David Agasi
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Interview #1 (jump to interview 2)

Interview with Joel Hanson, spring 2005.

Q: What sustains your interest in photography, when you know the majority of your images won’t be seen or appreciated by the general public?

David Agasi, spot toning a printA: I have always experienced making photographs as a process, a place that doesn’t necessarily have a beginning or end. We have all been brought up to think that life is supposed to be like a house which we must fill up with all the right things, or a game which must be expertly played in order to achieve some great prize, something waiting for us on the distant horizon which will absolve us of all past wrongdoing and make us warm forever, but that is not the case.

The so-called "linear" model of life has just too many loopholes and non-sequiturs to be taken seriously. There is the world on Earth and there is the Dreamworld. There are also spaces between these two places which are not so easy to explain and may not even have names. All I know is that I think I am here now, answering your questions. It may or may not be true.

The startling thing about photography is just how it manages to smear the worlds of Earth and Dream together into something else entirely, something that is really quite unexplainable. I am speaking for monochromatic photography here, just to keep that medium in some clear light when I address it. Color photography also houses its own special world, but I am working 90% of the time in black and white, so I will speak of photography in terms of what I know best, just to keep things simple. It is true, most people will not see the images I have made, but that is alright. With every frame that etches itself into the film in my camera, I am also advancing, somehow. I fully subscribe to the theory that the destination is imaginary and that the journey we are on is what we are supposed to be paying the most attention to, living with passion and true creative vision.

Even sweeping up the kitchen or hanging the clothes out to dry - there are creative ways to do these things. It is as much the artist’s job to point out what’s right as it is to point out how we may indeed improve something. Sometimes, things are right. I think that is why I am a photographer. I want to show things to other people which they may have missed or which they may gain some insight from, whether or not I make a conscious effort to do so. Most of the time, I don’t even know what kind of picture I’ve made until it’s dry and in front of me, after the process is entirely complete. We now live in a hyper-accelerated environment almost all the time.

So much is expected of us. Often we are undergoing copious amounts of stress without even knowing it. I’ve always wanted to slow things down, bring a certain kind of stop-motion to the events in life. I’m not a sports photographer or a photojournalist because I’m not capable of moving in the ways those very talented photographers move. Instead, I like there to be space on either side of the task, the subject, the whole feeling from beginning to end. I want it to be slow. I didn’t intend for it to be this way, really. It’s just how I seem to work best. My portraits and nudes appear very natural, whereas it takes a lot more work to make an interesting street photo of an unknowing stranger, or catch a falling leaf on its way to the ground.

Anyway, getting back to your initial question, making photos for myself means that I have the power to choose what others are going to see. It’s a process of self-editing. My theory is that if you don’t have five hundred possibilities in front of you, you’ll rarely have those ten best selections to proudly display, so there is a lot of fat around the choice cut, but the cut itself - I want it to be visually succulent. Photography is most often about misses. The few hits we get, if we trust the process–those are going to be enough.

Q: What’s the most exciting part of the process of creating photography?

A: I think every step of the process is equally compelling. From the moment I ask someone to model (and they accept) to the finished print in my hands - it’s all very rewarding. The mere act of finding something to photograph can be enough to sustain my interest, and this happens more frequently than I can genuinely afford from a financial perspective. Since I never have a pre-set vision in mind before I shoot, all channels are open, anything can happen, and nine times out of ten, it does.

I seem to have recently developed the same affinity for inanimate objects as I have for people, most probably a result of living in Japan. Here, even common objects contain an otherworldly integrity and indefinable melancholy that feels missing from the objects that were around me while I lived in America. Perhaps if the opposite were true and I were a Japanese person living in America, I’d also find a similar energy in that type of subject matter.

