Ari Marcopoulos

Roman Grandinetti @ 0:27

  • Let’s start with a simple introduction.

Ari Marcopoulos @ 0:32

  • My name is Ari Marcopoulos, I live in Brooklyn, New York. I was born in Amsterdam, The Netherlands. I am a filmmaker and photographer and that’s it.

RG @ 0:48

  • I’ve become a fan of yours from your zines- your self-published stuff. Can you speak on what goes into creating a personal zine and why? How did that come about?

Ari @ 1:00

  • Yeah, the first zines that I saw were by Raymond Pettibon and Mark Gonzales, and also a lot of different skateboarder and punk zines. I was always interested in them because they contained information that you couldn’t find elsewhere. So after a while it seemed to make sense to start making my own zines. They might find their way into the hands of a people that do not read the mainstream stuff. So you kind of have total freedom in what you want to put out there.

    Then of course the factor that it’s quite cheap- a lot of people can afford to get them or you can even give them away. You know, this is not like you're printing an offset book. And also the speed of it , you have an idea that morning and in the afternoon you can have it done.

RG @ 2:05

  • How does that differ from producing something that’s 1,200 pages?


Ari @ 2:10

  • Ahhh, (laughs) well, there was actually a 1,200 page book and I scanned all the photographs myself. So that already took, I don’t know, a lot of days to just do the scanning. And it also spans an extended period of time, because I wouldn’t be able to take pictures for a week and then put out a 1,200 page book. It’s not many years, but I think it’s one or two years of photographs that are in that book. But I made that as I went. I would just choose images.

    I was making xerox copies of the photographs that I liked, and there ended up being a big stack. That’s how I got the idea ,I should bind this stack and make a book out of it. And then I was lucky enough to have Nieves & Rizzoli come together and be willing to put it out in the shape of a telephone book.


RG @ 3:20

  • You write very particularly on how you produce stuff. How does that come into play and how do you edit your photos and time? You’ve created a very original identity for yourself, the dates on something, the xeroxing on stuff, how does that stuff... How does it all happen?



Ari @ 3:46

  • The xerox just happened. Because it’s a good way to enlarge your pictures to see them before putting them out somewhere, before I knew how to work with design tools. It was a way to layout something, even back in the day before I really had a computer and scanner. If I needed to layout something or think of something, I would make black & white copies and use those to make layouts or think about a sequence for the book. And then when scanners came out, the xerox was always on the side. So I wanted to bring that back forward. I love the way the xeroxes look and it also helped me get away from the perfect color printing- I was spending days on perfect color printing, which I can still do... I still shoot a lot in color. But it was a more direct and raw translation of the work that was in my head.

RG @ 5:03

  • How do you discover or research? You were a part of the Beastie Boys, you’ve been involved with so many iconic people over the years, yet still had your finger on potentially what’s next- like Rat King. (laughs) How do they come to you, how do you discover them?

Ari @ 5:35

  • I guess it has a little to do with having an open mind and being curious, and actually being in New York too and having access to people like that. The Beastie Boys were just friends of friends. It wasn’t like I thought ‘oh my god they're going to be big.’ I think they were big already when I met them. It wasn’t really about that, and they had a particular style of how they were portrayed. And I think after Paul's Boutique they wanted to have a more documentary feel to the photographs. I’d just done my first book, I think that was 1987 or 88. So Mike D liked that book and he showed it to Adam and Adam and they suggested maybe I come to LA and hang out for a bit. Then I went on tour for a few legs and just took pictures as I was hanging out, there was no plan, there was no goal. And it’s also about a shared goal even though the pictures are sort of intimate, but they don’t deal with them in their life, they really deal with them as a band- what it’s like to be a few guys working together in the studio with a producer.
    The same with the snowboarding. When I was working with the snowboarders it was not about their family life, it was about their ‘families’ meaning the other snowboarders, or skaters. And Rat King, I met through the son of a friend of mine, who’s about the same age as my son. I did some photoshoot with them and there was this young kid named Patrick and they said ‘oh, he’s a good rapper’, and i filmed him rapping acapella. He’s wearing a white shirt, I don’t if he’s going to get mad if it’s not true- (laughs) but maybe he went to a private school or something, I don’t know. They just stayed in touch and they knew the black & white Beastie Boys videos, so they basically asked me if I could do a video for them... Then I did, and again, and again, and again.

RG @ 8:23

  • How do you keep your identity and style in the mix of music and fashion? Right now I think it’s kind of hard- and our generation kind of tries to walk this fine line where they amend their identity to fit the world, like we change our identities depending on where we're going to fit the circumstances. But you stayed very true to yourself in all of your forms- whether it was film, photo, book- it all stays very true to your identity. I think that’s very hard to do, and it’s also very inspiring for our generation as well... Especially since we get so much information at once, meaning maybe things aren’t necessarily as appreciated for the time as they should be.

Ari @ 9:16

  • I think as I got older I cared more about my own vision than other people's visions. I enjoy looking at other photographers and artists and films of course, but I mean as far what I produce I realized that.. I needed to just do what it took to make myself satisfied and to maintain my own way of doing things. It takes some sort of confidence in what you're doing and you just want to be yourself. It's about how you act or how you are as a person and that is to say your work- your work is who you are and that's how you want to be out there in the world. So it's kind of like getting dressed in the morning and deciding what to wear.

