I was recently asked by a magazine (not the NY Times) to photograph Kiki Smith. Because of a scheduling conflict I was unable to do it. I’m both disappointed and relieved. I’m disappointed because this Sunday’s New York Times Magazine profile by Michael Kimmelman described her as an electrifying character. She seems to have great insight into sustaining the creative impulse:
The hardest thing is to get past your taste – past your own formulaic way of doing things. Otherwise you’re stopped by what you know, which is limited. Chance is what a lot of artists use. In my case, I’ll arrange ways for things to be unpredictable.
The reason I’m relieved is because I’d hate to make a picture of Smith after seeing Nan Goldin’s fantastic portrait:
Nan Goldin for The New York Times
Goldin doesn’t do a ton of editorial work, but when she does it is very good. I still haven’t forgotten the NY Times Magazine story she did in 1996 on the model James King (see one of the images here).
At times I think Goldin has fallen into the ‘formulaic way of doing things’ that Smith describes. What photographer hasn’t? Editorial work, is seems to me, is one way to push into something unpredictable.