Raphie Frank :: business artivist

David Yellen :: Photographer

David Yellen Whether his subject be barely clad heavy metal groupies, bloody wrestlers, flaming haired psychos, 50 Cent, or Barbara Walters, photographer David Yellen (www.davidyellen.com) is uncompromising in his devotion to the hard, jagged, sometimes hyperextended essence of real. His photos have appeared in such diverse publications as Details, Spin, Time, Forbes, Life & Cosmosgirl. Gothamist spoke with David recently about a few of his favorite and not so favorite things spanning underweared parents in Queens, tornadoes and bare-titted chicks in Indiana, and soon-to-be-puking Gotham marathoners.

What do you like most about what you do?
I like that I have a lot of freedom. People usually only hire me for what I do, so I can take on my [commercial] subjects like I would any of my personal work. That’s the most exciting thing.

If you weren’t a photographer, what do you think you would be doing instead?
I’d probably either be working for my family, doing some weird fashion job, or – how’s this for a bold statement? – I might be dead. Because at the point where I discovered photography was during a very bad rough time. I was at a crossroads. And photography just pulled me right out of it. It saved my life and soul.

Speaking of your parents, is it true you photographed them in their underwear?
Not only did I photograph them in their bedroom in their underwear, I’ve also photographed them in their bathroom. Hanging out, putting on makeup, sitting on the toilet…

Don’t you think people might think that’s, like, maybe a little bit… weird?
It’s not work I show everybody. But it’s part of the whole story. I started photographing my family as a way of being able to be around them. Because at the time I started photography I didn’t have the greatest relationship with them. So it was a middle ground where once or twice a week I would come over and take photos and we would be able to be around each other. It put me in a position of power over them in a way that levelled the playing field.

Dad at GraveYou’ve been photographing them for a while now…
More than ten years. Over time they’ve become convinced that they’ll become famous from the photographs. Now they pretty much do anything I say. I went so far as to interrupt Thanksgiving dinner last year by doing super close head shots of everyone as soon as they finished their meals. So, they’re all a little queasy and a little spaced out. And here I am five inches away from their faces with giant flashes and big cameras telling them not to move.

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November 21, 2006 Posted by | Gothamist Interviews | Leave a comment


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