I really love the nude, also. There is just nothing quite like having someone become so vulnerable while simultaneously claiming so much power for themselves in front of my lens. It’s like perpetual motion, a perfect exchange of energy. Since I do not do it often enough, there is always a youthful excitement in having the pleasure of shooting the nude figure, and in seeing obvious joy in the subject who finds him/herself so comfortable in that moment. The human body for me is still the pinnacle of what could be considered "noble" or "sacred" on Planet Earth. Others are free to disagree. It’s all a matter of opinion. Some people prefer to exclusively photograph their cats!

Lastly, and this is going to sound a bit strange, I like having to wait to see what actually happened. Often, I’ll go months before having the opportunity to adequately view the results from a shoot, but this just makes things more exciting. The problem I see in the digital age is that we have cut out so much of the insightful process itself, leaving only what we intended to see, or thought we wanted. The magic’s gone then, the results too perfect and prescribed. The possibility for error, of unseen forces that may change or manipulate the outcome - I wouldn’t trade those happy accidents for anything.

Q: What does photography allow you to express that you cannot express in any other medium?

A: Well, for starters, no other medium makes its subject matter so indicative of an actual time and place, other than film, which is of course a by-product. Photography is a record-keeping apparatus, a way in which we can document our experiences, and also manipulate the truth if we so choose.

That avenue is now completely open to us, with Photoshop and other software applications. I’m not after that manipulation, though. I want to honestly present things the way I see them, but I am also aware that while moving through the process of loading film, all the way to the framing of final prints, something else is going to happen which I hadn’t consciously intended at all. Some new life will most likely be infused into the finished product, thus slightly altering its atmosphere. I’m not sure how else to explain it. Something supernatural seems to have a hand in shaping most of the truly outstanding monochrome photography I’ve seen.

It is obvious that someone was "there" taking the picture, but there are times when I really don’t know what percentage of the image’s subject matter had to do with choices made by the photographer and what percentage came from some other unfounded force. It’s a very mysterious medium. Like painting, we often cannot explain why certain images appeal to us so much. They just speak to us. What I love about photography is its permeable power.

People react differently to what they are seeing, often in violent and unpredictable ways. Photographs trigger such random reactions as surprise, disgust, calm, desire, sadness, anger, empathy or nostalgia. They are visual extensions of the person with the camera, yes, but they also rely heavily on chance operations, and on the complete absence of method or technique. They hold their own secrets, ones which the photographer may not be aware of until the final print merges from the wash, or long after. The images are "still," but their content can change dramatically over time. This most often depends upon where the viewer stands both emotionally and politically, and how open they are to the work itself.

The key is for us to remain as willingly open to it as possible while alternately questioning what we are seeing.

Q: Where do you go, or what do you do when you feel that your work may be stagnating?

A: I usually turn to music as a respite from making images. It’s also mysteriously seductive in ways photography is not, yet it tends to scurry along similar faultiness. Again, the commingling of the Earthworld and the Dreamworld often leads to a heightened state of awareness, a unity between all things that is remarkably apparent Music does this on occasions where one is in the right company and the atmosphere is conducive to entering other realms of so-called "reality."

Under intense circumstances, it can trigger a fathomless memory. This memory may be positive or negative, but it can happen frequently and without suggestive warning. In the photographic image, the memory is one moment, which resonates. In music, the piece we listen to is also a moment, but it seems to be a much more changeable one. Its message can say different things at different times in our lives. Photographic images, although subject to individual interpretation, contain a certain solidity which sound hasn’t the nature to approach. So, I return to your original question now with another shortcut.

I use to jumpstart a dead battery, which is to just go to museums. Any museum or gallery will do. It doesn’t matter what you’re looking at, really. Inspiration can come at the most unexpected (and seemingly unrelated) times. If I begin looking at the work of other photographers, I usually just want to give up in the first five minutes because I am so blown away by what I’m seeing and haven’t any idea how to continue on my own precarious path, one that can be riddled with disappointments and genuine wallet gouging. But after a short while, my own ideas begin to percolate and I lose the feeling of self-pity and aggravation connected with making photographs from scratch, which is notoriously bi-polar on too many levels to go into here.

