• Artist Editions: Alexander Richter X UO

    Designed exclusively for Urban Outfitters, Artist Editions is an ongoing series of limited edition graphic t-shirts created by a rotating roster of artists from around the globe. 

    The first photographer in our ongoing Artist Editions series, Alexander Richter’s photography is unmistakably New York. We took to the streets of Manhattan with the celebrated photographer and talked to him about the impact of a great photo. 
    Photos by Frankie Marin 

    Can you tell us a bit about yourself and your background prior to becoming a photographer? 
    I grew up in Maine. Listened to a lot of hip hop and reggae, tried my hand at being a DJ, did some graffiti, got into mischief. Pretty normal stuff. I came to New York in the late ‘90s for school and after a few years, bounced to Oakland, CA to take a crack at working in the film and music industry. I returned to NYC in 2003 after my mother was diagnosed with cancer and that's when I started to focus on making photographs.

    When did you get your first camera? 
    Outside of goofing around with disposable cameras as a kid, my first real camera was in 2003, when I discovered my father's Leica & Hasselblaad cameras in a storage box back at my childhood home. 

    How has your eye evolved from then until now? 
    Well, I think my vision is constantly evolving. The more you shoot, the better you get. Not to mention studying the masters of photography has helped me learn how to make better photographs. So I would say that my vision is much more refined at this point. 

    Your documentary photography provides viewers with a raw and energetic look at the city around you. How has living in New York impacted your work? 
    NYC has impacted me tremendously. I don't think you can live in this city and not be inspired by it. New York makes you bold. It makes you get out there and put yourself and your camera on the line in order to get the photos you want. I tend to work close to people and the city is the catalyst to get me out there and connect with people and create photographs.

    What makes for an impactful photo? 
    Powerful or impactful photos are ones that you feel. When you see them they just have a energy about them that comes from a moment that can't be recreated. There's a visceral reaction you get to them. It's not always about how they look but how they feel.

    Your photography is steeped in hip-hop music. You’ve shot everyone from Method Man to Clipse to Action Bronson. What did hip-hop music mean to you growing up? 
    Hip-Hop has been a constant source of inspiration in my life. I can remember my mother buying me RUN DMC's "Tougher Than Leather" on cassette at the airport in Frankfurt, Germany and just playing the tape in my Walkman over and over. Loving the music and culture. And from there, it never stopped. So it was only natural that once I started to discover my love for photography that I wanted to make photos of the people who I listened to and create timeless photographs of them the same way I had seen when I was opening up magazines & album packages.

    Are there any photographers or image makers that have inspired you throughout your career? 
    Definitely! I love all sorts of photography so there are a ton of photographers who have inspired me. The short list would have to include Robert Frank, Bruce Davidson, Eugene Richards, Danny Clinch, David Corio, Sebastio Salgado, Shawn Mortensen, Chi Modu, Janette Beckman, etc and I'm sure that I will continue to discover new photographers throughout the course of my life. I can't imagine living a life where I wasn't inspired by others.

    You’re the first photographer to be a part of our Artist Editions tee series. How did you go about picking which photos to include? 
    First off, it's an honor to be a part of the UO Artist Editions. The photos selected are both part of documentary work that I've been shooting over the last couple of years. The photo of "Oro y Diamantes" represents a taste of the jewelry storefronts that exist in the city. I love the jewelry that is found throughout the five boroughs. The big Jesus piece medallions, AK47s in white gold, or platinum Air Jordans are just classic New York to me. And so I chose a storefront to bring a piece of the city to everyone who will wear the tee.

    As for the "East Coast Lincoln" lowrider photo, I chose that because I love lowriders & car culture. The owners have so much pride in their vehicles, their car clubs and that really speaks to me and the sense of pride that I take in making photographs. Not to mention, the Lincoln Town Car for a long time was considered the luxury car service vehicle in NYC so when I saw this one tricked out with hydraulics I knew I had to make a photo of it. It  deserved to be put on a shirt! This is East Coast lowrider culture.

    What makes a photo right for a t-shirt? 
    I think people who like photo t-shirts want to wear something that speaks to their personality and style. So for me when I'm choosing photographs to go on a shirt, it comes down to selecting an image that is emblematic of a greater culture and is a photo that people will identify with and want to wear to show their connection to the culture.

    What’s next for you?
    Stay low, keep firing!

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