How easy/difficult is it to find models to pose nude?
I don’t find it particularly difficult because most are friends. When you hang around with folks (including yourself) that are comfortable with nudity, sexuality, and are artistic, it seems to make sense. I also use modelling websites (like ModelMayhem) to contact folks, even though they’re “models”, I do try to make those look as natural as possible. A lot of the people I’ve shot from there have become friends as well.
How easy/difficult is it to shoot nude for the photographer?
It’s super hard (at least in my mind) because of a lot of reasons. Most of them are more theoretical than technical. Some have told me I’ve over-thought it, but it justifies what I’m doing in my mind. First off, if I’m shooting women, right away there’s the issue that I’m a male photographer. That’s a whole cornucopia of philosophical issues I’m aware of. I’m always avoiding the male gaze. I want my photographs of women to have a female gaze. I’m always trying to avoid anything looking porn-y. Because well, I’m not shooting porn. I’m also very concerned about comfort, because some girls who I shoot with who work off sites like ModelMayhem tell me these horror stories of creeps who’ve shot them. They seem to be over-glorified Peeping Tom’s that own their own studio and the like, luring girls in. And I’ve seen some of their work – it’s not good. So I hope for some folks I’m more of a relief, because it is at the end of the day, a little bit awkward. Getting rid of the awkward is good.
How did you pick up photography?
Because I now only shoot film, interestingly enough I went backwards than many photographers today who switched to digital. I started with a shitty digital point and shoot. Because my generation had digital cameras a lot of us never had to work with film. But around when I was 16 my father gave me his Pentax K1000. I didn’t know how to use it that great, and a lot of things came out underexposed and blurry, but I finally figured out the technical aspects and when I started going to Film School, we started learning about exposure and lighting and all of that helped too. In university I became the “guy with the camera” at parties. That’s where I built my documentary shooting chops. If you can drink and focus, you’re good to go. I wasn’t until my 4th year of school though that I started doing proper photo shoots with a model and everything.
How has photography shaped your life?
I think it defined a certain personality. I know at parties in University if I decided not to bring a camera that was a shock to people. I trained myself to never leave the house pretty much without a camera. And some days I have it and I don’t shoot a single frame. My pockets of all my jackets are lined with film and batteries for my flash.
It’s been a great practice for filmmaking (and a lot cheaper too). It’s a very beautiful inexpensive thing in my case because I shoot film with old cameras that have been gifted to me. Photography is something that provides a very direct artistic satisfaction.
You also make movies. how much do they differ from your photography?
Like I said, photography is kind of “practice” for filmmaking to me. Not that I’m anywhere near his talent, but I try to model myself off of Stanley Kubrick, who was a great photographer in the 40s long before he picked up a motion picture camera. I think they probably come from the same place. In documentary photography I’m looking for the bizarre and the beautiful. When I shoot with models, it’s obviously staged, but I still want it to be natural. In filmmaking, I’ve done everything from Music Videos to Documentary films, and I hope as the years go on they’ll develop a noticeable style that is mine and can be recognized for that, even in different mediums.
What are you working on at the moment?
Well next week I’m going to Los Angeles so I’ll be shooting a lot there. My last couple of trips to Cuba, France and Mexico really provided me with nice portfolio stock. I don’t shoot “tourist” pictures, and I end up usually shooting maybe two rolls on a vacation, but those are all I need.
I’m looking to do a black and white series on smoking that has been taking forever to get together. But hopefully that’ll come to fruition. I’ll also be directing more music videos this spring and am looking at doing a short film for my own personal work.
Interview by Emma Elina Keira Jones