Over three decades, the artist trained his camera on the houses and people of his home turf, photographing immigrant laborers, porn stars, and his parents.
Larry then said something that stopped me in my tracks: “Isn’t imagination really the final measure of intelligence?” It was the most obvious thing in the world—and revelatory—but it had never occurred to me before. He seemed always to have such observations, casually offered, as if in an afterthought, and, because of it, I always found myself learning something when I was with him.
Pictures that capture a moment in history sometimes contain a glint of magic, an element of wonder that can never be fully understood.
Larry Sultan once said he “always thought of a great photograph as if some creature walked into my room; it’s like, how did you get here? ... The more you try to control the world, the less magic you get.” Winogrand had no objection to staging things; it was just that he could never come up with anything as interesting as what was out there in the streets. But when does the staging start?
Sultan’s images are, as he was, at once sincere and seductive, guarded and vulnerable. He was ultimately interested in our lifelong search for placement, picturing people who lost their homes (immigrants in foreign landscapes), changed their lifestyles (his own parents in their newfound retirement community), or staged domestic scenes (porn stars). Even his early work, Evidence, was about making images homeless by exiling them from their contexts
The seventh edition of the Photo Levallois festival opened on October 10th. This year’s program featured five exhibitions at three different locations. The centerpiece is Evidence, an exhibition dedicated to the artist duo Larry Sultan and Mike Mandel. This photo series, on display at the Salons d’Honneurs at the Levallois Hôtel de Ville (although no longer), is considered a precursor to the new practice of conceptual photography.
On this day in 1946, one of photo history’s greatest shooters was born: Larry Sultan, who died in 2009. In 1977, Sultan published “Evidence,” with …
On this day in 1946, one of photo history’s greatest shooters was born: Larry Sultan, who died in 2009. In 1977, Sultan published “Evidence,” with Mike Mandel, a hugely influential conceptual photo book that consisted of reproduced images from industrial and government archives. For the rest of his career Sultan would create projects that bridged the realms of fictional and documentary photography
Like so many others, I was heartbroken to learn of the death of Larry Sultan. (Read obits here, here, here, here). I met Larry in 2004. He and I were showing concurrently at the Stephen Wirtz Galle…
I ran into Larry a couple of other times over the years. In Munich we were in a group show together. We cracked jokes during a long press conference in which neither of us understood a word being said. We also talked about photography. Larry was incredibly smart about the medium. I’ve always said that there is nobody whom I’d rather have had the chance to study under.
For his latest body of work, Larry Sultan hired Mexican day laborers as actors and subjects in his photographs, which he made on the outskirts of Southern Californian suburbs. He found these illegal laborers outside a nearby strip mall where hundreds of men wait day by day to be picked up for hourly work. Sultan directed the men’s actions and gestures while drawing from his own memories of home life and interpretations of their experiences as exiles.