Richard Kern: Cell Dynamics


Once feared for its potential to dehumanize communication, the cell phone is now a commodity as essential as bread. It serves as an escape route for awkward social encounters; a source of self-importance; and, most importantly, the means of our connectivity. Cell phones are all but implanted in our arms.

But that’s just stating the obvious, which is also apparent to photographer and filmmaker Richard Kern, whose new monograph, 10:41, demonstrates how the cell phone penetrates the most quotidian of settings. His logic is straightforward: “I just wanted to make a book that had cell phones in every shot since they are pretty much in everyone’s hands most of the time.”

The art book is a brief 52 pages of photographs, each incorporating a cell phone, often stealthily, but always assuredly present. Shot in one day, 10:41 archives four models in suburban Connecticut getting dressed, smoking weed, and leading traditional American adolescent lives, cell phone in hand at all times and at all costs.

10:41 steps outside of the transgressive quality of Kern’s past work—it’s not a book of naked women. Kern merely captures a moment—two minutes to be exact (the time on the cover is 10:41, and 10:43 on the back)—with his cell phone. In this moment, however, Kern accesses a truth about our relationship to our cell phones. It is neither sad nor is it a foreboding of an “inevitable” robot-reigning future; rather through his usual impassive and objective stance, Kern sheds light on how accustomed we’ve grown to the ongoing and panicky dialogue we have with our phones. “At the time, I found it funny how much everyone, myself included, has a personal relationship with their phone.  It’s still pretty funny to me. Nothing has changed.  I think everyone is aware of this.”

Created in collaboration with Japanese hair salon and pseudo publishing house Salon Shizen, 10:41 is available at Salon Shizen and Opening Ceremony. Come March, Kern is set to release Shot By Kern, his first Taschen book in four years, chronicling his experience doing a video series for Vice called “Shot By Kern,” in which the magazine films his shoots and interviews his models. The monograph is to be accompanied by an hour and 20 minutes of footage and a New York exhibition some time in the next year.