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.