Max Snow talks exclusively to Hillbilly Magazine about dark forces, brawling with meatheads, his haunting aesthetic and puppies and rainbows?
Text by Lusher. Photos & Collage by Max Snow
Hillbilly : I’ve noticed that when you photograph women in your more recent work there usually exists a completely black background whereas in “Lock, Stock & Teardrops” which features men that these shots are usually straight on and with an all white background. Is this a conscious thing or just a pleasing aesthetic to you?
Max Snow : I choose to photograph the women against a black background because it lends a more mythological feel. Its my favorite scenario to shoot against night as opposed to a black wall, there are things beyond your sight that you don’t necessarily know are there… mostly there are just hints of them but they exist. With those images, they are also mostly drawn from my imagination and I tend to fantasize about women more than men. When I choose to shoot against a white background its for more of what I consider to be documentary work, though to me its less artistic than that sounds. To me I consider those portraits to be more of a scientific study. Like a Botanist photographing plants in different stages of decay. Studying specimens so that we can study them later and understand them. I consider people to be more interesting than plants unless of course they have hallucinogenic properties.
Hillbilly : Your work deals with the darker sides and forces of our nature. Do you think that is a manifestation of personal experiences, grievances or is it something that you have always gravitated to perhaps out of curiosity?
Max Snow : I probably exist in a different realm than most people but I think it is undeniable that ‘the darker sides and forces of our nature’ are much more interesting to study than what creates a rainbow, for example. Everyone is different though I suppose, and I’m sure some people like to insulate themselves and refuse to believe in the existence of, lets call it the “dark side”… maybe its simply that I take different drugs than they do. I’m also a pretty cold-hearted son of a bitch; Byron is more eloquent “Bereft of tears I inward turned to stone.” Pretty pictures of puppies and landscapes do not move me. I also find that things that are initially beautiful do not have lasting power for me and it is the things which one must spend time with, learn, study, be allowed to grow on you that have staying power.
Hillbilly : What were you feeling when you destroyed your archives? Time to purge and start anew or were you wanting to change course with what you had been doing up unto that point?
Max Snow : The destruction of my archive was not meant to be an intellectual happening. It was about cleaning the slate and starting fresh.
Hillbilly : Your latest show, “Lock, Stock & Teardrops” features collage work as well installation pieces. Is this a first for you or something that has always been a part of your practice?
Max Snow : In T.S. Eliot’s words
“Any poet, if he is to survive beyond his 25th year, must alter; he must seek new literary influences; he will have different emotions to express. “
Hillbilly : Any thoughts on digital? Do you ever use the medium in photography?
Max Snow : These days I shoot almost exclusively with an 8X10 film camera. I’ve used digital a few times in the past when I had to. I don’t like using most electronics. I don’t like using computers. I like a machine that when it breaks, you take it apart and fix it. Like an old car where you open the hood and you see through to the ground and find the problem, not a bunch of plastic and computer chips. I also like working with negatives and printing conventionally. To me that is nicer than something that came out of a printer because it was made by hand. I’m sort of like a Luddite living in a digital world.
Hillbilly : What was up with that bar fight i read about? Being a photographer and getting your eye fucked up is tantamount to getting a hand broken when youre a guitar player. Was that a major hindrance? What, if any adjustments did you have to make?
Max Snow : That bar fight and my eye injury were two separate events. I got jumped by three meatheads in a bar and I cut one close to his eye. On a separate occasion, I injured my eye while working on a sculpture. Some sulphuric acid and some metal shards got in my eye. I flushed it out but figured the eye would heal itself. Three days later I was in the hospital where they removed the metal shards and the rust that had accumulated around them with a needle. You don’t get to go under while this goes on, so you get to watch while someone sticks a needle in and out of your eyeball and scrapes at it. The acid ate through some of my eyeball. They wrapped up my eye all crazy with so much gauze but I said fuck that, tore that crap off and got myself a nice leather one. Worse than the physical pain, I had to sit in a dark room with the blinds closed for two weeks and couldn’t use my eyes during that time. No TV, no reading, no writing..nothing. In ways it was learning a new discipline. Like a monk in a cave.
Hillbilly : Famous last words?
Max Snow : Two tears in a bucket, fuck it.
"Lock, Stock & Teardrops" will be on view at the Duve Berlin from Oct. 29 - Dec. 10