I was recently sent to spent three days photographing the Slovenian philosopher, writer and social activist Slavoj Zizek. Slavoj , the man the New Yorker called “An academic rock star” and the chronicle of higher education called The Elvis of cultural Theory!
I was introduced and he seemed occupied with a conversation that jumped from film Theory to politics to what was happening in China and America . He was here to film The Pervert's Guide to Ideology, a follow up to his last film, The Pervert's Guide to Cinema, that uses Zizek's theoretical matrix to explore what psychoanalysis and film can tell us about our beliefs.
I waited and waited and listened to random lectures on Marx, Stalin and Freud plus thoughts on the church, child rearing, Kant , Hegel and bad art films.
The first day I tried to do a sitting down portrait but it was nothing great. I noticed how lots of people who are at ease with the movie and TV camera are frightened to death by the still camera. Most of us are the same when someone pulls out a still camera out and wants to take our image.
Each day I made a bit more progress, chats at the coffee machine helped and the fact that he engaged each person he spoke to with a rigid attention, talking with a directness and non stop. My patience paid off when he appeared with a cool t -shirt of Marx and Freud for the photo shoot.
I photographed him on the set of Taxi Driver and Full Metal Jacket and The Sound of Music. I photographed him as Stalin and as a priest but the photos that I lit with flash and added a hospital green hue and shadow, worked best. Slavoj was warm and funny and very engaging if a little hyper, so he did not sit still for long. He claimed not to care for still photos especially his early childhood ones.
He had a real interest in Irish affairs and understood the history of the Irish Media, he spoke of DeValera , Yeats, Wilde, Joyce, Beckett he said, was a true hero. From global locations to Irish studio interiors, The Pervert's Guide to Ideology will examine the prevailing ideologies at work in our world and no more engaging man to do it.
Since then I noticed Slavoj Zizek was at the centre of the recent Wall Street protests in New York.
Like Elvis, he never stops gyrating.