Q: Is there a favorite place you like to shoot, or a certain subject matter that may restore your creative energy?

A: Not really. Most of what’s out there in the world holds some premise that would allude to its being photographed. That’s why I shoot so much film. I want to be ready for what’s there when I walk around the next corner or take that extra flight of steep stairs. The same holds true for the nude. Every new body I photograph is its own country - with its own government, system of commerce, natural resources, laws, taxes (haha), and boundaries which I have been invited (at least in part) to navigate.

From a personal approach, making images is not so much about what I intend to shoot; it is completely dependent on what exists in front of me and how interesting I believe it to be.

Q: How do you know when you’ve made a successful photograph, and which of your photographs fall into that criteria?

A: A successful photograph is an image that you want to keep looking at, over and over again. It is also something that you don’t feel you need to change in any way. If I pass that simple test with an image, I know I’m in peaceful territory.

Much also has to do with the quality of the negative. If the negative is covered with crap or is just too thin to bring out the highlights I’m looking for, I abandon it. The most important thing to investigate while glancing over a proof sheet is what images speak the loudest right off the bat. You can take it from there in the darkroom.

What we are first drawn to print is almost always the best image. The photographs on this site could just as well be others. It doesn’t matter. All of them are ghosts. Eventually, they will become part of the same whole, which is nothingness. Monochrome photography as an event, as a way of life, always promotes change. It understands that nothing is ever going to be the same once the shutter takes its prey. But one fact never changes: People disappear. Over time, even their names fall away.

On many occasions, I’ve pawed through old proof sheets and forgotten the names of my subjects. Some information I was sure I’d retain is lost forever. Our brains have limited space for the vital details over a long period. In evolutionary fashion, only the most crucial components of our everyday lives take precedence and rule our cognitive world. All else just sifts away into VOID. The hardware and software inside us is self-contained. We cannot buy more memory.

Photography aids our daily advancement with a bit of extra memory attached, in times when we may need it most. In the case of art’s power in general, every medium is a drug. People want to undergo a divine transformation through art much more than they are willing to admit, whether they are the artist, the subject in question, or the viewer. Insofar as speaking about my own photos, I’m not so good at doing that. People gain different things from different images.

I want to give the viewer the freedom to make their own interpretations and develop their own opinions, likes and dislikes. Going back to the subject of the nude again - if I make the man or woman in the finished product as radiant as I saw them while shooting, then I’ve met my own exacting standards. I want them to "glow," to be as powerful as possible in whatever temporary surroundings they had been so haphazardly placed inside. I want to give back what they gave me, which was inspiration.

Usually, this process is successful, but it’s all about trust. I never photograph anyone who forbids it, because those negatives, once developed, will yield no appetizing fruit for either party. I want my subjects to want to be photographed as much as I want to photograph them. That seems to be the balancing equation.

Q: Can you please list or describe some artists or movements which have inspired your work?

A: The Surrealists in the first half of the 20th century, covering everything from drawing and painting to the writings of the time; photographers Bill Brandt, Ralph Gibson, Edward Weston, Charles Scheeler, Imogen Cunningham, Helmut Newton, Daido Moriyama and Sebastiao Salgado; filmmakers of the French New Wave, including Alain Resnais and Francois Truffaut; several select films by Atom Egoyan, David Lynch, Cronenberg and Kubrick; 20th century writers F. Scott Fitzgerald, Dawn Powell, Edgar Allen Poe, Camus, Bataille, and Henry Miller; modern writers Joyce Carol Oates, Michel Hoellebecq, Francine Prose and Michael Gira.

Brian Eno’ s challenging contributions to music, the visual arts and ongoing discourse regarding the current flux of contemporary society have been with me since my teens, enhancing the way I experience and react to all worlds previously mentioned. I’m also a big fan of David Bowie. There are too many other painters and composers, alive and dead, to mention with any respectful restraint.

Q: If you were to walk away from photography and pursue another medium, similar to what Henri Cartier-Bresson did by switching from photography to drawing, what medium would it be?

