Les Krims – Photo Surrealism
Les Krims is a conundrum. First, he is not your typical gallery hopping NYC artist with a big studio in SoHo. Second, doing this article is difficult when you’re trying to show someone’s best work, and still maintain a “safe for work” site. Nudity abounds in his work. Not the Playboy kind of nudity,…but an almost grotesque, surrealistic kind of nudity. Certainly not the kind you’d sneak into the bathroom, or hide from Mom. (although Mom may find you a bit “off” if she did discover it under your bed)
Please take into account when you see his site,…many of the images were done way before photoshop or digital cameras were even a twinkle in anyone’s eye! Making them all the more impressive.
Les Krims was born in Brooklyn, New York. Krims studied at New York’s Stuyvesant High School. Richard Ben-Veniste (“Benti,” as he was called in home-room at Stuyvesant), famous for prosecuting Richard Nixon, and A.D. Coleman, the former photography critic for The New York Times, were two of Krims’ Stuyvesant classmates. Krims studied art at The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art, and Pratt Institute.
For the last 42 years he has taught photography, first at the Rochester Institute of Technology, and for the last 40 years at Buffalo State College, where he is a professor in the Department of Fine Arts. ) Krims claims new digital printing technology and capitalism make it possible to “own the means of production, rendering moot wall-to-wall delusional Marxist posturing in the culture community.” Yes, anti-gallery to the umpteenth degree.
Les Krims has published numerous offset works. Two of these were self published by Humpy Press, which he founded and incorporated in the mid-1970s. Krims has also published original print portfolios. Most recently a Photo Poche monograph, “Les Krims,” was published by Actes Sud, in France.
In The Little People of America (1971), Krims received permission to photograph people belonging to a national organization founded by the actor Billy Barty, called “The Little People of America.” Many of the pictures were made at national conventions of the L.P.A, in Oakland, CA, and Atlanta, GA. Krims sought to show that the people he photographed were brave, normal people, having more in common with the Mid-West than the Upper-West-Side.
Krims took pictures of deer hunters who had voluntarily stopped at “deer check stations” so that NYS conservationists could examine the general health of the deer. Pictured posing with their kills, Krims suggested the hunters had much in common with performance art. He also attempted to underscore the American nature and long tradition of deer hunting as one aspect of a criticism of animal rights and anti-Vietnam War activists.
In The Incredible Case Of The Stack O’Wheat Murders, Krims both parodies forensic photography, and points to it as a remarkable archive of incredible and moving images. In each “Wheats” crime scene, a Stack O’Wheats (pancakes) is placed near each “victim” (he used friends and family to pose for the pictures). Each stack is topped with pats of butter and syrup, the number of pancakes in the stack signifying the number of the crime. Hershey’s chocolate syrup was used to simulate blood in the photos, which was formed into words and celestial shapes. Krims originally included 8 ounces of Hershey’s syrup in a heat sealed plastic bag with the original print portfolio, as well as “enough pancake mix to make one complete Stack O’ Wheats”.
In Making Chicken Soup (1972), Krims published pictures of his mother preparing her traditional chicken soup recipe, while nude. These pictures were published as a small book, some say giving rise years later to the popular Chicken Soup series.
In Fictocryptokrimsographs, published in 1975, Krims used a Polaroid SX-70 camera to make a series of 40, titled pictures. The SX-70 was chosen, because of the ability to literally move and work the not yet dry, viscous, film emulsion much like paint after the picture developed. Included are various odd and humorous pictures, which are often puns or parodies of fashion trends.
Krims has also steadily been adding pictures to a project spanning three decades. He is finally recognized enough to exhibit in the U.S. and internationally. In 2004, he had a two-month exhibition at Laurence Miller Gallery in NYC titled “Fictions 1969-1974”. He has been part of a dozen other group exhibitions of photography in the years 2000-2007, with others planned.
Most underrated art photographer in America? Probably. My advice to anyone reading this; buy a Les Krims print on his website NOW! You will thank me later on your future trip to the ‘Antiques Road Show’. Find Polaroid SX-70