Ari Marcopoulos's life in photos
Ahead of the release of his latest project – two volumes of previously unpublished Polaroids of skateboarders from the 90s – Ari Marcopoulos picks 10 of his favourite images.
“It was the camera that made me interested in photography,” Ari Marcopoulos says. “I thought it to be a magical instrument. Now I look at it more as a tool.” Born in the Netherlands, Ari moved to New York in the early 80s and soon found himself working with the preeminent names of the Downtown art scene; first assisting Andy Warhol with printing, then later Irving Penn with his photography. Jean-Michel Basquiat and Keith Haring were just two of his early subjects.
But Ari’s life in photos doesn’t begin until the early 90s. It was here he found his most enduring subjects and the scenes would come to define his practice: the rising hip-hop scene and the skateboarders on the east and west coast. His latest books, a collection of previously unpublished Polaroids split between two volumes -- Polaroids 92-95 (CA) and Polaroids 92-95 (NY) -- pays tribute to the latter scene. “I noticed this handmade box and opened it to find Polaroids from the period I was hanging out and photographing all these skaters,” he says. “Most of them became friends for life. It was significant then to take the photos because it was such a great scene. An amazing group of kids free of prejudice.”
Now considered one of the most important photographers of his generation, Ari has turned his lens to musicians, models, actors and more and treated each with the same reverence and style. But looking back over decades of work, he discerns a few subtle changes. “I can see that I have become more deliberate and free at the same time,” he says. “More confident and less influenced by what others think of the work.” Here, he picks a handful of his most crucial images.
1. Portrait of David Hammons, taken in his studio in Harlem on 125th Street. Early 90s. What can I say? Just look at his work and you'll understand why I chose this photo.
2. Keith Hufnagel checking out the exit ramp at the Brooklyn Banks because he's about to jump the wall into the road, so he has to time it to avoid getting hit by a car. He's wearing a T-shirt with my portrait of Basquiat on it.
3. Harold Hunter at the Banks. I loved Harold -- great energy, great sense of humour, great skater. Great all-round.
4. The artist Barry McGee in Bolinas, California. We found this pair of fogged glasses and we decided to play baseball with our kids and whoever was at bat had to wear these glasses
5. Two firemen in Abruzzo, Italy after the earthquake that hit there. I was there travelling around and found these two guys taking care of business. That area was devastated, it was a tough trip.
6. A portrait I took at the Conrad McRae Youth League Tournament. Another book I have coming out this summer with Roma Publications. I went there for six summers and took photos because I love basketball and it was right behind my apartment on Flatbush Avenue.
7. My wife put out this half an orange for the birds. I like to think she put it out there so I could take a still-life.
8. The backyard of a place I spent a lot of time during the lockdown.
9. Boarded up Whole Foods. People are getting sick and going hungry in the richest country on earth.
10. Black Lives Matter. Written with the ashes and broken glass of a torched police car in Ft. Greene Brooklyn. This monument has stayed there like this for weeks now. Because in Brooklyn most of us know that Black Lives Matter.
All images courtesy Ari Marcopolous