SPEAKER 1: Going to start the final session of the day, changing format a little bit. Instead of having presentations up here, we're going to have discussions that take place at the table. And the first two people to do that are going to be Tony Barboza-- Anthony Barboza-- and Bill Gaskins.
Tony Barboza is a photographer and artist best known for his portraits of African-American musicians although that's only a tiny tip of his iceberg. He's been photographing since the 1960s. He's a leading member and recently president of the Kamoinge Workshop, which is a cooperative we talked about earlier today, still going on. It lives on.
He's also worked commercially for places like The New Yorker, Vanity Fair, Black Enterprise, other magazines, worked in advertising, and done a record album covers, had many exhibitions, and is in a collection here with-- at the rare and manuscripts collector-- rare and manuscript collections, has more than 2,000 photographs and related materials.
A book of these portraits of jazz-- well, I guess of portraits of all sorts was published in 1980 called Black Borders if you want to look that up. He'll be speaking with Bill Gaskins who's a-- should be familiar to many of you in the Cornell community. He's associate visiting professor in the Department of Art and in the College of Architecture, Art and Planning and a faculty member in the American Studies program where he teaches a number of innovative courses that if there are any students in the audience, you should definitely take a course with Bill before time goes on. And his work can be seen in the book Good and Bad Hair, speaking of hair.
So they'll discuss, and then we'll have a short changeover and get on to the next people. So Bill and Tony.
BILL GASKINS: Thank you all for being here. Thanks to Kate Adelman, Frankel, and Andy Grunberg for inviting me and Tony to be part of this as well as BJ Needhams with the work that he does here every day at the museum and alumni affairs officers Mike O'Neill and Adam Murtlin for live streaming the event today. That's really important that we're getting this outside of the Finger Lakes.
So I want to begin with a quote by Thulani Davis from the forward to the exhibition catalog for all the world to see, Visual Culture and the Struggle for Civil Rights. Quote, "What if history granted white America only one or two individuals in each era to stand as its representative, the summation of its character, accomplishments, and perhaps all that the world would know of white America?"
When I put this question to a white friend he asked what I meant by represent. My friend could have also asked represent white America to whom. The representation of African Americans in the cultural mainstream, however, has been so selective, narrowly conceived, and determined by anticipation of white reception that widely accessible black images also become iconic. Most of them still exist in a shorthand of African-American fame rather than history. Most people can call up an image of any famous black person as representative of what Thulani Davis talks about.
Anthony Barboza is a human archive, library, and collection who has done some extraordinary work. And I wouldn't be sitting here in this role as photographer, scholar, professor if not for the work that I saw him do when I was a teenager. Don't mean to age you like that, bro, but it was like that.
So this was Mr. Barboza at a time in his life that was probably not unlike mine. He had significantly more cameras than I did. Tell us about this.
ANTHONY BARBOZA: Well, when I came to New York when I was 19 in 1963, the first major event that happened in American history happened two months after I arrived, and that was the assassination of Kennedy. And I spent two years here-- I mean, in New York-- and I belonged to the Kamoinge Workshop, which is a group of black photographers started in 1963, and it is to this day the longest running group in the history of photography, nonprofit anyway.
But then I got drafted in the army for Vietnam, and I ran to the Navy so I can spend less time. And I got out as quickly as I could. And what happened was that I had some experience in those two years of doing photography. But after boot camp, the Navy gave me a star two mechanic.
So for some odd reason, I put up some photographs in a sidewalk art festival, and I was immediately transferred to the lab. I never got to school. And I worked there for a few months, and they decided, well, they put me as a station newspaper photographer. So I spent that time then was transferred to Jacksonville after Pensacola, and I got out as quickly as I could. Matter of fact, Julian was waiting for me to get out because in '68 when I got out, Julie was going to the New York Public Library. We found that coincidence.
So from then on, I was still a member of Kamoinge, and the thing is that when I was in the Navy, I would do photograph in all my spare time all over the-- Florida. And I was always about doing photographs of us. Now it was a passion more than anything else. I wanted to record what was down South as much as I could. The Navy found out about me doing a story on a poor family, and I was told to not do it anymore. And there was nothing I could do about it.
So at least I stopped doing the family, but I still went around doing photography. And what it was is that I was really anxious to get out so I could go back to the group. Now I didn't go to college, but this was my college. And it was-- it's pronounced Kamoinge, and it's a Gikuyu word meaning working together.
And we did work together. It was my education. We listened to music to the point of listening to jazz that we could-- I learned how to differentiate between each musician, their style. We criticized photographs. Every week, someone would put up photographs, and some people would start crying because everybody had an opinion about it. But we learned a lot more about photography that way.
Roy DeCarava was the guiding light at that time. Now if he was the guiding light, he had experienced so many years of doing that before we were even born. Matter of fact, he was born the same year I think as my father. But he instilled in us that in that beginning we should not go around shooting homeless people. We wanted to dignify our own race in that sense to show a positive light about it.
And this went on for many years even after I got out of the Navy. But one day-- I had a studio at that time-- Cornell Capa came, and he wanted us to be in the first exhibit for ICP along with [? Mark LeBeau. ?] So we gave that exhibit. He came, and we talked with him. And we had a group of guys that were very what I would call opinionated about certain things. And he would sit there and listen to us. Some of those were hard to get along with because we had our opinions set on how we wanted to represent us and our own people.
So that went on for a while, but we got the exhibit. As a matter of fact, in that year I think that I decided I would do a special project for that. So it was like walking the streets because we all did that. We used to call it ash can photography.
