Holla, CHAD MOORE! The big apple’s sweetheart
New York City draws in the hearts and eyes of many on the international stage. It's cultures and subcultures are bursting at the seams. One of the city’s residents, photographer Chad Moore, epitomises the artistic energy New York and its inhabitants are so often romanticised for. Moore’s silver-platter offerings of grit, coincidental joy and the Big Apple lifestyle are among the many brownstone-tales to Be discussed with him.
Annabel Blue: Hey Chad. What’ve you been working on lately?
Chad Moore: I work on a lot of different stuff at once. Last year was a wash creatively, but it was kind of nice to get a lot of other stuff done during the pandemic. Because everything was closed here and there was no sense of urgency, I did a lot of archiving. I still made a lot of pictures, and I’m working on a few new books now. One is about my friend Tilda, who has featured in my pictures for at least ten years now. And then I’m doing a book with this Japanese company called Super Labo.
Sarah Buckley: How was it taking photos during the pandemic? Because obviously you guys were locked down or … was it a bit more fluid?
CM: Well my friendship group is pretty close, so we’d hang out together outside or whatever. And then one of my good friends, Sasha, was living with me for about half the time. She’s in a bunch of my pictures. People would still do stuff, hang out, but all the restaurants and bars were closed for a good six months.
AB: Can you tell us a bit more about the books you’re making at the moment?
CM: The last book I did was with Agnes B. She’s a big art collector and she has a few galleries. I did a few shows with her, and we produced a really nice hardcover book. We worked with a New York publisher called Pacific, which was cool because they do all this fancy, fine-art, nerd academic publishing, so working with them kind of legitimises my stuff. Books are also fun to make because they’re like a currency, and it’s nice to get them out to people that are in the picture. I’ve also just started on a new book with Super Labo, who’re also quite cool in the book world. I’m really excited.
SB: Is there a theme to it?
CM: I want to do a night sky book some time soon, but I still don’t have enough material for it because I can’t really do those pictures in New York.
AB: One thing we wanted to ask you …We noticed that in a couple of the images you sent through you managed to capture really intimate moments with couples.
SB: Yeah, we were trying to hypothesise how you go about getting into a room with two people that are about to fuck.
CM: And what did you come up with?
AB + SB: [Laughs]
SB: Well, we thought maybe it was a fly-on-the-wall situation. Or maybe you were all high or really drunk and fell into it. Or maybe you had a formal or informal conversation with some friends where you were like, “Hey, do you mind if I stick around and take some photos while you fuck?”
CM: Hmm. Well, it’s kind of all of the above. Years ago my friends and I used to party a lot more than I do now, and stuff like that would just kind of happen – people are drunk, as you said. Eventually, I got to the point where I couldn’t just wait around for things like that to happen … Do you guys know what Craigslist is?
AB + SB: Yeah.
CM: Well, probably six or seven years ago, this French magazine called Les Inrockuptibles – kind of like The New York Times Magazine – were doing a sex issue or something and they were like, “We want new, original pictures.” I could have asked friends, but there weren’t enough people that were down to have sex in front of me. So I went on Craigslist and posted an ad, and you’d be surprised at how many people get back to you about wanting to be photographed while having sex.
CM: Yeah, so a few people … I just went over to their house and took pictures of them. It’s weird because it was always the girl that was super into it. It was always her idea. They also asked me things like, “Do you want to get naked too?” And I politely said, “No thanks.” It’s not really sexy to me, you know? It’s not sexual. And I don’t think it comes off as that when you look at the pictures. It’s also really strange, because people can go on forever.
SB: So when is your cue to leave?
CM: You don’t have to take that many pictures to be like, “Oh, this one will be nice.” And then I’m just like, “Okay guys, I’m out of here.”
SB: Yeah. “Enjoy, have fun.”
CM: There were only two or three instances where I commissioned it. But I like that you two have sat around talking about it first thing in the morning.
SB: Yeah, it was like 9 o’clock in the morning and we were just sitting around looking at these photos speculating over a coffee …
AB + SB: [Laughs]
AB: Obviously a lot of your images are shot in New York, and I wanted to ask you about the creative landscape and how it might’ve changed over the past few years, since you’ve been shooting.
