It is said that a picture is worth a thousand words and as in the case of photographer Glen Luchford, this renders him highly effusive in both the visual and verbal languages. He often times reminds me of a narrating theorist with his elaborate anecdotes and deeply philosophic statements. It seems only fitting that his latest dialogue is with the very great granddaughter of the man who himself founded psychoanalysis. In his new book PICTORIALISM, published by Rizzoli, Glen Luchford and Bella Freud’s words are woven through a series of images tackling an array of subjects along memory lane.
Introduction by Christopher Michael
RIGHT: Bishoy Hanna, Malgosia Bela, Kevin Ryan, Self Service, 2011
On 24 May 2013 at 17:33 GLEN LUCHFORD wrote:
I realise this is supposed to be about me and the book, and to be clear, I can happily talk about me all day long, but let’s begin with a question about you. When we first met and had dinner, or lunch, I had this overwhelming feeling that I needed to confess all my sins to you, which is out of character and slightly absurd. Back in my hotel that night I was wondering why, and it dawned on me that your name had dragged me into a sort of deluded state; the word “Freud” is now so loaded within the cultural unconscious, that I just presumed you knew everything about everything, do you find that happening a lot? Do random strangers just blurt out the most private and ridiculous things on hearing your name?
On June 01 2013 at 2:32 BELLA FREUD wrote:
Well, that has taken me by surprise. I was quite in awe of you. It never occurred to me that you weren’t always open like that – I found it incredibly relaxing and it made me feel instantly loyal to you. We went to Brasserie Lipp for lunch and I had my son Jimmy with me who was 2…It seemed to me that you had such confidence. I remember you talked about your early life in Brighton and how rough it was and I thought that your single mindedness is what had got you out of just being in a gang. The single mindedness to not be distracted and develop your talent, which is so prodigious. You always seem so definite, but never belligerent. Have you always been like that?
On 23 June at 15:45 GLEN LUCHFORD wrote:
Oh really? How interesting. I remember thinking how cool and sophisticated you seemed in the Lipp, and how goofy and out of place I felt, funny those misplaced impressions you carry away with you. I recently sent this picture of myself to Andrew Richardson and he wrote back. “Explains a lot – what a determined young man you were!” And to a degree that’s true, but the look on my face is not determination, its frustration. My dad loved to take pictures of me and my friends, and he’d take an age, then just click one picture, void of any spontaneity, at school when friends would take pictures, we’d all naturally pose without thought or do a rugby scrum and the moment would be caught. My dad almost turned me off photography forever with his procrastinating. I sometimes wonder if he just liked to take a moment to look at his children, as we were growing so fast, and would be leaving soon. I sometimes do that with my son.
When I’m retouching in my office I’ll listen to Desert Island Discs on the BBC, and when Mario Testino was on, he told this funny anecdote about living in a squat in London in the late 70s with other punks. Roll on a few decades, he was coming out of the opera house with the director of the Royal Opera and a few homeless people across the street that he knew from the squat started waving and shouting, and Mario was waving back. When I heard that story it made me think about you for some reason, did you get involved in all that? Have you got great squat/punk stories to tell? Or were you later?
On 23 July 2013 at 9:30 BELLA FREUD wrote:
I visited Mario in that squat! It was in the grandest building in Chandos Place, all white stucco, but most of it was a doss house for far gone alcoholics and tramps and you had to stop breathing when you walked into the building as it stank of piss and shit. Then Mario’s flat what a boho haven, even though it was a squat. I liked the way he was always grand, even when squatting.
I think that picture of you is marvellous. You do look determined, but like you were from the moment you were born, rather than because life knocked you about. You look quite elegant actually for such a young boy. That’s quite funny about your dad taking a long time to compose a picture – don’t you take quite a long time? I remember you telling me you needed ages to get your lighting how you like it. Is that the case?
RIGHT: Tara Turner, Donna magazine, 1993
On 27 July 2013 at 14:03 GLEN LUCHFORD wrote:
uhm! ha, You’re right, I did tell you that. During the mid nineties I was getting very frustrated with the film stocks that were available, they were too crisp and vibrant (this is pre-Photoshop), and yet my Polaroids had a great look to them, so I figured a way to light the pictures with a tiny amount of light, which created what’s known as reciprocity. It essentially stretches the duration of time that light hits the negative and brings the saturation levels down, and makes for deep colors (Prada) but it took forever to light, and I soon got sick of it. I’m most comfortable when I’m shooting from the hip, reportage style, I like the speed that you have to think on your feet, you’re clicking away, and then something grabs your eye, like a person or unexpected scenario, and that then becomes the picture. It’s a rapid constantly moving target. The Kate Moss NY images are a good example I suppose. Interesting characters would just walk through the frame or I’d nudge Kate in to it, and the people became unwilling props.
