Interview by Emma Kathan. All photographs by Darren Ankenman
CITY: Los Angeles
I always see your photography as journalistic. What I mean is your photographs never seem rehearsed. Do you ever feel shy pointing a camera at someone when they are in a moment of un-rehearsed honesty?
I used to be a bit more shy about taking someone’s photo. I still am when it comes to stealing a moment of a stranger on the street . . . not sure the feeling is shyness. It’s more a feeling that I don’t want them to disrupt their moment that I want to capture. But with models, intimacy is always what I’m after. The camera puts something between the two of us; so I suppose that’s why I don’t feel particularly shy.
You’ve made several music videos, would you one day like to make a full length film?
If I stumble upon my own Grey Gardens or Crumb, then I will definitely make it.
Who are some of your favorite authors?
James Salter’s book Light Years is amazing. Bonjour Tristesse by Francoise Sagan is great. I love Laughter in the Dark by Nabokov. Bruce Jay Friedman, Nicholson Baker, David Foster Wallace, Joan Didion, Salinger . . ..
Do you think of ideas for shoots and then search for models who fit this certain vision, or are you more likely to meet a model and then get ideas of what to do and where to go?
I keep it separate. I think of locations and remember them. I sometimes see a person randomly and then ask to shoot them, but this is rare. I am super particular about what I am looking for. It’s hard to describe, perhaps just a matter of taste.
Did you study photography in school or were you self-taught?
I studied film making, directing and editing. I kind of taught myself how to shoot photos the way I do. But I certainly studied a lot of my favorite photographers’ work. I buy a lot of books.
What inspires you most?
Light. French cinema. Certain books. Conversation. Provoke-era Japanese photography. Lots of photographers from the 60’s and 70’s.
Were you always passionate about photography or was it another art form that led you to here?
Whenever I discovered good photography I became passionate about it. It’s hard to say when that was. As a kid I was obsessed with good cinematography in film. I did used to specifically want to make films. I like photography more so these days because it’s more immediate.
See more photos at: darrenankenman.com