Larry Clark

by Chris Duesing

On January 1, 1943, the town of Tulsa, Oklahoma welcomed its newest resident, Larry Clark. Now known for his controversial and often shocking portrayal of teenagers, this American photographer, film director, producer and writer has forced many to open their eyes and see what life is really like on the margins of society.

The Early Days

Clark was surrounded by photography from his earliest days. His mother was a busy baby photographer, and so Clark was literally raised in an environment that revolved around cameras and images.

Since he was eager to learn all he could about cameras and photography, Clark’s mother taught him all of the basics. In fact, by the time he turned thirteen, Clark worked by his mother’s side as a baby photographer.

The camera became a part of his existence. At sixteen years of age when he began to experiment with amphetamines, he photographed his own drug use. The photographs he took during this time, depicting the harsh and ugly realities of drug use between Clark and his friends, were later published in his photography book, Tulsa (1971).

The Controversy

Clark’s photographs reveal shocking, disturbing and often ugly images of youth, particularly males, engaging in drug use, sex and violence. They are largely autobiographical in nature, as Clark himself struggled with heroin addiction, partook in ‘gun play’ and experimented sexually at a very young age. And although many have viewed Clark’s photographs as artistic and brave revelations, others have criticized him as exploitive and obscene.

The photographic process that defines Clark is ‘the documentary’. His photographs and films all tell a story, from a voyeuristic perspective, about the dangers and realities of youth living just outside mainstream society.

Clark is known for his 35mm camera, his wide-angle lens and his natural light sources. This simple lighting has allowed Clark’s subjects to express themselves without the disturbing and unyielding quality of flood lights and flashes.

Larry Clark Art Books

Larry Clark’s books, though disturbing and graphic, have received critical acclaim:

Larry Clark Films

This is a list of Clark’s films:

Museums and Art Galleries

Clark’s startling photography can be found around the world. These are a few of the museums and galleries that house his work:

Clark currently lives in New York City and Los Angeles. He has three children and can still be seen on his controversially decorated skateboard, with his ponytail blowing in the breeze. His words ring true, when one considers the content of the photographs and films that have made him famous: “I wanted to present the way kids see things, but without all this baggage . . . You know . . . they’re living in the moment not thinking about anything beyond that and that’s what I wanted to catch. And I wanted the viewer to feel like you’re there with them.”

Further Reading
Chris Duesing
Chris Duesing

I am a photographer, writer, entrepreneur, and programmer living in the great city of Chicago. I love to solve problems with technology and share what I have learned along the way.