Q: Vivienne Westwood. What’s the story behind you working there? Must have been fascinating, no? Any great lasting memories? I worked next door at Smile hair dressers and used to gawk through the window all the time on cigarette breaks. It always looked pretty intriguing.
On Sep 19 2013 at 7:28 BELLA FREUD wrote:
Vivienne Westwood, major moments of learning in my life are intertwined with her. I first worked in her shop Seditionaries when I was 17. I met her in the Music Machine club in Camden Town and she gave me the Wednesday afternoon job. That would have been before your time. I had no idea how to behave and punk dictated that if in doubt be as rude as possible, it was quite confusing. Vivienne was a combination of headmistress and anarchist leader. I tried to assimilate the best bits of each but how was I to know what the best bits were? I worked for her again in the 80s when you would have been at Smile, next door to the shop. She was always pushing the boundaries and astonishing everyone, including her staff. She was great, and still is.
What were you doing at Smile? Were you a hairdresser then?
On 21 Sep 2013 at 8:50 GLEN LUCHFORD wrote:
Yeah hairdressing, although never made it to “hairdresser” per se – sweeping the floors and washing the towels – but they did teach me the Vidal Sassoon scissor over comb, and I can still give a good cut. I always thought Vivienne’s had a Willy Wonka quality to it, amazing things going on inside, but I never felt like I had the golden ticket to get in and be a part of it. Eventually one of the art directors at Smile set up a photo studio to make pictures of his hair creations in the basement and he let me tag along, and that’s kind of how I got the bug. I don’t hear anyone now saying “I want to be a hairdresser,” but in the 80s it was the thing to do if you weren’t studious and had an aversion to office work. I think Jane Howe was a hairdresser too at the same time as me.
On 22 Sep 2013 at 1:38 BELLA FREUD wrote:
Just had a look at your book layout – wow, it’s good. Really moving, and funny things in it too. The pictures are so beautiful without being ‘beautiful’ in that empty way. You have a lot of nakedness, but somehow you make it seem natural that the models should be half clothed or in the nude. What makes you ask for clothes to be taken off, how do you know that’s going to make it better?
MIDDLE: Patricia van der Vliet, Sigrid Agren, Japanese Vogue, 2010
LEFT: Top: Kate Moss, Harper’s Bazaar, 1994 Bottom: Davide Sorrenti, 1993
On 22 Sep 2013 at 09:45 GLEN LUCHFORD wrote:
I’ve never thought about it. I think it comes down to the idea that you are constantly trying to reinvent the wheel to entertain yourself. As in, it’s a girl in a dress, every day, every month, every year, that’s my parameter. So taking the clothes off once in a while just breaks the monotony. That being said, nudity in fashion is now so normal, it’s more risky to keep the clothes on. In terms of improving the image, it’s questionable. It’s more titillating. And that probably stems from the British attitude towards sex that I grew up around during the 70s. You know? The odd porn mag shoved in a cupboard, or a peek of a boob on late night TV. Very Victorian in its nature, very closeted.
On the second page of the book is a girl perched on a jet. Behind that is a montage of women from my dad’s wall at work. I think it was about 70 ft by 20 ft and it’s without a doubt the catalyst for what I do now. It’s the only image in the book that I didn’t take.
Q. How do you feel about the internet’s impact on fashion ? Are you pro or against? I do miss the cottage industry that we all started in, BodyMap and John Flett and all those characters. Small production, constantly going broke.
On 22 Sep 2013 at 16:25 BELLA FREUD wrote:
I love that montage from your dad’s wall. It looks so cheering and sexy in your book. I remember going into places where men worked as a young girl and seeing those kind of posters and finding it really intimidating and weirdly undermining to be considered the same as the girls in the pictures. Not that I was against the women at all, I just found it made me feel horribly exposed and at a disadvantage.
I love all the pictures of Kate Moss, god she is so spellbinding. I remember when I made my first film directed by the late James Lebon, someone told me about this great new model called Kate Moss. My samples were really big for some reason so when they said she was tiny I didn’t ask to see her.
Internet and fashion works well. For making films it is great, so I enjoy it. There is nothing quite like a good show but I don’t miss the grind, when FedEx was the nearest things to an email – two days to urgently get something somewhere instead of a beautiful instant.
I loved your feature film about the man living in Charles de Gaulle airport. Are you still making films?
On 23 Sep 2013 at 18:57 GLEN LUCHFORD wrote:
I like the process of making films once I’m on set, and would do it every day if possible, but with feature films, the turnaround time is about five years from inception to film launch, and I was smart enough to realize early on that my brain just isn’t geared to that kind of long-term enthusiasm. In fashion, you think of an idea and your normally shooting it within two to three weeks. Sometimes you just make it up on set and wing it, which is even more thrilling. I just worked with the actor Michael Pitt, and his presence on film was extraordinary. The camera just loved him, I don’t think i took a shitty picture all day, so that night I was dreaming of filming again, thinking how nice it would be on set with a team just developing and creating every day for three months.
