me I met this scammer in the pre-Grindr era, circa 2004, likely in a crowded bar in Los Angeles that no longer exists. The likely scenario is that I took him to where I was staying, at my friend Billy’s house. This is where the photo was taken. I’m sure Billy was out of town.
When the scammer got there, I realized he had this ankle bracelet to track him down. He was under house arrest, I believe, for breaking into and entering the house. I don’t think he was supposed to come and see me. Obviously, it was a violation of his parole, but that didn’t seem to bother him.
I already have another picture of this guy: my friend Terence Koh He filled the hallway vault with white cocaine-like powder and this same crook stripped naked and started making snow angels in him. So I took a picture. There’s something with scammers that they don’t want to be recognized in photos until you learn certain tricks: I’ve photographed one with a T-shirt over his head, another with his back to the camera.
With this image, I love the way the foot is framed on the Louis Vuitton chest. It’s an oxymoron. You think: “What could this be? What’s the backstory?” Dirty toenails are also interesting. The bruise on the foot adds another question. I also love the colours: the different browns of the leather, the trunk and the hard floors. It’s a strangely warm picture, though it’s tough stuff.
The history of the foldable phone on the back box dates back to a certain era. I remember, in the late ’90s, we all started carrying around these little Yashica T4 cameras. I was at a party and four people suddenly pull up Yashica and take a picture. Whether someone is drunk, undressed, or snorting cocaine from someone’s penis, it will be documented on four different cameras.
This was all before smartphones. A smartphone is not like a camera. It’s a flat screen, there’s no viewfinder, and it flips up, which is probably one of the most outrageous technological developments ever, because it ushered in the self-portrait. Essentially, reverse the entire history of photography, because the camera is pointing at you now. I think the aesthetics really suffered from the smartphone. There is not much attention to framing and composition. The pictures in my new book are all from the pre-smartphone era and definitely have a different quality to them.
In the ’90s I made Hustler White, about street hustlers on Santa Monica Boulevard and the end of that scene. I’ve also done many porn shoots for New York magazines in the late 90’s and early 2000’s: I’ve shot for Honcho, Playguy, Inches, and Black Inches. I’ve always been stuck in this weird underworld between art and porn – where my work is too artistic for porn people and too porn for art. But I think the distinction is really moot.
I’m labeled an agitator and I think that’s very appropriate. I mean, it’s better than being called old-fashioned Terrible brat, which I also get. But I came out of the punk scene, so being provocative was part of the strategy. With my films, I’ve been known to have horrific scenes and go through a phase where I’m constantly trying to outdo myself. Sometimes I think I’ve gone too far – like, what am I doing? But the idea of shocking people for their complacency is a radical proposition, as well as just plain fun.
For this particular photo, well, maybe if You are Bring home a man with an ankle mark to remember him better – but this was during my party days and it was just business as usual for me at the time. In a way, that’s the point of all the pictures in my new book: They’re ephemeral. If it weren’t for the photographic evidence, I’d never know some of it happened.
Biography of Bruce LaBrosse
Boy: Southampton, Canada, 1964.
trainee: Master of Fine Arts from York University, Toronto.
Effects: “Jerry LewisAnd the Agnes VardaAnd the Mary Tyler MooreAnd the Ulric MeinhofAnd the Pier Paolo Pasolini. “
High point:Mine Retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City in 2015. “
low point: “I broke my leg in Berlin.”
Top tip: “Be unique, be individualistic, be Freudian, be free.”