May 9, 2011
The Superchief Speaks
Ed Zipco is our kind of role model. He spent his youth in the strange, strange land of southern Florida before scoring a scholarship to a prestigious art school in New York. Since then, he’s carved out a career photographing the weird, the wild, and the extreme. Quite frankly, we’re not sure how he does it, so we decided to ask him in a discussion that touched on his lack of short-term memory, the parties he plans on throwing, and getting inspiration from a dog on a chain.
So you’ve lived in New York for a long time, ever since you came up for school, right?
I love New York. For the most part, people don’t care what you’re up to; they have too many real things to worry about. It’s great. I feel as free as I’ve ever been in New York. Also, you just can’t be bored here. There’s a saying, “If you’re bored in New York, that’s your fault.” Maybe that’s not a saying, but I say it.
At school, I was studying writing and then I kind of fell into professional photography. I had been taking photographs since I was around 12 and always loved it. Whenever we would go out and do something stupid, I would take a picture of it. Originally I thought of myself as someone who took pictures to supplement my memory, because essentially my short-term memory is shot, and I didn’t want to forget anything. My thinking was, if I don’t have some sort of documentation about what I have been doing and my memory isn’t doing the heavy lifting… then when it’s done, it’s gone.
That leads into the next question. What has your photographic process been?
It takes the fun out of personal projects if I have to read the manual too closely or write an artist’s statement to explain what my intention is. I can only really look back to try and suss out what I was thinking at the time, because essentially that me in the past is no longer me—it’s almost self-archiving, in a way. Thinking back, I guess my intention was to take photos of things to document the first time I saw it, that thing that would so severely grab and hold my interest. Because experience is what I care about most, that is what I’m so bummed to lose. This week I’m calling it retrospectrovision.
On a professional level, I’ve been pushing myself to go more conceptual. It’s been about taking the ideas that are in my head and making them real and creating an image, but I’m only now really starting to get to play with that these past few years. I’ll keep a notebook and when I think of something that’s interesting enough of an idea, I’ll add layers and warp it or make it more fantastical or just basically push it to the point where my idea folds in upon itself and then I know I’m getting there.
Here’s an example: One time I was walking around Bed Stuy, Brooklyn, and I saw a dog chained to a fence that would charge out at me and jump, getting caught in midair and snapped back each time. I stood there for a while, letting him jump at me and I starting taking pictures of the dog’s face when it got yanked back. All I could think about was how much fun that might be, what it might feel like to be doing that myself or to have a model do that. So with a team of friends, I eventually figured out how to put a human in a similar contraption without them getting hurt. We developed a life vest that had bungee cords running through the inside of it and back to the wall. People could run eight feet out and jump, then get the full experience of stopping mid-air.
Where would they end up when they would get shot back?
Heh, they would end up flying back against the wall, HARD, because we used bungie chords instead of a chain. But we kept everyone safe, there were three mattresses secured against the wall. But yeah, obscuring how we did it became part of the point, I wanted to make the process a bit more hidden.
We showcased the first prototype at one of the Brooklyn Industries stores they had cleared out for a photo show.
So it was basically it turned into bungee fighting?
Yeah. [laughs]. Basically, I wanted it to feel like we were doing something, instead of just taking pictures of somebody standing around doing nothing. We eventually evolved that bungee set up into a bedroom scene that was flipped 90 degrees on its side with a whole bed set drilled into the wall. We also positioned additional mattresses beneath them so they could get more air for the photographs. I ended leaving the whole setup at my friends raw loft space where we did the shoot. I think it stayed up for like three months… Sorry, Nick.
How do you keep track of all of your crazy projects?
I just put everything up on Superchief, it’s my home base for everything that I’m into. I run it with a group of friends and we keep ourselves entertained, that’s for sure. Whether it’s funny blog stuff, videos we produce of underground boxing matches in Chinatown, or info about the underground dance parties and rock shows we throw in Brooklyn, it’s all on Superchief.
What’s the story behind Superchief?
Essentially, whenever me or any of my friends are interested in doing something, Superchief is the excuse to do it. We will do it as a Superchief project, or go an interview somebody or videotape something crazy for the site. We’ve been letting it organically grow into something more substantial, and it’s getting there. We’re slowly working on a print issue. Slowly.
Anything planned for this summer?
This summer is going to be crazy. We’re doing a series called Superchief Sundays at a huge outdoor space: Every Sunday we’ll be having free barbeques and all-day rock shows. It’ll be bring your own meat and there’ll be movies on the 14-foot screen in the back. It’s gonna be killer.