Between 1990 and 1992, Philip-Lorca diCorcia, funded by a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship, made multiple trips to Los Angeles to scout locations, invent scenarios, and ultimately find male prostitutes that would agree to pose for photographs. DiCorcia used his fellowship money to pay the men whatever price they charged for their most typical service, and ultimately prompted a complaint of misuse of government funds. The titles of these encounters amplify the facts: Ralph Smith, 21 years old, Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, and $25.
Hustlers represents an early example of diCorcia’s choreographed street photography. Reinvigorating the genre instigated by Eugène Atget and Henri Cartier-Bresson in the early twentieth century, and particularly popularized thanks to the latter’s notion of the “decisive moment,” diCorcia’s photographs at first glance appear to depict random moments in public settings. They rarely, however, involve chance. Knowing precisely what he wanted from each photograph and fearful of police involvement, diCorcia would first try out his idea for a composition with his assistants, and then return to the location with the hustlers he had approached, such as a motel room, a vacant lot, a fast-food restaurant, in between and inside cars. The narrative was always deliberate. From the moment diCorcia approached a potential subject (usually around Santa Monica Boulevard in Hollywood), to the completion of the shoot, seldom more than one hour had passed. The result is a series of carefully composed, yet loaded works which revolve around a tension between the subject’s unique presence in front of the camera and the artist’s predetermined idea for the shot.
In 1993, twenty-one images were exhibited at The Museum of Modern Art, New York, marking diCorcia’s first solo museum exhibition. The show, entitled Strangers, was later accompanied by a museum publication. Twenty years later, the exhibition at David Zwirner coincides with the publication of Hustlers (steidldangin). Created by Pascal Dangin in collaboration with the artist, this large-scale publication presents the series in its entirety.
Also on view, and shown for the first time in the United States, will be a room-sized installation composed of three synchronized single-channel projections entitled Best Seen, Not Heard (2012).