I would shoot all full-length portraits of people in the city, New York, and that's what I'd put up at that time. But each person in the group had a certain style, but everything came from the ideas that Roy started.
Now why I mentioned certain things is that I listened to all the curators, but I didn't hear much about how the photographer felt about what he was doing, was it his passion, did he really love it or was he doing it for money, what was he thinking, where did he learn his craft from, or did he just wait a few minutes before he took that one shot? Did he look around? Those are very important because as a photographer, I'm always feeling and thinking at the same time. It is not a separate thing.
It is not an aggressive thing where you take up the camera. I'm feeling out everything that's going on, and that is so important that you have to really talk to photographers that you are curating their work. It's very meaningful. I mean they are thinking like anybody else. But a lot of them are feeling.
I don't know how many are feeling. Some are very aggressive, and maybe they ain't feeling. I mean there's been a lot of aggressive photographers going to get the shot, and it has nothing to do with how he feels about it. It's almost like he's taking a photograph of someone, and he's using that person for his own ulterior motives. There's a lot of difference between those two things.
Yeah, ulterior motives are very-- I've seen a lot of photographers, very aggressive. I mean I used to sit in clubs and shoot jazz, but sometime I would just sit there and just listen to the music and not photograph every minute and every second, poking a camera in their face.
And I always think that when I learned photography at Kamoinge, we'd listen to music. We talked about art. We talked about literature. We did all that through all this writing, I mean from Baldwin to Julio Cortazar, different people, and we watched a lot of movies, especially Bunuel and my favorite Exterminating Angel. So, OK, I'm sorry.
BILL GASKINS: No, no, no, no, I was going to sit over there and ask you questions from there. But as it relates to Kamoinge-- and I'm going to say two-- I'm going to say one name and I know that's going to be another solo on your part, and it's cool, Louis Draper. The role-- talk about the role that Louis Draper played in what became the energy, the zeitgeist of Kamoinge and the goals that you and the other members had. And you call-- you talk about Kamoinge being your Academy, your college and the role that Lou Draper played in your development.
ANTHONY BARBOZA: OK, well, when I met Lou, he was a very unassuming person. We used to walk the streets together, and we always wrapped the camera around. But we had to be really quick. But the main thing that I learned from Lou is the morals of subjects and how important reading is and art and studying the history of photography and what everybody else was doing. So he was like a role model in the sense that his main thing was the morals of what we are doing. He was more important to me than Roy, OK.
Now there's one thing that I objected to with a lot of Kamoinge members, but some have come out of it. When you learn from a teacher, you copy a teacher. And you can't copy a teacher, so you fall into the same vein. So I decided a long time ago that, well, I will just evolve from what I learned and do other ways of-- use other ways of approaching a project.
So I would spend nine years doing each project, and I wanted to transcend my mind and my thinking into the images but not just the street. I loved doing things in the street, but I did them a long time even when I got out the Navy. And it became to a point that I began to see surrealistically the images that it wasn't just what was going on in the scene, but there was something else beyond that in my mind that was saying something else. And that something else was my feeling in my mind thinking about. It could be anything, but it's hard to describe what I mean without a visual image. I don't think you have any here. Those are two-- those earlier years.
So it became to a point that I was seeing and becoming autobiographical about my thinking. It became something that was what you learned through your life is that everything that you do in your life is collecting a lot of things in your mind, and it makes decisions that quick. Because when you're that quick with the flick and the shutter, it's because something else is telling you something, and you're feeling something else from within you, which is very interesting And not many people talk about that.
So it became to the point that if I went through that, then I came to what you show now, the subjects, in which I tried to make another dimension in a single plane, that something beyond. And with the lighting of doing lighting in the studio, it represented certain things to me about that particular person and how I felt about that person.
BILL GASKINS: But before we get to that, I think what's important for everyone to appreciate is that Anthony Barboza single-handedly changed the way that African-American, Caribbean American, Latin American people were imaged through advertising and editorial photography during the '70s when three men and one woman came together to create Essence Communications Incorporated, which led to Essence magazine. And this is where I first saw this man's work.
And even in the context of a magazine, one of the things that made Tony Barboza stand out from everybody was this really narrative approach that he took to editorial fashion as well as editorial portraiture. And he played a significant role in this woman's career. This is-- anybody know who this is?
You didn't know it was going to be a test did you?
ANTHONY BARBOZA: She came to my studio and want to be a model
BILL GASKINS: (SINGING) Pull up to the bumper, baby.
ANTHONY BARBOZA: She said nobody will test me.
BILL GASKINS: It's her.
ANTHONY BARBOZA: And I said, well, yeah, I'll photograph you. And I tried to do photographs of her and get her involved. And there's a certain rapport between the model and the photographer. I cannot explain it.
BILL GASKINS: Tell them who it is.
ANTHONY BARBOZA: Oh, yes. So anyway, it's Grace Jones in the beginning of her career, and then I gave her her first job with Essence. And it's funny now that she had a book come out not too long ago, and she dedicated a whole page to me in doing the first photographs of her.
But it's interesting that I'm not only-- whenever I'm working, I'm trying to inspire what I feel about that person. And even while I was here, I got an email from a model in the '60s that said thank you for the years that you encouraged me because I was too short to be a model but you gave me some jobs. I was in shock.
There are certain people through the years, some of them have been in movies that I encouraged and inspired to go on. And then I met this girl. It was in his '60s about '68 or '69 I think it was. And she came up, and I did photographs of her. And she said, Tony, I want to cut my hair and go bald. I said you shouldn't do that. You won't get any work.
