Yves Saint Laurent video and all images by Ari Marcopoulos
I had the pleasure of meeting Ari Marcopoulos when he was in Milan. The next day, he asked if he made a good impression on me. Well, of course he did. The most surprising part of the aperitivo/chat with Ari—and his smart assistant Camilla—was learning how he became a photographer, not to mention a successful one. In the early years, with no money in his pockets to buy and develop film, he cleverly developed a method to do it all himself. He would buy meters and meters of uncut film, rolling it afterward inside the camera and…voilà. He only needed to learn to develop it. He did this too, and he still brings two analog cameras with him wherever he goes. My second favorite part was the video featured above: His work for the recent Yves Saint Laurent men’s fashion show. The house’s designer Stefano Pilati contacted Ari personally after seeing one of his exhibitions. Throughout our time together, Ari kept recounting that fashion is grabbing him. And well, his work is quite snatching…
Elisa Lusso: Your first name, Aristos, means “best” in ancient Greek. What are you the best at?
Ari Marcopoulos: Rapping, I got some serious gangsta skillz.
Elisa: Your father is Greek while your mother is Dutch. You were born in Holland and now you’re based in Northern California, near San Francisco; to which do you owe the most?
Ari: My mom.
Elisa: You had a pretty enviable starting point in your photography career, since you began next to Warhol and then assisted Irving Penn. At which point is the scene more important than the technical skill?
Ari: Technique is good to know, but vision is more important.
Elisa: What Warhol was representing about consumism and re-production has not only effectively happened but is now evolving and turning into a multiplication and massive copy of information and images. How much do you think the Internet era will affect our visual culture?
Ari: The Internet allows for instant visual reference. It is a cool tool for communication. I guess we’re going to see more and more pixels.
Elisa: You also run your own blog. Do you think that blogging is somehow our individual communication channel?
Ari: The blog is too much work. I pretend I am digital, but I think I’m analog.
Elisa: What will be the evolution of the press in regard to the Internet? Will there will be any…?
Ari: Every piece of information will eventually be on the Internet. Soon they’re will be no need for the press as we know it.
Elisa: In which ways is communication growing in our era? How much is social networking changing our minds?
Ari: Our minds are melting into the Internet, becoming like a hive mind. We should avoid that and stay individuals.
Elisa: You’ve been shooting so many actors, artists, musicians, skaters, snowboarders, family, friends and so on… Which one has been the most confident?
Ari: Terje Håkonsen, such a good snowboarder.
Elisa: The most camera-shy?
Ari: Charlie Ray. He is just shy—and also camera shy.
Elisa: The funniest?
Ari: Cairo and Ethan, because they are funny.
Elisa: The one you absolutely want to hang out with?
Ari: Camilla, because she is smart and has a sense of humor.
Elisa: The one you’d go on holiday with?
Ari: John Travolta, because it would be super weird.
Elisa: The most elegant?
Ari: Diana Dondoe. I don’t know why—I mean she is elegant
Elisa: The most attractive?
Ari: Mmmmmmm… I don’t want to say.
Elisa: The most seductive
Ari: Also a secret…
Elisa: You also love to document reality, such as your family and friends and the underground cultures you belong to. How do you achieve the emotional tension we experience looking at your photos?
Ari: I am interested in people and they can feel it, so they just let me do my thing…
Elisa: How does getting into the intimate lives of people help you get the right shot?
Ari: It is good when people are comfortable with you so the camera does not become an obstacle.
Elisa: I really enjoyed the Claremont video [for Adam Kimmel]. What do speed and risk represent to you?
Ari: Speed and risk make you feel alive.
Elisa: Kids has been such a teenage cultural “manifesto” for many of us. Can you describe how it was following that extremely edgy youth lifestyle? Which aspects [of the film] do you think differ from youth’s attitude nowadays?
Ari: There are differences, but teenage cultural is pretty much the same as it used to be. It is a time in life where you challenge everything. Of course there are some style differences…
Elisa: What did you learn most from having experienced the hip hop downtown culture during the ’80s?
Ari: That fat laces are dope—black Pumas with red stripes with fat red laces!
Elisa: You’ve been involved in a project documenting the earthquake in L’Aquila, here in Italy. Since the very beginning this natural occurrence has been a political issue, as it involved many different financial interests. Did you see that when you were there? What has been the most shocking thing for you?
Ari: The most shocking thing is the amount of destruction. Then the other is, I guess, that people are starting to make a business out of other people’s misery
Elisa: A final few questions… What do you like most about Italy?
Ari: The people.
Elisa: What’s your favorite food?
Elisa: What do you like most about California?
Ari: That you can surf and snowboard in one state.
Elisa: Ari cannot live without…
Ari: His girlfriend.
Left: Statue; Right, Cairo