At around the same time, he bought a farm in rural Pennsylvania, and began to photograph the social rituals of his neighbors, poor subsistence farmers whose land might have been passed down through many generations, but whose work was hard and pleasures few. There he found the same kinds of patterns and cockeyed symmetries as in his New York society shots, and there’s a similar ratio of joy to melancholy, so the two sets extend rather than undermine each other. There’s just too much common humanity between them, for all the obvious disparities. Yes, the rich are different; they have more money.
I met Larry when I began teaching at Bard in 1999; he had been there for 11 years then. I knew his work a bit, and had wondered about the Pennsylvania pictures especially. What was his relation to his subjects? Was he an intimate or just a voyeur? When I met him I knew immediately: He was fully engaged with the world, and never merely an eye. You can see in his rural photos how he is right there at the bar, on his stool, among his neighbors; his flash seems to trouble no one, because it is an aspect of Larry.
He adjusted the emotional temperature in any room. He was loose as a goose, humming with energy, bouncing on his feet, now and then pulling out his mouth harp and delivering a blast of Little Walter bent notes. He was countrified, with his suspenders, his work boots, his wild grin and honking laugh, his utter disregard for decorum, but he had the chutzpah of a city boy and was so sophisticated he had no need to prove it. It further enhances any of his pictures to imagine Larry in the act of taking them.
All of us who knew Larry will now be left with his images. But we will also imagine, in our mind’s eye, his lifelong magic act.