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Working for a newspaper that accepts tobacco, alcoholic beverage, pharmaceutical corporation, and pornography money, calling himself a writer or accepting such a title and acting so unethically and unprofessionally must make Mark Jenkins (“After the Revolution,” 6/9) feel like a real revolutionary, huh?
Mr. Jenkins, you should come speak to people or do the proper research of their ideas, work, and attitudes before making such hasty and pathetically ignorant judgments about them. It’s barely worth my reply, but out of respect and obligation to all those who read the Washington City Paper and the many thousands of people who have been inspired by my work, and the way I handle my business, I couldn’t just sit back and let a jerk like you shoot off at the mouth and not be put in your place. You could only wish that something you did could do what I have been doing for most of my life. I hope for the sake of the people that hire you to write for their periodicals that you learn to do a job more professionally in the future.
I’m surprised you didn’t refer to me as a “dirty Jew with Negro blood.”
Let’s take a look at a few of your critiques point by point:
From the beginning, your words are misleading and unsubstantiated: “two rooms of record-company promo photos”? I’ll take that as a bit of a compliment, because the photographs left you with the impression that perhaps they were too familiar. The truth is only one of the original “prints” in the entire show was used as a record-company promo shot (that of LL from ’86), and probably fewer than five out of the more than 300 images in the show were used as publicity shots. Those shots are classics; they have inspired—and continue to inspire—people in revolutionary ways. So why shouldn’t they be on display for people who have come to see an exhibition of my more well-known work?
You also speak as someone very ignorant of my ways when you say, “There’s nothing wrong with being a commercial artist,” trying to insinuate that I may be such, and that “Very few people who paint, write…do so entirely on their own terms.” Well, feel free to ask anyone who has worked with me and you’ll find out that I do work on my own terms always, as much as, if not more than, most, even compared with my good friends in Fugazi. (I say “more than” only because generally I have to be more confrontational and aggressive than they do on an everyday basis.) Yes, “working freelance is not quite the same thing as being revolutionary,” but go ahead and speak to some of those I have worked with—see what they say.
You say if I really were a revolutionary I “probably wouldn’t be so flexible.” Since when does being a revolutionary mean you have to be as close-minded as you seem to be? That was a great compliment, I guess, that I’m not as much of an intolerant ass as I used to be. You think it’s not a revolutionary act to turn down a job? Well, why don’t you ask some of the people I have turned down—ask them why and how I turned them down.
You pick on me for printing my image cropped in my Fuck You Too scrapbook, but then showing the entire frame and negative as a border in a full-frame print, as not being “radical” ? You are such a stupid ass! My book Fuck You Too is a scrapbook; therefore much of what is presented in there is done in the style I saw fit as an artist and a photographer, whether it be perfect full-frame, cropped, or not. It’s a scrapbook! And they’re my photos! If you took a few moments to read my few words in the introduction, your other judgments and critiques also would have been better understood….I almost always show my prints as full-frame, because that’s how I shoot them, not for some professional rule. And actually, if you looked at any photography in general these days you would realize it is actually more radical to print an image that does not need cropping, as I do. Most people can’t take a good shot; I usually do—and by wasting a lot less film than others, I might add.
Then you go on to compare these “heroes” to Dean, Brando, and so on. One big difference: Those guys were actors! My subjects are real people with real attitude and opinions, when I shot them.
The shot of the bunnies and the skater jumping over them is a classic to me! As my old friend Chuck Dukowski always used to say, “If they can’t take a joke, then fuck ’em!” Sorry for you that you believe a revolutionary can’t have a sense of humor. I was 15 when I shot that picture. Go ahead, make more judgments on something you know nothing about.
And I don’t know what’s worse, the unfortunate lack of women in the show or your demeaning the ones who are in there as just “only the occasional female bassist or lead singer.” Again, if you had read more on my work or asked me personally why this was so, you would have better understood this as well.
How old are you? Me, shoot Blondie, Talking Heads, the Raincoats, etc.? When they were still playing in clubs or when they were vital (never to me, actually), I could not even get in to see them! I was either too young or not even going to nightclubs yet!
I have discussed the issue of using guns in my work at great length over the years in many interviews. If you had read or done any research, you would have found out that indeed, that South Central Cartel shot you mention was in fact the last time I ever shot a picture of someone with a gun! And, at the time I did that, within its context, it was a very valid representation of what I and the group were trying to communicate.
May I also say the (self-)publication of my latest book, The Idealist, was not in any way tied to the “Fuck You All” show. It is available there simply because it is my most recent book. This is a show that has been traveling internationally for the last five years, and only now is it in Washington, D.C. Should I have not had my most recent book out for people to see?
This show was brought to this gallery with full knowledge that perhaps no images would be sold—none. Selling prints is not my goal. My work inspires and excites. I just want people to see the images. Maybe if they like them enough they can buy a book and take them home with them in the physical form, and even read the index in the “Fuck You Heroes” to see what things inspired me to create the images I did. If people want to buy prints, that’s up to them, but I do not encourage the sale of these originals at all. In fact, generally I discourage it! And any writer would know this if he had taken the time or done the research.
You think it would be “the fuck-you thing” to “leave these photos in the archives”? That certainly won’t change much. I think perhaps you need to be left in your archive.
Perhaps when “The Idealist” exhibition comes to D.C., it’ll be in the National Gallery of Art. Want to put in a good word for me?
Good luck in the future.