But she did it, and we both got work. So it was-- she was the first model in the history of fashion to go bald, and she had a great career. And we had news companies come from as far as Australia and France and do some filming of us that we never even saw.
BILL GASKINS: She worked with Isaac Hayes, too, didn't she?
ANTHONY BARBOZA: Well, no, she didn't work with him. She just did a shooting-- we put her in a shooting with Isaac Hayes, yeah, for Essence. I didn't explain why I went into commercial photography.
First of all when I got out of the Navy, I couldn't get any work. I tried to be an assistant, and they said, well, you got any experience. And I said that's what I'm here for. And I couldn't get hired.
So I said, well, I'll try and do it myself. So I just started that way. And the first portfolio I had of fashion was-- I was hired by Harper's Bazaar to do the shop by mail and make $125 a month. But it was a start until I got the-- after a couple of years, they let me do the fashion in the middle. But it happened that the two women who were the art directors quit, and the next guy who came in to be the art director said we won't have any black photographer working here anymore. So I could never work for them again. So I went to Essence.
BILL GASKINS: So talk about the representation of blackness in magazines, in fashion, in news during the time you were--
ANTHONY BARBOZA: Well, when I was asked to do fashion, I started thinking about walking the streets and doing photographs. So now it came a time that they asked me to do a shooting of fashion, and I said, well, why don't we do it in Harlem. It's never been done for a magazine before.
So I decided that I would do like a little mini series-- about seven photographs that ended up being, I think one in color and then the rest in black or white-- and without a storyboard, but it was like shooting a storyboard. I directed the two men that we're trying to pick up the two women on the street. So I went through that sequence of directing them. See I did a lot of directing of my fashion shoots even in the studio. Don't ask me how because I could never take directions myself. So that's what happened.
And what I was trying to do is bring our culture because that's our culture, but we're wearing these clothes. So we want to show the clothes, but we wanted people to relate to what we know about our culture, which is very important. I mean before that they will put a model-- a black model in a magazine and she'd have on the clothes and she'd sit there and just move and that wasn't enough to inspire-- have anybody look at it. You can relate better-- I remember growing up that my parents would say, oh, there's a black person on TV, so we all going to go see it. So this is the difference. So I remembered those things.
Now also I mentioned the feeling so I had to get-- they're not actors. Most of the models who put their hand on the hip and just move, so I'm running backwards and shooting them and directing them to do this whole idea. I just tell them the idea. Look, there's two beautiful women there. You guys got to try and pick them up.
So that was easy. That's what we do all the time. So it worked out.
So I shot barbershop, fashion, [INAUDIBLE]. I did a couple of things here, but sometimes they wanted me to do it in a studio. And they wanted to decide, well, we want to do it, and they wanted their ideas. But a lot of ideas I got through.
I did a boxing in a ring with the models. At that time, I would do things like that so that they could relate to. There was one different thing is that when [? Avenon ?] was doing fashion in Paris, well, he just used Paris as scene in the back, and they go say do the same thing.
But we see these things and we learn from these, but we go on. It's no use copying somebody or trying to copy some-- come with something that's within you and part of you. That's what I always tried to do.
BILL GASKINS: So let's move to something that puts you in context of another period of time, another photographer. The photo nerds in the room will know what this is. Those of you who don't, this is the cover to the Gallery of Illustrious Americans. It was a portfolio of 20 photographs or rather engravings based on photographs by the photographer Matthew Brady. And it was, in his words, a compendium of the greatest exponents of American culture.
So Mr. Barboza decides during the 1980s to--
ANTHONY BARBOZA: Oh, before that.
BILL GASKINS: Really before that but in terms of the publishing of the book, it's 1980s-- to publish a body of work that was decades in the making that was based upon the relationships that he had with illustrious Americans that he had declared within African-American culture. And he called it Black Borders. And it was the other side, Anthony Barboza that I got to see before I got to see his work in the Black Photographer's Annual, 1973.
And the durability of this work over the time between now and then is remarkable. It's a masterclass in not only lighting but also a masterclass in how do you get a relationship with a subject within the confines of a studio that doesn't look like it's in the confines of a studio. So you want to talk about what inspired all of these?
ANTHONY BARBOZA: OK, I spent-- I think it was '73 or '2. I wanted to do portraits of some of the artists and musicians that inspired me, and I started with a plain background, just a background, put it up in I said, well, this is getting monotonous. Either I'm going to be shooting getting quirky books like [? Avenon ?] or I'm going to put him in a corner like Irving Penn, and I said I can't do this anymore and see how they react.
So I don't know how it came about. I don't remember. But all of a sudden I started to work on different lighting, and I would not prepare to shoot and the lighting before the subject. Now I knew some of the subjects.
BILL GASKINS: This is the painter Norman Lewis?
ANTHONY BARBOZA: I knew some of the subjects, but I didn't say, well, I'm going to the night before I draw out everything and I'm going to do this lighting. What I did was when they came into the studio-- and I've done this through my career-- is that you have to be warm with the person because they're in a foreign place to be sitting-- they're not in their living room to do a portrait of them.
I never knew what it was about me that I was able to transcend and make people feel comfortable in a situation like this, and through the years, I still don't understand it. But I had some movie stars want to take me on a trip with them to photograph them. Eartha Kitt wanted me to meet her daughter. I'm saying what is going on here.
But it was something about feeling the person and understanding their work and then creating the lighting on the spot. This is all on the spot because I also had to learn when I went somewhere to find that same time when would I photograph this person in their home. So I had to be quick.
