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1:: I love how your work has a mix of fashion, surreality and macabre twist going on. I've never seen anything like that, and it's absolutely hypnotizing. Tell us, was this something you've always wanted to achieve from the beginning, or is it a combination you explored by chance?
Thank you! I would like to claim that combination was completely intentional, but its just something that happened. There arent many examples now in my gallery, but if you go back far enough, there is a distinct difference in the atmosphere of my pictures. I only really started exploring a dreamlike aspect to portraiture in well, about early 2007. I actually remember the moment distinctly because it was after one of my vacations in college and I was talking to my roommate and said
something like, My photographys gotten weird. It was strange because before that I had mostly been experimenting with different looks in photomanipulations, altering colors, etcetera. And then, erchancemaybe the stars aligned correctly or somethingthe style clicked for me.
2:: The make up styling you have on your photos is also a very unique element, and it really blends everything together in harmony. What are your thoughts on make up being a kind of art in itself and what are your thoughts while choosing the right one for each piece?
Its all very well and good for the composition/lighting/whatever to be compelling in a photograph, but make up does allow for the ability to more aptly draw people into a photograph, especially unconventional make up. Of course, everyone sees people wear make up on a daily basis, but in photographs it can be used to an extent to make people take notice of a photograph. Even better is when it is used to transform a model. The job is done well when a model seems to become a different person which each different look. Its almost as if without the make up, she is any other girl you see on the street and she acts according to her normal, every day personality. Make up and a different wardrobe in general brings out something different like a part in a play? A different facet to their personality? I dont know, but the effect is damn awesome. And that is proof in and of itself that make up is an art form. It is one thing to be able to apply it meticulously enough to make it look good, but its quite another to transform a model into a completely different person. But the balance has to be there as well. All models have a certain range and a photographer has to have some idea of what that range is.
Sometimes there are moments when the make up just isnt fitting to who a model is. The make up can be incredible, but if the model doesnt know what to do with it to create an effect, then it is going to show and people are going to notice. And you know what theyre going to say? The make up is awesome, but the model looks really uncomfortable.
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3:: There is something I'm very curious about. Throughout your gallery we see the female figure being portrayed as beautiful, delicate but also with a very dark and even haunting side. Would you like to tell us about that?
When I started practicing portraiture in 2004, they were incredibly unremarkable. Actually, they probably would have been unremarkable for a Sears portrait (of course, at the time, I thought they were the most awesome pictures in the entire world, courtesy of my sixteen-year-old ego). At the highest point of what Id like to call the Pretty Girl, Bad Composition phase of Deviantarts popular section (rivaled only by the Pretty Girl, I Cry Tears of Blood phase), I finally realized just how unremarkable my photographs were. My expectations of a portrait were the same as many other amateursto make the model look their absolute prettiest, show their best side, ect. In the first question, I mentioned that in early 07, my photography took a very different direction and became a lot darker and more surreal.
Well along with that, I started looking through the lens and seeing a kind of darker sub-reality and with it a completely new facet to the model. I started focusing on eyes and general expression more than what can I do to make this model look drop dead gorgeous? Im approaching the pictures from an artistic viewpoint rather than a commercial one. For me, it isnt about the superficial nature of making a model look good. Its getting people to see whats behind the eyes, not just looking at the eyes themselves. And everyone has something vulnerable and haunting and even tragic in their pasteveryone hides a part of themselves from other people.
Pictures become the equivalent of their real life: force the smile, get it over with, cut, print, hang it on the wall for people to look at. For some reason, this has become peoples conception of a portrait should look like. People have enough fake snapshots of them smiling reluctantly. For my photos, I want something deeperI want the part of them they hide to be revealed in my work. Sometimes, it makes people deeply uncomfortable. But if I wanted to make people comfortable, I suppose Id take a Sears portrait. No offense to Sears.
4:: You're mainly a portraiture photographer, and you have explored both working with models/ friends and also some self portraiture. What are the main differences between each? How do you feel about exploring a personal theme/ emotion with someone else?
The stuff that I do with self portraiture is mainly experimental, because if the shoot doesnt work out, the only person I disappoint
is myself. But self portraiture is also harder, because its difficult to get all the creative aspects in a picture to work when one is in front of the camera, as opposed to behind it. Thats why most of my self portrait shoots dont work outbasically what Im doing with it is seeing what lighting techniques are effective, what make up colors look the best, etcetera. I tend to be very critical of my self portraits, especially if Im going to use a certain technique in a model shoot. Thats why I tend to only post maybe one or a couple shots from any of my self portrait shoots and more from my model shoots. I spend most of it just trying to get stuff right, so the range tends to be rather limited. But I love working with models, and infinitely prefer it to self portraiture.
The interesting thing about working with another person is getting an incredibly large range of pictures. I can control the aspects of the shoot behind the camera, but all the emotion is theirs. Im incredibly bad at direction. Im afraid that once I start controlling what the model does in front of the camera that itll take away their personal input.
Some photographers may not prefer that method, but to me, thats the one artistic part of the shoot that the model deserves to do on their own. All of the poses and emotions are genuine and belong to the model, they are not directed by me. It creates a large spectrum of emotion, where each picture is incredibly distinct from the other because Im not interfering with the models self expression. For me, thats what makes a portrait a genuine artistic collaboration. Its no longer me the Photographer and her the Modelwere both practicing our different artistic and emotional outlets, and they happen to come together for a photograph.
