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LAist Interview: Max S. Gerber

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Max S. Gerber has captured janitors, scientists, porn stars, Willie Nelson, Carrie Fisher, Tim Hawkinson, Jim Jarmusch and many more. He's a photographer who does editorial portraiture, and his website features engaging editorializing of its own. His photos have appeared in Time, Newsweek, the UK's Sunday Telegraph Review, the LA Weekly, LA Magazine, LA Citybeat and more. Later this year, his photo series My Heart vs. the Real World will be published as a book.

Age and occupation:
32 - Professional Photographer.

How long have you lived in LA, and where?
Most of my life — I was born in LA — though I was 3 months premature and supposed to be born later in New York. My parents were bicoastal, so I grew up in LA and New York City. Mostly in New York for elementary school, than LA for mid/high school and college. I moved back to New York for a year and a half after college and instantly hated being there. Couldn't wait to get back.

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I grew up near Westwood, then lived for several years in Culver City, then for five years in Echo Park and now I've been in Pasadena for about the last two years. So far, of all the places I've lived, this is the best one. I absolutely love Pasadena.

You do a lot of portraits. How much time do you spend with your subjects?
It can be as little as fifteen minutes, or as long as a couple hours. Ideally i have around 45 minutes to 1.5 hours with someone. Most magazines like variety in their selections, so I usually have to do two or three different setups. That becomes difficult in some situations with impatient subjects.

I got one and a half minutes with Dennis Kucinich when he was running for president. It was in the middle of a peace rally and it was so loud that even from six feet away he couldn't hear a word I was saying. I doubt he even has any recollection of doing the picture.

The publicist can often be my great enemy. The goal of publicists seems to have changed significantly in the last several years, probably as the celebrity culture has changed. Publicists used to want to help you get a great result, as they knew that that would reflect well on their clients. Nowadays it just seems like the publicist's only goal is to remove any shred of inconvenience from the client. That usually involves picking highly restrictive locations, and cutting the session off after 5 to 10 minutes.

Still, there are a handful of good publicists out there who really work hard with the photographer to make things happen. For those very few I am quite grateful, and glad to know them.

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The rest of you all are going straight to hell, though. Don't get me started on this, I can rant for hours.