BILL GASKINS: Let's talk about Mike.
ANTHONY BARBOZA: OK, so one of them was-- I had to shoot Michael Jackson for a magazine called Crawdaddy, and I had to make him dance and do all this stuff. I created lighting for him. But I did the magazine photographs of him dancing, and I said, well, I got time. I'm going to shoot for myself a portrait.
And I don't do a lot of thinking. I do more feeling than thinking. So I put the lighting a certain way and casts a shadow like a little boy sitting on a bench.
And that was the whole idea of how I felt about him because the whole time he's been in the studio, his assistant was running back saying, oh, we found-- there's some photographs of little kids in a newspaper. I said, oh, gee, OK. Very interesting.
And Janet was little, and she was in the front of the studio. So we had somebody watch her. So it was things like that that just by taking control-- he was very shy, but I still made him dance. He was in a foreign place, but I still was able to-- and I still don't know how I do it. To this day, I don't know what goes on.
So I did the whole series this way. Like this one here, he was a dancer for Grace Jones, so I had him do that on the spot. So there's about 160 to 175 different people I photographed. But when I won the grant, I could only do a little booklet of them. But Bill wants to work with me on that, doing the big book.
BILL GASKINS: So if you can find it, the first edition of Black Borders--
ANTHONY BARBOZA: Oh, no, you won't be able to find it. Oh, there's only 1,500 copies and I don't have but a few left and they're about $250 now. I would sell them-- for $15.
BILL GASKINS: Are you selling them here?
ANTHONY BARBOZA: Oh, you have to understand that I went into commercial photography because I didn't want to get another job and be away from photography. So everything helped me to learn about people because I was very shy. So-- and I had to make money to pay for my habit, which is my own work. That's why I went into commercial photography. OK.
BILL GASKINS: You got a great habit.
SPEAKER 1: Thanks, Tony. Thanks, Bill. Am I on? I guess I'm on. There we go.
Well, thanks for that. That was fabulous. So we have to move right along and let me introduce to you Johan Kugelberg and Larry Clark. Larry Clark probably of all of us is the person that needs no introduction, but he is the author of the photo books Tulsa 1971, which was a Lustrum Press book, and Teenage Lust in 1983 and more recently has been making films, the first of which I saw in San Francisco in 1985-- in 1995 called Kids.
More recently, he's done Marfa Girl and Marfa Girl 2, and he received the Lucy Award for documentary photography from the International Center of Photography in 2005. The Kroch Library's Rare Manuscript Collections here has an archive currently of some 2,800 photographs associated with his books and films including the dummies-- the work prints for Tulsa in addition to books, posters, and skateboard ephemera. He's going to be joined by Johann Kugelberg who's a great friend of the rare manuscript collection library, co-founder of Boo-Hooray, which is a New York-based space for collections and exhibitions related to Johann's interests in punk, hip hop, and counter cultures.
Johann's also a curator and author, teacher, and man about every town. He go-- well, University of Virginia, you've been there. Yeah. So he has arranged the acquisitions by the library here of the Larry Clark Archives I've mentioned as well as the Cornell hip hop collection and punk collection and also arranged the acquisition of work by Joe Conzo, Jr., who we will also be speaking about. You're on.
LARRY CLARK: Hello, hello.
JOHANN KUGELBERG: Hi. So, Larry, we've been working together for 10, 11, 12 years, whatever it is now mostly on archiving a living, breathing, constantly producing artists. So on one level as we're working together, it's all rear view mirror. It's making sense of old work prints and vintage prints and old notebooks and outlines for projects that came about, outlines for projects that didn't come about, looking at old maquettes and maquette variations at the same time as-- may sound a bit flattering but let's go there-- trying to keep up with you as a contemporary producing artist.
So how do you feel about me being some sort of Santa's little helper of the Wayback Machine at the same time as dealing with your constant production. Let's start with that?
LARRY CLARK: It's been good because I have so much stuff. I have no idea how much I have. I mean, really.
JOHANN KUGELBERG: Or where it is.
LARRY CLARK: We find something new every day-- where it is, whether it's in Oklahoma somewhere and who knows. Who knows?
JOHANN KUGELBERG: A pretty illuminating anecdote for that is on the drive up here from New York City this morning, I'm going, Larry, I just found two variants Teenage Lust maquettes in one of the boxes that we're organizing and processing. And this was particularly fascinating because, of course, the Aperture Foundation were originally supposed to publish Teenage Lust, right? And they didn't do it--
LARRY CLARK: They couldn't.
JOHANN KUGELBERG: They couldn't do it
LARRY CLARK: They couldn't do it because all the lawyers told them that they couldn't--
JOHANN KUGELBERG: It was a fancy lawyer, too.
LARRY CLARK: There was a fancy lawyer who worked for Playboy out of Chicago. And he came back with a list that-- like 40, 50 prints you couldn't show because they would get sued.
JOHANN KUGELBERG: It was like you called somebody's sister crazy.
LARRY CLARK: My sister crazy.
JOHANN KUGELBERG: Your own sister.
LARRY CLARK: My own sister. And they said you can't do that because she could sue. So anyway they kept seeing lawyers and spending tons of money, and it came down to one photograph. They said we'll take out this one photograph, and I said no.
JOHANN KUGELBERG: Of course, not. It's like already in 1983, Larry Clark was Larry Clark.
LARRY CLARK: Right so--
JOHANN KUGELBERG: And that is why you ended up self-publishing Teenage Lust.
