Leslie Robert (Les) Krims (1942) is a conceptualist photographer living in Buffalo, New York. He is noted for his carefully arranged fabricated photographs (called “fictions”), various candid series, a satirical edge, dark humor, and long-standing criticism of what he describes as leftist twaddle. His controversial images resembling tableaus deal with taboos surrounding sex, race, and consumer culture. He often portrays nudes in unusual, shocking, or comical situations as seen in his photobook Making Chicken Soup (1972).
Born Leslie Robert Krims on August 16, 1942 in Brooklyn, NY, he attended the Cooper Union for his BFA and later received his MFA from Pratt Institute. After finishing his degree, Krims began teaching photography first at the Rochester Institute of Technology and then Buffalo State College where he has been a professor for over 40 years and has mentored students such as Cindy Sherman. The artist’s works are held in the collections of The Museum of Modern Art in Brooklyn, the George Eastman House in Rochester, and the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa, among others. Krims continues to live and work in Buffalo, NY.
Les Krims has published numerous offset works. In his portfolio The Deerslayers (1972), Krims took pictures of deer hunters who had voluntarily stopped at “deer check stations” so that NYS conservationists could examine the general health of the deer. Pictured posing with their kills, Krims suggested the hunters had much in common with performance art and odd manifestations of sculpture. He also attempted to underscore the American nature and long tradition of deer hunting as one aspect of criticism of animal rights and anti-Vietnam War activists.
In The Little People of America (1971), Krims received permission to photograph people belonging to a national organization founded by the actor Billy Barty, called “The Little People of America.” Many of the pictures were made at national conventions of the L.P.A, in Oakland, CA, and Atlanta, GA. Krims sought to show that the people he photographed were brave, normal people, having more in common with the Mid-West than the Upper-West-Side, unlike the way the dwarf was portrayed in the history of art or contemporary photographs.
In The Incredible Case Of The Stack O’Wheat Murders (1972), Krims both parodies forensic photography, and points to it as a remarkable archive of incredible and moving images (the various, successful CSI television series attests to his prescience). In each “Wheats” crime scene, a Stack O’Wheats (pancakes) is placed near each “victim” (he used friends and family to pose for the pictures). Each stack is topped with pats of butter and syrup, the number of pancakes in the stack signifying the number of the crime. Hershey’s chocolate syrup was used to simulate blood in the photos, which was formed into words and celestial shapes. Krims originally included 8 ounces of Hershey’s syrup in a heat-sealed plastic bag with the original print portfolio, as well as “enough pancake mix to make one complete Stack O’ Wheats”.
In Making Chicken Soup (1972), Krims published pictures of his mother preparing her traditional chicken soup recipe, while nude. These pictures were published as a small book, some say giving rise years later to the popular Chicken Soup series. The book contained a dedication, which underscored the real point of the satire: “This book is dedicated to my mother and concerned photographers, both make chicken soup.” Krims felt that “socially concerned” photography was a palliative, just as the chicken soup was—in the long run, an ineffective remedy for serious disease.
In Fictocryptokrimsographs, published in 1975, Krims used a Polaroid SX-70 camera to make a series of 40, titled pictures. The SX-70 was chosen, because of the ability to literally move and work the not yet dry, viscous, film emulsion much like paint after the picture developed. Included are various odd and humorous pictures, which are often puns or parodies of fashion trends.
Krims has also steadily been adding pictures to an overarching project spanning three decades called, “The Decline of the Left.” His works are exhibited in the U.S. and internationally.