Q. Work related satisfaction to me has a phantasmatic quality to it, it’s a ghost that I’m chasing. Are you someone like me, or your able to experience long-term satisfaction?
On 23 Sep 2013 at 10.43 BELLA FREUD wrote:
I spent a lot of time thinking of ideas that excited me and then delaying acting on them. I felt so happy thinking about the idea but then I would go into a paralysis, the longer the delay lasted the less likely it was to come to life. Now I am older, and I know it is fatal to allow the delay, the deferring to occur. I take action instantly, usually by writing it down and drawing something. Nick Knight just asked me, among others, to make a 1 minute film featuring punk. I have made 7 short films already but never directed, so I seized this chance to do it. Now I realize the satisfaction is in the doing, it’s the process. The outcome is what it is. Its great to accomplish something, to have made something.
You have a lot of great Kate moments in the book. When was the last time you photographed her?
On 24 Sep 2013 at 20:16 GLEN LUCHFORD wrote:
I’m the same, I have to jump immediately or it’s doomed to sit forever in my “never realized” folder in my brain. Also, if I have the idea, I think it must be bad, then I see someone else do it and I think it’s great. So now I just barge ahead and deal with the consequences later. Giovanni (Testino) always says to me “Dont think, just do,” and he’s right. I think too much.
Believe it or not, I haven’t photographed Kate since 1994 or 1995. I don’t know why, because she’s so great to work with. Time just flies by and the next thing you know 18 years has passed. The NY street shoot of Kate for Harper’s Bazaar actually got me fired. The editor didn’t get it at all. But when I look at the contact sheets it’s hard to find a bad image. It’s also a great document of a New York that’s gone now. When it still looked like Taxi Driver. You could do a book with that one shoot.
Q. What’s your favourite film? Mine’s Singing in the Rain.
On 25 Sep 25 2013 at 7:02 BELLA FREUD wrote:
Singing in the Rain!! I would never have guessed, I think that is deliberately misleading. I would not take you for having all those idiosyncracies about your belief in self, you come across as deft, certain. You are good at disguising your insecurities, that is an asset too. How clever of you to turn a disadvantage into an asset. I can see that you could do that with your work – if something is difficult or problematic you turn that to your benefit. Am I right?
Here is my list of top 5 films in no particular order:
Some like it Hot
La Grande Illusion
On 26 Sep 2013 at 13:05 GLEN LUCHFORD wrote:
I guess so. I got in to a lot of trouble as a kid, with the police, you know, boys’ stuff, and spent a lot of time with sketchy characters who all mostly ended up in jail, and I always managed to maneuver my way back. I think i just apply that as an adult to difficult situations. But there is no doubt that I’m as neurotic as the next person, the only difference I’d say is that I’m very aware of my neuroses and I try to keep them in check.
In regards to Singing in the Rain, no I’m deadly serious, I think it’s arguably the best musical of all time, and i generaly don’t like musicals, maybe Powel and Pressburger’s The Red Shoes is a close second. The film score is perfection, the script is so clever from frame one, the dance sequences have never been matched. All in all, it’s a true masterpiece. I put films in to two categories, creative endeavor vs. pure entertainment. Tarkovsky’s Sacrifice for example is a mind-blowing film creatively, and can leave you speechless in its sheer power, but it’s as heavy as it is beautiful, so I can’t watch it all the time. Then you have films that deliver entertainment. Singing in the Rain actually crosses both categories and that’s rare. I’m happy to see you have Renoir’s Grand Illusion on your list, as it’s one my favourites too and people rarely mention it. When you watch films like Grand Illusion or say Trouble in Paradise by Ernst Lubitsch, the directors are so accomplished in their craft that the films move effortlessly like ballet, the dialogue and sound just seem to sweep along in perfect harmony and rhythm. It’s incredibly hard to do that as a director. It’s like watching Nureyev dance or Picasso paint, the skill level is so high that they make it look easy and you can’t see really how amazing it is. John Huston had that at times, John Ford, Elia Kazan, Lubitsch, Billy Wilder, etc. Even Coppola reached it I think, but not during his heyday, I think later on when he made less important films like The Outsiders. My top five in no particular order would be:
The Conversation, Coppola.
The Rules Of The Game, Renoir.
Singing in the Rain obviously.
Crimes and Misdemeanors,Woody Allen.
The American Friend, Wim Wenders.
On Sep 26 2013 at 10:58 BELLA FREUD wrote:
I busted my friend’s older son showing my 11-year-old son Wings of Desire! I couldn’t work out why they were watching this arty film until I realized it was for the stripping scene. I love Jarmusch’s camera work. Have you seen Polanski’s short film for Prada? It’s called A Therapy, it’s genius.