    It's the same and I feel that I don't much like fashion, I think it's kind of blown up. I do maybe 4 or 5 fashion shoots a year and the rest of the time I do my own stuff. Not to hate on fashion stuff- I don’t, I always shoot it plain and simple so it doesn’t really look like artwork at all in a way. It does but it doesn’t. I think it's a necessity if you want to be free in the making your art and you also want to make money to continue what you’re doing. Sometimes you do a commercial job in order to be free of other pressures- financial pressures.

RG @ 11:25

  • You mentioned skateboarding before, and you worked with Harold (Hunter). What is your connection to skating? Was that something you were interested in when you were in Amsterdam before you came to New York, or was it a world you got into here?

Ari @ 11:36

  • Well the first time I saw skateboarding was when I was pretty young. I was living with my parents in Brazil for six months because my dad was a pilot and he was stationed there. I saw these kids on these thick wooden boards with clay wheels. I was fascinated by them, so I bought one and brought it back home to Holland- but there it’s all cobblestones so it's totally impossible to ride a skateboard with clay wheels.

    So I kind of had forgotten about skateboarding, until one day I rode my bicycle by the Brooklyn Banks and I saw a scene of kids of all different cultures, backgrounds, races and ages. They were just under the bridge there skating. So I asked one of my friends, I think it was maybe Dave Aron- he’s a painter- and he skated, like ‘what’s the deal I want to go check it out’. So he introduced me to Jeff Pang and Jeff took me down there but then I would just go back there on my own. I did mostly portraits so that’s what surprised the skateboarders, they were like why is he taking our picture- we’re doing nothing you know, it's all about photographing the tricks.
    But then you know once I got to know them, I helped out in that department too and I started working with Metropolitan Wheels. I met Gonz during that time and I still know Mark, he prefers to be called Mark. He is a very interesting guy. I mean I like him a lot, he’s a good guy. I don’t have any Mark stories, there’s enough them of them already out in the world.

RG @ 13:39

  • You have a passion for basketball as well, is that something that started in the streets or is it something else?

Ari @ 13:45

  • With Basketball? (RG, “yeah.”) Well I used to play basketball in high school, and I loved basketball. I would read about all it, they used to have this soft cover pocket book back in the day to describe the whole season, and have like little photo sections in the middle like a biography and they would describe the whole playoff series- I would read all those.

    I don't remember my first shoes, I just had white. They weren’t Vans, but i played basketball in white tennis sneakers- there were no Chuck Taylors in Holland- then when I came to New York when I was 15 or 16, I bought green Chuck Taylors because of Nate Archibald- ‘Tiny’ Archibald, he was the leading scorer in the NBA at one point so I mimicked him, didn't do anything for my scoring but I had green Chuck Taylors which were like a status symbol back then, in Holland at least.

    Then I stayed connected to basketball, watching the Knicks, and then for a while during the Iraq war I was not supportive anymore. I felt the United States press and entire media system was distracting people by totally being into sports, and talking about this playoff and that game, and that game, and that game- and forgetting that the country was fighting a war overseas. So I stopped following it, but then I got back into it… They almost did win an NBA championship. The Spurs might do it!

RG @ 15:44

  • The Spurs definitely might win it, right now the Knicks with Carmelo- do you have a relationship with Carmelo as well?

Ari @ 15:52

  • I don't know Carmelo, but I've met him.

RG @ 15:55

  • You met Tyson Chandler right?

Ari @ 15:57

  • Tyson! Yeah, I know Tyson Chandler. I’ve met Melo a couple of times, I mean I've met all the players on the Knicks- not the current Knicks- but you know, I was the closest with Tyson Chandler.

RG @ 16:10

  • You had a show with him, what was that like ?

Ari @ 16:12

  • Yeah I helped him curate a show.

RG @ 16:29

  • I guess the last thing... I know you talked about fashion. Not necessarily that you need to but, it hasn’t been a fulltime thing, but you’ve shot everything from YSL to Supreme. Is there approach that you take when you choose which client you want to work with, or is it just something about each of them that was distinctive enough that made you want to work with them?

Ari @ 16:52

  • Well Supreme... basically happened because I know James who runs Supreme. My brother and I used to design murals for the store. I did some t-shirts for them so I have some history with those guys too. And you know, they come back a few times a year for to shoot the stories. I just keep doing it because it's very straightforward and they like what I do. It’s a very easy good collaboration.

    The YSL thing just came back at the time Stefano Pilati was the designer. He had just gotten a tattoo,I forget the guy's name, in LA... We were talking and I just said why don’t we just do a portrait of him like a documentary.

RG @ 18:23

  • And there's no fashion in there, other than I think the guys were wearing Yves Saint Laurent shirts.

Ari @ 18:36

  • That's an interesting thing too- I met a very interesting guy, and I was told that free to do what I wanted to do.  


RG @ 21:18

  • What’s next for you? Are you going to do more films, direct? Are you trying to do publications, take some quiet time?

Ari @ 21:28

  • Well there's always more publications, and taking photos, thinking about films, but there's nothing in particular. Things always come about- I mean I'm always taking photographs- I spend most of my time thinking about my work, maybe too much. I leave other things in life a little bit neglected. There's going to be a lot. I mean it's going to come up whatever that will be.

RG @23:22

  • Interesting time coming to New York, the day after you moved here John Lennon was killed- is that true? ( Ari: “Yes” ) Welcome to New York!

Ari @ 23:43

  • Yeah.