Slit: We thought for Slit’s Gang Girl issue, that it’s a must to profile you with your longstanding filmography on girl gangs. From looking at your surf gang and gang
girl’s films, and your pseudo kin photography exhibitions – a running theme through your work is the idea of non-biological family or crew. What is it about crews or gangs that takes you?
Katrina del Mar: The real happy family for so many people is just a myth. I know only a handful of happy well adjusted people from happy caring biological families. -A lot of my friends because they’re queer or freaks have gone on to form their own families, where they feel accepted and even celebrated for who they are.-Also, as an artist, my aesthetic is the opposite of minimalist. I love clusters and groups of beautiful things, not just one hot girl; seven!
S: The female characters in Gang Girls 2000, and Surf Gang have a certain toughness, you feel like they’ve been around the block, cracked a few heads and have scarred hearts, where did you find your inspiration for these films?
K: These girls are my friends, they’re not actors. I’m observing what they do, how they relate to one another and to me, and I listen to the stories they tell.-I add my own feelings of rage, grief, tenderness, cockiness, and a sense of fun.-I ask them to turn it up by about 30% to make it all more entertaining and lay a story down around it like a wreath of roses.-They take it and run.
S: Where do you find your girl gang talent?
The Brooklyn Brakenecks from the forthcoming Hell on Wheels, Gang Girls Forever
K: Well like I said, most of my actors are friends and friends of friends. It depends on who is available on the day we shoot!-But one time, we picked up a couple of girls in the gas station.-They were blonde girls fuelling up a white jaguar convertible.-I said “hey, you wanna be in a movie?”
S: Your work on both girl gangs and surf gang have such beautiful framing, every shot is almost a photograph. You shot Gang Girls 2000 on super 8 and then dubbed down to video to edit – have you been seduced by the ease of digital video? Or do you still prefer to shoot in film?
K: Thank you so much.-I come from being a photographer so I have that sense of framing my shot in my blood.-If it’s not spectacular and pleasing compositionally,-I won’t shoot it.-I’ll get bored within seconds, and put the camera down. Try something else. Of course, on the other hand, I really do think of myself as being like Ed Wood – (the Johnny Depp version) – “fabulous!” just happy with everything. As for video versus film, I hate the look of video, I do like the texture of film, it’s nicer and I love my little local underground film lab, the reek of chemistry and all, but now because I found a camera which, to me, looks like film, I’m happy with the video too.-I like to mix both together. I haven’t shot a full story on Super 8mm since Gang Girls, because now I have this film like video camera which I really love.
Kembra Pfahler as Sugarlips, leader of the Ponies Gang. Gang Girls 2000
S: Surf Girls had an ace punk rock sound score! I believe your lover Sarah Greenwood (of vocals GSX punk NY band) wrote some of this. What was that process like? Did Sarah have a free hand to go wild! Or did you have an exact sound in mind?
K: Sarah contributed songs to the soundtrack from the GSX album and she also wrote original music for the film. I just set her loose within a framework;-you know, “I need music for when they’re jonesing for waves.” And she comes back with something amazing.-“This is a moment of mystery, a magical rebirth from the sea.”
“This is violent and sexy.” Boom. There’s the music. She’s a fucking genius.
S: Having a girlfriend in a punk rock band, have you been seduced into making the band a video clip as yet?
K: Yeah of course.-I drive my car, listen to her CD and dream up music videos. One of them is so huge and elaborate, it’s going to be a two day shoot. The one that we already did we shot it in 2 hours in an empty room.-A girl, a guitar and a half stack. Loads of headbanging. It’s called “Too Far,” I shot it on Super 8mm, so it’s got that nasty beautiful black and white grain.
S: Your work covers both still images and film – are you drawn to one medium more than the other?
K: I like still images because they are that. Still.-I tend to keep, despite this mad rush of busy life in New York City, quietly within me a secret desire for alchemy, to discover the essence of the moment and hold it up for examination and contemplation. See! But what happens is, if the picture is rich enough, one begins to wonder what the story is. That’s what began to happen with my pictures.-I saw the potential for a story.-And I always liked to make picture books. Movies were naturally a progression from that.-I’ve been making movies for a few years now, and lately I’m returning to the still image. My hope is that the two media will inform and feed one another.
S: “It appears Ms. Del Mar is the lesbian stepchild of Kenneth Anger.” – Aaron Krach, LGNY Film. I love this review how did you feel when you got this
one, do you like the inference you are carrying on the line of great queer erotic movies? Were Kenneth Anger films an inspiration for you?
