I had a good time watching Richard Kern in the hot seat last night at the Modernist Society conversation series at Bourbon. Kern, a longtime producer of arty softcore porn, sat down for an hourlong interview with Jason Mojica, who totally outed me as the author of a kind of haterish blog post about the photographer. Mojica, a fan, admitted he was asking softball questions and turned to the audience for help. (At one point he just dragged the mike in front of me but I’m not a very good projector.) The audience, lubricated by an hour of free booze, was eager to participate. One of the best, from Liz Glover: Do you sleep with all of your models? (Answer: No. But he is married to one. And he said something mildly creepy about his seven-year-old son masturbating.)
Kern sort of admitted that his photos aren’t as edgy as they once were, but he blamed that on the girls. “They don’t have tattoos anymore,” he said. He said the idea of getting naked for some dude with a camera just isn’t shocking these days. Someone in the crowd asked me how “hard” I wanted the girls to be. I’m no porn-hound, I swear, I just think that if the style and packaging promise something more interesting than an Abercrombie ad or a Penthouse spread, the girls should be doing something that makes you think. He has one shot of a girl doing a headstand in a toilet. I admit that’s impressive. And there are the skinny French girls making out in a forest. But really, zzzz. I asked Kern who he likes in his field and he mentioned Terry Richardson, who takes pictures of girls drinking from cow udders and creative blowjobs. I tried to get him to describe the photos for the audience and begged off. I think Mr. Smut is a little shy.
Really though, this guy I set out to hate turned out to be very likable. And I know I’m conflating the art with the artist but I don’t care. I’m not a critic, so, bah! Even though his work hangs in real galleries, he shied away from calling himself an artist. He obviously considers himself a professional and he likes his job. Can’t argue with that.