[Photography] ties back into this feeling of wanting to watch things fall and the moment before they break. Fireworks are that way for me - this lovely thing that blows up and is gone. It all goes back to this desire to record things before they disappear - the original reason we take pictures, right?— Laurel Nakadate
The most passioned Laurel Nakadate quotes to get the best of your day
Polaroid, you know, goes against everything that photography is now.
You can't make multiples. Only one exists. I love that. By the way, while we've been talking I've now seen a total of three people I know walking on 8th street.
I'm interested in that hybrid - the place between the real world and my imagination. There's a friction that's created between the things we imagine and the things that exist.
I love fiction. I like reading short stories. Cupcakes, pop songs, Polaroids, and short stories. They all raise and answer questions in a short space. I like Lorrie Moore. Amy Hempel. Tim O'Brien. Raymond Carver. All the heartbreakers.
Humans like to look. I think that voyeurism and exploitation are often used in the same sentence. But, in my opinion, voyeurism is a beautiful and delightful thing. There is nothing more intimate than really looking at someone.
A cupcake is like a great pop song. The whole world in less than three minutes. And it's impossible to have a bad cupcake. In New York you walk everywhere. So I'm always looking, always on the eternal search for the perfect cupcake. I take them very seriously. It's like hunting and gathering for me.
Discomfort and awkwardness are places where you feel things.
I'm a big advocate for being happy. We can choose to live in a happy bubble. But part of being happy is understanding how sad things can be.
I believe photography is about choosing to live, being brave.
Looking is an act of courage. It's terrifying. It's possible to see too much, to witness things that we cannot hold.
The most amazing moments are when something horrible is about to happen or has just happened. The iceberg falling into the ocean. That aching moment. You can see the pieces, you can see how they fit together, but you can't put them back together.
I won't look it in the eye. As soon as I do, I get scared. You gotta walk the plank at some point, but at first you gotta put blinders on or you'll overthink things. I think it's dangerous, by the way, to do a lot of talks about your art, to do so much talking and so little making. You get the wrong idea about yourself.
Although I get a lot of ideas from things that have happened in my life, I see the final product as a place where my imagination meets my experience. What I love about photography is that nothing is really as it seems.
It's always a problem - you've got to figure out a place to put your body.
You've got to wake up in the morning and deal with the fact that you have this body to lug around.
The amazing thing is that we live our lives with the hope that things will go right, that things will happen. And all along the way, we're inspired by the unknown and the unnameable. The minute you can fully describe something it's gone.
Sometimes, photographs live in our hearts as unborn ghosts and we survive not because their shadows find permanence there, but because that thing that is larger than us, larger than the things we can point to, remember and claim, escorts us from dark into light.
I believe that I am some sort of fiction writer and I'm using myself in my work because I'm the person I'm most convenient to use!
I've always seen my work as trying to make the connection with men who no one really spends time with.
A lot of people have said that the main thread in my work is loneliness or just wanting to create a world with someone who doesn't really have much in their life, so maybe I'm looking for someone who's lonely and wants to try to create something with me as a subject for my videos.
I think my work is optimistic - as much as it is pathetic and funny and sad and ridiculous, at the end of the day it's about the hope that something will go right, and the constant wishing for a world where things might start to make sense.
I'm more interested in the idea of role-playing in general than the idea of role-playing in art. I like the childlike quality of making pretend or the optimistic idea of pretending something's happening when it's not.
As people who make things, we have the ability to think of the most vile, awful things we can imagine, but it doesn't mean we believe those things. I allow myself to go places in my videos that I would never go in my real life.And I think that there has to be that place where you can create and not have to be living it in real life.
Every time I hear that somebody died I think of their body, on a steel table in a morgue somewhere. I think of how they can do nothing about it.
Things might not get better but they might not get worse.
There's something sort of beautiful about that.
There's such an energy created when the world is turned upside down, and when things are good again it's nice to take note. Then it goes away. Change. Change means friction. Friction happens where things aren't quite right, when everything is separating, when nothing is the same. Later you piece it back together.
I feel like the men who end up in my videos, their biggest crime is being lonely. They're not violent, they're not scary people, they're just men who keep to themselves and have a hard time being social.
I think most interesting people are socially awkward even if they're able to hide it most of the time. If Henry Darger hadn't been a shut-in would we love him so much? Any act that we do in private is amazing and profound because it is private. You don't have to worry about being socially awkward in the privacy of your own home... well, unless I show up.
