Inquisition of Dirk Westphal, photographer

Dirk Westphal is a New York City based artist and photographer.  In his early work, Dirk recreated large corporations’ logos out of cupcakes in a prescient exploration of how these seemingly indestructible organizations turned out to actually be quite perishable.  His series of hugely enlarged portraits of goldfish has been shown in solo exhibitions around the world in cities such as Sydney, Hong Kong, Aspen and New York City, and his other innovative artworks include unique photographic closeups of everyday objects such as oilslicks and toothpaste, betraying their prevalence and manufactured nature. An avid surfer who is a familiar face among the roughneck hardcore cold-water surf culture near Montauk at the tip of Long Island, Dirk’s most recent work revolves around his eternal passion for surfing and the consciousness of sharks that comes along with that lifestyle.  Dirk graciously and courageously agreed to be the first Artist Inquisition subject.  This interrogation was completed on June 17, 2009 via email.  His work can be viewed most readily at and

Dirk Westphal, photographer
Dirk Westphal, photographer

1. Which historical epoch would you most like to have participated in? (ie. ancient Rome, revolutionary France, 1960s counterculture…)

I’d definitely want to run with Attila the Hun. I always wanted to mace someone; did they do that then? You know the ball with spikes on it.

2. If you could live as one historical figure for one week, who would it be? (feel free to describe the week if relevant)

Again, Attila the Hun on a week off in a foreign city.

3. If given a choice for your next life, do you want to be a man or a woman? (as with all these questions, answering “why?” is optional)

Man. Women have it tougher, for sure.

4. Which 3 visual artists had the greatest influence on your career and work?

John Baldessari, William Wegman, Cindy Sherman and my good friend Stephan Reusse.

5. Which 3 musicians’ music most closely resembles a soundtrack to your life?

Chrome (the guitar player), Butthole Surfers circa 1989, and Mark E. Smith. (And maybe Tom Young and Neil Waits [sic].  Oh, and a huge dosing of Laibach.)

Sturm and Drang, 2008, 40 x 50 inches, c-print

6. Assuming cost is no obstacle, which 3 cities would you most prefer to live in?

L.A. on workdays, Berlin on the weekends, and N.Y.C. for work related stuff. (Sydney for the days off.)

7. Imagine you are driving on an open, gently curving highway with a guarantee of no police, no other drivers, and perfect weather conditions. What kind of car would you want to drive and how fast would you go?

Porsche Carrera 4 Turbo. I guess I’d go about 200 mph if it goes that fast.

8. If you were given $250,000 to spend on a new wardrobe by a single designer/brand, which would you choose?

I’d spend about $2000 on a new pair of skis and boots, maybe $600 on a Patagonia wetsuit and put the rest to better use (for me).

9. Do you believe the United States of America is getting better or worse?

We’re ALL Doomed.

10. Which museum would you most want to host your first post-mortem career survey?

Kroller-Muller Museum in the Netherlands and then maybe the show could travel to the Guggenheim N.Y.C.

11. What is your favorite film of all-time?

Dead Man by Jim Jarmusch

Grantley Adams, Barbados, 2006, 11 x 14 inches, c-print

12. What is your favorite restaurant in the world? (name the City too)

Bondi Icebergs in Sydney

13. What job would you least like to do for 40 hours a week until retirement?


14. What superpower would you find most useful? (flying, invisibility, indestructible… Feel free to answer why)

Flying. The ability to go underwater without a wetsuit and oxygen would be fun, too.

15. Which adjective do you think best describes Hugh Hefner?


16. Have you ever been in a fist-fight in which blood was spilled? (feel free to offer a brief description)

Sure. Who hasn’t?

17. Do you get road rage?


18. Do you inhale?

No. I mainline.

19. Do you have any phobias? (feel free to explain which)

Claustro. Cramped spaces really make me nutty.

20. If you were forced to spend one full year in solitary confinement in a small cell, what color would you want the walls to be?


21. What is the most important organ in your body?


Tortola, British Virgin Islands, 2006, 11 x 14 inches, c-print

22. Have you signed an organ donor card?

Yes. Always.

23. Do you know anyone living today with whom you’d happily trade lives? Who?

No trades at this point. I’d miss my kids and wife too much.

24. Who is more important: Bono or Oprah?

BONOPRAH. Aren’t they the same person? (Editor note: this is the correct answer.)

25. Do you tell lies?

Of course.

26. Do you think it is better to be exceptionally intelligent with average charm or exceptionally charming with average intelligence?

Exceptional intelligence with charm seems like an obvious choice for me. I would love to know what that is like.