This week Rfotofolio interviews photographer David Carol.
Would you please tell us a little about yourself?
I’m a white Jewish guy from New York, that stands around 6ft tall. I have dressed the same way since I was a teenager living on my own at 16. I don’t own a suit, and I don’t wear sneakers. I have messy hair, and I don’t like shaving. I have a wife and two boys. I’ve been making a living with my camera and my knowledge of photography since 1982. I wear absurd jewelry that I’ve been attracted to since I was a kid hanging out in clubs in NYC. I’m a photographer, editor, writer, curator, publisher, teacher, Director and a bunch of other things, but I pretty much just say I’m a photographer if anyone asks. The other titles are true, but just for business purposes.
How did you get started in photography?
My childhood friend Frank Russo got a Minolta XE-7 for his 21st birthday. It looked professional and cool. I wanted one too, so I bought one with money I made playing cards. I earned my living, which was quite small, playing poker in my late teens.
Where did you get your photographic training?
I bought my original camera, the Minolta, at age 19 and taught myself how it worked. I ended up going to the School of Visual Arts in NYC for around two years, which was a great environment for me at the time. I got to meet photographers and teachers that loved to talk about art, photography and living an artist’s lifestyle. You could be broke but still have a great time. I had to drop out when my student loan money quickly evaporated; I bought my first Leica with it. I was broke and had no place to go and not much to do each day except go out and take pictures. I learned a lot from being a broke photographer.
Did you have a mentor?
Not really…Abby Robinson was my first teacher and she helped me understand, at the time, why I was taking pictures. Sid Kaplan and Jerry Yulsman were also my teachers and definitely influenced me.
If you could spend a day with any other photographer or artist living or passed who would it be?
Hmmmmmm, thats tough because I might like someone’s work but if they are “unpleasant” , I don’t want to be stuck with them all day. Okay, I’ll go with Jack Kerouac, Lewis Hine and David Bowie. They seem interesting.
What hangs on your own walls?
Lots and lots of photographs! Every wall in every room has everything from friends like Joni Sternbach, Lori Nix, Jason Eskenazi, Susan Burnstine, Steve Bollman, Matt Weber, Victoria Will and Lisa Elmaleh, to the names you discuss in those “who’s the best” conversations such as, Evans, Hine, Penn, Koudelka, Lartigue and so on. Pretty cool house!
Would you share with us an image (not your own) that has stayed with you over time and why?
Josef Koudelka’s “Horse and Man” photo. It has everything! A horse, a guy and a moment that’s surreal, mysterious, unique and looks perfectly composed to me.
What image of yours would you say taught you an important lesson?
I took a photo of a sign in the Salt Lake City salt flats. It was all by itself in a field of mud and it read, “MUD”. I learned everything about the reason I take photos from taking that picture. The world is absurd and now I know how to photograph it. There’s a lot of other details, techniques and so on, but the basic concept was distilled for me in that one photo.
What equipment have you found essential in the making of your work?
A 21mm and 24mm Leica lenses attached to a Leica M filled with film. I left Tri-X for HP-5 a few years ago. Oh, and a nice Luigi camera strap.
What is the driving force behind Peanut Press ?
My business partner, Ashly Stohl, and I want to make books that we would really want to buy if we saw them in a store – books that exist to perfectly present a given photographers work. We will only make books that are being made as a sort of tribute to the work, not as a commercial entity. If they make money that’s great, but going in, we all have to agree that commerce is not the goal. We want to make great books, whatever that means at the time.
Please tell us about the books, Charth Vader, Richard Bram and Rammy Narula.
I was talking to Ashly Stohl about her work, and suggested that her series, “Charth Vader”, would be a perfect first book. There is a lot to consider when doing a first book. A first book can define you for obvious reasons. I thought “Charth Vader” was perfect because it was clearly a very specific project about a very personal subject. It wouldn’t be a statement about Ashly Stohl the photographer, as much as it would be about Ashly’s relationship with her son. Initially Ashly looked into a few different publishers, but the fact that it was so personal brought her to the conclusion to publish it herself. Knowing my history in book editing and production she asked me to do it with her. We brought in the best people and printer we knew. Ashly loved the process so much she asked me if I was interested in doing this for other photographers. And so we formed Peanut Press.
Who knew Charth Vader would go viral and sell out the trade edition in less than two weeks? Not me.
Richard Bram andRammy Narula are the next two photography books we will be publishing. Richard is a friend that I’ve known for years and couldn’t wait to make his book. I have been working with Rammy for over a year and knew the “Platform 10” work very well, another no brainer! Later this year we will be publishing books by Robert Larson and Victoria Will. We are also committed to three other photographers for 2017/18. Things are rolling along quite well at Peanut Press!
What do you look for when viewing another photographers body of work?
It has to make sense. I want to know about the photographer from seeing their work. It can’t be forced and it can’t feel contrived. It has to be organized visually and show the person’s authentic opinion of the world and their opinion has to be interesting. When it’s all done right, it’s pretty cool.
Is there one thing that you wish people would stop doing when it comes to the creative process or the photographic world?
I love ranting about what annoys me. I use Facebook as a platform, but honestly most of it I do because I find it funny and fun and love the interaction with other people.
How can I clam up now?
I can’t stand the parasites of the business – the naked emperors who don’t know anything about photography. They have no scars, no history and no understanding of why a photo works or doesn’t. They do photo reviews, write articles, create photo groups on social media, publish blogs, publish crappy books just to get money from desperate photographers that foolishly think that some half-assed, not ready to publish work needs to be in a book so their careers will take off. So I wish they would go sell t-shirts or something. I have more things that bother me, but that felt satisfying enough for now.
What’s on the horizon?
I will make more books at Peanut Press, four in the works for 2016/17 and another four we committed to for 2017/18. We won’t do more than three or four books a year.
As for myself, I’ll keep saying that I’m done taking pictures, but I’ll probably continue. The good thing about having a bunch of books under your belt and 35 years of shooting is, you already have a lot of photos. I’ve honestly accomplished more than I ever set out to do. I’m photographically satisfied and content. Everything going forward is just gravy!
I should mention a few things. I’ll be the Juror along with Eliot Dudik at this years Slow Exposures Photo Festival in Georgia. I will also be giving some workshops and talks in October for Photo Plus Expo and The Out of New York Photography Conference.
But I have to admit I’m very excited about a retrospective exhibition of my work this coming January in New York at The Leica Store in Soho. It will be a nice group of approximately 25 photos as well as a lecture and workshop. I never really do shows, so this is gonna be fun.
David has a new book called No Plan B you can find it by clicking on the title.
Thank you David for sharing your work and words.