Larry Clark holds a seminal position in the history and practice of photography in America. Renowned for his treatment of drug use, subcultures and teenage sexuality, his controversial representations of American youth culture are rooted in the artist’s own biography. Clark was born in Tulsa, OK in 1943. His mother earned her living as a door-to-door baby photographer and from the age of thirteen Clark was enlisted in the family business. Between 1961 and 1963 he studied at a commercial photography school, before returning to his hometown, where he began the series that would become his first book, Tulsa, published in 1971. Shot over a period of seven years, it documents the lives of Clark and his friends with a visceral honesty, illustrating their existence on the margins of society. Although primarily concerned with themes of drugs, sex and violence, Tulsa was lauded for its graphic yet sensitive representation of young Americans, inaugurating a raw, confessional photographic style that candidly engaged a lived experience and which would exert a profound influence over photographers and filmmakers including Nan Goldin, Ryan McGinley, Gus Van Sant and Martin Scorsese.
In his subsequent photographic series, such as Teenage Lust (1983) and The Perfect Childhood (1992) Clark continued to pursue important social concerns, from the construction of masculine identity in American culture, to the exploitation of teenagers by the mass media and dysfunctional family relationships. Throughout the 1990s, Clark drew on the cinematic and narrative qualities of his photographs, as he began the transition from still images to working in film. In 1995, he released his first feature film, Kids – a seminal, coming-of-age portrait of the lives of a group of New York City teens – which premiered to critical acclaim at the Sundance Film Festival. Clark’s other film projects include Another Day in Paradise (1998), Ken Park (2002), Wassup Rockers (2005), and Marfa Girl (2012), which was released independently on the artist’s website and was awarded the Golden Marcus Aurelius Prize at the 7th Rome Film Festival. His most recent feature, The Smell of Us (2014), was written and filmed in Paris, France.