Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Interview with Mark Oppenheimer

The following is an interview between me and Vincent Clarkson for a new magazine.

1. How and when did you first start out and did you realise immediately that it was a passion?

About five years ago one of my old girlfriends put on a body painting show in Cape Town. To promote the event she got painted up and handed out flyers at UCT. Afterwards she modeled for me and we displayed the photos at the event. My friends loved the photos and a few of them offered to model. So my passion for photography started with nude portraits and that passion has driven me to explore other areas in the field.

2. Who has been your main source of inspiration?

Joel-Peter Witkin blows my mind. He uses models that are severely deformed to recreate classical works of art. He can take a double amputee hermaphrodite and transform her into the Venus de Milo. A photographer is a modern day alchemist and Witkin adopts this role in the most innovative way.

3. What do you try to capture in your work?

I try to capture the unexpected. A lot of the models that I work with are very shy and convinced that they are the most unphotogenic people on the planet. The best part of my job is coaxing them out of their shells and capturing them after they have opened up. Surprisingly men need the most coaxing.

4. Do you use natural light or are you a flasher?

As a general rule I make a point of only using natural light, but if you get me drunk enough I have been known to flash.

5. What has been your biggest achievement as a photographer?

I shot and interviewed Jimmy Wales, the creator of Wikipedia. I think he has contributed more to the expansion of knowledge than any other living person.

6. Tell me about your views on erotic photography?

Sexuality is at the heart of the human condition and unfortunately so few of us have the courage to embrace ourselves as sexual beings. Erotic photography is an ideal platform for sexual expression and discovery. I think that at some point everyone should model nude. It would do a lot for our collective psyches.

7. uhm, Have u got a big lens?

If I have to make a penis/lens joke then I admit that I've only got 28mm, but some girls like it that wide.

8.Where are you now and what are you doing?

I am working in Tel Aviv for a photographic studio and doing freelance work for the Israeli newspaper Haaretz.

9. Do you have a private collection of some of your own photos and why is that?

I have a personal collection of duds that I keep because I hate the idea of destroying my own work. I am very selective about the work that I display publicly. There are also a few photos that I have taken for people and agreed to keep private.

10. Do you have any personal favorites?

The photos that I shot of Metallica and Snoop Dogg are up there, but one of my favourites was shot on Sandy Bay when I first started out. It is an abstract nude with a collapsed tree trunk. The contrast between the smooth flesh and the jagged bark makes the image stand out. I have tried to recreate the photo many times over the years, but I have never been able to improve on the original.

11. Where to from here?
I am currently working on a project entitled “the process of unraveling and reconstructing”. I will be making use of people of all sizes, ages and colours. The plan is combine to combine fashion photography with fine art to unravel and explore our ideas about religion, the body and politics. I intend to exhibit the project at the Cape Town Month of Photography in October and publish it as a book.

12. What do you do outside of photography?

My training is in philosophy and law and I recently presented a submission to parliament. My presentation sought to overturn legislation restricting media freedom. I also started the Jo’burg Flash Mob group and caused some havoc in Rosebank and Sandton.

13. What is the most difficult thing to capture?

A camera is a poor net. It doesn't allow you to capture the sound of a guitar or the scent of a woman. The pictures that I take often look nothing like what I experienced when I was taking them. So in a word, life is the most difficult thing to capture.

14. Your personal philosophy on life?

I'm a liberal so I place an enormous amount of value on individual freedom. I think we should all strive to lead lives that are free and meaningful, provided that they are compatible with the freedom of all.

No comments: