Lawrence Donald Clark (born January 19, 1943) is an American film director, photographer, writer and film producer who is best known for his controversial teen film Kids
(1995) and his photography book Tulsa
(1971). His work focuses primarily on youth who casually engage in illegal drug use, underage sex, and violence, and who are part of a specific subculture, such as surfing, punk rock, or skateboarding.
Larry Clark was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma. He learned photography at an early age. His mother was an itinerant baby photographer, and he was enlisted in the family business from the age of 13. His father was a traveling sales manager for the Reader Service Bureau, selling books and magazines door-to-door, and was rarely home. In 1959, Clark began injecting amphetamines with his friends. He attended the Layton School of Art in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where he studied under Walter Sheffer and Gerhard Bakker.
In 1964, he moved to New York City to freelance, but was drafted within two months into the United States Army. From 1964 to 1965, he served in the Vietnam War in a unit that supplied ammunition to units fighting in the north. His experiences there led him to publish the 1971 book Tulsa
, a photo documentary illustrating his young friends' drug use in black and white.
Routinely carrying a camera, from 1963 to 1971 Clark produced pictures of his drug-shooting coterie that have been described by critics as "exposing the reality of American suburban life at the fringe and ... shattering long-held mythical conventions that drugs and violence were an experience solely indicative of the urban landscape."
His follow-up was Teenage Lust
(1983), an "autobiography" of his teen past through the images of others. It included his family photos, more teenage drug use, graphic pictures of teenage sexual activity, and young male hustlers in Times Square, New York City. Clark constructed a photographic essay titled The Perfect Childhood
that examined the effect of media in youth culture. His photographs are part of public collections at several art museums including the Whitney Museum of Art
, Museum of Photographic Arts
, and the Museum of Fine Arts
In 1993, Clark directed Chris Isaak's music video Solitary Man
. This experience developed into an interest in film direction. After publishing other photographic collections, Clark met Harmony Korine in New York City and asked Korine to write the screenplay for his first feature film Kids, which was released to controversy and mixed critical reception in 1995. Clark continued directing, filming a handful of additional independent feature films in the several years after this. In 2001, Clark shot three features Bully
, Ken Park
, and Teenage Caveman
over a span of nine months. As of 2017, they are his last films to feature professional actors.
is a more sexually and violently graphic film than Kids, including a scene of auto-erotic asphyxiation and ejaculation by an emotionally rattled high-school boy (portrayed by James Ransone, then in his early 20s). As of 2015, it has not been widely released or distributed in the United States. In 2002, Clark spent several hours in a police cell after punching and trying to strangle Hamish McAlpine, the head of Metro Tartan, the UK distributor for Clark's film Ken Park
. According to McAlpine, who was left with a broken nose, the incident arose from an argument about Israel and the Middle East, and he claims that he did not provoke Clark.
In a 2016 interview, Clark discussed his lifelong struggle with drug abuse, although stating he maintained total sobriety while filmmaking. He confessed that the only exception made to his practice of abstinence while filming was Marfa Girl
. Clark explained that while filming that movie he used opiates for pain due to double knee replacement surgery.
In 2015, Clark collaborated alongside notable skateboard and clothing brand, Supreme
, to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Kids
with a collection of decks, T-shirts, and sweatshirts that feature stills from the iconic film. The collection was released on May 21, 2015 in Supreme's New York, Los Angeles, and London locations and on May 23 in their Japan location.
Larry Clark, born in Tulsa, worked in his family's commercial photographic portrait business before studying photography with Walter Sheffer at the Layton School of Art in Milwaukee, Wisconsin from 1961 to 1963. He served in the military during the Vietnam War and has been a freelance photographer based in New York since 1966. During the 1960s, Clark documented the culture of drug use and illicit activity of his friends in Tulsa, and his photographs from those years were published as Tulsa
(1971). Considered shocking for its graphic portrayal of the intimate details of its subjects' risky lives, the book launched Clark's career. After Tulsa
, he produced Teenage Lust
(1983), a series of photographs depicting adolescent sexuality, Larry Clark
(1992), and The Perfect Childhood
(1993). His work has been included in group and solo exhibitions since the early 1970s, and he was the recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts Photographers' Fellowship in 1973 and a Creative Arts Public Service photographers' grant in 1980. Clark has also produced films; Kids
(1994), based on his experiences with New York City teenagers and their culture of drugs, alcohol, and sex, and Another Day in Paradise
Larry Clark's photographs in Tulsa are unflinching portrayals of difficult and often unsightly circumstances viewed through a participant's eyes. Their first-hand intensity recollects the work of Danny Lyon
and Bruce Davidson
, but Clark's raw voyeurism and insistent exposure of detail results in a somberness that differentiates his work from that of others in the early 1970s. His recent photography addresses similar subjects, but with the distance of an observer, and a more prominent formal sensibility.
Source: International Center of Photography