TIM BLANKS: Do you think you were looking for yourself in those photos? There was a strand in your work for a long time of very ambiguous, beautiful people with long black hair.
Steven Meisel: I think I’m in every picture that I take, regardless of whether it’s a super-commercial something; it’s all me. So am I looking for myself in those kinds of photographs? It’s not intentional; it’s just a sensitivity. Thinking of the Sean pictures: Am I looking for me in them? No, I am them.
TB: Does that mean that everyone in your photos is an alter ego in a way?
SM: Um, not in every one, but yes, to a certain extent, sure.
TB: Thinking of your photos of Linda [Evangelista], for example, there’s a real symbiosis in those images.
SM: Yeah, that’s me, absolutely. That’s a part of who I am. But I have to be honest—I don’t know what I do. I learn more about what I do from other people asking me questions or commenting. It’s nothing I think about; I just do it.
TB: But are there moments when you stop to think, “God, I did that one well”?
TB: You mean it’s always on to the next thing?
SM: Yes. Emotionally, it’s very difficult for me to look at old work. That’s why it was so hard to do the Phillips thing. I either look at what I could have done better, or I start crying. I’m ridiculously sensitive, that’s just who I am, so it’s really tough for me to look at old pictures.
TB: Even when you’re looking at those pictures which I think of as a conspiracy between you and Linda? You don’t feel a thrill?
SM: I always get sad.
TB: You mean melancholy at the transience of everything?
SM: I’m not going to get into the whole meaning of life—of which there isn’t one anyway—but yes.
TB: What thrills me is your ability to re-create atmospheres, to evoke times and places and artists that meant so much to me. I’m assuming they meant a lot to you too.
SM: It’s a part of who I am, of who you are. It’s our experiences and our eyes and our hearts, of growing up when we did.