A: John Cage, in the last years of his life, was quoted as saying that if he hadn’t taken up
composing, he’d have been a botanist. I think I’d like to have a painter’s mind and perhaps move to painting full time after age 50, but I suffer from red/green colorblindness which makes it very difficult for me to mix colors in any traditional way. I still see color, but it’s a little tweaked from the way others see it - thus, my monochromatic palette has been suggestively overcompensated for. I have absolutely no talent for painting, so that’s just a pipe dream, a mismanaged romantic inclination with no definable outlet.

I guess my incurable connection with music would warrant my becoming more involved with its progression than simply doing free-form radio broadcasting from time to time. I tried to land a forward-thinking DJ gig in Tokyo several years ago, but it’s next to impossible without knowing the right people, and truthfully, there isn’t much in the way of good radio in Japan - not by a long shot.

My two years at KZSU FM (Stanford University) from 1999-2001 was a rich period of taking in as many forms of music as possible and spinning them into weekly thematic programs. This "radio habit" began at stations in my teens, but since I traveled so much in my 20s, I didn’t have the opportunity to land a show for more than a year at a time.

As a DJ, I am most interested in what happens "between" the songs, the region where both entities meet and create a kind of aural ether, a place that isn’t anywhere but often suggests a strong psychedelic sense of displacement. Incredibly serendipitous things will happen, all by chance, that link song structures together and bind their properties into the segue-way itself. The combinations are limitless, really.

I suppose I’d have promoted non-mainstream music much more seriously, and found a way to make a living presenting it on commercially funded stations (there are, in fact, few of these left), if I was to go back and start at the beginning - or, I’d just bite the bullet and become an ambient-dub bass player!

Interview #2

Interview #2. Spring 2006

Questions 1-7 by Joel Hanson
Questions 8-11 by Sanz Lashley

QUESTION #1: You said recently that with photography, we end up with memories of memories–second generation recordings of our experiences. Are photographs always a degenerative representation of an experience, or do they also contain an element of surprise (i.e. the ability to notice something we missed during the actual experience)?

I think most photographs have an ability to exhibit surprise. It’s solely dependent upon how the photographer compresses his/her action and experience into the decisive moment. The same philosophy holds true for musicians. There are specific times when the decisions they make create a kind of force which is concentrated, barely existing in a distinguishable portion of time and space. That phantom area is known as a great performance, which can often happen well outside the boundaries of the artist’s conscious memory. Ask them what they did later and they really can’t explain it.

Photography is like this, too. Although in composing a photograph we make specific mental notes with regard to an intended outcome, we are often very surprised by the end result. Because a photo is still, it can only say so much, and yet – it can tell us much more than we ever intended or expected. It lives outside of its own boundaries. That’s why I love this doppelganger relationship with the medium. It plays tricks on us, seduces our sensibilities, repulses us until we have to feel it physically. So, getting back to what you said about whether photography could be a degenerative experience, well, I think a successful photograph is always alive and generative, and the more questions it asks, the more compelling it can be for us to try and answer them.

QUESTION #2: During my travels over the past five years I’ve noticed an increasing number of people who appear to be more interested in recording their experiences (via digital photography and video) than actually experiencing them. What do you think are some of the reasons for this change, and why are people so obsessed with recording/cataloging these experiences?

That’s quite an intense question, one which would demand several hours to properly answer, but in short, this obsession can be attributed to the ways in which all of us have more or less been conned into living in virtual real time. We now have so many choices with regard to how we perform one task, whatever it may be, that we’ve found countless ways in which to adorn the process.

Technology is now running itself, speeding things up to a point where the majority of developed countries (i.e. those with modern amenities that can be operated or owned by the general public) contain a framework that presents an oversurplus of choices – in material goods, spiritual practices, personal relationships, etc. With this overinflux of too much choice comes a fear of not having enough of what’s possible or available. So, we fill up our moments with more moments - to prove to ourselves that those experiences were real. The irony, of course, is that we genuinely didn’t enjoy them with the same acute sense as we might have if we weren’t multitasking ourselves into oblivion.

