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larry niehues, back to the past

Thursday, September 15th, 2016 | T: lamono

Larry Niehues was born in 1988 in the south of France, but a fortunate encounter with two cowboys amid a desert in America changed his path. Now, for the last three years he has been wandering through the roads of ‘Old America’, looking for characters and corners that remain anchored in the past, making his photographs resemble as if they were shot in the seventies. A photographer who morphs into the shadow of his subjects and transports us to tiny microcosms from a forsaken time. T: Teo Camino

www.larryniehues.com

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What pushed you to pack your bags and move to Texas when you were just 22 years old? I always wanted to move to the United States. I never found my true self in France, that’s why, since the first time I traveled to Los Angeles for vacations, a timer got set on my clock, marking my time to move to America definitively. I landed in Texas because I have a good friend who lives in McAllen and works in the vintage industry. He helped me get everything sorted out for the big jump. Then I drove to Los Angeles and settled there.

When was your interest for doing portraits born? It started when was commissioned a photo shoot for a fashion company and, in my way across a desert in California, I captured a photograph of two cowboys walking along the highway. I shot it with my Nikon FE in black and white film. Just after doing that photo, I knew I wanted to explore and document America, just like Robert Frank, William Eggleston and other great photographers did, but in a different period of time.

What do you look for in each portrait? I focus on doing portraits of people in their natural environments. I love to wander around the streets and restaurants, different places, following somebody’s path until I become their shadow, that’s how I manage to capture natural and spontaneous photographs. I look for charismatic characters, people with extraordinary lifestyles, atypical from our times.

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“I love to wander around the streets and restaurants, different places, following somebody’s path until I become their shadow”

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When you are shooting, who is behind the camera? If I could describe myself I would say someone passionate, anxious, crazy, nervous, committed and focused.

Explain to us your creative process. You go out to the street and on what do you focus your attention? I’ve been living in L.A. for the past six years. I started doing photojournalism around three years ago; it was then when I decided to do a project focused on America as a whole. When I go out to the street I’m always looking for a character, a building or something that reminds me of the fifties, sixties and seventies. Sometimes I walk and others, I drive. I’m a nervous photographer. If there’s nothing interesting, I’ll start shooting stuff from my car window. My taste and style have evolved and now I’m more precise when it comes to selecting images.

Based on what do you choose to shoot some images in black and white, while others in color? It depends on my mood, the city or the landscape I’m in. Though I shoot mainly in color.

Which is the main purpose behind your photographic work? With all the time I have spent on the road, I want my images to convey what the ‘Old America’ is about, and which is still very present. Nowadays the new technologies are everywhere, they are invading us; that’s why I’m fascinated by the charm of the people who live anchored to the past. That’s another reason why I chose analog photography to do this project.

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What does Larry’s photographs tell about Larry? They describe my culture and my lifestyle. My parents, who are very passionate about traveling across the United States and all things authentic, raised me. Now I coexist with all these new technologies, mainly due to my work, nonetheless my photographs depict thoroughly who I am.

The good old days… (Laughs) Yes, I always say so. But it is also amazing being able to look to the past from our modern perspective.

Youth goes by too fast? Yes, no doubts about it!

What would you like to shoot with your camera? I love documenting everyday life on the streets and the roads. It’s on what I’m focused right now.

Do you have any up coming projects? Right now I have an exhibition in Nashville, and in September I’m doing another one in Tennessee. I’m also working on the publication of my first book.

Which is the best picture you haven’t shot yet? I would like to document further the Native Americans. Though it’s very hard to obtain the necessary permissions to shoot within their reservations, which is understandable. Nevertheless, I do hope I’ll be allowed someday!

How do you imagine your SWEET HOME? My sweet home would be like the ones of the mid-sixties. It would have a chimney, a nice garden with a pool, I’d be really happy with all of that.

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