GMAIL CONVERSATION BETWEEN HERBERT MICHEAL GEORGE AND AURELIEN LEVITAN. TAKE. 1
Aurelien Levitan: What led you to pursue a career as an Artist and when did you start working professionally as a photographer?
Herbert Michael George: From an early age, I remember flipping through fashion magazines that my dad would have laying around in his apartment in Vermont. My parents had the polaroid 1step they would bring out for special occasions. In the late 80s and 90s I carried an SX70 with me. I still have it. I had always seen images of Warhol with one around his neck and was attracted to that at a young age. I couldn’t afford the film but I was drawn to the idea of capturing images. My longtime friend George is a photographer and my old college roommate Glen had a darkroom in our apartment pantry. We collected magazines with a passion as a source for inspiration (pre-internet) …
The Face and i-D were like drugs. From there it was the YASHICA T4 and the spontaneous capture of life attending art shows in the alleged years in the Lower East Side of Manhattan…
Aurelien: I lived in Manhattan in Saint Mark’s place in the late 90’s. It was amazing back then. Alphabet City was gritty, grungy and sketchy, CBGB was still open and there was no Highline. I miss NYC in the 90’s and early 2000’s. I go back and I can still appreciate the time that I spend there but it’s not how it used to be. I don’t mean any disrespect but last time I went out to Alphabet City for drinks with friends it felt like a film set. It didn’t feel real and raw like it used to.
Some of the best photographers started their professional career in NYC in the 90’s. Richardson, Larry Clark, Harmonie Korine, Glen Luchford, Mario Sorrenti, Craig McDean and these guys are still on top of their game working consistently. Who are some of your favorite photographers?
Herbert: Thomas Campbell, Terry Richardson, Ed Templeton. As I began a career as an art director I was dealing with photography and photographers often. The DIY days of the skateboarding industry came around and before I knew it I was shooting lifestyle ad images on a half frame camera out of necessity.
Aurelien: i-D is still A Class A drug and The Face. That magazine started the professional careers of Corinne Day, Juergen Teller, Melanie Ward and David Sims, these artists work are some of my biggest inspirations. They were pioneers. What inspires your personal creative work?
Herbert: Passion. Passion to create. Passion to always learn and improve. My photos are special to me. I only shoot what I want to shoot. I don’t have to do commercial photography for a living and I’m very grateful for that. I pride myself in doing it all in camera… No filters, no Photoshop, no cropping…
As a creative director and someone who has dealt with commercial photography every day for over 25 years, I know what I like. It’s about keeping that drive going. As far as other photographers… Jürgen Teller, Richard Kern, Corinne Day… There are so many.
Aurelien: You know that I love your work with Damaged, the recent story you shot of Eddie for the new Playboy looked great. Eddie is always great. What do you want people to feel when look at your photos?
Herbert: I want people to look at my photos and feel something. There is definitely an element of sexuality to my photos but not at all in a sleazy way. It’s definitely more about natural beauty. The female body is a beautiful form. I respect it and try to highlight it in an artistic natural way.
Aurelien: I think of California when I look at your photos. That's the reason why I always come up with Led Zeppelin’s songs for the story titles. Led Zeppelin makes me think of California. How did you here of Damaged?
Herbert: I came upon Damaged through Instagram. I was looking for an outlet and audience that fit and would appreciate my photography and felt Damaged was that. I contacted and submitted a set of photos and the rest is history.
Damaged: How does music inspire your creative work?
Herbert: I love music. I was born in 1972. I was a college radio and club/party DJ in the early 1990’s. I served as an urban music director for WRUV (University of Vermont) Radio From 1990-94. I remember getting first pressings of the most iconic hip-hop records of all time. Notorious B.I.G party and bullshit, Wu Tang C.R.E.A.M. backed with Method Man on the B Side, Nasty Nas Half Time etc.
I later worked as the Art Director of XXL Magazine. From John Coltrane to Stevie Wonder to Roy Ayers to A Tribe Called Quest to Minor Threat to Dead Kennedys to The Rolling Stones and Kendrick Lamar. I love It all.
Aurelien: Yo, C.R.E.A.M. is 8th track from the Wu-Tang Clan’s debut studio album. It was released November 9, 1993 on Loud records. “Party and Bullshit” is the Notorious B.I.G, then known as Biggie Smalls fourth promotional single from the soundtrack album of Ted Demme’s 1993 film “Who’s the Man.
Ted Demme was an American director, producer, and actor and the late husband of Amanda Demme.
Amanda Scheer Demme is an American photographer and creative director, she has worked as a music supervisor and label owner. I think she just hosted a party at Teddy’s at The Hollywood Roosevelt last week with Taylor Russel. Teddy’s at The Hollywood Roosevelt was named after her late husband. Best nightlife I experienced in my 14 years in LA.
