Q&A: John MacLean


Have you recently been living by any life philosophy? I like existential philosophy–which basically boils down to: what you do makes you who you are. Existentialists try to define their own meaning in life, and try to make rational decisions despite existing in an irrational universe! What will baffle future generations about our day and age? That vehicles once had drivers. Are you aware of any conspiracies? The tobacco industry has funded a covert campaign to convince people that giving up smoking is difficult. What is it that interests you about photography? The compression of a three dimensional experience into a two dimensional one. What is the worst thing about city life? People who wear flip flops on public transport in the summer. What part of the planet would you like to explore? The Ocean floor. What do you think is the most plausible of the supernatural? It’s impossible that we are alone. Pick a field of science to be an expert within. Exo-geology. What moment have you most wished you’d had a camera when you hadn’t? Travelling around America with my parents when I was a kid.

Choose a job you would be willing to do for free on the side. Chief Taste Tester at a chocolate factory. Describe the most important photo you’ve seen. Lee Miller’s ‘Portrait of Space’ Egypt 1934. It’s beautiful, intelligent and challenges the nature of photography. How often do you take other people’s advice? More often than I used to. It takes a while to realize that most of what your parents say makes perfect sense. Describe a personal hell. Stuck in traffic. Hot. Late. Hungover. Which living person do you most admire? William Klein. On what occasion do you lie? I never lie. What was the last crime you witnessed? I see fashion crimes every day. Sometimes in the mirror. What is the best way to educate yourself? I’ve found reading biographies really helpful. It’s made me realize that even the smartest, most successful people don’t really know exactly what’s going on–which is reassuring!

What is the next book you want to read? The Collected Writings of Morton Feldman. Ultimate camera? Mirrorless, medium format, digital. Disposable. Waterproof. Invisible. Most used camera? Mamiya 645, Phase One P45. What object do you want? A copy of Takashi Homma’s book Tokyo Suburbia. What object do you need? 10 years ago I’d say a watch. Now, I’d say an iPhone. How would you explain the internet to someone from the 1950’s? It’s like an encyclopedia. But with loads of pornography. Are you satisfied with your level of physical strength? My body does what I ask it to. So, yes. Describe a cheap thrill. Free upgrade on a long flight. Pick an historic moment from the last hundred years to bring a camera to. The troop evacuation of Dunkirk in 1940. Are impulses more important than consequences? I guess that’s a personal choice. I’m pragmatic so I’d say, because consequences can inhibit impulses (ie going to prison), they are more important. But it’s a balance that needs to be struck. Good question. Which talent would you most like to have? Great public speaker. Like Obama. What is your plan for the next 24 hours? Spicy Chinese food. Girlfriend plans.

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