Richard Kern

Richard Kern (born 1954 in North Carolina) is a New York underground filmmaker, writer and photographer. He first came to underground prominence as part of the underground cultural explosion in the East Village of New York City in the 1980s, with erotic films featuring underground rock personalities of the time such as Lydia Lunch, Kembra Pfahler, and Henry Rollins in movies like "The Right Side of My Brain" and "Fingered." Like many of the musicians around Kern, he had a deep interest in the aesthetics of extreme sex, violence, and perversion and was one of the leading lights of Nick Zedd's coined Cinema of Transgression.

Kern's first dabbling in the arts was a series of self-produced underground magazines featuring art, poetry, photography, and fiction by Kern and several friends. Kern's first zine was the bi-monthly "The Heroin Addict," which was later renamed to "The Valium Addict." The hand-stapled photocopied magazines (a.k.a. zines) featured writing and images that expressed the bleakness of New York City's East Village in the early 1980's. About 12 issues of these two zines were produced, along with the occasional special issue. This phase of Kern's career lasted from late 1979 to around 1983.

In 1985, Kern directed a video for the Sonic Youth song, "Death Valley 69", which led to more music video work, including videos for King Missile ("Detachable Penis") and Marilyn Manson ("Lunchbox").

Kern can also be credited with discovering Lung Leg, the star of his film You Killed Me First and the cover model for Sonic Youth's EVOL album (a still shot from the film). Along with other Cinema of Transgression filmmakers he is a subject of Jack Sargeant's book Deathtripping.

In the 1990s, Kern, whose father was a North Carolina newspaper photographer and editor, turned almost exclusively to still photography of glamour, bondage and fetish models in books such as "New York Girls," still reflecting his unique sensibility. He has pornographic spreads for Hustler and Hustler's Leg Show magazines, and is currently having his work showcased on a pornographic subscription site called NewNudeCity - The World of Richard Kern.

The UK band The Manhattan Love Suicides take their name from one of Kern's short films.


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