NYC photographer and filmmaker Richard Kern rose to prominence in the 1980s documenting the gritty debauchery of the East Village underground. A pioneer of the Cinema of Transgression movement, he explored themes of extreme sex and violence in films like "Fingered" (1986) and "The Right Side of My Brain."
As a photographer who's always had a knack for the female nude, Kern has long since moved on from shooting snarling punk goddesses like Lydia Lunch and Lung Leg. Today, he trains his lens—almost exclusively—on young nubile girls in various states of undress. And thanks to his popular Instagram account, he has no shortage of wannabe "models" DM'ing him to take their picture. Below, we talk to Kern about his foray into social media, the motives of his subjects and his fondness for Bret Easton Ellis' podcast.
Hi Richard! Thanks for chatting. So tell us, why did you decide to start posting your work on Instagram?
Instagram is a great promotional tool. It allows you to self-curate your interests and create the public persona you want the world to know. I’ve only been using it for 3 years but I wish I had started earlier. I never used Facebook, Twitter or Tumblr.
Most of the jobs I’ve had over the last two years were cast using IG models. Clients can avoid agency fees and the hassle of dealing with a booker by going directly to the model. It’s super easy to choose a stylist, model, makeup person etc. using their Instagram feed.
Do you ever shoot exclusively for Instagram?
Within any project I am working on, I always shoot something that I know I’ll use for Instagram. I’m always thinking in the back of my mind "Instagram" when I’m shooting. And jobs always say, "We are using this for Instagram."
Do you approach it differently?
The framing is different. I shoot a lot less nudity than I used to because of IG. It’s fun to play around with Instagram's boundaries.
Is art created for social media somehow different or less-than?
There are a lot of good artists using social media to create great stuff but I’m not one of them. I often get comments that say, “Why is this art?”
What’s your most popular post?
I had to look. It seems right now it’s a video of a Japanese woman trying to crab walk in a yoga pose. But I imagine that is because it was on the "Explore" page. There are certain models I know will get a lot of likes no matter what they are doing and I sprinkle them in occasionally.
What has the internet done to sex?
I’m too old to answer this question.
Is it harder to create something that feels transgressive in 2017 than it was in 1987?
About the only thing to be transgressive about now is political correctness.