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Down And Out On Venice Beach

Terry Richardson's former assistant Steven Perilloux unveils his portraits of the weird and wonderful homeless souls that haunt Venice Beach

Steven Perilloux is an LA-based photographer who has shot editorial for countless international magazines, and he is the long-term assistant, and close friend, of Terry Richardson. He has been working all summer on a book about the homeless people, drifters and general crazies who sleep on Venice Beach, California, so when he offered to premiere some of the work on Dazed Digital we were only to happy to oblige. The portraits were all taken with the one-shot-only method he applies to all of his personal work and they reveal lost souls as strange and beautiful as an acid-soaked Californian sunset.

Dazed Digital: What inspired you to start the Venice Beach series?
Steven Perilloux: I lived in Venice Beach for years, near the boardwalk, and every day I would see the most incredible people walking there. I decided to start taking their portraits because they were so interesting to look at, and I thought it would make a great series. I'd like to have between 75 to 100 for the book when it's complete.

DD: Who were the strangest characters that you came across?
Steven PerillouxThe funny thing is that there really haven't been any strange characters. All of the people I've photographed so far have been very nice, and eager to talk to me and be a part of this project. Many of them have told me that people avoid them because of the way they look.  Imagine being on a crowded beach every day in beautiful weather and nobody will talk to you!  That must feel rather strange to them.  

DD: What were the most interesting stories any of these guys told you?
Steven Perilloux: I photographed a group of friends both together and individually one day. The next week. I was walking down the boardwalk and saw one of the guys from the group I had photographed. I asked him how I could get in touch with him and his friends so that I could get a print to each of them. He told me that they had been squatting in an apartment that was vacant in Santa Monica for awhile, and the day I photographed them they had gone back to the apartment and were sleeping there when they heard a knock at the door and it was the Santa Monica police. Apparently, someone in the apartment complex had called the police. When they tried to leave through the back door, they found that it was nailed shut. The police arrested everyone and one of the girls was this guy's girlfriend and they had an arrest warrant out for her in Arizona. The police took her into custody and he said he had no way of contacting her or the other friends that were with him that day, and that he would probably never see any of them again, including his girlfriend. It was heartbreaking...

DD: What do you think of the homeless situation in LA? It seems kind of crazy that people have to sleep on the beach in one of the most affluent countries in the world?
Steven Perilloux: Yeah I agree. One small positive is that the weather is always so mild here in Southern California, so it is at least a little bit easier to be homeless here. I'm not saying that it is by any means easy to be homeless, though. I was riding the bus here one day, and talking to a homeless person sitting next to me, and he pulled a big wad of cash out of his pocket and told me he made the money in Beverly Hills that day. He said that one time in Beverly Hills a man in a convertible handed him a fifty dollar bill!

DD: You have a one-shot only policy don't you? Why is that? 
Steven Perilloux: I like the idea of taking only one picture of a subject because I think it preserves a certain spontaneous energy or 'life' in the photo.  As far as photographers taking multiple shots until they end up with a couple of good ones?  I think that maybe if everyone adopted a one-shot policy, things would be much more interesting. I'm speaking here of personal work, as I do understand that when one is shooting a fashion story for a client, multiple shots are sometimes necessary.

DD: What do you think photography captures at its best? 
Steven Perilloux: Photography for me usually captures about a hundred and twenty fifth of a second. I love the idea of pushing a button and having all of my artwork produced in that one instant.

DD: Can you tell us what cameras you shoot on? Do you always shoot film?
Steven Perilloux:I use many types of cameras, from disposable waterproof film cameras, 4x5 cameras, to the latest digital cameras. Lately, I've been using Holgas and the Pentax 67 film camera.  I always shoot on film when shooting a personal project, but will usually shoot digital cameras for commercial clients, although I have shot film for myself in between shooting digitally on a commercial job, and have had the client ask if they could use some of the film as well.