Design
Where form meets function

Although Supreme’s latest brand connotations come alongside one of the most recognizable names in all of fashion, Louis Vuitton, the brand will forever be entwined with collaborators who are much more unknown to the general public. In turn, their SS17 pieces once again reflect strong influences from not only their in-house design team, but also bodies of work from people that they admire.

Photographer, Jim Krantz, is but the latest artist to penetrate the Suprme universe – joining other notable artists in the past like manga artist Toshio Maeda and Italian architect and designer Alessandro Mendini.

Krantz may be a household name for some, and a total mystery for others. We caught up with the photographer to put the Supreme collaboration in proper context.

Ansel Adams’s tutelage

Ansel Adams

Like many other shutterbugs, Jim Krantz found photography at a very young age. While most engage in trial-and-error and perhaps seek out classes to nurture the hobby, Krantz left his Nebraska home at 18 and headed for Carmel, California to get instruction from legendary capturer of the American West, Ansel Adams.

“Yosemite Valley, to me, is always a sunrise, a glitter of green and golden wonder in a vast edifice of stone and space,” Adams wrote of his subject matter in the past. “I know of no sculpture, painting or music that exceeds the compelling spiritual command of the soaring shape of granite cliff and dome, of patina of light on rock and forest, and of the thunder and whispering of the falling, flowing waters. At first the colossal aspect may dominate; then we perceive and respond to the delicate and persuasive complex of nature.”

Not surprisingly, Adams’s motifs, subject matter and lessons rubbed off on Krantz.

“[Adams] used to say, ‘Technical proficiency leads to artistic freedom,’” Krantz remembered, adding, “To achieve what you want, 99 percent of your focus needs to be on the subject while one percent is on operating your camera. As soon as you invert those numbers, you’re blind. You need to be able to operate the camera with the lights off.”

In addition to Ansel Adams, Krantz would also study under other would-be masters like Paul Caponigro, George Tice and Lucien Clergue.

Pre-visualization vs. post-visualization

Jim Krantz

Whether it’s shooting an idyllic sunset on Highway 1 near Big Sur, cowboys roaming the range, or action sports, Krantz has a specific viewpoint as it relates to his style of photography – believing that the photo should be made before you even initiate the shutter. This of course relates to our post-processing obsession from applications like Instagram.

“We live in a world of ‘post-visualization’ which means most people gather  images at random with their camera, cell phone or whatever recording device they have with very little discipline,” he says. “And then in post, they ‘post-visualize’ these images later to become something that really is an expression after the experience. I personally like working the opposite way. I like to ‘pre-visualize’ which means I have an image in my mind that I want to capture. Once I know what that image is, I produce and I photograph that. So that’s called ‘pre-visualizing’ – doing it on the front end – rather than being undisciplined and grabbing imagery all over and building something later. I think we live in a world of ‘post-visualization’ and it’s basically the opposite of what I do.”

Despite his own philosophies, Krantz is still a vocal proponent of Instagram.

“I think it’s an amazing medium, and I think it’s a very powerful medium,” he says.

Chernobyl

Jim Krantz

Although Krantz’s name will always be best remembered for his work in the American Southwest, he ventured to Ukraine in 2011 to document the fallout that still occurs 30 years later as a result of  the Chernobyl disaster.

In the forward to the subsequent book he published, Homage: Remembering Chernobyl, Krantz wrote, “I witnessed the loss of land, identity, family and structure… The overwhelming amount of emotional distress displaced into violence and self-abuse.”

On creativity

During a interview at KANEKO – a creative space in Omaha, Nebraska – Krantz expanded upon what it means to be creative.

“In a sense, creativity and curiosity are connected. I think curiosity comes first, then sometimes, creativity comes after and helps propel you through projects and finding new answers to things. But creativity is being resourceful, also. It’s using the things you have at hand, and it’s also looking at things from a different perspective.”

Reappropriation

Richard Prince

Cigarette manufacturer, Marlboro, and their popular “Marlboro Man” advertising campaign – that was created by Leo Burnett – was based on Jim Krantz’s rugged cowboy aesthetics which always had a romantic feel about them thanks to his keen eye for framing and landscapes.

Beginning in the 1980s, Richard Prince began reproducing images from a series of Krantz-shot Marlboro ads for his own Cowboys series. One such print, at the time of its sale in 2005, was the most expensive photograph ever sold at auction after fetching $1.2 million USD.

This sale came as a surprise to Krantz, who happened to see the show during a visit to New York.

“I’m not a mean person, and I’m not a vindictive person,” Krantz said at the time. “I just want some recognition, and I want some understanding.”

Krantz would further clarify his sentiments regarding Prince in a 2010 interview.

“The general consensus from over 200 emails that I’ve gotten since that article ran is very negative and people were actually pissed off as far as what he’s done and how he goes about his business,” he said. “There’s a fine line between appropriation and plagiarism. A lot of the people who write me are photographers and artists and they feel vulnerable to this because they project themselves into the situation I find myself in.”

Other fashion work

To showcase Chanel’s Pre-Fall 2014 collection that went heavy on native couture and pioneer wear – which was coined “Back in Dallas,” by Karl Lagerfeld – V Magazine enlisted Krantz to combine his sensibilities with that of the collection.

The result was a mixture of Lagerfeld’s inventive creations – cocktail dress and matching jacket embroidered with thousands of red and silver stars. Houndstooth coats with fur sleeves, blanket skirts and high-necked prairie blouses – showcased in the great Western expanse.

Krantz also proved instrumental in crafting the lookbook for Adam Kimmel’s Spring/Summer 2010 campaign and he has also worked editorially for Stuttgart-based department store, Breuniger.

“There’s many more things to come,” Krantz says. “I’m very focused on moving ahead in the fashion industry as well.”

His home gallery

The Year in Pictures

For those wanting to see Krantz’s work in person, his portfolio resides at the Danziger Gallery on Irvington Street in New York City alongside artists like Chuck Close and Andy Warhol.

Supreme

Supreme

Like so many others who earn their livings in the arts, Krantz was well aware of Supreme before he entered into the venture.

“It’s such a global and recognizable brand,” he said. “When I entered into the collaboration, they contacted me, and I was very focused on working with them and expressing my work on their products. Besides that, I had no other real agenda – except doing what I do – and collaborating with Supreme to make something fantastic and very memorable. That’s all I really ever think about; the quality of what I’m doing. The thing about everything that happens to an artist is that it’s a culmination of a lifetime of doing one thing. I create and do photographs. The longer you do these things the more people are aware of these. And all of a sudden these lines converge and cross over at one point.”

A common thread that Supreme collaborators have used to describe their interactions with the brand is how natural a fit they are together. Krantz feels no different.

“It was very organic,” he says. “And it’s very natural. There’s nothing about this that is forced or premeditated. To me, a denim jacket is a canvas for my work. It’s just another way to express my art. It’s very similar to what I’m doing with Modernica. I see these as canvases. I don’t see the [Supreme collaboration] so much as a jacket as it is an expression of my art on another surface. I think it’s very important for myself to explore the possibilities of what the photograph is [and] how it can be seen and shown. It doesn’t always have to be a two-dimensional object.”

Words by Alec Banks
Features Editor

Alec Banks is a Los Angeles-based long-form writer with over a decade of experience covering fashion, music, sports, and culture.

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