CM: Everyone says New York is dead, but I feel like that’s an old-man way of thinking about things. I’ve lived in New York for almost thirteen years so there are things that have come and gone that were obviously really cool, but when people reminisce and say, “It’s not like it used to be,” I’m like, “It’s not what it was in the ‘70s either.” Yes, everything is more expensive and a lot more gentrifi ed, but it’s still New York, and I love it. I live in Chinatown and it’s kind of the last great economy in New York City. Everything is a normal price, an apple is fi fteen cents, but now there’s a lot of white people. I mean, I’m one of them, but there’s juice bars now and stuff like that. But it’s still New York.
SB: We were also thinking about you growing up in Florida – were you taking photos there?
CM: I used to ride BMX and taking photos is kind of ingrained in that culture, like skateboarding. My mum lives there, but she likes to come visit up here so I very rarely go back.
AB: I guess it’s interesting because the colours in your work are somewhat Floridian.
CM: You think so? I hope you don’t mean Miami. Because that’s bad.
AB: [Laughs] Uh oh.
CM: It’s funny that you say that though, because I had a few friends that left New York and moved to Miami and now they want to move back here, but they’re stuck there for the next nine months and they’re like, “This fucking sucks.” Miami is cool to go for a weekend and party, but why would you rent an apartment there for a year?!
AB + SB: [Laughs]
SB: What do you shoot on? I’m trying to imagine the commercial aspect of shooting film. It’d probably be difficult.
CM: Well, seven or eight years ago, if you suggested to a brand that you wanted to shoot on fi lm, they’d probably ask what the fuck you’re talking about. But now it’s just part of the process. I don’t have an allegiance to fi lm – I just haven’t found a digital camera that I like. When people are really into fi lm it just weirds me out.
SB + AB: [Laughs]
CM: You know #staybrokeshootfilm… It makes no sense, because fi lm is expensive and you have to wait to get it developed. It’s impractical, but it’s still fun to get back ten rolls of fi lm, kind of like a Christmas present. But back to your question, nowadays clients will be like, “Can you shoot fi lm for this?” But they don’t really know the difference. It all depends on the brand. And I do shoot digital. Even in my personal work, a lot of the night sky photos are digital.
AB: What camera are you using at the moment?
CM: I have a few. I usually just use the Yashica T4s when I’m out at night or something. And also a Canon 1B. It just looks like a digital camera, but it’s a fi lm camera.
SB: So when you’re shooting your friends, you’re just walking around with a T4.
CM: Yeah, pretty much. It depends on the scenario. Sometimes I’ll have someone come over and we’ll set the shot up – for instance, the picture of Alana crying.
SB: The photos of Sasha on that rooftop, is it your rooftop? Or did you just stumble across it?
CM: So right before lockdown, they built this scaffolding around my building. But no one ever came to check on it so it’s still here. I’m on the second fl oor, and it’s like a wrap-around balcony.
SB: That reminds me of that Fran Lebowitz and Martin Scorsese series, and Fran talking about scaffolding for half an hour and how much she hates it [Laughs].
CM: [Laughs] I know. It’s so good, it’s fucked up. Also on my corner in New York there are these Chinese buses that will take you to Atlanta, Georgia, even to Florida, and tickets are like $40. So you can imagine the type of people that take these thirty-six-hour bus drives from Florida to New York. All sketchy motherfuckers. So the scaffolding kind of gives them this shelter – there’s always people passing out there. It’s fine, it’s New York, you know.
AB + SB: [Laughs]
CM: My front door is actually two doors. You walk through one and there’s a little hallway, like a security door. But every now and then there’ll be a guy who’s buzzed in and made it into the in-between section just passed out, covered in blood or something.
SB: Wow, that seems distant, something that would not commonly happen here. People being super eccentric or out of the ordinary doesn’t really happen in the public eye here. I suppose we’re working with a smaller population.
CM: That’s why you guys go crazy when you get to New York City.
AB: Ah, that’s such a bad stereotype.
SB: But unfortunately, it’s so true. We’re always quite loud and annoying.
CM: So fucking loud.
AB: Ha. Americans though …
SB: [Laughs] Americans here …
CM: Hopefully you guys can come and visit soon, it’d be fun to hang out in real life.
SB: It’s certainly the first one on the list. We’ll aim to ruin your life. [Laughs]
CM: Look forward to it.
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