LARRY CLARK: Yes. Yeah, exactly because nobody would publish it. But what Johann has done is he has me looking, too, and I find things that I don't remember writing or doing.
JOHANN KUGELBERG: Or photographing.
LARRY CLARK: I have notebooks about films and stuff when I was a kid. And--
JOHANN KUGELBERG: I think it's a really important point to make in this setting when you have the great opportunity and the great privilege working with a living, breathing, sometimes kicking, screaming artist is that your own archive, Larry, is now also informing current work, and you're finding material that you might not have identified when you were putting together this perfect childhood in 1991 or when you were working on Tulsa in '68, '69 as great work or work that reverberates with you as an artist. But then you revisit it like 40 years, 50 years later. That's pretty wild.
LARRY CLARK: Well, that's from meeting you and you being amazed by all this stuff-- you would open the box and find an old notebook and say look at this. And I look and read the notebook.
JOHANN KUGELBERG: But you've also had the privilege of being in the same loft for a really long time and also not liking to throw stuff away.
LARRY CLARK: I've been in this loft about 38 years, and I've never thrown anything away.
JOHANN KUGELBERG: Over the years, we have also staged a number of archival exhibitions where we have pulled material from your archive and set it either in like a gallery setting or like a museum setting. We staged a show in Tokyo. We staged one big show in New York.
LARRY CLARK: [INAUDIBLE]
JOHANN KUGELBERG: MOCA, I can't even remember. And that also becomes a part of the process because then it's your journey of discovery. And also since you work in collages, you're able to pull stuff from your own life and three-dimensional collages as well, which becomes another aspect of the work in the books.
What has been the most famous events of you diving into your own archive would you say?
LARRY CLARK: Well, it gives me ideas about making film. I like read short stories that I wrote and I was a teenager, and I'd say, man, you make a film out of that.
JOHANN KUGELBERG: Wasn't there some stuff in both the narrative of Marfa Girl and Marfa Girl 2 that was reflective of old notebooks that you revisited?
LARRY CLARK: Possibly.
JOHANN KUGELBERG: Because I seem to remember it's like when Marfa Girl 1 came out-- I'm allowed to remember things. The artist is the creator. He doesn't have to remember stuff. I can sometimes do that for you.
But when Marfa Girl 1 came out, we actually published a facsimile of Larry's notebook that he was keeping in his pocket throughout the process of Marfa Girl.
LARRY CLARK: I shot the movie from that notebook.
JOHANN KUGELBERG: Yeah, you did.
LARRY CLARK: Yeah.
JOHANN KUGELBERG: So and, of course, that notebook went in the archive, but then I guess this is like the ouroboros that is like a self-referential circle because we did publish a facsimile of that notebook as almost like an archival publication, which was also fun.
LARRY CLARK: Yeah. And I think one thing about looking back is it gives you ideas. Marfa Girl 2, I had no script at all. I just made it up as I went along, and it was so much fun.
JOHANN KUGELBERG: And you didn't even write dialogue in the evenings like you did on Marfa Girl 1, or did you do that?
LARRY CLARK: I think I got about for 4:00 in the morning, and I wrote dialogue, yeah.
JOHANN KUGELBERG: Yeah.
LARRY CLARK: But it's just fun. There's so much fun.
JOHANN KUGELBERG: The other thing that I think is worth bringing up about your work as an artist, whether you are doing collages in the space like you've done Luhring Augustine and that you've done in museums around the world or where the books and I'm thinking specifically about the book Punk Picasso and the book Perfect Childhood where those books have like a real serious archival component to them, is that you're creating this non-linear narrative of your own life experience, pulling archival elements in. When you put together Punk Picasso, how big of a pool of materials did you have to work with, and how did you filter those?
LARRY CLARK: Everything that was around, I used.
JOHANN KUGELBERG: And was it just like a random act. Did you pull this piece from here, this piece from there or--
LARRY CLARK: I just looked at stuff and put it in I think, so I don't remember all I did. I remember my girlfriend at the time telling me that I had to put certain things in, that if I was going to do this to other people that I had to do it to myself. So that's why Punk Picasso gets really, really personal.
JOHANN KUGELBERG: Yeah, even more so than Perfect Childhood in a way.
LARRY CLARK: Mm-hmm.
JOHANN KUGELBERG: And obviously in all of the years that I have known you, I have also come to the realization that all your art is hyper-personal and unfiltered in a way. You're like the healthy apple cider vinegar of artists, always unfiltered, always sharp but always real.
LARRY CLARK: But your process as an archivist--
JOHANN KUGELBERG: My process--
LARRY CLARK: You've got hundreds of boxes, all my boxes in space, and then what happens next?
JOHANN KUGELBERG: There's one element of it that's totally like sifting seawater trying to find plankton for nutrition, no doubt. Because in a box where you haven't bothered throwing away an entire year of New Yorker, I will find the most illuminating little scraps of note paper where an idea germinated that became an exhibition or that became a painting or that became a photograph or whatever it is.
And that it's-- as an archivist, to date, I have placed around 130 archives with different institutional libraries and museums around the world. This is how I pay the rent. I find stuff. I organize it. I conceptualize it. And then I present it to museums and special collections.
And it's unbelievably fun. It's a great honor, but also my entire professional role is of being as invisible as possible. That's really, really important. Obviously, the editor or the curator is never completely impossible even if we want he or she to be because you just can't do it.
