Larry Clark holds a seminal position in the history and practice of photography in America. Widely known for his treatment of teenage sexuality, violence and drug use, Clark’s contentious photographs and films are simultaneously unimaginable and unforgettable.
The trajectory of Clark’s career and often-controversial representations of American youth culture have their roots in his own marginalized origins. Growing up in Tulsa, Oklahoma in the 1950s, the son of a travelling baby photographer, Clark helped his mother with her sales pitches and assisting her in her work. Used to having his camera by his side, the young photographer discovered that his friends were willing subjects for what were to become pivotal explorations into a new, freer American society, a generation which rejected the taboos and constrictions of the one that had gone before. His mantra was that anything can be photographed and this candid engagement with his milieu has seen him pursue important social issues pertaining to the construction of masculinity in American culture, the exploitation of teenagers by the mass media and the destructiveness of dysfunctional family relationships.
Larry Clark’s remarkable influence on the style and subject matter of subsequent generations of photographers and filmmakers has been extensively acknowledged. His mythologizing of the criminal margins reflects an age-old fascination within American culture. This defining myth and Clark’s particular preoccupation with mass media’s exploitation of adolescents, has influenced the work of photographers such as Richard Prince and Nan Goldin.