chad moore captures youth’s most nostalgic moments
As Moore opens his first major exhibition in Belgium, we chat Chinese karaoke bars, photographing your friends naked and coming of age in the City that Never Sleeps.
Whether it's girls and guys in the throes of passion, supermodels breaking into their own apartments, or a mate diving fully clothed into a closed swimming pool minutes before getting kicked out, Chad Moore has an eye for capturing exhilarating moments of reckless, hopeful youth. It helps that he counts some of New York's coolest kids as his inner circle of friends. Breaking into and growing together in the industry, the subjects of his photographs are the next generation of musicians, artists, photographers and models, including Julia Cumming of Sunflower Bean, Petra Collins, Meghan Collison, and his BFF -- the model joker of Instagram -- Miss Tilda Lindstam. Leaving behind a half-finished business degree in his hometown of Tampa, Florida, to move to the big city and assist Ryan McGinley, Moore slotted perfectly into downtown New York's most vibrant creative scene. At Amber is his first solo exhibition in Belgium, at Antwerp's Stieglitz 19 gallery, focusing on the common theme that runs through his work - the time between the green light of childhood and the red light of adulthood. As well as the 15 photos on the gallery's walls, the exhibition floor - inspired by a New York karaoke bar - has been tiled with 200 prints, laid underneath plexiglass that you can walk over, while another of his talented mates, photographer Ben Rayner, has published a 16-page newsprint exhibition catalogue that includes a 11 x 14 risograph print.
When and why did you move to New York?
September 2008 - so just over seven years ago now. I suppose I just moved to New York to make pictures… Well, expand on the pictures I was already making and be around like-minded people. It was kind of a weird time in New York, there had been this club kid thing in the mid 00s but that was fading off and New York was becoming a 'cool' place to move to. I had visited the city a bunch and it was the only place I could see myself at the time. I was going to school at the University of Tampa, but I knew I would never use the degree I was working towards. It just didn't make sense to stay there.
How did it compare to growing up in Florida?
New York is completely different. But growing up in Florida was fine. Tampa, is probably one of the most normal places in Florida - it's not too beachy or anything. I was lucky enough to see so much of the country, and later the world, through riding BMX and going on road trips, so it wasn't like moving to New York was some huge shock.
You and your circle of friends are part of a very talented generation of young creatives in New York - how do you combine your personal life with your profession?
I feel like it's one in the same. I don't see it as being separate at all. I spend all day working on the pictures - or taking pictures. There's a lot more that goes into it than actually making the photograph, it's an all-encompassing thing. I don't necessarily make photos every day, but I do think about them all day everyday. It's especially parallel because my pictures are just about my life. There are obviously things that take away from the personal work sometimes - editorial assignments and commercial projects, but overall it's just a way of life I suppose.
Who do you like to photograph the most?
I think I photograph my friend Tilda the most, I just spend lots of time with her and we are close and she's the funniest person ever. I find it difficult photographing someone that I don't care about deeply.
How did you come up with the title At Amber?
The title comes from the title of a Morrissey song, At Amber. Amber is the colour of the middle traffic light in the UK. When you arrive at the intersection and the light is "at amber", you've a choice to accelerate and beat the red light or stop and wait for it. It's a moment when you decide to press onwards or hold back, which I felt was fitting for the selection of photographs.
Why are people so fascinated with the idea of youth?
I think that people are fascinated with youth for many reasons, but mostly probably the lack of responsibility and freedom you have when you're young.
What was the karaoke place that inspired the floor installation?
It's a place down the street from my studio called Swat Bar (well it doesn't actually have a name, but somehow it began being called that). A few years ago the door was always closed, but my friend Danielle was able to squeeze her arm through the mail slot and twist the doorknob. It was kind of a private, more Chinese only spot, but once we were in it was totally fine. It was kind of wild back then - all of these old men singing in Chinese, smoking cigarettes. They had all of these cool Polaroids of the patrons just on the floor covered in plexi glass that you could walk over. As time went on they took them off the floor and Swat Bar became more open to letting in outsiders, but the idea stuck in my head. When I was thinking about the Antwerp show I really wanted to include more than the 15 large prints that will be on the wall. As I have never had a solo exhibition in Belgium, I really wanted to exhibit a large body of my work and thought it would be an interesting way to do it.
Is there a story attached to a particular photograph in the exhibition that makes it special for you?
So many stories go along with these pictures, I could go on for days. There's one of Olivia with a black eye that she gave herself for Halloween that I've always loved. Another one of Tilda on a fire escape trying to break into her own apartment on Delancey.
What do you like about photographing the naked body?
Photographing someone nude allows you to create a timeless picture. There are no clothes to date the image. Not saying that all nude photographs are timeless by any means. For me it's such a non-sexual thing to photograph someone nude.
Are your subjects always happy to be photographed nude?
Yes absolutely, I would never, ever photograph someone nude, or even clothed, without permission. I'm lucky to work with good friends who understand what I'm after and are comfortable being part of the work.
You've taken photographs of couples kissing and before/after sex - beyond the obvious, what are you hoping to capture with these images?
These pictures are just another word in my photographic language. I don't think it should be looked at as some extreme thing to show a picture of two people kissing or having sex and I don't show those pictures to shock anyone, but making the photos that I do - to leave that out wouldn't make sense. I guess what I try to convey with them is that sex is such a natural thing, and often just mundane. While many of these pictures are stereotypically intimate, I think that I've made portraits that could rival the intimacy of one of these. Its interesting to think about intimacy in art throughout history; people have been painting humans having sex since the beginning of time, but somehow a photograph makes its graphic.
Do you ever feel like you're intruding on these intimate moments?
Not really, I usually photograph the same people over and over and over, so there's a bond and relationship. Although it is very intimate, there's an absolute trust I would like to think.
Is there a moment or period of time in your youth that you get nostalgic over?
I sometimes miss BMX road trips, but I've been lucky enough to make a life doing something that I love. I get to live in a place that has so much energy, and I get to travel and see new places and meet new, interesting people. I think that saves me from having to be too nostalgic, although I look at my pictures as kind of an imagined nostalgia - an ideal view on my life.
Do you think youth is something that you will always want to capture in your work, or as you grow do you think your subjects will too?
I don't think my work is necessarily bound by youth at all, just a certain spirit that is most apparent when someone is young. I photograph many of the same people and I've never not been interested in them because they are getting older. I think that the only aspect of youth that is essential to my pictures is the outlook on life that you have when you're young; a sense of hope.
What's the best moment to take a photo?
When I see something I love.
What are you working on next?
I'm always making new work. I'm having a show in Tokyo in December to coincide with a book of photos I made of the actress Fumi Nikaido, which I'm very excited about, I love visiting Tokyo. I've been working in the studio recently which is a really nice change of pace, I think there will be a book coming out next year that will include a lot of that work.
At Amber opens at Stieglitz 19, Klapdorp 2 - Antwerpen 2000, on 15th November - 10th January.