Cellular phones and e-mail–these two methods of rapid communication–have both desensitized us to such a degree that recalibrating our attention spans to run on a lower frequency or at a lower rate of speed is next to impossible. We’ve been Pavlovian-conditioned to react when the little bell sounds. It’s very difficult to reverse this process, and we all know how equally difficult it is to thwart convenience. Really, recording anything falls into accordance with the type of technology available. If it’s become affordable and available, we’ll use it, usually without regard to quality or comfort.

In the speed-chase of life we feel not only compelled, but expected to jump on the bandwagon, to stylishly not make waves. Today’s cultural manifesto seems to decree “Don’t ask why. Ask when.” Essentially, this is what most of us fall prey to. A sizeable amount of time goes to learning how to use what’s new with absolutely no concern for processes mastered previously. Structurally speaking, we’re quickly forgetting what solid ground even feels like, or how to build safely upon it. More webs mean twice the spiders.

QUESTION #3 : You also said recently that your photography is an attempt to preserve a chivalrous exchange of intelligent discourse. Can you elaborate on this? More specifically, what conversation would you ideally like to see take place between your work and an anonymous viewer?

I still believe real photography is about surrendering to the image, letting it literally crash over you. The only photographs I can adequately recall are the ones whose humanity reached me somehow, even if their subject matter disturbed me. The terrifying thing about analog photography is that for better or worse, its subject matter is clarifying a moment that actually happened. There’s no running away from that initial fact, and we already know the truth’s a touchy subject, especially for those who have something to hide, or something in themselves that needs to be confronted.

No medium before photography spoke with as much candid wrath or veiled insinuation. No medium shows beauty or ugliness with such a startling sense of truth, or makes us writhe uncontrollably in our own desirous fantasies or sobering losses. Photographs that speak to us deeply are like candles which cannot be extinguished in any weather or fit of careless anger. They are there, in front of us, talking.

Returning now to your question, I’d like my work to resonate with the viewer on indiscreet terms. I want them to be overtaken with feelings they themselves may have difficulty explaining rationally and, above all, I want them to be haunted like a story they can’t stop reading. If they allow for total surrender so that the images can crash over their heads, or allow to be led by some unexplained blind intuition, then my work will have some reason to go on existing.

QUESTION #4: Why is on no one purchasing photography currently? Does it have something to do with its proliferation (via digital technology) or because some people don’t respect it as a true art form?

Mostly the former. We are imaged out, assaulted daily by every sort of photographic technique in every kind of context. Our true desires hardly belong to us anymore. They belong to corporations, and we’re the complacent runts of the litter weaning on their sows. Commercial images and the fine arts have so tightly merged that they have become inseparable. There are so many art books available in the mass marketplace now that whenever I peruse a bookshop that sells them, I almost become physically incapacitated. I can’t move in any direction, nearly forgetting why I’m there.

There are too many choices floating defiantly in a sea of too much successful talent, icons and sharp household names whose mere utterances conjure some form of inexpressible awe. Envy also, especially for today’s lost artist, a generationally displaced astronaut who seems to be running out of oxygen. The fact is we can get anything we want in less than five business days. All images have become commodified entities whose initial titillating jolts have been softened by time and familiarity. Truth be told, there’s nothing much new to see, which then begs the question “Why bother continuing to make photographs?”

A simple answer seems to be that we all see differently, and the evolution of any personal relationship rests on the ability to balance those differences with the things we hold in common. Due to the ease with which people have embraced digital photography, an activity virtually without process, it’s understandable that it’s caught on so quickly. Still, because it’s so easy, involving very little active study (as fine arts photography had in the past), it seems that overnight everyone’s become a photographer. Quality has indeed been sacrificed for speed and efficiency - and the next 15 minutes of photo fame, should one become lucky enough to enjoy it.

