Mike: C.D.W.Clark is a con man. He absconded with several hundred thousand dollars from an investor in his photo gallery, and ripped off the other photogs as well. He was sought after by the F.B.I. He’s a very smooth slimeball. Call the cops if you see him!
I am not inclined to moderate and take such things at face value, so I did a little digging and the story appears to have legs:
In November of 2003, Charles Clark and myself began what was to eventually become Group M35, quite literally, in our living room. The intent was to build a place for those of us who took great care and pride in our work. A community where an artist could feel at home and find support from like minded photographers. It was our goal to provide a place for the work that does not belong in the archive of Corbis or Getty.
The result, unfortunately, bares little resemblance to the original idea. The dishonest and fraudulent practices of Charles Clark while at the helm have destroyed the aspirations of a talented group of individuals. It has been made overwhelmingly clear that Group M35 is no longer and in fact never was a viable entity. The New York and San Francisco studios has been shutdown, and nearly all of the members have resigned, and their respective material returned.
More important is the issue of one Charles Clark, who also uses several aliases including Doyle Clark, Sean Clark, C.W.D. Clark, William Clark, Charles William, Charles Doyle and a slew of others. After a series of rather strange events internally at Group M35 in New York, several members, including myself, became increasingly suspicious of the activities of Charles Clark and the running of Group M35. After a little investigating, it became apparent that the entire thing was nothing more than elaborate con. Within three years Charles Clark had run up bad debts all over New York City. He failed to pay the basic operating expenses of the agency and sold large numbers of prints without informing or paying the photographers. After investigating what little financial records were kept, it seems that the bulk of the agencies funds, both from revenue generated and from investors, was spent by Clark on personal items including a vast collection of photography books, designer clothes, motorcycles, and lavish meals at expensive restaurants for him and whomever he was trying to impress. This was just the tip of the iceberg. Let’s just say that Clark was living very, very well in Manhattan. When confronted with all of these issues by the group, Charles of course denied everything. Two days later he skipped town, and few have heard from him since. The ones who have heard from him, say that he will not disclose his location. In the months since everything fell apart, a great deal has come to light about Clark’s history. Charles Clark is not, nor has he ever been, a photographer. None of the agencies he claims to have worked for have ever heard of him. None of the work he claims as his own can be verified, as the negatives seem to have conveniently disappeared. In addition several photographers, including Chris Morris, have stated that Clark stole material from them and later claimed it as his own. It seems that he has been conning people his entire life. He has bankrupted at least 4 wives and 3 assistants. During his time in San Francisco he ripped off every camera store in the city, and I do mean every single one. He has been accused of stealing motorcycles, clothes, watches, jewelry, cameras, photographs and just about anything else he can get his hands on. There is so much more to this story, I’m afraid I could fill a book. Just know this, Charles Clark is a man with a disease. He is a pathological liar, and a sociopath. He is ill, in every sense of the word. What’s more, he is not to be trusted. My goal in writing this is not to discredit Charles Clark, he has done that on his own. My goal is to save the next photographer he gets his hands on. I am told there will be an article in PDN about the group, possibly in the November issue. I can only hope this will get the word out in the photographic world. Regardless of my personal involvement in this fiasco, it is a shame what happened to such a wonderful group of photographers. As I’ve said before, my apologies to all those involved. I really do believe we had a good thing going. Questions? Feel free to contact me. Joseph Szymanski – Former Member / Webmaster, Group M35 – origin (at) openorigins.com
http://www.pdnonline.com/pdn/esearch/article_display.jsp?vnu_content_id=1003659389 (i had to visit this site’s home page before I could get the article to load successfully; some cookie issue…)
In May 2004, Clark reached out to a man who would become Group M35’s biggest financial backer. The investor, a medical professional and photo collector on the West Coast, asked PDN not to disclose his name or occupation in order to protect his reputation. “This guy [Clark] comes along and shows me his photographs and starts talking so intelligently about everything,” the investor recalls. He was in. Under their arrangement, the investor would deposit money into a personal checking account that Clark had access to. Clark also had access to a credit card in the investor’s name.
Between May 11, 2006 and May 11, 2007, the checking account churned through over $89,000. Thousands were withdrawn in cash, often over $2,000 a month.
PDN viewed bank statements provided by the investor that included a number of questionable charges, like $229 at Tiffany & Co. and $1,300 at a place called Jean Shop. The investor says he challenged Clark about charges like these. “He would concoct a story about him knowing the store owner (close personal friend) and it was a way for the owner to purchase our work and keep it off their books,” the investor wrote to PDN. “Of course the absurdity of this is obvious in retrospect.” All told, the investor says he lost $311,000.
The man sounds charming; in retrospect he *was* charming, spinning a tale of dreams and foreign places – but I know other people who can do that more credibly.
However since I appear to be the top hit for his name, I thought a update would be in order.
[Still, it’s a cool bike…]