So when I'm working with you, the thing that has been so gracious in us doing this for so many years is that I can gain more and more-- the respect for your work was there from the first second-- but more and more insight into it and more and more insight into the process means that me and my co-workers can be hyper-diligent and really, really careful about what we find and how we organize it. This is something that's debated all of the time in our fields. I teach a yearly class at rare book school where I'll have a roomful of super smart special collections librarians ready to kick my ass on my method and ready to make me question my method and attempt to improve it.
In the past, I've also-- I taught a master's class at Yale a number of years ago, which was really, really fun because then you have a roomful of grad students and they really want your scalp hanging from their belts. And they would really question my process in a really hard core way because my process is not necessarily a academic museum level process. I should state that.
When we're handling your prints, of course, we have the white gloves on. But when we're handling a box of old issues at The New Yorker, there are no white gloves anywhere to be seen, and we are sifting through these vast amounts of material really quickly initially for our first pass. And the funny thing is we're actually in the middle of a first pass on your archive right now.
I rented a separate space in lower Manhattan so that Larry could come in and visit and work with the materials as we are organizing materials. And you come down with great frequency, and it's pretty amazing I think.
LARRY CLARK: Yeah, it's fun.
JOHANN KUGELBERG: One thing I should mention that is the opposite but also related to your process and our process is for years, I worked with one of my absolute heroes, the artist and filmmaker and photographer Jonas Mekas, who recently passed away. Jonas was-- is one of the biggest badasses I've ever met in this life. Passed away at the age of 97. He was a camp survivor. He pretty much more or lesson single-handedly midwifed American alternative and underground cinema as we know it and has created a body of work and a legacy on multiple layers. But it's almost difficult to comprehend the importance of this man and his graciousness and kindness.
Anyway so Jonas is totally great, and as a self-archivist, he's even worse than you. Because Jonas was consumed by what my favorite historian, the Italian historian Pierre [? Camperese, ?] who was the professor of history at the University of Bologna and who specialized in early modern Europe, which is my personal field of interest for my-- Pierre [? Camperese ?] would refer to it as the dreadful desire to study. That is what he would call it when the creator of a cultural legacy or a cultural narrative is really, really into studying his or her own work. Who are we kidding? It's always his.
So Jonas would constantly self-archive and self-organize. And I was over at his apartment a couple of days ago visiting with his son Sebastian, and we were talking about this genius mess in this 3,000-square foot loft and how to deal with it because Jonas would-- Jonas really liked putting things in boxes and putting the labels on the boxes. And sometimes he would get to the letter B in sub-organizing a specific kind of archive. Sometimes he would get the letter F and the letter G in sub-organizing some sort of archive.
And then comes that dynamic moment where the world of academics and me as some sort of-- I don't know-- guerrilla archivist collide because, of course, there is a value in how Jonas Mekas attempted to self-organize his archives that one can think should be preserved but which is almost impossible to preserve. With you, it is much, much easier because we have these hundreds and hundreds of banker's boxes of the most majestically significant important materials, but we can actually go through these tens of thousands of vintage prints and organize signed prints, organize edition prints, vintage prints, outtakes, and start getting a system in place where we can do notebooks and we can do personal papers, business records, publications, and so forth. So that's a process. But with Jonas it's actually impossible. I think I'm asking the room what do I do when this process starts.
So are you sensing now that as we're in the middle of the trenches of this process that it's informing your work?
LARRY CLARK: I'm anxious to get back to the city and do something today.
JOHANN KUGELBERG: We can certainly do that.
LARRY CLARK: There's a lot going on.
JOHANN KUGELBERG: We're going to--
SPEAKER 1: [INAUDIBLE]
JOHANN KUGELBERG: Yeah, I'm going to switch-- does anybody have like a completely urgent question for the great Larry Clark? Go for it.
JOHANN KUGELBERG: Are you talking about Jonas or Larry?
JOHANN KUGELBERG: With Larry, it's delightfully chaotic. So I don't have to worry about that. With Jonas, this is like a focal concern. With Larry, we are-- our methodology is very, very traditional-- is identifying holograph manuscript, separating out notepads and notebooks, getting the chronology in order, going through publications if there is holograph notations by the author in them, all of that kind of stuff. And that's pretty much the process that I have always gone through in whatever archive that I worked with.
JOHANN KUGELBERG: I don't think it would have--
JOHANN KUGELBERG: I don't think it would have helped anybody. It would probably have irritated you if I would have tried to do those all.
LARRY CLARK: What-- what does--
JOHANN KUGELBERG: If I would have photographed every aspect of your loft when we started the process.
LARRY CLARK: You should have I think.
JOHANN KUGELBERG: You should have? All right, I blew it. I admit.
Should I talk a little bit about Joe? Yep. All right, Larry Clark, everybody.
So, yeah, let's do this thing. So I have been involved with the special collections at Cornell University library for years and years and years. I think Catherine and Ann and I met 14 years ago, something like that? 2006. I used to be a big fancy record executive for record companies like Warner Brothers and Atlantic Records and so forth in the '90s. And it didn't seem to be that plausible a way of making a living when the digital music revolution started kicking into gear.
So I wanted to do something different. I had trained as a historian at university, and I had also in my capacity as a record executive worked with a lot of historical fancy schmaltzy box sets. I worked on the Ornette Coleman box set on the Charlie Pat box set and numerous historical anthologies like that. And I had seen some pretty horrific disasters happen as far as historical preservation goes, stuff getting thrown into dumpsters, stuff getting thrown into rivers, all of Fela Kuti's personal filing cabinets at Kalakuta Republic being lost forever, enormous amounts of Bob Marley documents being lost forever-- and this is almost too messed up to even remember-- but 60 hours of perfectly recorded classic quartet John Coltrane getting lost forever with no backup copies.