QUESTION #5: How do you feel about KODAK no longer producing B&W papers? Why are people less interested in analog photography?

KODAK’s decision to end their production of B&W paper clearly has made a statement about the photo market itself, which is that with innovation comes format change. Just as music moved from analog to digital, so did photography and electronic communication–related fields with related CEOs.

KODAK probably made an honest line-drive financial decision based on where it viewed its place as an old-name competitor. High-tech rarely moves backwards. It may flex its retro muscles a bit, but in the end, total mass earnings are what place a company in front. Old principles rarely win out against what can make the most money right now.

In response to the second part of your question, people who are less educated about a particular subject also become less interested. Most educational institutions have their eye on how to attract future students (i.e. revenue), veering capriciously away from the fine arts and into digital/new media formats. I think it’s safe to say at this stage that many of the romantic elements associated with artmaking practices have not only been plucked from universities’ curriculum, but from daily life in general. That tactile sense of nostalgia and majesterial wonder which went into so much of the past 150 years’ great visual works–it’s disappearing fast. We now live in what I like to term the “New Age of Unaccountability,” ushered in with the Bush Administration and 9/11.

QUESTION #6: What are the principal ways you believe “technology has driven a wedge between what we think we want and what we know we need?” What are some steps we can take as people (collectively or individually) to reverse this process?

The most important thing we can do without fail is to ask good questions about what is happening right now and why: identify the present so as to intelligently move towards the future. Politically, and in living our commercial supply-and-demand lives, we’ve largely missed the point to the far reaches of fiction.

To put it in simple terms, ads and societal peer pressure usually dictate what the majority of us spend our money on, and most of the time, these things are totally unnecessary – but they cleverly enter the region of what we are supposed to want. Meanwhile, all around us but somehow not quite penetrating the tranquil eyes or our hurricanes, lies the bedlam that we’re detached witness to: environmental disasters and political travesties only hinted at decades earlier, to name only two.

What we need is action, some collective power to change these conditions and thus continue to survive. But something stops us–our own amiable and affable technology—systems that mostly provide us with empty addictions and added stress, self-consciousness, and superficiality. We want more and more while somehow dropping our standards so that in the end—real intimacy, conclusive truths, national safety, environmental soundness and abundance–this has all somehow been strangely compromised. These are the things we need. Too many mirrors in the room and we see only ourselves, our needs – not collective needs that should be shared by all. Too much convenience is dangerous.

Tokyo life has told me this story over and over again. In order to reverse the process, as you hinted at earlier, I believe we may just have to annihilate ourselves. We’re certainly spending enough yearly on the possibility. You see, if there are no laws which need to be abided by the lawmakers, if political and corporate corruption is universally accepted as typical protocol in a Democratic state, if selling one’s body becomes the fastest, most no-nonsense means in which to acquire a designer handbag so as to redefine one’s reason for existing, then it’s hard to strike the set and just rebuild again. It’s incredible how much this interview has strayed from the subject of photography, but I guess it was inevitable.

QUESTION #7: What do you feel is your greatest weakness as a photographer ? What steps are you taking to overcome it?

I have not had the privilege of being well-connected, and lack private/independent sources of income necessary to complete many of my thematic projects. Also, I do not enjoy schmoozing in attempts to sell myself, and I don’t like using computers much. I’ve been applying for funding to a host of international arts organizations for years in order to support my photography, but have received very little fanfare in this undertaking.

Given the endless changes which have placed the world of fine arts in collective jeopardy, I find it useless and absurd to take the situation personally. There are countless others dealing with similar challenges and economic limitations. I just try and remain as optimistic as possible.

QUESTION #8: How has living in Japan influenced your photography?

Japan from day one had proven to be another planet, with its own solar system, laws of gravity and mysteries that will never be deciphered. This alone has placed me quite far off shore from the visual work I’d been making in America. An entire book would need to be written in order to thoroughly answer your question since, in essence, Tokyo is an unsolvable riddle whose similarities and differences seem often to be eight or ten sided.

