Eugene Richards

by Tim Soter

Eugene_Richards

Last night Eugene Richards, without a doubt one of the best photojournalists in the medium, spoke at the Bronx Documentary Center about his new book, ‘Red Ball of a Sun Slipping Down.’  A soft-spoken man, the power is all in his photos and storytelling.  I use Richards’ book ‘Cocaine True, Cocaine Blue’ when I teach – I ask students to imagine how close he is physically to his subjects with his camera.  Shooting with a wide lens, perhaps a 28mm, he is literally just a few inches away from someone gripping a loaded needle in their teeth.  Something to remember when one is intimidated to stop a stranger on the street for a quick posed portrait.

Some insight I gleaned was wrapped up in a story…  Richards approached some potential subjects on a porch in the rural South and when they declined his offer to photograph them, he returned the next day and just sat out on the porch.  And returned the next day… until finally (after a humorous initiation) he became ingrained and was able to gain their trust and permission.  The man of the house said that he would leave his door unlocked and Richards could enter whenever he liked without even knocking (save only for when the man was in the bedroom with his wife.  He claimed he’d shoot Richards down right there if he walked in on that.)

For Richards, his display of intent gained him the access.

Photo from  the APerture book 'Cocaine True, Cocaine Blue'

Photo from the Aperture book ‘Cocaine True, Cocaine Blue’

Eugene RIchards_signed