Purple Magazine
— F/W 2015 issue 24

Alex Prager

on (women) photographers

interview by MAURIZIO CATTELAN and MARTA PAPINI
portrait by BELLA HOWARD

Alex Prager Alex Prager

 

MAURIZIO CATTELAN — Do you mind being called a photographer?
ALEX PRAGER — I used to mind. I don’t do straight photography, so I felt it was a misrepresentation of what I was doing. But over the past year or so, I’ve let go of that and decided people can call me whatever they want. The idea of what constitutes photography is constantly changing and evolving. Whatever people see in my work — and what they relate it to — well, that’s what it is for them. When I’m making my films, people say I’m a filmmaker. When I’m making still images, people say I’m a photographer. They are all essentially interchangeable to me now.

MAURIZIO CATTELAN — Do you remember your first picture?
ALEX PRAGER — I remember a picture I took about three months into photography. This was before I started dressing my friends up and directing, which I started doing a couple of months later. I was in New York for the first time, 21 years old, and walking by one of those shady card games on the sidewalk, where they ask you to bet on where the card is in the piles. I decided to play, and I bet all the money I had because I was naive and believed them when they said they would double it if I won. When I guessed the card, they flipped it over, and I had guessed correctly! But instead of giving me the money I had rightfully won, they grabbed my cash out of my hand and ran. But back then I wore my camera around my neck wherever I went, I even slept beside it back in those days, so I ended up getting a picture of the scene before they disappeared: the man with my money in his hands, the cards spilled out on his little cardboard box, and his hand up trying to cover his face as he’s yelling at me not to take his picture. Three months later, that picture was part of my first group show. I had named it “$300,” and I ended up selling it that night for $300.

MAURIZIO CATTELAN — How does a photo get started for you?
ALEX PRAGER — It usually appears in my mind. I’m constantly having strange images appear in my mind, and most of them never see the light of day. Sometimes, the image that has floated to the top is stubborn and doesn’t go away, so then I have to make it. Once it exists in the physical universe, it no longer sits on the surface of my mind, and I can move on.

MAURIZIO CATTELAN — Is there anything that helps the creative process?
ALEX PRAGER — Taking space helps a lot. I love what I do, and when I’m into something, I never want to stop until I get it all out. So, the problem that usually comes up is more about knowing when space would help and then forcing myself to take it, instead of pounding away at an idea while my head is spinning, my stomach grumbling, and my eyes blurring up.

Crowd #5 (Washington Square West), 2013, archival pigment print, edition of 6 plus 2 aps “Crowd #5” (Washington Square West), 2013, archival pigment print, edition of 6 plus 2 APS

MAURIZIO CATTELAN — Is inspiration for your images a matter of distraction or of being focused?
ALEX PRAGER — My ideas usually come in the distracted moments. When I’m really focused on finding an idea, they rarely come. If I pop into the shower, go on a walk, or get lunch with a friend and let it happen naturally, I’ll suddenly have a crystal-clear idea. It’s the light touch that lures them in.

MAURIZIO CATTELAN — How long does it take to get the picture you have in mind?
ALEX PRAGER — I have learned to be patient. Most of the ideas I’m having recently take a lot of figuring out, so I am patient and focused and always try to approach the work with a fresh mind. That is the most difficult part, to be able to see with new eyes something that I’ve been molding and shaping for months or possibly even years.

MAURIZIO CATTELAN — Do you title your photos? How do you decide?
ALEX PRAGER — Usually the title comes last. My work is all impulse or instinct. I’ll run through a list of titles that sound okay, so I can begin to know the analytical space they seem to work in. Then, after some wrestling with variations on ideas and words, something will just seem to fit. Once I find the title that fits, no other title will even be remotely usable. That’s when I know I’ve struck the right chord.

