Focus: Darren Ankenman

Focus: Darren Ankenman

We get to know Los Angeles-based photographer, Darren Ankenman.

Occupation: Photographer

Where are you? What are your immediate surroundings?

Los Angeles.  Bedroom. I have been laying around reading Lucky Bruce a memoir by Bruce Jay Friedman, a great funny writer.

What have you been doing/working on recently?

I did an A.P.C. fashion story that turned out great... Enjoying some free time as well. Working my way through a 10 hour movie by Jacques Rivette called OUT 1. It's a commitment getting through it.

Please describe a typical day? 

I do try to busy myself with work. Of course there's a lot of organisational work that I should be doing on any given day. However rather than file my negatives, I like to drive around and explore Los Angeles with my camera. I also try to watch films. This sounds boring. I do try to shoot as often as I can. And I tend to work towards a trip out of town. I like to be out of town for a month or two at a time. I just went to Paris for two weeks in February.

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Even at this point in your career I’m sure there are people you would love to work with that you haven’t already.. Any idea as to who those people might be?

 I'd love to shoot so many different people. That is hard to answer. To name a few: Léa Seydoux, Lola Créton, Louis Garrel...  They are simply cool French actors. One of my favorite models is Jamie Bochert. She would be amazing to interesting. I suppose it's just nice to find inspiration. I think it would be cool to shoot Johnny Depp in an every day manner. I got a call to shoot Oliver Stone last week, but it fell away… that was disappointing. I'd love to shoot with Richard Ashcroft.

I’m always intrigued about whether formal education actually helps creative people in their pursuits.. Do think studying photography helps on a photographer's journey or do think you most would have shot in a similar or the same way regardless of formal education?

That's hard to say for me. I went to film school and focused on both directing and editing. Upon graduation I started shooting music videos and documentaries. Within that realm, I shifted my focus and started taking photos. So, I didn't really have any formal training in photography. These days however, I spend a lot of time in the darkroom… And there's a guy there that knows everything and he teaches me a lot. I get into these great rhythms printing black & white fiber prints.

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Does music influence your work? What are you listening to at the moment?

It used to influence me more. I really like Kurt Vile, War On Drugs, Wooden Shijps... More recently I discovered how great Hurray For The Riff Raff are. They are an amazing band from New Orleans. Also, I just love listening to FIP which is a Paris-based radio station. The female voices on this radio station are so seductive, and the music is great as well.

Three favourite spots on the web to browse?  

eBay. Paris Review. Photo Eye.

I love photo books and collecting obscure publications.. Do you have any favourites that stand out in your collection?

That's my problem. Too many books. Too easy to buy things on eBay or Abebooks. I've got some great Luigi Ghirri books, Saul Leiter... Claude  Nori is amazing. I have a lot of really cool '60s and '70s nude books, Sam Haskins, Sawatari Hajime, William Klein, Eggleston, Robert Frank, Richard Prince... It's a real problem. Way too many photo books and they are still piling up. There is a guy in France with a great website called and he has a great selection of weird, obscure nude photo books and one-of-a-kind Swedish stuff. I suppose erotica is his specialty - I pour over the photo book section of his site.

I loved your shoot with Vee Laroche, I have seen her in so many shoots all over the internet, she photographs beautifully! You turned that series into a photo book.. Was that self initiated or did someone approach you to do it? Is turning your work into print products something you would like to do more often?

Vee is so cool. She's a very smart woman from New Orleans. There is a great group of creative designers in the UK called The English Group. They are headed up by Marc Carter. They designed the Vee book and published it. They love her as well, and they've always had quite nice things to say about my photos. Their blog is really cool. Here's a LINK, and yes, I am looking forward to another publication!

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What is something new you have noticed or learned recently? 

The films of Ulrich Seidl are incredible.

What do you enjoy most about your hometown? Just in general and the specific things you enjoy doing..  

Los Angeles is so big. I suppose I like finding new pockets and neighbourhoods that I've not seen before.

You have shot a lot of beautiful women throughout your career.. Is there one shoot that stands out for you for any reason? One that worked better than any expectations you might have had?

I don't know. The feelings are mixed. Do I even want to continue shooting women? I feel I am at a crossroads. However, I just shot a girl in Idyllwild and I just love the results. She has real personality. But, going back a couple years, I think when I first saw the images I shot with a girl named Andrea Margaret, I liked them enough to self publish a book. Certainly not every photo shoot yields the material for a book. So for me that was a pretty great shoot.

And same question for your music work.. Is there any one shoot that stands out for you?

Yeah. I loved working with the Black Crowes. I spent so much time with them. I also really liked working with T.I. That package (for his album Paper Trail) turned out amazing. It was a small booklet of my photos.

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What did you want be when you were 16 - did you think you would be where you are now?  

I wanted to go to UCLA film school and make movies like Blade Runner and The Shining. That never happened and I don't think I thought I would be a photographer. I suppose present day I am still loving Sean Young in Blade Runner and, well anything with Shelley Duvall.

3 of your friends we should check out? Alexzandria is one of my favorite people to shoot, but I've only recently worked with her, she's really great. She's an artist and you'll see that on her tumblr. She's a photographer in Los Angeles, she's helped me quite a bit recently as well! I shot with India once. I was watching a great film by Olivier Assayas called Something In the Air, and India is in this movie. So I reached out and suggested shooting. She's an artist, and I look forward to her future film work as an actress. Sylvia Elizabeth is an amazing artist and model living in NYC.

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