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“Difficult” Stars Are the Best to Photograph

Question: Who have been your most \r\ndifficult subjects?


Carol Friedman:  When \r\npeople warn me about someone—the label head or the publishing\r\nhead—that somebody is difficult, I’m in heaven.  I\r\n just say "Bring them on and I can’t wait," because when\r\npeople are described as difficult and have a reputation as difficult \r\nit’s 99%\r\nof the time because they’ve been disappointed over and over again by \r\npeople who\r\ndon’t really know what to do for them, and I know I’m going to make them\r\n happy\r\nand I can’t wait to work with them. And that happens time after time, so\r\n when I\r\nhear someone is difficult I can’t wait to work with them.


Question: Who have been your favorite \r\nsubjects?


Carol Friedman:  I\r\nthink my most favorite subject was Lena Horne because she embodies soul \r\nand\r\ngrace and elegance and street.  She\r\nembodies everything and beauty, great beauty, so she was a favorite\r\nsubject.  Many of the jazz\r\nmusicians whom are no longer here. \r\nYou don’t realize that it's history when it is happening and then\r\n time\r\npasses and you look at a picture and you say "Wow, there is history \r\nattached to\r\nthat."  You know, Dexter Gordon\r\nplaying, you know, in my studio for an hour after the session, things \r\nlike\r\nthat.  There has been wonderful\r\nmoments like that.  This sounds so\r\ncorny, but I love my subjects.  I\r\nhave to love them to do what I do. \r\nI have to fall in love with them to create a successful portrait \r\nof them\r\nand it’s not confected.  It just\r\nhas to be, so it’s like a mother saying "I love all my children \r\nequally," but I\r\nreally do.  I love my subjects.


Question: Do you feel more self-conscious\r\n when photographing\r\na fellow artist?


Carol Friedman:  Robert\r\n Rauschenberg, one of my favorite sessions\r\nactually.  I had never met him and\r\ncame to his studio, where he lives, where he painted, where he works.  He has a building, had a building and\r\nthere was a few minutes that I had to wait and there was an incredible \r\npiece of\r\nhis that was forged of texture, metal, you know.  It\r\n was probably a big rusted side of a truck or something,\r\nbut it was this beautiful textured metal, and Bob was great.  He was just so wonderful, and I didn’t\r\nlike what he had on.  I, you know... clothing is a\r\n big component, but that is another story, so I said can I look\r\nthrough his closet.  He said sure,\r\nso I picked a shirt and then there it was.  There \r\nwas this leather jacket that was the same exact\r\ntexture of the metal, so you live for moments like that and again that \r\nis what\r\nI mean by paying attention.  That\r\nis what I mean by mastering improvisation.  It’s \r\nall there. \r\nYou just have to find it. \r\nSo I grabbed the shirt.  I\r\ngrabbed the jacket and of course in the picture that jacket and that \r\nmetal is\r\none thing and it is all organic and wonderful and he was beautiful.  Great artists know who they are, so\r\nthere is no excavating at all. \r\nThey’re happy to share and I think that I’m really blessed \r\nactually to\r\nbe able to be in the presence of them and to give them back to \r\nthemselves in my\r\nwork.  It is really wonderful.  I’m\r\n thinking aside from Rauschenberg,\r\nsame thing with Roy Lichtenstein, same thing.  These\r\n painters, they know exactly who they are.  Great \r\njazz musicians, they know exactly\r\nwho they are.  Great opera singers\r\nknow exactly who they are.  Jessye\r\nNorman, there is not really work to do with Jessye.  It’s\r\n just centering in on exactly who she is.


Question: Who would you most like to \r\nphotograph that you’ve\r\nnever had a chance to?


Carol Friedman: \r\nFrank Sinatra, Pablo Picasso, Billie Holiday, Ray Charles, Bob\r\nDylan.  What does Bob Dylan have\r\nthat those other people do not? \r\nHe’s still here. So Bob, call me.

Recorded on April 21, 2010
Interviewed by Austin Allen

The photographer talks about her favorite—and most difficult—subjects.

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