Q&A with Richard Kern

For three decades and counting, notorious New York photographer and filmmaker Richard Kern has carved a niche for himself capturing scantily clad girls the world over. On the eve of his solo show, Shot by Kern, opening May 21 at London’s Rove Gallery, we sat him down to discuss girls (what else?)—British girls, Japanese girls, girls next door, girls who are fashion models, girls who attack, girls who are now big artists and, well, you get the idea…

While working on the exhibit, you visited six European cities. Any favorites so far?

Milan. It was the ugliest city with the worst hotels, but it also had the best food and the best models. There was this girl there called Sydney, who is actually a Belgian fashion model. She was probably my favorite person to shoot so far.

How did the British girls differ from the others?

Well, not all of the girls I shot here are British. One of them, Keex, is Japanese. In Milan we met one girl from Belgium. The girls in Antwerp were from the Netherlands and Vietnam. Lucy, who I met in London, is definitely someone I consider very British. I know that look from girls I’ve shot in the past, that very white skin tone and doughy look—basically, girls who eat cheese, bread and drink a lot of milk.

One of the British girls you’ve previously shot was another Lucy, Lucy McKenzie, who’s quite a big artist now.

Yeah, she’s really big. Lucy came up to me at one of my film screenings. At first I thought she was going to attack me! Back in the day, when I was doing my screenings, there was always someone in the audience who would give me shit. Lucy turned out to be the exact opposite. She invited me to Scotland and helped me find a bunch of models. In the end, she did actually turn out to be my best model.

Why do you think girls pose nude for you? Is it a therapeutic thing?

I think they do it because it’s fun and there’s a challenge to it. For a lot of them it’s also a way to fight their insecurities. There was one girl in particular I met on tour, who told me she felt very weird about her body. She said she was only doing it to feel more comfortable with herself.

What do you look for in your models?

A girl-next-door type. I’m interested in real people, I have to say.

And last but not least, does your wife ever get jealous?

Maybe, but she wouldn’t tell me! She’s a photographer herself and often goes off and shoots guys. We don’t talk about it. Yeah, she’s very tolerant, I guess.

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