per se, or doing explicit shots. Not at all. There was a guy on one shoot who was assisting Richard, and he got totally freaked out at one point. I got a bit embarrassed for him, but that isn’t the same thing. I will say that I did try to cultivate some guilt about it because I used to read a lot of feminist stuff when I was a teenager, Andrea Dworkin and stuff. But if there’s a problem with porn it has to be viewed as an expression of a much more comprehensive infection. Some of the schoolgirl shoots we did are dubious in a different way of course, but I really don’t think the men who are into that kind of thing are necessarily any harm, nor is porn the factor responsible when things do get out of control. I think these porn stars who say it “empowers” them is bullshit though. You can define anything you like as a form of power, and anyway I think that the kind of self-consciousness associated with the power they talk of is ultimately pretty limiting.

4. IF SO, HOW DID YOU RESOLVE THEM?
I didn’t have a genuine somatic response, I just sort of pondered whether what I was doing was “wrong.” But I didn’t persuade myself. I remember one time we were shooting in Richard’s flat, and I saw a book of Richard’s on how to make money from the stock
market. I was a socialist at the time and hit out that it was “dirty money”—whilst I’m standing naked in the shower for $400. Richard was just like “it’s all dirty,” and he’s right—most people who blame everyone else for the state of things are full of shit. Most of the discussion on specifically porn just oversimplifies things. To say porn objectifies women is a vacuous truism, because anything sexual has elements of objectificaiton installed by its very nature—as do most social transactions—and we lack an argument that “objectification” just *means* something negative. If you want to offer intelligent criticism you have to try harder than that. I will say that I had experienced pretty depressing sexual harassment in every single minimum wage job I’d had up to that point. That kind of enforced sexualization is what makes you feel cheap, and shooting with Richard brought that into sharp relief. And porn isn’t to blame for the ubiquity of that.

5. WERE YOU SATISFIED WITH THE EXPERIENCE?
I don’t have anything bad to add … it was such a laugh, and I felt really great about my body actually—something I rarely had felt before. And it made me think about a lot of things, about photography, about art, much more than the alleged dark side to all this.

6. WOULD YOU RECOMMEND THIS EXPERIENCE TO OTHER GIRLS?
I would say that other girls should consider modeling for Richard, but with a big qualification. Shooting solo for girlie mags maybe isn’t like shooting stills with men, and certainly isn’t like shooting porn films, especially the spectroscopic and anatomical, anal L.A. hardcore scene. That’s just another thing altogether. I would also doubt that Richard is very representative of people who work in porn professionally. I was in a position to trust him totally, but I guess you have to be a bit careful.

 

JANNIE
1. WHAT IS YOUR DAY JOB NOW, AND WHEN YOU SHOT WITH RICHARD?
I’m working full time as a newspaper journalist. Im still not done studying journalism but I have the job as a part of my studies. Its a 1 year trainee period. When I met Richard I was in the middle of my danish / nordic studies at the University of Aarhus.

2. WHY WERE YOU INTERESTED IN SHOOTING WITH RICHARD?
Richard’s art turned me on a little bit at that time. I visited one early NY Girls Photoshow he had in Aarhus. One of his assistants came up to me and asked me, if I would like to model for him. I was curious and flattered when he asked me (in a very discreet and shy way) if I would like to do that for him. I also knew, that he was well respected, he was good looking and his motives seemed sober.

3. DID YOU HAVE ANY CONCERNS WITH THE NUDITY AND/OR BEING THE SUBJECT OF SEXUALLY EXPLICIT IMAGES?
I was a little concerned. Mainly because I had a boyfriend at that time, and he was very interested in knowing what I did in the apartment with Kern while we shot the pictures.

4. IF SO, HOW DID YOU RESOLVE THEM?
We gave my boyfriend the phone number to the apartment so that he could call us during the photo session to check that everything was all right. Next I was worried that Kern would force me into spreads, but he didn’t and I succeeded in keeping my legs together (and the pictures were so innocent, that I felt ok about showing them to my parents).

5. WERE YOU SATISFIED WITH THE EXPERIENCE?
All in all I was satisfied. I like the pictures he picked out and I still feel good when I look at them today — almost 8 years after we shot them. Especially because I didn’t expose myself to much (don’t need to defend what I did then).

6. WOULD YOU RECOMMEND THIS EXPERIENCE TO OTHER GIRLS?
I would recommend it to other girls and I’ve already done that actually.

AMY
1. WHAT IS YOUR DAY JOB NOW, AND WHEN YOU SHOT WITH RICHARD?
My day job now is that I own a skateboard shop in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, and I’m an actress. Back in the day when I started shooting with Richard, I was eighteen and modeling.

2. WHY WERE YOU INTERESTED IN SHOOTING WITH RICHARD?
I was interested in working with Richard because I felt very scrutinized by the modeling industry. I felt like everything I did was wrong. For example, I got my nipples pierced and my modeling agency freaked out, I wore combat boots while living in Paris and a client called my agent and told them I was unprofessional and cancelled me from a fashion show. I mean this was ten years ago so things weren’t as mainstream as it is now but still I felt very trapped. Working with Richard made me regain some of my self-confidence. He wasn’t telling me I was wrong. He welcomed individuality in his photos. I felt pretty for the first time ever in photos.

