1xRun Thru Interview
Partner In Crime Series by Austin McManus
1xRun: Tell us how the idea for “Partner in Crime” and execution came about?
Austin McManus: I took the original photograph that inspired the Partner in Crime series under a bridge near Yosemite National Park in California.There were layers of civilian graffiti on the wall and we decided to add some of our own. My friend Lauren had never used a spray can before and took a turn. I shot a few photos while she sprayed and I didn’t look at them for another year or so. I remember vividly how wide her smile was and how ecstatic she was after doing it. When I came across the photos of her later, I noticed a certain innocence and playfulness that I have never seen with any of my photos of people tagging/painting. A lot had to do with it being her first time, along with looking like the girl-next-door. I hope the project challenges gender-based stereotypes commonly associated with vandalism, while offering an alternative perspective on the physical act of writing graffiti. That initial photo didn’t make it into the series, but it was certainly the catalyst. All the girls involved in this project were first-time vandals who did not use aliases, but in fact wrote their real names.
1xRun: How long did the series take you?
Austin McManus: Between searching for locations, castings the right subjects/models (who are all my friends) and shooting the photos, around 3 years. Finding the ideal location was the most difficult ingredient. It had to be just right and I didn’t want any of the girls to miss work or a good night sleep due to a run-in with the cops. Everything was 100% illegal.
1xRUN: What type of camera was used?
Austin McManus: All the photographs from this series were shot using a Contax camera with Tri-X black and white film.
1xRun: When did you first start making art?
Austin McManus: I started taking photographs and drawing when I was a teenager and have continued since. My mother was always very supportive of me taking photographs. She gave me my first SLR film camera, which I eventually left in a taxicab in Germany on my first trip to Europe. Sorry mom! Growing up our walls were covered in art, with plenty of strange photography books lying around to influence me.
1xRun: What artists inspired you early on? What artists inspire you now?
Austin McManus: As far as photographers, Diane Arbus, WeeGee, Danny Lyon, Marry Ellen Mark, William Wegman, Larry Clark and so on. Yah know, all the classics really. As for recently, in the last few months I have been really into the work of Trent Parke, Toshio Saeki, Dave Hughes (Off The Air), Mitch Hedberg, Mike Kelley (His show at PS1 is a must), Tomoo Gokita, Alex Lukas, Tauba Auerbach, Colossus of Roads, Spike Jonze whenever he has a new movie or video out. Who knows what it will be next month?
1xRun: Do you listen to music while you work? If so what?
Austin McManus: I prefer silence, but occasionally I will turn on NPR or a podcast.
1xRun: What was the first piece of art that you bought? Do you still have it? The last?
Austin McManus: Most likely some thrift store art that found it’s way back to the thrift store eventually. The last photograph I acquired was from a trade with that elusive character Swampy. Naked girl riding suicide.