25 in 2009: Max Snow

Born: 04/01/84 In: New York, NY Is: Photographer/Curator

Maxwell Snow is a man with stories. On a recent summer evening, the photographer and curator sat in a Lower East Side diner, calmly explaining why he visited a white supremecist rally in Kentucky, recounting his time embedded with the U.S. Army in Afghanistan and describing his hopes for the art world. "I'm interested in fringe elements," he says. "If it's difficult and it's scary and it's dangerous, it's probably worthwhile." At the time, Snow proved an eloquent raconteur. Our interview took place the week before his brother died, and while Dash Snow's overdose no doubt affected him deeply, how it will shape his younger brother's worldview remains to be seen. (When reached for comment, Snow said he was at a loss for words, and declined to speak on behalf of his family.)

Max Snow began making a name for himself in June 2008 at his now defunct New York City gallery, Moeller Snow. His solo show, called "It's Fun to Do Bad Things" -- named after Latarian Milton, a Palm Beach Gardens seven-year-old who crashed his grandmother's SUV and coined the phrase in a 2008 news interview -- comprised stark black-and-white photographs of young Klansmen, Latino gang members and Norwegian black-metal musicians. They're stately, observational photos of youth on the edge -- an intimate but somehow still distanced look at the ragged menace of underground subcultures. (Asked if he considers his brother an influence, Snow responded, "no.")

"I consider photography like a scientific study. It's more like anthropology, the study of man," he says. The compulsion to document led him to the back roads of Dawson Springs, Kentucky, where he gained access to a white-hate rally. He was traveling alone. "I came to a crazy compound with a super-high fence covered in concertina wire and a huge Confederate flag -- they ran mirrors under my car, made me pop the trunk, pop the hood, empty my pockets. They took my cameras away. They didn't know what my BlackBerry was. They'd never seen one before. They thought it was a tracking device." He convinced them to give him back his cameras with a mix of patience and aggression. "I finally said, 'Look, I'm not the fucking press. If I wanted to write a story, I'd download an AP fucking photograph of a burning cross and I wouldn't waste so much goddamn time. Give me my fucking cameras.' I thought that they'd respect that. That mode of communication is easier for them. I had to be somewhat assertive."

As for future projects, though he declined to discuss any -- "It's like talking about a tattoo before you get it. It always sounds like shit, you know?" -- Snow explained that he and his cousin, Karline Moeller, would continue showing artists at a variety of spaces around New York. (Their next opening is for artist Joseph Heidecker in conjunction with Paul Johnson at Paul Johnson Trading Company in early September.) "We figured that if we could do shows all over New York, especially in this time where everyone's going out of business, we could do shows all over the world," he says. "You have to move with the times. It's no fun to be tied in one place, chained to a desk." And if his peripatetic approach to curating seems daunting, it's no less so than his expectations for the art world, which he'd like to hold to similarly high ideals.

"If I could have one wish for the art world, there would be no more artists creating things for buyers. It would be about people creating things because they actually believed in them. It's that drive that compels you -- whether you eat or not, you still have to create. And those are the things that are honest and worthwhile looking at. Not because you want to be heralded, championed, venerated."
Jonathan Durbin

Wears: a tuxedo shirt by Brioni, tuxedo jacket by Christian Dior, boxers by Hanro, socks by Miu Miu and bowtie by Prada.

< BACK TO "25 in 2009"

Subscribe to Get More