So I'd always been really, really interested in the early history of blues and the early history of jazz as in the 1910s, 1920s leading up to Delta blues, leading up to 1917 and the original Dixieland Jazz Band and so forth. So hip hop was and is an absolute passion of mine. And I thought that it would be a novel idea to try to preserve this narrative as best as I possibly could while people were still around and before stuff had been thrown into dumpsters or dumped into rivers or some person in New Jersey didn't pay the storage space fee for the 60 hours of John Coltrane tapes.
So in the late '90s, I started working really hard on putting together a archive on the early history of hip hop and utilized my training as a historian and my obnoxious curiosity as trying to find as many artifacts as possible because it's tricky with hip hop because it was never a self-documenting cultural narrative like punk. Punk was always completely invested with its own self-importance where hip hop was always about Saturday night. And when Saturday night passed by, it was the next Saturday night. And that meant that last Saturday night was the past. It was something old.
And hip hop will always be about box fresh and always about new ideas and forward thinking and the next thing. And that becomes tricky when you really, really want people to consider the Wayback Machine and the past.
So luckily enough, I managed to gain the trust and the cooperation with numerous members of the community of original MCs, original deejays, original producers so I could gather these materials. And I also paid cash, and I also got receipts because in some instances, people had certainly come and wanted to get the materials, but they wanted really, really broke people to donate them.
I had a good nickname in the South Bronx. I was known as the ATM. I found-- I just found a box of old hip-hop flyers, so I'm going to go to the ATM and cash them in. My brother is getting rid of his DJ rig and DJ record collection. I'm going to go down to the ATM.
It sounds facetious, but the important part of that and in that communication was that I was very, very clear that I wasn't a collector and that what we were trying to amass was the foundation for a devoted historical archive on hip hop and hip-hop culture. I met Katherine and Ann in 2006, and this was after I had met with numerous special collections libraries all over the east coast who in some instances refused to archive outright and in a couple of instances said that they would accept the archive if I donated it and also wrote a gigantic check.
The biggest problem with building this archive and what now brings us to Joe Conzo who can't be here today because he recently had surgery-- he's doing great, but he could absolutely not travel-- was that I'd made it very, very vocal in my journeys uptown that there was no photography of the truly early days of hip hop. There were great, great photographers who shot hip hop. You have like the Jamal Shabazzes and Martha Coopers and Henry Chalfant but they all showed up a little bit later. They showed up as the transition of hip hop from a performance-based culture to a recording-based culture had already kicked into gear. This is we're talking like maybe like '82, '83. I wanted to see images of the early years.
So via Grandmaster Caz, who most of us know as the guy who wrote the rhymes that the Sugarhill Gang used for "Rapper's Delight"-- hotel, motel, Holiday Inn is a Grandmaster Caz creation, not a Sugarhill Gang creation. I was introduced to Joe Conzo. And Joe started as a photographer in the South Bronx at the age of 16 in 1978-- correction 1977. This photograph is from 1977, and it's Joe starting to figure out how to use a camera and shooting his environment.
This is 1978. This is Joe Conzo beaming with pride over his accumulating skill as a photographer. Joe went to Norman Thomas High School in the South Bronx, and a couple of his classmates were Grandmaster Caz and EZAD from the Cold Crush Brothers. And the Cold Crush Brothers are extraordinary in the history of hip hop because the Cold Crush Brothers in 1979 could sell 3,000 tickets anywhere in the tri-state area without having a record out, without getting any press, without getting any radio play because one of the things to remember about hip hop is for the first 10 years of the history of hip hop, it was solely a performance-based culture.
The record business was not involved. The record business-- the media wasn't involved. There was no radio play. There were no articles in newspapers. There was nothing. The only thing there was was live performances and word of mouth.
So Joe became the Cold Crush Brothers' photographer. And not only the Cold Crush Brothers' photographer. Because of his access to the scene, he would be an invited to all of the jams, all of the hip-hop jams. This is actually a very, very famous photograph because, of course, Chris Rock used this as the backdrop for the opening of his film CB4. And this is the Cold Crush Brothers actually performing at Norman Thomas High School.
And Joe was there with his camera night after night. This is the DJ crew of the Cold Crush Brothers.
And all of these photographs survived almost out of luck. Joe, like many other people of his era, spiraled into crack in the 1980s and was actually homeless briefly. But his entire photographic archive was safe kept by his grandmother. So we had thousands and thousands of photographs from the early days of hip hop.
And why these photographs became so important was not only that you had a photograph of ECAD in his Adidas track suit but the gentleman in the striped shirt standing to your right, my left, is the only photograph that we've been able to identify by a important pioneer of early hip hop, Disco King Mario, and to date, this is the only photograph that we have of him. So the gathering of metadata based on these photographs becomes a matter of serious scholarly traction as well. If you look at the young man with his finger in his mouth, that's Crazy Legs from the Rock Steady Crew pre-fame.
And Joe Conzo was there. He's there for all of the significant events in the early history of hip hop. This is the Cold Crush Brothers signing a contract with Charlie Ahearn for what is considered the greatest film on the early days of hip hop, the film Wild Style. Charlie Ahearn's Wild Style archive resides at the special collections library at Cornell University as well.
