are weird enough
The Viggo Mortensen we already know has appeared in numerous major films, including Crimson Tide, a Perfect Murder (yes those were his paintings), GI Jane, Portrait Of a Lady, Albino Alligator, and Gus Van Sant's recent remake Psycho. The Viggo Mortensen we are about to meet has been publishing poetry, as well as making and showing painting and photography, for the past few decades. And now he's about to make the move to the director's chair with an innovative self-penned film project. But here's the secret: it's all connected.
Mortensen's photography is decidedly low-tech, utterly spontaneous, and free of preconception, employing no staged lighting or posing. He literally takes pictures of what is right in front of him. But there is certainly saturation to his colors and a mystique to the content which captures the sometimes obscure significance in the ordinary moments pictured. Mortensen's stills are often as much a question as they are an answer.
It could be that working with a range of independent-thinking directors in film has somehow informed his eye - his way of looking. Spending time in front of the camera and seeing the images transformed through film may have instilled in him a sharper attention to detail and the accidental arrangements of ordinary objects. Or it could be that poetry, his other muse, has taught him to think in verses, passages, and juxtapositions. Or it could just be that he has a good camera and an interesting life. Whatever the reason, Mortensen has a gift for making his photographs strange and compelling little vignettes in the grand procession of life.
When we met at Callahan's - a small greasy spoon perfectly suited to the artist's genuine unpretentiousness - on a sunny day in Santa Monica, it is obvious that all eyes are fixed on the sandy blond actor as he strolls through the front door. The attention is not so much the result of his cinematic renown - as a chameleon character actor, Mortensen enjoys a comfortable degree of off-screen anonymity - but for his classic, almost poetic good looks. During our conversation, oblivious to the flustered waitress tripping over herself, Mortensen makes obvious his obsession with the ordinary as he breaks to explain, for example, why the green countertop reflecting fluorescent light onto the cherry-red Coke machine in the background would make the perfect picture. "I'd take it right now if I had my camera," he lamented.
Lets start by talking about the relationship between your film work
and photography. Does your work on one side of the camera affect your
work on the other?
When you do take pictures on set, it's not really documentation of
circumstances but just where you find an image?
So you don't stalk crowds at the mall for characters?
You have made the point that your involvement with technology in photography
is very limited. How much do you manipulated the images, in the darkroom
or on computer for example?
So you're not against technology...
What are your plans for directing?
I wonder if the way you dream is related to the way you take pictures?
We talked about that certain indefinable importance, even solemnity,
that many of your photographs have. Often, they seem to transcend their
How has your Hollywood career affected your art career?
Publication: Juxtapoz magazine
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