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5:: Still a bit related to the question above. What kind of work do you go through with each model to tell her about the kind of session and theme you want to explore? Do you sit and talk about each detail and emotion, or do you prefer things to happen naturally?
Naturally. When I meet with a model for a shoot, I generally ask if they have any ideas for make up and if they dont, I just tend to go at it, no forethought. It might sound bad because Im sure there are models out there that want to be reassured about every aspect of the shoot by the photographer, but they would probably get a lot of cryptic answers out of me. Think of the photographic equivalent of one of those hippie artists that just throw paint at a white canvas and spread it around. Thats me: hippie photographer.
For my shoots, I feel like the emotions and the resulting effect is more genuine if I just let things take shape as Im shooting.
Ive tried creative preplanning, and nothing quite works out the way I want it to. So eventually I just adopted the idea that by letting things happen naturally it gives both the model and myself room to express ourselves at the spur of the moment rather than expecting the shoot to turn out with a certain look. Im sure that detailing shoots before they happen work incredibly well for some photographers, but I just cant do it.
So the effect of my photographs happens quite by accidentwhich sounds completely weird given that it has become something of a trend. When Im preparing for a shoot, its like a shot in the dark, kind of like composing a story with no real direction.
Preparation and taking photographs is kind of like a free writing session: I have no idea whats going on, but I feel something compelling it to take shape. So I start with a model, and shes like a blank page. I get out my make up and just start something.
I mix colors and make up styles and when it feels done, I stop. And then I choose the outfit, generally trying to go for something interesting or colourful. I dont intend for the rather dark outcome. I start out with a pretty girl in a lovely dress.
I get behind the camera, look through the lens
And all hell breaks loose, as it were.
I dont see whats happening until I look through the lens. But with its cropping and focus, I see a story unraveling. Sometimes its dark and sometimes its terrifying, but it doesnt look the same with normal eyes. And the effect is almost indescribable, where Im looking at a creature that is no longer The Model, but a separate entity. And shes scary and tempting and vulnerable and intimidating all at the same time. For me, that sort of effect cannot be created through preplanning.
6:: We all go through the same, every now and then some smart ass comes to our gallery and tells us what we should and shouldn't do about our art, or something very similar. Have this ever happened to you? How do you react when you hear such things?
Yes. Ive discovered that this sort of thing is unavoidable. If Im going to share my photographs to the public, Im going to get some criticism. One of the things Ive learned to accept as a photographer is that not everyone is going to like my work. Sure, Id love it if no one hated my work. Who wouldnt? And Id like to shake the hand of a person who has never felt a moment of seething irritation at the one person who comes along and tactlessly proclaims, This picture is horrible. No explanation.
An artists work is kind of like, well, their baby. And no one wants to hear their baby is ugly. So when someone says it, the artists first reaction is to defend their baby. Explain why its good and significant and unique. This is a bad way to respond. The person has already shaped their opinion of the photograph and no amount of bitching at them is going to change it. If anything, its going to accomplish one of two things: make them roll their eyes because the artist clearly cannot
handle negative commentary, or make them laugh in glee because they got a rise out of the photographer.
I try not to get too defensive in my responses. With a lot of my work, I turn on the No Critique Desired option for comments. I realize that there are artists out there who are under the assumption that this is because artists dont want to be critiqued. I turn it on because anything else inevitably breeds comments like: You should have straightened the necklace during the shoot. Its distracting! I realize theyre trying to be helpful, but I like to hear stuff I can actually change about the photograph, not what I could have done during the shoot. The shoots done. I cant fix anything after the fact. It sucks that I didnt notice, but its a moot point. Sometimes I get notes with critiques for my work, and I actually really like these, especially when theyre in depth.
I feel like I need to hear critiques because if I dont, then how can I know if somethings wrong with a picture? Other eyes might notice something I might not have and it really helps if they succinctly point it out. I always thank these individuals because they took the time to note me about it and write out their critiques. In my opinion, that kind of critique is the best kind an artist can possibly ask for. Its objective and informative and it was clearly written with the intention of helping an artist rather than to just be mean. I always feel sorry for the people who write out beautifully written critiques of work only to get a pissed off message from the artist. Deviantart should be about improving work, not about being consistently praised.
And then, well, there are the dicks out there who appear to get off on giving an artist negative comments. You can usually pick them out
of a crowd because theyre the ones who cant seem to articulate their negative view of a picture. Theyre usually trolls who say something mean, hurtful or just plain rude, expecting an enraged response. I try not to reply to these comments. This individual is desperate for attention and wants the artist to get angry. But you also dont want anyone else defending your honor with these people. Occasionally they respond with what I like to call Giant Troll Freakout. They spam the picture with comments, they reply to the defender with the ever clever, shut up! responses (generally raping the English language in the process and typing like their caps lock is broken) and basically make onlookers roll their eyes at their general idiocy. I just hide the comments so that doesnt happen. If they continue being an asshole, I block them from my page. They dont need the extra attention. If they want it, they should apply to participate on a reality show. I hear people make asses out of themselves on those all the time.