Amanda’s work is good. They all say she’s batshit crazy. I believe it. Takes one to know one. I’m out of my fucking mind, I’m Damaged / Goods. I’ve know Amanda since 2004 when I was a server at Mauro’s Cafe at Fred Segal. My first job in LA. She was always real chill and kind to me.
What's your damage?
Herbert: Fear of having my personal art judged by others, and beer of course.
Aurelien: You’re an artist, when you put your artwork out there to the world it is a part of you or who you are at that time of your life. Have no fear and expect that people are entitled to their opinion.
Do what feels right for you, because it means something to you and if your work touches someone else, then you are successful as an artist. I love beer but I’m more of a wine fiend myself.
Herbert Michael George: Since we don't know each other all that well give me your story in a quick 2-3 sentences? Like speed dating.
Aurelien Levitan: Let’s do it. Party.
Herbert: How did you become attracted to photography?
Aurelien: My step father was a photographer for Paris-Match Magazine. It was considered the French LIFE Magazine back then. They had had about 30 staff photographers back then and these guys were the coolest cats. When they were not traveling on a commissioned job they were “brainstorming” from La Belle Ferronnière, the cafe across the street from the old office, 53 Rue Pierre Charron in the 8th arrondissement. Paris-Match was then owned by Hachette-Filipacchi, the News/Media company ran several other publications. My stepfather would bring a new stack of Magazines once a week. I would have to wait until he was done reading them to pick them up. PHOTO was always the holy grail. It was beautiful photography and a lot of beautiful woman. That was a tough one to snatch from him. I just loved it. It was a beautiful escape.
Herbert: What is your camera of choice?
Aurelien: Canon 5DMIII
Herbert: In the days of digital what print magazines do you enjoy?
Aurelien: i-D, Numero, Vogue Paris, L’Officiel, Purple Fashion Magazine, Another Man, Interview, Mirage, Autre, Live Fast and LOVE.
Herbert: How do you find inspiration that speaks to you?
Aurelien: I find inspiration in films, nature, friends, love, nature, architecture, books but it always comes back to music.
Herbert: What is your experience with film vs. digital and your thoughts on one vs. the other?
Aurelien: I started my professional career as a filmmaker and photographer with digital. I have more experience with digital. I would like to learn more about film. I learned everything with digital. I love that the constant evolution of technology has made the Art of photography more accessible, more cost effective and most enabled the next generations of Artist express themselves and practice their craft.
Herbert: Yes. Technology is amazing. And greater accessibility for people is also great. Totally agree. I find it hard to get away from the beauty in the imperfections of film. That’s what I love most about it. It’s perfectly imperfect.
Aurelien: The beauty in the imperfection of film. Well said. Film is life.
Herbert: Describe your creative process?
Aurelien: I listen to the individual I am in the process of collaborating with. I want to understand their creative thought process I take a couple of days for research to fully understand the visual artist, fashion designer, record label, marketing creatives and/or musicians vision and figure out how I as an individual, my cultural background, my experience as a filmmaker, photographer, creative director and the founder of Damaged / Goods will be different, unique and how are collaborative efforts will be beneficial to help them bring their vision to life.
Herbert: Do you pull references? Build mood boards? Scout?
Aurelien: I always create mood-boards when I am collaborating with a team. First, I pull music references, I start with three songs, pick two and I Clash them. I like to mix different genres, artists and generations and I use the two songs as a working title, then I pull visuals and build mood-boards. Most of the time I will have a location in mind that I want to incorporate as a character in the story.
Herbert: If you could photograph something that seems unattainable what or who would that be?
Aurelien: I can’t think of anything unattainable to photograph other than a dead person. Is that what you were asking?
Herbert: Kate Moss? Haha or Maybe a celebrity? The Queen? The Pope? An athlete?
Aurelien: My future girl
Herbert: Why LA?
Aurelien: Because it is the next great art and fashion capital of the world. Because it reminds me of NYC in the 90’s. Because the next movement in the music industry is happening right here right now. Because of Venice, the Venice Canals and Ed Ruscha. Because you can wake up and go surfing in the ocean before work and get on the road that same night for a Snowboarding trip to Mammoth or chill in Lake Arrowhead. Because of Frank Lloyd Wright, Pierre Koening’s Case study houses and John Lautner’s Chemosphere. Because of DTLA’s Art and Fashion district. It reminds me of my first love, NYC. It’s exploding but it still has that edge to it. That gritty and beautiful mix of old and new. Mix of so many different people from all over the world and cultures and because of Theatre Row on Broadway and lastly, because of The Hollywood Bowl.
Herbert: OK you sold me.
Aurelien: The Hollywood Bowl!
Herbert: Do you retouch your photos?
Aurelien: Depending on the project that I am working on and the original creative vision.
Herbert: What is your Damage?
Aurelien: Dedicating all my time to damaged and not taking any time for myself. Starting today, I’m taking a week off for myself. I’m going to find a nice apartment to settle, go for a jog on the beach, get some sleep, regenerate and FaceTime Be in London.