'You can't be afraid to suffer. If you're afraid to suffer, you'll never be an artist. Editors used to say "Bob, why are you so difficult?" And I'd say "Listen, I'm not just a photographer -you don't understand -I'm an artist who happens to use a camera. You're not dealing with me right, you're talking to me like I'm some photographer. I don't know how to do what you're asking me to do. I only know how to do what I do. You're making me feel stupid and I'd appreciate if you wouldn't do that."
Bob Richardson in Big #14, 1996.
I was on my way to the gym this morning when I glimpsed a copy of Big No. 14 in the window of a dusty basement bookstore on Mercer street. I screeched to a halt. Big No. 14 was an all Bob Richardson issue published in 1996 coinciding with his July show at the Staley Wise Gallery. The show and the attendant issue of Big was titled, "Beyond Cool" which was clipped from another great Bob Richardson quote, "I'm bored with cool. I want to go beyond it" . I love that sentiment because it is exactly what I find myself thinking these days. When you're a kid and you're trying to break into fashion, you often times look around at all the tropes and types around you and replicate that as your idea of fashion. You obey the rules because you think that obedience will buy acceptance. That is the big problem I have with the work of a lot of young photographers , stylists and designers today. There is that understandable attempt to shoot fashion that looks just like the edits David Sims is doing this month in Vogue Paris. Or to style a story in in beige/black/navy and gray that looks exactly like the consensus idea of "cool". But that is invariably a mistake. To make great fashion you have to shoot out of your life, not the after-life of a Craig McDean picture or a Inez and Vinoodh portrait. New talent today has to shoot an idea of fashion that is truly personal for it to hit the critical eye as something important. That is what I love about this later work of Bob Richardson. It is fashion as anti-fashion although its clear that this man could obey all the codes of fashion should he choose to. There is great wisdom not only in his words but also in his images which serve as an encouragement to every young photographer out there to go out and capture the moral universe of New York 2009. These rough hewn pictures, all in black and white, all with a little auto-focus camera are the missing piece of the puzzle I found absent in that beautifully glossy Bob Richardson: Damiani: 2007 publication. I'm so happy that my image of Bob Richardson is now complete because as messy as his life was, he certainly left a trail of historic photographs.