One thing does remain certain, however: truth has no solid place here. No one really wants it or has time for it. Day by day, the truth is changeable, and my work has had to adapt in accordance with this realization. I am societally probing the farthest zone from the center of the onion–wherever that is. The language barrier alone keeps most foreigners miles off the trail of what is actually happening, and even if I spoke Japanese fluently I’d still be sitting in the nosebleed seats with regard to synthesizing this culture into some clear shred of understanding. The surface is where most people dwell in their public personas, but their core, their souls, are elsewhere–nearly irretrievable to those outside their family bloodline.

Secrets are a part of daily life and everything is a paradox, a negative image of the initial positive illusion. This never ceases to fascinate me, and I guess my work has evolved in similar fashion. There is much more storytelling, more mystery in my current photographs. Since this website only features a tiny fraction of the work I make monthly, you are only getting an intro, a preamble to what Tokyo’s influence has had on me as an artist and as a human being. I’m being quite vague here, but I feel it’s necessary in answering the question, to not try and explain the importance of having lived in such a place. To put it in the mildest tone possible, without my experience of Japan I probably would have left photography.

Now would appear to be an excellent time to receive a bit of visual arts funding so I will be able to speak more deeply with my images, which are usually required to remain silently anonymous.

QUESTION #9: How would you explain your interest in female nudes to someone who believes they objectify the female form?

Well, they do. So do fashion, and soap commercials on television. I was recently having a conversation with one of my best friends in Tokyo, a French woman my age, about the dangers of categorization. Odd, isn’t it, when in trying to place things into categories we seem only to be left with ghosts of what they really are? Their definition can become blurry, their genuineness questionable.

I think intelligent discretion should be taken when viewing any photograph, especially if it’s a nude. All too often peoples’ discomfort with either themselves or the subject matter negates the artist’s true intention. What happens in a room between artist and subject is usually an amicable exchange of creative energy, always very specific to that moment – and no two exchanges bring about the same result. I feel that the word “objectification” has become quite meaningless. We are all voyeurs and it’s about time we admitted it. We want to look at other people. This is a natural and biological response to our social environment. Every last fragment of the human body has been cross-analyzed, scrutinized, photographed and then used in advertisements. There are those who believe a woman’s shoe is more arousing than the woman who wears it. Who is being objectified then?

Everything can be pooled under the same lens for investigation and presented later in all gradations of public taste. A billboard advertisement can usually make me feel much more uncomfortable than a photograph in an art book. Objectification revolves around intention. If I create a nude photograph that I think is representative of the pinnacle of female beauty and I want to exhibit it somewhere in the public sector, I’m automatically at risk of offending someone. However, if I photograph a bloody slab of meat in a slaughterhouse with intent to sell a particular product, I’m more than welcome to do so. A company name or logo placed over any photographic image seems to be universally celebrated, and at the very least, tolerated.

The parameters for what we decide to objectify are usually governed by three entities: politics, religion and commerce. How we choose to move within these confines is where disagreements regarding categorization can come into play. I think it’s crucial as an audience to be as open as possible to the message in a work of art and be less concerned with whom it may be offending. Fashion itself could not exist without objectification. I like the way Helmut Newton explained his position on making nudes: “It’s a glorification.”

QUESTION #10: Where do you draw the line between eroticism and pornography?

Erotica strives to strike a balance between fantasy and reality, bringing these two elements towards a state of visual rapture or crescendo. Pornography appears to be more about presenting extraneous details in repetition, therefore imbalance, without regard for aesthetic considerations – a cheap release-mechanism lacking mystery or originality which does not set it apart from other images.

I think eroticism and pornography are also nebulous categories housing no great truths other then the fact that they may sometimes differ or appear exactly the same. In the end, it’s all a matter of personal taste and/or the current rules of fashion that surround it.

QUESTION #11: What is it about the female body that appeals to you as a photographer?

For this question I’ll be very brief. Everything about it appeals to me.


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