EA: How many years did you work at the The Village Voice? Were all of these taken for Voice?

Amy Arbus: Over the course of ten years I made thousands of photographs for the Village Voice and roughly 500 were published.

EA: What was the best location to scout people; how did you go about finding them?

Amy Arbus: I spent about a week photographing each month for a page of photos. I went to several neighborhoods but the East and West Villages were the most promising places to find people who had invented their own style.

EA: Did you exhibit those photos?

Amy Arbus: I had an exhibition at The Mudd Club after working at The Voice for three years. Included in this exhibit are prints I made for that show: Ann Magnuson, Anna Sui, Moroccan pants, Katy K & John Sex, and Joey Arias. 

EA: Do you still observe people on the street as potential portraits?

Amy Arbus: I always see people on the street, at restaurants, parties or openings that I want to photograph. Lately I’ve been asking them to pose for a tintype portrait, which is a wet plate collodion process that was used during the Civil War. I think the photographs make one look like their own ancestor.

EA: Your vintage work appears to be in such contrast from your more recent series, “After Images,” an homage to classic painting masters such as Picasso, Modigliani, and Cezanne. Can you explain the bridge between them, if any? 

Amy Arbus: My work has always been about style as an expression of personality, but each series is technically very different. In doing the work I find a photographic style which feels in keeping with the subject matter. 

The “On the Street” series is very raw and rough edged, but deceptively organized. The prostitutes are literally and figuratively moving, romantic, poetic, and grainy. The nudists are intended to look like snapshots that are not composed.

The babies from my book, “The “Inconvenience of Being Born,” have all the elements of the last three, but the subjects and the photographs are even more wild and out of control.

The Fourth Wall” was quite a departure. For that book, I took actors in character, in costume and make-up out of the context of their plays. The photographs are strong, deliberate and emotional.  I scouted the locations and used portable studio lighting.

My last book, “After Images,” was produced with a crew which included two lighting technicians, a painter, a make-up artist, a stylist, hand-painted backdrops and many actors, models and dancers. The photographs are surreal in that they look like paintings except for the eyes which look very real.  

The last two projects are my most photographically sophisticated work to date.

EA: Who were your most influential photography mentors or teachers? 

Amy Arbus: I studied with Larry Fink and Sylvia Plachy whose work I adore, but when I took a Master Class with Richard Avedon it changed my life. He gave me the license and the responsibility to become an artist and create something new to contribute to the medium. It is the gift that keeps on giving and the reason I am so committed to teaching.