3. DID YOU HAVE ANY CONCERNS WITH THE NUDITY AND/OR BEING THE SUBJECT OF SEXUALLY EXPLICIT IMAGES?
I never really thought about the nudity thing at first. I mean it is kind of fucked up when you are on the subway with your mother and someone recognizes you from the cover of Penthouse and gets that crazy glassy-eyed stare thing going on. But besides that, Richard has the best dry humor ever about nudity. I never ever felt threatened or anything. I think we share a similar view on sex and nudity and that it’s humorous. I’ve never done photos with him where I felt like a porn star or wanted to go fuck someone. I just felt like I was in an art photo and I just happened to have no clothes on but I do have boundaries about what I will and won’t do in photos.

6. WOULD YOU RECOMMEND THIS EXPERIENCE TO OTHER GIRLS?
Over the years I’ve probably introduced twenty girls to Richard for him to shoot. I love him like a family member and will forever. He’s an amazing photographer and the fact that he’s taken photos of me that have been printed in so many different kinds of magazines is inspiring. I hope that other girls will see photos of me and realize they don’t have to get boob implants to be in porn magazines.

 

ANGELIQUE
1. WHAT IS YOUR DAY JOB NOW, AND WHEN YOU SHOT WITH RICHARD?
Let’s say that I make “a certain kind of living” being a director. Last August, when I first met Richard in New York, I was starting the shooting of my first documentary,“Llik Your Idols”: a somewhat distorted sense of very emotional look over the Cinema of Transgression and its “non-history.” Hopefully, an ironic way, as honest as can be, to deal with my own obsessions and dark gods! I’m currently finishing editing it, and intend to work on a project about gypsies afterward, for my family take its roots in this culture. To be simple, I contacted Richard to set up an interview and a photo session as well, if he felt so. We shot the first one at the Chelsea Hotel, the second one at my place in Paris a couple of months ago.

2. WHY WERE YOU INTERESTED IN SHOOTING WITH RICHARD?
I have a very emotional link to his work, as well as to the work of Nick Zedd, Lydia Lunch, or Lung Leg. I first discovered Richard’s work through the No Wave Punk scene in my early teens. Through the distorted face of Lung Leg “inviting” people to enjoy the abrasive sound of Sonic Youth’s EVOL, to be more precise. A friend of mine then gave me a bootleg tape of Richard and Nick Zedd’s short films: I saw a sordid, yet quite humorous, exquisitely cynical, perversion of the glamorous “Sex, Drug and Rock n’ Roll” cliché. Everything in these films looked and sounded REAL. To me, Richard’s movies in particular were a sum of sharp, violent, self-inflicted experimentations to push (destroy ?) one’s limits, to express one’s fantasies, dark and instinctive as they could be; they were an uncompromising testimony of N.Y. youth struggling within Reagan’s politics and morals. A “condensé” of transgression, dealing with sex and death. Without fully understanding the context in which these films were made, I then found Richard’s obsessions (deviant sexual behaviors, highly violent relationships based on sadomasochism, power, and manipulation) totally fascinating. His duality (if there is one), I find fascinating too. For his imagery, from the films to Model Release through New York Girls, is sometimes said to have evolved from real subversion to a rather conventional and soft one. But though lighter than bondage and references to “films noirs,” Richard’s photographs since Model Release (which are like the alluring Olympia by Manet, who was daringly staring back at her viewer) definitely remain some kind of a perversion which is really symptomatic of eroticism and porn nowadays. A perversion because they’re sometimes so clinical, so imperfect, so grotesque, that they happen to be anti-erotic, but always obscene in the large sense of the term.

3. DID YOU HAVE ANY CONCERNS WITH THE NUDITY AND/OR BEING THE SUBJECT OF SEXUALLY EXPLICIT IMAGES?
To be honest, I wasn’t thinking of the photographs as “sexually explicit images” when we were shooting. I may sound stupid, or excessively naive, by saying that but it’s true. On the one hand, the photos we made were rather soft. I don’t think they’ll ever end up in any porn magazine. On the second hand, Richard was trying to put me at ease, to make me oblivious as to me being naked in order to have me behave as naturally as I could (at least I think so). What could I say ? I’m happy to be in his “butt collection” for I’ve known and loved the work of the man for more than ten years now! Nudity was not the matter for me.

5. WERE YOU SATISFIED WITH THE EXPERIENCE?
Richard told me I could feel free to say something negative, so maybe now is the time. But, no, sorry Richard: yes, I am satisfied with the experience. Seriously, I find the photos really beautiful, and I deeply love and respect the little I know of the man and the lot I’ve imagined of him through his work. He’s a really talented photographer and a rather distant, and I guess quite strong, person.

6. WOULD YOU RECOMMEND THIS EXPERIENCE TO OTHER GIRLS?
What would allow me to recommend this experience to other girls? This is too personal an experience to recommend it to anyone.
 

CHARISMA
1. WHAT IS YOUR DAY JOB NOW, AND WHEN YOU SHOT WITH RICHARD?
I was a full-time model when I shot with Richard Kern. This is still my full-time job.

2. WHY WERE YOU INTERESTED IN SHOOTING WITH RICHARD?
He had been recommended to me by another photographer I shot with previously, Matt from mattsmodels.com. I have also seen some beautiful artsy photographs of Richard and this made me contact him.

3. DID YOU HAVE ANY CONCERNS WITH THE NUDITY AND/OR BEING THE SUBJECT OF SEXUALLY EXPLICIT IMAGES?
I am perfectly comfortable with my own body.

5. WERE YOU SATISFIED WITH THE EXPERIENCE?
It has been a nice experience, Richard is friendly, professional and above all a good photographer. Even sexually explicit pictures can look very tasteful the way he takes them.

6. WOULD YOU RECOMMEND THIS EXPERIENCE TO OTHER GIRLS?
I would most definitely recommend this experience to other girls.

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