A few days after Ari Marcopoulos moved to New York from the Netherlands, John Lennon was shot outside The Dakota on the Upper West Side. “It could have happened anywhere, but he was living in New York,” the photographer and filmmaker recalls over the phone. “It made it quite clear that anything could happened here—good and bad.”
Still, Marcopoulos stayed in New York for 18 years, initially working for Andy Warhol and Irving Penn. He soon began capturing era-defining moments in New York’s burgeoning skate and hip-hop scenes, and was hired by magazines to shoot musicians of the moment. One of Marcopolous’ first commissioned portraits was of Suicide’s Alan Vega. Throughout the early ’90s, he went on to collaborate with the Beastie Boys and shoot the likes of KRS-One and A Tribe Called Quest for Interview. “I always feel very awkward about having to take somebody’s portrait,” explains Marcopoulos. “It’s a weird thing. All of a sudden you’re holding the camera and there’s the other person and you’re expecting something from them, but I never know what it is that I expect. I don’t really come in with any concept ahead of time or ask people to do anything special.”
Around the same time, the son of a former model and pilot also began making films in the city, starting with his 1990 documentary about a teenaged drummer named Larry Wright. “It showed on POV, the American Documentary show on PBS,” he says. “I made films when I was a teenager. They’re all lost now, but I was just reminded of it. A girlfriend of my sister had some photographs and they were stills from this film that I had done. I had a Super8 camera and was doing these weird little horror films.”
After a 12-year period spent living in Northern California, Marcopoulos is a New Yorker once more and today, he is launching his new limited-edition photography book Epiphany at the new New York institution that is Dover Street Market (the launch is part of DSMNY’s Art Week Open House). Made in collaboration with Gucci and published by IDEA books, Epiphany showcases Alessandro Michele’s Pre-Fall 2016 men’s and women’s collections for the Italian label.
“Alessandro had seen some of my work, and decided to approach me about it. We had a short conversation about it and just went ahead,” says Marcopoulos of the collaboration. “I think Directory was the one book [of mine] he saw and particularly loved,” he continues. “It’s a 12,000-page book that is the same shape and also printed by the company that does the telephone books, but it has photographs instead…that book in particular got them to come to me, even though the photographs don’t really look like the ones in that book.”
Though Marcopoulos has collaborated with fashion houses before—from streetwear brands such as Supreme to high fashion houses like Saint Laurent—he is careful with the projects he chooses. “I try to pick the projects that feel like there is room for some collaboration and input,” he says. “I wouldn’t say I do it often because if it was often, you’d probably see more of it.”
ARI MARCOPOULOS WILL BE SIGNING COPIES OF EPIPHANY TONIGHT, MAY 5, AT DOVER STREET MARKET IN NEW YORK. FOR MORE INFORMATION, VISIT THE DSMNY WEBSITE.