Daniel Arnold on His First Solo Show and Slam Dunks

Photos by Daniel Arnold

Daniel Arnold is a brilliant photographer, but you probably already knew that.

If you’ve been keeping up with the work of the Brooklyn-based lensman, you’ll know Arnold’s ability to fire off perfectly timed shots is second to none, whether he’s catching celebrities at their most unguarded at the Met Gala, or capturing unique moments on the gritty and eternally amusing streets of New York. In a world where Photoshop and influencers seem to filter most of what we see, his work is a refreshing reminder that the world that exists beyond our screens is way more entertaining than anything on our Instagram feeds. Arnold is having his first-ever solo exhibition, 1:21, at Larrie in New York on Sunday, October 13th, so I caught up with him to chat about hedgehogs at BBQs and other serious photography things.

Is there a particular feeling or idea that ties all of the photos from 1:21 together?

I had a pretty heady year. Lots of distracting brain chemistry. I had the presence of mind to take my new brain out into the world for pictures as often as possible—I wanted lots of proof—but I spent so much of that time lost in thought that I had to set an alarm to remind myself to be on Earth every day. To take a break from the future and the past and bother to see how lucky I was to get to be an explorer of this insane world. It peaked this summer. 2019 mania, anxiety, vision, past, future, and present. That’s where these pictures come from. Late May to early October 2019, an intense period of brain pounding. 1:21 alarm clock.

What’s one of your favourite photographs in the exhibition and why?

There’s a photo of Tori Spelling. I waited an hour for it. But I don’t have any favourites. They all have some degree of unanticipated power. That surprise is my favourite part.

I loved the video edits you were making a little while ago from each month’s footage. Will you have more of these in the exhibition, or do you have something else up your sleeve?

I haven’t started it yet, but I do plan to include that type of video in the exhibition.

Have you always paid close attention to your surroundings, or did this become a conscious decision when you started shooting?

I’ve always been curious, always been an observer, practical joker, decoder and recoder, a collector. My eighth-grade math teacher told my mom in conferences, ‘Daniel would be content to pull up a chair and watch the river go by.’ Incomplete but not incorrect. Certainly not the demerit that he intended. Going around with a camera is a natural fit for all those proclivities, and lets me move through the world in an ideal way. Makes me better at life.

Your photos at the Met Gala are always a highlight. What’s the best thing you saw this year but didn’t manage to get a shot of?  

Hmmm… So tempted to lie. I wish I had a photo of my hand returning Regina King’s phone, in the middle of using it to take a picture for her, because Regina Hall was calling.

What’s a shot you messed up recently but it ended up being one of your favourites anyway?

I shot some Pride Parade kids doing a Dirty Dancing lift in the fountain at Washington Square Park in June. Water found its way to the lens and to my flash contacts and everything went haywire. I thought for sure it was a lost opportunity, but the big mess of it all turned out real nice.

You said in an interview a little while back that it took you about ten years to find the nerve to go out and shoot. What else will you get the nerve to do in ten years’ time?  

French kiss, slam dunk a basketball, pop a wheelie, call home.

What’s the best thing you saw this week?

The stupid naked cowboy talking trash at the foot of Kehinde Wiley’s flooring Rumors Of War monument in Times Square: ‘Shoulda been me up there!’ A million kids ditching school to demand that adults leave them a world to live in. Popeye. Uncut Gems. Jason Polan’s Spider-Man cover. The cover of Foam. A hedgehog at a taco bbq. The list goes on.

Daniel Arnold’s 1:21 opens next Sunday, October 13 at Larrie at 27 Orchard Street, New York. The show runs until November 24th, so don’t miss out. 

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