Jeffrey Ladd's Top Ten

Jeffrey Ladd, born in Elkins Park, Pennsylvania in 1968, moved to New York City in 1987 to study photography at the School of Visual Arts. He received his B.F.A. degree in 1991. Ladd’s photographs have been widely exhibited in galleries and museums, including the International Center of Photography, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Soros Foundation's Open Society Institute and the Howard Greenberg Gallery. In 2007, Ladd started 5B4 Photography and Books, a website dedicated to reviews and discussion of photography and art related books.

"Most people now know me for writing about photobooks on my site 5B4 Photography and Books. Since it would be too predictable to give a top ten of books I have decided to look back on ten formative moments I experienced while living in Phoenix Arizona from 1971 until 1984."

1. Sometime in the mid-1970s my parents explored transcendental meditation and they took my brother and me to a TM center in Phoenix. We were individually “taught” how to meditate and while I was being told my mantra I didn’t understand what the woman had said and I was too shy to ask her to repeat it. So instead of meditating at home I would be sitting in my room wracking my brains trying to figure out what mantra she had given me.

2. At 9 years old I decided to make a small garden in our backyard and I grew only radishes.

3. One time at the community pool in Heritage Heights where we lived, I dove underwater to the bottom, turned over and flipped birds with both hands at my mom’s best friend Charlotte Smith who was supposed to be keeping an eye on me. When I surfaced, she was standing at the edge of the pool looking directly at me with a funny expression.

4. One Saturday in 1979, my parent’s took me to “Park and Swap”, an outdoor flea market in downtown Phoenix. I was bored until we stumbled across a guy who was selling dozens of issues of Famous Monsters of Filmland magazine. Before that day I owned only two issues which I cherished; one that my grandmother had sent to me from New Jersey, and the other I had stolen from a kid at school named David who was mildly retarded.

5. I was riding my bike following my brother speeding downhill on his Logan Earthski skateboard (with Gullwing trucks and Sims 70mm wheels) when he got the speed wobbles and fell. Upon getting up we saw that his right wrist was broken. After looking at it for a second he said in a weak and quivering voice, “That’s not right” and then burst into tears.

6. Easter Sunday 1979 my family went to play miniature golf at Golf and Stuff near the Metrocenter Mall in Phoenix. While I was kneeling on the ground to see where the balls went under a huge replica of London’s Big Ben, my brother accidentally knocked my right eye-tooth into a fine powder with his putter.

7. Once I was at a friend’s house watching TV with him and his twin sister. I was sitting on the edge of his bed and his sister was lying next to me. I had rested my arm on her head with my hand dangling near her face to annoy her. She put one of my fingers in her mouth and started caressing it with her tongue. With my heart racing I carefully glanced at my friend who was engrossed in an episode of Gilligan’s Island. Gilligan was being hunted in the “Most Dangerous Game” episode.

8. Tim Caserta, Lee Hernandez and I discovered the cool, red glow that comes from emergency flares so we bought a bunch and would go out at night into the desert and run around with them. One night, some of the burn-off from a flare made a small round hole in my corduroy pants. My mom thought it was from a cigarette and she grounded me for smoking. She asked me if I thought she was stupid after I explained that it actually came from us running through the desert with lit flares.

8. I had a fight once with Tim Caserta and after a week of not talking to him I decided to make friend’s again with a present. I went to his house with one firecracker and told him I had to get rid of it because my mom was going to do a total clean up of my room and I was afraid she’d find it. We tried to light it off but instead it just fizzled out and left a burn mark on his garage floor.

9. Around 1980-81, Tim, Lee, and I would dress in dark clothes and go out at night on “missions” we called “commando-ing.” This would usually involve jumping people’s fences and running through their backyards or stealing things from their carports. Those nights would usually wind up with us stealing cases of soda from Al Flander’s van. For some reason Al never locked his van.

10. Phoenix, Arizona, 1983: I attend my first hardcore show at Madison Square Garden in downtown Phoenix with two friends -- Rob Munsey and Lee Hernandez. The bill was: True Sounds of Liberty, the Crucifucks, Jody Foster’s Army, Conflict (Az), and Poet’s Corner. “Mad Garden” was a venue known for cage match wrestling. When booked for music the bands played within the boxing/wrestling ring enclosed on all sides with a chain-link fence. At punk shows, instead of stage diving, the crowd would climb the fence and leap off into the slam pit. This particular show was the last to happen in that venue. Rumor had it that since it was the last show, the crowd was going to tear down the fence and trash the place. That didn’t happen. I sat nervously through the show with Rob who had sprained his ankle skating an abandoned pool in the desert. While the Crucifucks were in the midst of “Cops for Fertilizer”, I saw Lee slamming in the pit and I wanted to jump in too but I was too intimidated. Instead, I told myself I should stay with Rob and keep him company.