When I was 12, I saw the movie Kids for the first time. It was one of the most important early film-watching experiences in my life – that was a movie that evoked a strong initial emotional response, but has also stuck with me in a deep way, so different from other movies I was into when I was 12 (read: Mallrats, Dazed and Confused, Robin Hood Men in Tights).
Why was it so huge? First of all, it was a movie about kids – really, 12- and 13-year olds – who acted like kids. They were stupid fucking kids doing stupid things like drinking and having sex too soon and purposefully trying to get in trouble. It was real. In fact, it was too real – it was incredibly disturbing. It was violent and erotic (this is the second point) in ways that a no one expects from a film, and it ended up with an NC-17 rating. And at age 12, of course this was part of the appeal – I was seeing a film that even high school kids – high school kids! – couldn’t see without an adult. I watched it with some friends while at a sleep over party at one of our friend’s houses – you know, the one friend you had who had older brothers and whose parents let him get away with almost everything.
The third point was that this was a moral story, a philosophical inquiry into human action, and a real exploration of what it means to live in a highly violent, highly sexualized context – and I don’t think people got that originally. They were so wrapped up in the surface elements of the sex and violence that they didn’t get the deeply disturbing questions the film asked – why are we attracted to sex and violence? why do people hurt strangers? more importantly, why do people knowingly destroy themselves and their loved ones? These are the questions that embedded themselves in my consciousness when I was 12 (of course I didn’t get it then) and rose up later in life. A retrospective introspection.
Anyway, the film was written by Harmony Korine and directed by Larry Clark. Larry Clark initially became well known for his photography, specifically for a book called Tulsa, which chronicled the lives of teenagers in late 1960’s Tulsa, Oklahoma. Specifically, drug addicted, violent, sexual kids. Clark had access to them because he was one.
That’s not Larry Clark, but it probably looks something like him. These photographs are part of my inspiration for Low Shoulders – the mixture of sex and violence, the frankness of the framing and subject matter, the casual acquaintance with guns and other weaponry, and an admitted buy-in to the photograph as a conveyance of the real. Clark has one motive: you see how it is?