K: You know I always knew who he was by reading about his work, but I had never seen any of it, I was just mesmerized by the titles! Finally I went to a screening of “Lucifer Rising” and I was all “oh! I totally see it!”- There’s this obsessive looking thing going on, this fetishization of the ordinary accoutrements of sexy people.- To me,
it’s total pervert stuff. The way you stare at a beautiful mouth, and then the zipper, the boots, back to the mouth.-It’s so sexy!- I really like looking at and playing up the relationship of people to their favourite objects.
S: I saw you are in Jasmine Hirst’s – I’m a huge fan of her work – Superstar Series of photography portraits along side Chrissy Amphlett, Penny Arcade, Vali Myers and Nan Goldin. How did this come about?
K: Her work is amazing. I met Jasmine about two years ago here in NYC, she came here to do some work, and we’ve totally hit it off.-She told me she’d seen my work at a screening a few years back before we knew each other and she was really impressed. We have a huge mutual admiration society going on over here, and are talking about collaborating somehow.
S: I read you were involved in a benefit recently for the New Jersey 4 at X Party. I hadn’t heard of this case – of four young afro dykes who got 3-11 years for defending
themselves against a homophobic attack – were called a “lesbian gang” by the NY post and told by the judge you make our city unsafe for tourists. It’s such a shocking
racist, sexist and leso phobic story. What drove you to get involved in this benefit? Is there a lot of anger about their sentences?
K: I read their story and was immediately with them in my heart.-I know that story, I understand that rage!- I’ve done pushbacks on obnoxious fucking guys myself many times and felt it was just my right.-How DARE they speak to me like that.-For me, it’s a kind of elitism as a female. I have a sense of entitlement as a woman to be treated with absolute respect by males.-Is that wrong? That guy deserved the beat down he got and he’s a pussy to go prosecute those persecuted women. I hope he
gets what he deserves.
S: You seem really connected with the queer girl scene in NYC from your stills on flyers for punk girl band gigs such as- “heavy eyeliner” to film/vid installations at
clubs like X Party. What keeps you involved?
K: You sure have your finger on the throbbing pulse of downtown NYC!- I like to be a part of the party, man! My friend Dee Finley promotes X Party which is always fun and creative crazy and sort of punk rock (just like Dee), so it’s fun for me to help out with the imagery.- I love our community, I want to promote it and help it flourish add some creative visuals. Also, having a venue for a film is helpful to get me to make one. Recently I did a film for Halloween night film show where the only rule was that Lola RocknRolla had to be in it and had to die at the end, so I made this really bizarre and bloody vampire film one evening.
S: You work professionally as a studio manager at Nan Goldins studio. Wow is that really the artist Nan Goldin? I saw her retrospective in Paris years ago it
was amazing! Has her drive rubbed off on you? You seem prolific so I think so! Has she given you any good tips, pitfalls for young artists to watch for and
K: Nan Goldin is totally inspiring to me, she is always taking new pictures, always working.- She’s completely hilarious and incredibly smart.- She’s given me so much I think it’s going to take years to unfold the experience of working with her for just a year.- What’s amazing to me about her is that she really lives her work in an unfiltered way. It’s unfailingly unblinkingly almost excruciatingly real.- Her advice to me has been to get rid of all the props.-She says she likes my work a lot, so that’s very encouraging.-She even said my vampire movie was “radical” and “groundbreaking,” so that’s extremely encouraging.
S: Your new short experimental film “Punchin & Cussin” has had a few outings, will it be doing the queer film circuit?
K: Well I’ve been busy at work so I may have missed a few film fest deadlines, but I’d like to get the new short films around. I made four last year – “Punchin & Cussin”,- “A Beautiful Death”, “Do You Have a Lover” (music video for Sandra Grace) & “Too Far” (the music video for GSX / Sarah Greenwood).
S: What projects do you have in the pipeline?
K: My next big project besides making a book of my photographs (I’m trying to think of an appropriate title!) is to make a feature length lesbian vampire movie and I’m also collaborating with Genevieve Pavitt of Hooray for Goodbye on a feature film that’s a gay sci fi thriller.
S: And for the record can you tell us two of your favourite erotic film scenes? Only one can be your own?
K: My favourite erotic scene lately is from My Summer of Love;- the scene with Emily Blunt riding the horse. One from mine is the Glitter Girls pillowfight victory makeout party.
To see more of Katrina del Mar’s work, and her catalogue of books, videos, tshirts and art prints, check out