Now, I Wanna Be Your Dog
Despite its dinky size, this book-cum-booklet strives to reveal something larger about two respected photographers: Antoine D’Agata and his partner in crime, Morten Andersen. Taken in New York back in the early nineties while both were students at the ICP, these black and white images offer a glimpse of the early incarnation of D’Agata before he was known as a darkly subjective and challenging artist. The book’s title, scratched in yellow, is lifted, unabashed, from the title of a song by The Stooges. One can imagine that Now, I Wanna Be Your Dog was the appropriately crazed, sensual sound track for the dérive of these would-be photographers. The title is accompanied humorously on the front cover by D’Agata’s yellowed eyes, symbolic evidence of mad participation in smoke-hazed parties and perhaps a joke known only to the protagonists.
The serious and existential D’Agata is not really in evidence here but the image of a fresh-faced man with a full head of hair is revealed as a playful and carefree young man: pulling faces, sleeping on someone’s floor or crossing the street arm in arm with a woman. Today, D’Agata has experience written all over his face; in these photographs his face is open to those experiences.
When we consider, in hindsight, the oeuvre of D’Agata, we come to understand that from the moment these photographs were taken he embarked henceforth on an extreme lifestyle, drawing understanding from his experience and developing the structure to give meaning to his life through aesthetic representation. His award-winning books and exhibitions are testament to society’s growing acceptance of difficult yet honest work dealing with the taboos of sex and drugs. D’Agata’s experience in New York was instrumental in this process, during which time he was taught by the likes of Larry Clark and Nan Goldin, who guided the young man to make personal documentations of great intimacy and distance.
Morten Andersen’s photographs are proof that collecting dust someplace in our own archives may be little gems that tell a story. And this mini narrative is certainly evidence of the two friends’ complicity and bonding, living for the moment but with an eye still on the future. ♦
All images courtesy of the artist. © Morten Andersen