Hazelwood #2 (after steven siegel), 2014, archival pigment print, edition of 6 plus 2 aps “Hazelwood #2” (after Steven Siegel), 2014, archival pigment print, edition of 6 plus 2 APS

MAURIZIO CATTELAN — Is narration part of your work?
ALEX PRAGER — My work has always been about simulating real emotional or psychological spaces within a fictional world. This tension between reality and fiction is endlessly interesting to me.

MAURIZIO CATTELAN — What is your relationship with technology?
ALEX PRAGER — Right now, there are so many incredible things happening in technology that I think it would be overwhelming for me to imagine where to begin putting different things into use. But because I look at it for myself as support and function for ideas, I see it as a way to make ideas more possible. I love knowing it exists because it means there is never the excuse that something isn’t possible to make.

MAURIZIO CATTELAN — Is photography without a camera possible nowadays?
ALEX PRAGER — Yes.

MAURIZIO CATTELAN — Is it true that today everyone can become a photographer?
ALEX PRAGER — You can be anything you want.

MAURIZIO CATTELAN — Is your work about creativity or about being a good observer?
ALEX PRAGER — Both, simultaneously.

MAURIZIO CATTELAN — Is fake the newest version of reality?
ALEX PRAGER — Sure. What with global warming and the end of the world approaching, aren’t we all down for a little escapism?

MAURIZIO CATTELAN — Is there any difference between a picture and a painting?
ALEX PRAGER — A picture is an image of something, not restricted by a medium. A painting requires paint, no?

MAURIZIO CATTELAN — Who lies more, a photographer or a painter?
ALEX PRAGER — Depends who the photographer/painter is, I suppose.

MAURIZIO CATTELAN — Do you feel comfortable in front of a camera?
ALEX PRAGER — Never! I feel more, like: Let’s get this over with.

Glendale, 2014, archival pigment print, edition of 6 plus 2 aps “Glendale”, 2014, archival pigment print, edition of 6 plus 2 APS

MAURIZIO CATTELAN — Would you agree to shoot fashion?
ALEX PRAGER — Yes, I love collaborating with specific brands that I respect and want to support. It’s really allowed me to try out concepts I wouldn’t have necessarily been able to do on my own. I’ve done this a few times and have had some really great experiences come out of it. Of course, there is always the reality of collaboration being a bit of a tricky situation, but I am learning more and more every time about what to accept, what to walk away from, and why.

MAURIZIO CATTELAN — Have you ever regretted something that you shot?
ALEX PRAGER — Yes! But also, maybe it’s not regret, since I’ve always learned something valuable about why I wasn’t happy with the project and usually don’t make that mistake again. It’s devastating to me when I find myself cringing at something I just shot. If that happens, I go back and examine the situation to try and figure out how that happened.

MAURIZIO CATTELAN — Isn’t every picture that you take part of a disguised self-portrait?
ALEX PRAGER — I wouldn’t say that. It’s more the result of my impressions of interactions I’ve had with other people, art, and the world that flows through me and comes out of me. Of course, I’m in there, too, but that is just one ingredient that goes into it.

MAURIZIO CATTELAN — Where does light come from?
ALEX PRAGER — My light comes from the sun and good old classic Arri hot lights.

MAURIZIO CATTELAN — What will your last picture be?
ALEX PRAGER — Whatever it is, I doubt I’ll know when I’m making it that it’s going to be my last.

MAURIZIO CATTELAN — Who would you like to collaborate with in the future?
ALEX PRAGER — I’d like to collaborate with the actresses Naomi Watts and Rooney Mara. And you, Maurizio!

[Table of contents]

F/W 2015 issue 24

Table of contents

purple EDITO

purple NEWS

purple BEST of the SEASON

purple INTERVIEW

purple FASHION WOMEN

purple FASHION MEN

purple DOCUMENT

purple BEAUTY

purple LOVE

purple TRAVEL

purple PHILOSOPHY

purple SEX

purple NIGHT

purple STORY

purple VISUAL ESSAY

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