For the last few years I feel like I’ve been watching something I love die a slow, painful, and frankly, embarrassing death. The combination of the decline of publishing and the rise of the influencer, mixed with our gluttonous need for content has lead us to a point where quality and pride are third, fourth, tenth on the list of priorities. I fell in love with the idea of the artist/photographer who straddled both the fine art world and the commercial one, creating work that was a solid mixture of both. It’s been a long time scratching and fighting to achieve that, only to watch it disintegrate into a world of photographers who, in a race to the bottom, gave up paychecks for “exposure” to magazines that couldn’t wait to sacrifice prime cover real estate for whichever Kardashian might sell more units.
This is tough for me to write. I really wanted to be that next Helmut Newton, Annie Leibovitz, Herb Ritz. And, if I’m totally honest, Terry Richardson. (Minus the rape-y stuff.) These were artists who were able to weave pop culture into bigger conversations about art, the future, fashion, and the world. But I don’t know if that world exists anymore, and I don’t know if you can be known for making good photos unless you’re hanging onto 100k followers. And sometimes you don’t need to make good photos, you just need the 100k followers.
These are not new ideas. We’ve all seen magazines fold and newspapers fire their writers. We’ve all been witness to this slow tire-fire of investigative journalism that’s turned into one-sentence-answer interviews and celebrity jerk-off fluff pieces, framed on either side by uninteresting iPhone photos or PR images. We lost that war a long time ago. If you’re still fighting it’s because you don’t know that our side lost.
I called Alexander a couple days after he posted about the GQ flap and we talked before my therapy appointment, which is why I ended the call so quickly at the end. (True story.) He’s a really talented artist and an all around good guy to have in your circle of art friends. He’s untouched by whatever fame-bug I’m obviously infected with and I really respected his adamant stance against this kind of art theft. I have found myself biting my tongue more than once at photo-business buffoonery, always wishing I’d spoken up when it was too late.
This was a little departure from the “artist interview” format, but I hope you enjoy it.
Find Alexander Laurent: