Interview with Gerard Malanga, an exclusive reprint from the archives of Manner of Man Magazine

Interview with Gerard Malanga

Image of Gerard Malanga with his favorite noble oak.Ghent, NY

provided for exclusive use and may not be reproduced without

written consent.Photo (c) Asako Kitaori. All rights reserved.


This exclusive interview with legendary Gerard Malanga was conducted by Nicola Linza and Cristoffer Neljesjö in New York during November 2012


In poetry there is so much that is exposed or presented that relates to personal feelings, experiences and emotions.  What drew you to writing?

Well, the whole nature of true poetry is connected to feelings, emotions and experiences. At heart, that's how I approach my work. I write from the self; from the heart.  It's always been an experience of hypnosis for me. Being completely immersed I lose all sense of time, so what feels like a matter of minutes turns out to be nearly an hour when I look at the clock.  There's nothing that I hide or remains hidden. My poems are totally accessible, so the reader will readily understand what's being conveyed and also experiences what I experienced when I wrote the piece. I was drawn to writing early on when I was in high school.  It was in my senior year I'd signed up for a required English class; and my home-room teacher, Miss Daisy Aldan, also taught the English class, so I was very lucky to have her. You might say my guardian angel was looking over me. Daisy was an extraordinary teacher, I wanna say super-extraordinary, and was a total inspiration to me when she opened up the world of poetry to me. I instantly felt I could write poems too and follow her inspiration and example. I knew then as a 16-year-old that this is what I wanted to become; that being a poet would be my life's work.


How would you describe the creative arts scene now compared to the 80s and the 60s?

The art scene in New York back in the 60s was a much smaller scene than it is now.  It was more intimate and easygoing. There wasn't so much of the hustle and bustle, the commercial competitiveness that you have now. Everyone pretty much knew everyone else.  The art scene was more social and creative, as I recall. I gave my first public poetry reading at Leo Castelli Gallery back in December, '64. The gallery was packed and everybody sat on the floor. We were all having so much fun!  You don't have that kind of scene happening anymore.  Poets worked with painters; painters with composers; composers with poets. There were no dividing lines. You did your work and hopefully it might get exhibited and sold along the way; but that wasn't the main concern. There was less pressure back then. You had the time to do the best work that was in you to do. That seemed to me the best of all possible worlds; and that spirit has carried over into my own work as well.


As a legendary photographer how do you approach a portrait or snapshot?

When I first started out I was more intuitive in my approach to taking pictures. By that, what I mean is I really didn't have any plan at all; and a lot of my best pictures were informed by this so-called non-approach.   would take my camera with me wherever I went; it was with me at all times. And invariably I'd run into someone on the street that I knew. People like Vito Acconci and John Ashbery and Patti Smith. So many over the years! I call these my archival shots. Simply, they captured moments it would've been impossible to duplicate at any other time because moments are moments. They come and go. As Henri Cartier-Bresson once said, you can't photograph a memory. The more formal work was taken when someone would come to my flat and that became more of an occasion, I call it. Here I'd spend more time with the person, like my shots of Iggy Pop, for instance. The thing is I still take pictures of friends and people I know. Or if it was someone I really didn't know, a friendship would ensue from the shoot.


How would you describe your personal style?

I'm not big on style. I may have a recognizable look in my work, especially in the street portraits; but "style" for me can easily diminish my spontaneity. It can become too conscious an effect. I try and stay on the edge of things while working, without giving thought to what's occurring; so when I look at a contact sheet I'm basically retracing my steps in the act of finding that moment where it all came together that one instant for me.


It is 1970, and we're meeting up at a party Luchino Visconti is having in Rome.  What are you wearing?  In addition, whom do we want to meet?

First off, it's not 1970; it's 1969. And it's not Rome; it's New York after the premiere of Visconti's movie, The Damned.  Francesco Scavullo gave this party for Luchino at his studio after the premiere. I was wearing black leather trousers with a studded garrison belt and a paisley-pattern shirt.

Luchino was wearing this large check sportsjacket; and I've always remembered it because I've seen a few photos of him wearing the exact same one. A very classy jacket.  I've always hoped someday I'd find one in a thrift store, but it hasn't happened yet!



The above interview with Gerard Malanga 2012 © Manner of Man Magazine. All rights reserved. Reproduction is strictly prohibited without written permission from the publisher.