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Madonna Interview : Aperture

Vince: There’s no point of doing that again, obviously, but…

Madonna: I never want to repeat myself. I like the idea of doing something political and provocative, but I don’t know what it would be. That’s one of those things that you can’t plan, you just have to let it happen.

Vince: I suspect that if you meet another photographer who inspires you in the way that he did…

Madonna: Or maybe I’ll do it with film; maybe it won’t be photography.

Vince: In a sense, you did it with Truth or Dare.

Madonna: This is true, and I like that confusion of is it real or is it not real? Is it life imitating art or is it art imitating life? Is it something that we planned that we filmed, or is it something that we captured? Because I’m telling you, the line starts to get very blurred.

Vince: Even when you’re in the middle of it.

Madonna: Totally. And that’s beautiful, too.

Vince: Let’s talk about Cindy Sherman. I know that you sponsored her show of “Film stills” at the Museum of Modern Art. What is it that appeals to you about her work?

Madonna - Aperture Magazine / Summer 1999

Madonna: Just her chameleon-like persona – her transformation. What she’s able to evoke – the subtlety of her work, the detail. I just think her stuff is amazing.

Vince: Do you own work of hers?

Madonna: No, can you believe that? I’ve always admired her work, but the images that were available to be bought I wasn’t that crazy about. But I really respect and admire her.

Vince: What exactly was your involvement in the Modern show? Did you actually put up the money to buy that whole group of “film stills”?

Madonna: Yeah, I was a patroness. (She laughs at her own pretension.)

Vince: I like the idea; I think it’s important.

Madonna: It’s the best place to put your money, honestly. I know it’s good to get involved in lots of charities, but I think its really, really important to do things that inspire people in other ways. Because people need to have their consciousness raised in many ways, and sometimes it’s too easy to just give your money to something that you don’t have any connection to. It’s much more gratifying for me to be able to give money to tangible things, like to help keep a theater open, to a school, to supporting an artist in getting a show together.

Vince: How did the Cindy Sherman arrangement come about?

Madonna: My art dealer (Darlene Lutz), she has relationships with a lot of people at the Museum of Modern Art. They come to me a lot and ask if I want to get involved with different shows. The only shows I’ve been involved in in terms of financing have been the Tina Modotti show and the Cindy Sherman show – that’s it. You know, we chicks have to stick together.

Vince: And you want to do something that –

Madonna: That I love – that I love totally.

Vince: To go back to photographers that you’ve worked with, I wanted to ask about Herb Ritts. It seemed to me that you had an interesting, symbiotic relationship with photographers, both as a muse and as a great subject. And these people helped to create your image in a lasting way.

Madonna: Yes, aboslutely. And Herb Ritts was really a big part of that, especially in the beginning of my career.

Vince: What did he bring to the relationship that made those pictures so effective?

Madonna: An innocence. Herb is one of those people who doesn’t even seem like he’s a photographer. It feels like he discovered it by accident in a way, and he has a real naivete about him. He doesn’t really plan things; he kind of stumbles across things. He’s got a real aw-gee-shucks vibe on him. He’s a really innocent, geeky-nerdy type of a person, and I became friends with him. I asked him to photograph my wedding, and things went from there. Because I always have to be friends with them first, and they become part of my inner circle, and once I’m really comfortable with them, that’s then things start to be created. And Herb was very much part of my social circle. And Herb – Steven doesn’t do this much, but Mario does it – they always have a little camera in their pocket. I mean, Herb and Mario must have a billion photographs of me in their archives – just of parties, hanging out at my house, coming to visit me on the sets of movies – that I’m sure will resurface someday, when I’ve been reincarnated as a camera lens. But there’s a certain comfortability factor that came with Herb. And I’d never really been conscious or aware of photographers before, and, believe me, I’d been photographed a lot before that, but I wasn’t really present, I didn’t care. And, in fact, all the nude photographs that surfaced of me from my early days of modeling for art classes and photography schools and stuff, I didn’t want to be there that I removed myself from the whole process. I wasn’t relating to the photographer, I wasn’t relating to the camera, and it wasn’t a relationship. I wasn’t there – I was gone. It must be like what a prostitute does when they’re with a john. I was not present. So, to me, the whole Herb Ritts thing was the first time that I realized that symbiosis, that exchange of energy and the creation of magic that happens from that exchange. A good photographer creates an environment for you to shine – for you to express yourself in whatever statement it is you want to make. And you do have to feel comfortable with people. I remember Robert Mapplethorpe kept asking to photograph me back in the day, but he scared the shit out of me.

Vince: Why?

Madonna: I don’t know why, he just did.