In general, I wait to be approached. I want to be the one who's hunted, I want to be the one who people take interest in.
The thing about death is that it's embarrassing.
No one wants to focus on it for very long. We're happy to talk about sex all day long but no one wants to talk about the moment where it all ends.
I would always say I'm doing a video project.
About dancing or birthday parties. Of course, the video becomes more than that. It goes deeper than that. But it's not a lie. It's a starting point.
I have very little interest in endlessly telling people about my artistic process. It sounds like throwing yourself against a wall and crying. It's not interesting to most people. It's interesting to yourself. But it's your problem, not anyone else's.
I think it's a really good idea to be bumping into all kinds of people in all kinds of ways. So you make art with strangers. You give a reading. You move somewhere new and try to build a life. You grapple with humanity.
I think we're put out into the world to forge relationships with people.
Those can be as small as buying coffee from someone or as large as a marriage. The important thing is that we try to make connections or have experiences with other humans. Otherwise what's the point of being on this earth?
Heartbreak is when you're just far enough away from what you desire that you can feel it. Change is the Pangaea moment. I feel like I'm at this point in my life where I have created this place, this island in the ocean, and I'm happy there.
Also, I'm drawn to moments of ambiguity, when things could go right or they could go wrong. I'm interested in discomfort. Discomfort is a place where we're still close enough to comfort to understand our unhappiness. Most of the things we desire are things that can destroy us.
I shot my undergraduate work on 35mm.
I love the way it looks, but I haven't shot film in a while. If you can avoid scanning, it makes your practice faster. Oh, and I shoot a lot of Polaroid, too. I have about five hundred Polaroids from my film that I hope to show soon.
Photography has saved my life, over and over again.
If you can see a thing you don't have anymore it's very heartbreaking.
To hold onto things longer than we actually can hold onto them is a desire. Writers and artists are trying to record these things they can no longer have. We're a heartbroken lot. Taking pictures is a brave act in which you try to explain and remember a thing you can't have anymore.
What I love about photography is that nothing is really as it seems.
Everything is mediated. Everything is influenced by its maker. And happily, right? I'm so happy everyone leaves fingerprints on things whether they like it or not. Fingerprints solve crimes. They're profound. They're your best and worst friend and you were born with them and you can't get away from them without a lot of pain and sandpaper.
I never want to make videos with people who don't want to make them with me.
I don't want to force people to take part. Only people who want to collaborate. And that's important because otherwise, the videos wouldn't work. Them choosing to take part is very important to the videos.
After you die, your body is just there.
Isn't it kind of embarrassing that your body is going to be there and you have no say or control over it? Somebody's going to have to deal with it. I've always respected people who kill themselves and find a way to get rid of the body. Very clean. Lost at sea. I can see why they do that. There's nothing left.
People want movies to be one thing or another; they want it be fact or fiction.
Tenderness and lust are just immature little brothers of love.
Yes of course it was lust... but I'm not sure how evolved or resolved that lust was.
A lot of people think that my work is about mocking or making fun of things, but a lot of it is about discomfort and making myself as uncomfortable as the men feel, or putting myself in a situation where I'm revealing my loneliness as much as they're revealing theirs.
The act of recording requires you to look at and handle and touch things, so yes - art is more than just looking and recording. It's messy and time consuming and people might fall in love and get hurt.
I think people like to have everything be perfectly morally clear.
When the lines get blurred it worries them. I'm not worried. I don't think the men are either. But I think that the videos bring up feelings in people that they don't want to feel. Sometimes people get really mad. That's okay.
I'm always afraid going into strange places, but I also choose carefully and listen to my instincts. These were men I could trust. I'm a pretty good judge of crazy versus sad. I prefer sad.
Although I use myself in my videos, I really see myself as a character.
When I look at myself, when I sit and edit, I never think, "That's me." I think, "This is a character, and how do I edit this to tell a story?"
I present the thing we're going to do as a simple starting point.
They all know it's an art piece and that it's all going to be recorded. And I have never had an experience where one of these men tried to take advantage of the situation. If they were guilty of anything it was of being lonely. It was never that they were violent or dangerous.
I wanted to tell stories that moved. Nothing stays the same, and that's why photography is important. The world flickers and changes, and that's why video is important.
Death is sad, yes, but there are some great laughs you can find there.