The New York City downtown street artist LEGHEAD and photographer Richard Koek teamed up to create a small magazine featuring photographs and artwork. The FRONTRUNNER team caught up with the dutch photographer and artistic counterpart last month with the magazine hot off the press!
When and where did you first meet and how did the idea of collaborating on a magazine come about?
Richard Koek: We met over a year ago on West Broadway. While biking I saw Sidi spray painting a leg on the sidewalk. This turned out to be “Leghead” (Sidi’s street name). Sidi showed me the sculpture work of Adam (Adam Gates), and some of his own work. The hospitality I encountered made me think of my first months in NYC. I realized that street artists often collaborate in harmony. Something that I miss with photographers like me. We often dwell in their own ego-projects and never collaborate. I was thinking of a magazine for a while…
…but the idea of a collaboration with someone who does something completely different with the same urban energy and inspiration was the missing link I needed. That’s when the idea was born.
Describe a typical day for you as a street photographer? What actions, reactions, images, light, and events do you like to capture with your lens?
RK: I do not consider myself a “street photographer”. I am a photographer. With my street stuff i decided to go back to basics again. Nobody tells me what to do. I simply capture what strikes me visually. Often viewing the city in 2-D. And I give it my twist, bring it into my surreal world. The less i think and prepare the better connected I am with what i consider nice. It literally can be everything, everyone and everywhere.
Leghead, when did you begin drawing and painting? Some of your work includes material objects like mannequins, tires, metal signage, electronic keyboards, and skateboards. Are these objects you find or seek out? Where did you find your first mannequin leg?
LEGHEAD: I began drawing when i was 6 years old. I painted and drew just because I liked doing it. In junior high school i started to get art class for the first time. For three years I went to the Cooper Union Saturday program. During that time i really found out what I wanted to do. I seek the stuff out I paint on and sometimes I find unique things by chance. My idea is to paint everything in my environment and bring these objects to life. My first mannequin legs I found in front of the Prada store. They were fiber glass. That’s the lightest material to carry around. That was a lucky day.
The magazine was crowd funded online with pre-sales and custom art packages. Can you speak about this strategy?
RK: I started with KICKSTARTER but encountered the limitations of not being able to adjust my goal along the ride. Also I have fans in Europe and the payments through Amazon made it all complicated. I decided to cancel the fundraising and continue on my own website. It has been a journey and realized it is not my comfort zone. Finding sponsors takes a pit bull mentality and commitment. And sometimes you got to be a bit shameless. Which is something appreciated in the USA but kind of not done in Europe. I learned that it is important to engage people in the process. People need to like the idea they support. And they need to like you personally. I raised over $9000 for which I am very grateful.
Leghead, the street art practice is about creating your name and spreading your name. Do you have any good stories about picking a spot or “getting up”?
LH: Once on Thompson between Houston and Prince i did a 5th floor climb on an abandoned building i took the mannequin up there and i placed it for all to see with a cigarette in her mouth. People thought there was a human being smoking.
The magazine is filled with images. What is a favorite image for each of you and what is the story behind the image?
LH: The favorite picture I think is the picture at the metropolitan museum. The guys sitting there eyes closed and the eyes on the walls watching them. Thats crisp, thats original.
RK: My favorite image is The Hassidic Jew walking in front of this huge red wall. All falls into place. The line along the wall… the white start and the “(I love you)” where he is at. It combines a two dimensional space with the element of time.
Where are you comfortable and where are you inspired?
RK: Any place is inspiring. Beautiful people are everywhere and NYC can show its lovely grittyness in all her corners.
With 2013 not so far away, what are your hopes and dreams for the future? Koek, you are in the process of a Magazine 2.0? Leghead, what would you like to do with your Street Savvy crew this upcoming year?
RK: My hopes and dreams are to be able to share more of what I see. To make people fantasize more of the images I show. The new magazine edition will be great! I would like to combine images with poetry, sound and moving visuals. Giving praise to the most beautiful city in the world. Follow me on facebook: KOEK NYC
LH: Hopes and dreams for the future. MOMA and above. The MOMA because I gotta start off in New York. This year I would love to be in a museum with Street Savvy. With my buddies Nephilim Giant and Love Child. We are working on a show right now. Good things are happening.