Shopping At All Costs

Some years ago I was asked by Visa to do a picture on shopping, America’s favorite pastime. I should know. I grew up with a mother whose idea of consumption was to buy one of everything she liked in every color. Her closet looked like the original Henri Bendel store, with so many shoes, Melda Marcos would have been jealous. Sweaters, suits, blouses, skirts, all color-coordinated into a glorious pastel arrangement. If shopping gave rewards, my mother would easily have made the shopping hall of fame.

So when approached about doing a picture about shopping in California, no high-minded, envious, gluttonous consumer could find a more perfect spot than Beverly Hills, with Rodeo Drive at its pinnacle. It took all of the vested power of Visa to get permission to close Rodeo Drive for a few hours. We watered down the streets to make it feel even more rich than the merchandise inside.

It was my idea to find boxes from the stores, and exemplify a normal day of shopping for a Beverly Hills woman. When I shot this picture, I thought it was funny, but over the years there have been many women who’ve identified with this picture. It seems that this compulsion was not unique to my mother, but has infiltrated the upper crust of American society. I guess men have their cars, and women have their shoes.

Immediately after completing this shot, the store doors opened, and all the women who were patiently waiting rushed past me to spend their way into eternity.

So what’s my take on all this consumption? The truth is, I guess I’m right in there with the best of them. I produce an artifact, a photograph. I care a great deal, not necessarily about its reproduction, but rather about the artifact itself, the print. I guess this makes me a materialist. I find an original print beautiful, and I hope people will purchase them and think so too. I also love and produce other artifacts: books, houses, interiors, furniture, etc. I care about the patina and craftsmanship of things, and well-made objects give me great pleasure.

So put me down as my mother’s son, equal to her in my own way. Despite my attempt at disdain, I must admit I am one among many. I am with you all, but in my fashion.