INFLUENCES: Monty Kaplan

Monty Kaplan is a self taught photographer from Buenos Aires, Argentina. Working on commercial projects around the world as well as exhibiting with Open Doors for some years, Monty’s work is packed with emotion. Often enigmatic and dark there is an air of mystery surrounding the visual world he creates through his images. Below Monty shares some of his influences and offers an exciting opportunity to discover more about Monty and his work.

Words by Monty Kaplan…

I’ve been taking Alec Soth’s course from Magnum Learn (which i recommend to every photographer, both old and young, established or not!). There’s a fun assignment involved, to write down your influences.

So Alec Soth is one of my favourite living photographers. I’ve been in love with his work for such a long time, and when i look at his photos, or think about them, there’s always one word that comes to mind: Sincerity. It’s not like i think he’s the only sincere photographer out there, and that everyone else is full of shit. But there’s a very raw honesty that surrounds all of his photos that i think is unparalleled.

The thing about being honest, is that it’s hard. Like, really hard. Honesty can be inconvenient, awkward, and even downright embarrassing. But it is also the thing that, in my personal opinion, makes art, be art. About being truly vulnerable to the world, to show yourself as you are.

This is all to say that, my initial list of five influences was very different, and as soon as i finished writing it, I quickly realized that it was bullshit, or to be a bit less harsh, just insincere. I threw it away, because my head was thinking about me today, About everything i’ve consumed up until now and what were there strongest and best things out of that whole. But the point of the assignment, at least to me, was to really dig deep and think, what made my core? What were the things that really changed how i view life, and art…

Taxi Driver

I saw Taxi Driver for the first time at age 12, in an old movie theater in Buenos Aires on a real shitty copy. And i was sort of baffled by it at first. I didn’t initially liked it or got it at all. But it stayed with me, it had such a powerful lasting effect on my head.

The thing that made it so influential for me was something beyond it’s mere quality, that i couldn’t put into words for a long time until i realised years later, Synergy.

For me, more than any other film before or since, it embodies the feeling of a visceral experience. A result that can only come from a group of artists, all working together on such a specific goal. Setting out to do the film they wanted to make, putting their blood and sweat to it. For me, Taxi Driver is an alive thing. it’s palpable, you can feel it, smell it, taste it.

Still today i watch it and it gets under my skin.
It was also very influential in an aesthetic sense. What was interesting to me was how dirty, dingy, so rough around the ages it was, but it was still considered art (more about that later).

In a sense it gave me the freedom to think things needn’t be pristine to be considered important work.

El Hombre Duplicado

When I read Jose Saramago’s brilliant novel for the first time, it was a revelatory experience. It was the first time I read a book that was such a genre bending mashup. It plays almost like a thriller comedy, it’s both funny and suspenseful, it has some vague sci fi notions to it, but above all, there’s this strong philosophical bent that slowly rears it’s strange face in, that I had never experience before. The questions it evoked about identity were so completely new and mind-blowing to me that it left me dazzled.

It made me aware of how ambiguity could be such a strong tool in art. It paved the way in my head to question what my own realty meant, what it is to be. How the world is not a set thing, not this impenetrable force that exists as is and we just experience it. Far from it, it made me think how my own subjective experience of it could be so absolutely different from someone else’s.

Ren & Stimpy

“To thine own self be true”… And yes, as ridiculous, and embarrassing as it may be, Ren & Stimpy was a landmark for my brain.

As a kid from the 90’s, cartoons (and really just TV in general) played a big part of my childhood. I watched a LOT of shows, at all hours of the day and night, But R&S was something else. It was chaos, mayhem. It was violent and dark, and so absolutely bizarre. What was so influential to me had to do with again, a sense of energy i got from it. There was this kinetic power. It was so uncompromising and disturbing, so bent on taking reality on a spin, that i went completely nuts for it. Changed my way of thinking what could be funny, what could be acceptable as being funny. It shattered old perceptions of both storytelling and tone.

Bob Dylan

Another tough one to admit, but very real. As the years went by, I started to dislike Dylan’s figure more and more, up to the point when i first saw him live and all of the magic and admiration i felt from him went out the window. Today i barely listen to his music and i think he’s sort of an asshole. And yet, he’s towering figure still looms over me.

Beyond his music (although his first album is still one of my favorites) what influenced me most about Dylan was his artistic persona. He’s way of being in a constant state of change, reshaping himself. Of doing a 180º after 180º in style and subject matter. Of always finding new ways of creating a voice that was both completely fresh and yet very much informed from what had come before it. His unfiltered, fearless way of metamorphosis was a game-changer for my perception of what an artist could do with his career.

Bruce Davidson’s Subway scenes

All of us photographers share that moment when we saw something that served as a gateway drug into the medium. Something that changed your perception of what photography could be.

Davidson’s photos of the NY subways were not the first i’d ever seen, but they were the first i saw in an exhibition format.

At the time, when for me, the only thing hanging from a museum wall was a painting, to suddenly be in front of walls filled with these raw photos, changed everything.

Just like Taxi Driver before it, here was a body of work that was so extremely dirty, relentless, dark and strange, and yet being treated like a true piece of art.

Some of the photos from this series are still carved right into my brain, and is work I revisit always, when i want to remind myself how uncompromising photography can really be.

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