This is one of the earliest photographic documentations that we have of hip hop moving into lower Manhattan and hip-hop performers started interacting with the punk and new wave crowd at nightclubs such as Negril. And I'm not going to do it now, but when you go through this bunch of people hanging out-- there's Charlie Ahearn sitting on the floor yet again-- when you go through these people in the background and who they actually are, they are a significant visual artists, performing musicians, cultural writers of the time. So you get this extraordinary document of where people actually met up and who actually met up as well in the context of the Joe Conzo archive.
And Joe also shot his environment, and he shot his environment well because, of course, in 2019, you will see all kinds of slum pornography photography and all of those people who would come and do those picturesque photographs of Detroit as it was falling apart and so forth. But the difference is that this is where Joe lived, and this is Joe's community. And this is a street gym that he attended, and this is his homies going clothing shopping on a Saturday afternoon in-- I don't even know if that is Harlem or the Bronx.
And also because of Joe's legacy from his mother and grandmother's side, he is involved in community activism and in protests throughout the Bronx. This is, of course, the protest that was staged during the filming of the famous Fort Apache movie. And this is Joe's first published photograph as a photographer, and New York Post published this photograph of Paul Newman during the demonstration against Fort Apache.
Joe is and was also an arty school kind of guy who would experiment with photographing ladies that sometimes he crushed on, sometimes he didn't. And he would shoot street photography, but we have to remember that this is all from a teenager's perspective. He is shooting these images when he's 16, 17, 18 years old, and the aesthetic choices that he is making, he is making as a participant in this community, which is really important to stress.
And this is the Bronx in the '70s. Slumlords set buildings on fire. This was like five blocks from Joe's house.
And the community activism is completely integrated into Joe's work and Joe's family legacy. And then we get to the other legacy, which is almost miraculous that is another aspect of Joe Conzo's life. Joe's dad, Joe Conzo Sr., who's archive I'm working on right now, managed Tito Puente, which is completely bananas.
So not only was Joe Conzo like a first person eyewitness of hip hop as it was being invented, he is also there at the after hours parties with Ray Barretto. He's standing on stage with Tito Puente. He is hanging out with Celia Cruz at the movie theater. This is Joe Conzo, Sr., Joe's dad.
And Joe as an 18-, 19-year-old-- and I'm totally jealous-- gets to go to these after hours joints uptown to see Tito Puente with Eddie Palmieri and Charlie Palmieri. And so there is also this absolutely extraordinary fly on the wall, nonprofessional photographer with some pretty great skills access on Latin music in New York as it's truly exploding.
And this is, of course, I picked a selection of 30-something images of Joe's work in the '70s and '80s. And Joe is photographing to this day, and he is depositing his digital archives at Cornell University as-- once every few months, once every year, or something like that. And the other thing that was just announced was, of course, the new portal showcasing a really, really deep assortment of Joe's photography within the Cornell portal.
So let's hear it for Joe Conzo.
SPEAKER 1: Let's hear for Johann--
Who also brought Larry to us so extra quadruple thanks to you for doing that. I'm sure Joe will be proud to know that you represented his work. Thanks, Larry. Thanks, Tony and Bill for the afternoon.
So we're out of time, but I just wanted to thank everybody for coming and to say in-- I could summarize today, but that would take about an hour and a half. So let me just say in two minutes that I remember-- Katie said when we were organizing this I hope by the end of the day we find out what an archive is.
So I think that we found out several things but among them are the fact that an archive isn't like this box that's in a dusty closet somewhere, but archives at least in the best sense of them being used are living, breathing documents that are open to intervention, to interpretation, to uses that you've seen many examples of today, which are like outstanding examples of how an archive can inform the way we look at life today the way that different communities interact with things so. Archives are living documents full of contingent meanings.
As-- if we want to go with this anthropomorphic idea of them living-- it's like they're also in their infancy in the sense that people are still discovering ways in which we can think about them, the way we can use them, the way they can be expanded, living documents connected to living people. We found that out today, too. And despite their relative infancy, we've also I think found out they're-- that archives are not entirely innocent.
That is to say that what they in some cases document, who controls them, how they get used are all decisions or issues that have meanings culturally, socially, politically, and those of us that work with archives have to be attentive to the way in which we are serving as custodians as Dominique said as people who are actually caring for something for somebody else.
So I think those are some of my takeaways. I hope everybody else had their own takeaways and that we will be able to discuss this in the future. Thanks to our online streamers in the back and thanks to our online audience if such a thing can be conceived of. And thanks to all of you. Thanks to the Johnson Museum. You all know who you are. And the end.
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In this segment: Conversation with photographer Anthony Barboza and Bill Gaskins, Visiting Associate Professor, Department of Art, Cornell; conversation with photographer Larry Clark and Johan Kugelberg, collector and owner, Boo-Hooray; Kugelberg discusses archiving the photographic collection of Joe Conzo, Jr.; and concluding remarks by Andy Grundberg '69.
"Images Objects Archives: The Multiple Lives of Photographs" featured artists, archivists, and curators actively involved with photographic archives discussing important issues regarding the selection, use, contextualization, and interpretation of photographs. They addressed how specific photographs acquire added meaning in the company of others, how photographic archives serve a variety of users and audiences, why the photographic archive as an idea has become central to the practices of contemporary art, and how the collection and presentation of traditional archives differs from that of today’s digital image recording.
This symposium was organized by Andy Grundberg '69 and Kate Addleman-Frankel, the Gary and Ellen Davis Curator of Photography at Cornell, and generously supported by the Melissa ’85 and Matthew Rubel Family Fund for Photography, Education, and Engagement. It is held in conjunction with “Crossing the Photographic Divide: Mining and Making Meaning,” a collaborative initiative between the Johnson and Cornell University Library, funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.