On 27 Sep 2013 at 00:36 GLEN LUCHFORD wrote:
How great that they get to see Wings of Desire just to see the strip scene! Reminds me of a film I loved as a kid called Thunderbolt and Lightfoot, with Jeff Bridges and Clint Eastwood, anyway, it has this great Newton-esque image in it where a butt naked lady appears in front of glass porch doors staring at the workers in the garden. Not a lot happens but its very evocative .
I have seen the Polanski Prada film. It’s very good. Actually there is a big hunt amongst psychoanalysts to get that coat. A shrink friend reached out to me to see if I could get it, but it seems to have vanished.
On 27 Sep 2013 at 2:40 BELLA FREUD wrote:
Thunderbolt and Lightfoot is of my favourite films too. I don’t remember the naked woman, how odd. I showed it to my son quite recently. It is so good about friendship between men, and the end, oh my heart breaks just thinking about it. My favourite film as a child was called Old Yeller, about a much loved dog on a ranch that gets killed by a bear I think. But Ken Loach’s Kes was the one that killed me. Did I tell you all that before?
I had no idea about the coat becoming cult among psychoanalysts, that is genius. Good old analysts, good taste. I have become quite interested in Sigmund Freud lately, I read a comic book introduction to Freud which was good and very funny. Have you ever been on the couch, or done any therapy?
On 30 Sep 2013 at 1:20 GLEN LUCHFORD wrote:
I love that, Freud discovers Freud. How interesting. I think I’m the only person I know who loved seeing a shrink, I found it riveting, like learning a new language, but it did not make me a better photographer, that’s for sure. I remember reading an article with David Lynch many years ago, and he’d gone to see a shrink, and his first question was “will it affect my creative abilities?”, and the shrink responded that it might, so he decided on that note to not go ahead. Which I can understand. Your hysterical obsessive selfs are all reduced. But good riddance to that. Hysteria is never a good quality.
oh and Kes! No you didn’t tell me, but I saw it at my auntie’s house when they screened it on BBC2. I think I was 10 years old and it blew me away. The memory of the film is so vivid that I can still remember the pattern of the carpet that I sat on when I watched it. Brian Glover teaching football is one of my all-time favorite scenes in any film.
On 29 Sep 2013 at 11:09 BELLA FREUD wrote:
Yes that is the biggest fear about analysis, also about giving up drugs or alcohol. All the dark stuff feels like it is fuel and it is, but it mostly holds you back. I like the bit in Alan Bennett’s diaries talking about the Larkin poem and about how everyone prolific has had these terrible childhoods, so now parents are obliged to fuck you up to give you a head start. (It was much funnier than that in the book). I do believe if you are any good at what you do then analysis won’t interfere with that. Nothing will except chaos.
Funny that I’m living in the house you used to live in, and Kate lived in. What was it like in those days? How many people lived here when you were here?
Self Service, 2012
[NEED DATE] at 9:55 GLEN LUCHFORD wrote:
Mark Lebon and Camilla Arthur owned it, Mario [Sorrenti], Kate and myself were the tenants, and then Tyrone Lebon would come for weekends. Later Frank Lebon was born so he was there too. It was an amazing time, a little nutty, always exciting and interesting. I’m not a particularly sentimental person, but I do sigh when I think about those days. Our careers took off during that period. Kate left for NY on an economy flight, signed for Calvin and flew home on Concord with a lot of $$$ in her bank account, it was kind of like that. The roller coaster was moving fast.
Did you know that John Huston made a film about Sigmund Freud? It was his next film after The Misfits. The story behind it is really interesting. Huston was fascinated by Freud and analysis, and his first choice was Montgomery Clift to play Sigmund, and Marilyn Monroe to play the patient who was essentially a hysteric. Which would have been amazing, as Huston realized quite cleverly that she was herself a hysteric. Anyway, her agent talked her out of playing the role and Suzanne York played the part. Apparently Montgomery and Huston fell out on set as Montgomery had ideas about Freud himself that conflicted with Huston’s. It all turned in to a fascinating drama on and off set.
On 15 OCT 2013 at 2:04 BELLA FREUD wrote:
Sorry for the delay, I have just been in Vienna for the first time, visiting the Kunsthistorishes museum where there is a show of my dad’s work, and also Sigmund’s flat. Funnily enough my father told me that John Huston courted him up as he wanted him to play Sigmund Freud in that film. Dad strung him along for a while because he wanted to play a cowboy which didn’t go down very well with Huston, who then cast Montgomery Clift. It made me laugh about him wanting to play a cowboy, I really was surprised.
RIGHT: Mario Sorrenti, South of France, 1995
On 20 Oct 2013 at 18:41 GLEN LUCHFORD wrote:
OK let’s wrap this up, and finish with a word association.
On Oct 20, 2013, at 1:08 PM, BELLA FREUD wrote: