Exclusive Interview for WASE Magazine
Hi, Ross, we are really happy to get to interview you. We know that you started with photographing landscapes and nature- what first inspired you to take the plunge and begin photographing the body?
Hi Megan and thank you so much for this opportunity!
I have always been fascinated by people, the human body, it's shape etc. but not having anyone to photograph, I instead spent much time following many art nude photographers and their work and one night and while studying photography at NMIT/Polytechnic, a rather intriguing new teacher (Bill Poon) decided to change the class theme and instead invited one of his models to pose for us and that was my first "taste" of an art nude photo shoot and instantly, I knew that was what I wanted to do and that was around ten years ago.
My first official shoot though did not take place for another year and the one after that was one year later so it was a slow start but that was fine for there was a lot of learning to be done while finding out who is out there and who would be interested in working with me. I then discovered a site where photographers and models connect and things just took off from there
Can you tell us about your first shoot with a nude model- how did you feel?
His name is Mark and I guess the shoot was meant to be for we met, did the shoot and shortly after, I lost contact with him. One of the photos though from that shoot remains one of my all time photos. As to how I felt, surreal, awkward, uncomfortable, exciting, thrilled, happy, happy for finally I was doing what I've been wanting to do for so long but I was a little uncomfortable though for I had no experience and that shoot was very experimental and very much a learning curve for me! I was hooked though and from then, it has been full speed ahead!
You don't seem to like using studios too often- you've said on your website that you enjoy being out there, in the bush. Editor Bill Poon said in a recent meeting that he enjoys having full control of light and that he can find the lack of control unsettling when he is shooting outdoors, with all the variables that can bring... How do you deal with light? And being based in Melbourne, Australia, how do you feel when the weather, inevitably, changes?
Bill and myself have had conversations about studios and being in full control of the lights etc and totally agree with him and working in a studio is a wonderful thing but my problem is that, I don't make money from my shoots and if I was to use studios then I am just paying out money with nothing coming back to me and I am not a rich man with an endless photography budget, instead I am a small time photographer who loves being outdoors and in my quest to being different and to stand out, I have devoted a lot of time into looking for locations, whether it be landscapes or abandoned properties that are suitable for photoshoots. A couple of abandoned properties that I use allow me to use filtered light coming through a window and photos taken there do look as though they were taken in a studio and I have had people ask me just this.
Not having access to a studio, means that I only have natural light to play with and yes, it can be very unpredictable but over the years, I have spent much time out there and I got to know what I can get from full sun, what I can get from an overcast day etc and as for the weather itself, I don't do much in winter and when I do a shoot, then it is in an abandoned property and if it's way too cold then it's a studio shoot.
This question is also partially answered in my answer to question four and basically, I have learned to read the sun, the strength of sunlight, where the sun rises does matter for if it rises behind that cliff then the cliff will get the afternoon sun and which will be more suitable for a shoot. Also, there are times when I do shoot in full sun for I like those images that are full of contrast and shadows.
Nothing beats early and late afternoon sun light though!
Our rather prolific publisher, Charles K, recently wrote a mail to you about the series we published at WASE. He said:
When I view your images, I see something quite unique: your chiaroscuro is not only technically impressive but you use reflections to further play with it. You incorporate natural elements into the chiaroscuro so that, when joined, they make for striking compositions. Although I know a few people who would give me hell for thinking the way I do, I'd say you create abstract compositions by playing with what is at the same time a beautiful male body, that, to your eyes, is also a painter's splash of light. And there's more to a lot of your images: water reflections in your work are reminders of the quietness that was there. Water is undisturbed, peaceful, it has this Zen quality: one can feel time flowing, a soft wind blowing …
What are your thoughts on this? What do you think about this communication you establish between man and
nature, shape and light?
First I must add that my love for B&W photography goes back to some 37 years ago and when I bought my first camera and in that first year with that new toy, I was only using B&W film. Before I bought that camera, I used to draw using pencils and charcoal pencils and again, black and white so I guess b&w is in my blood, so to speak!
Over the years and before I started photographing people, I spent much time bush walking and because of this, I got to know areas just outside of Melbourne that are private and away from prying eyes and it's these areas that I now visit for photo shoots. Having a mental picture of the place and knowing where the sun rises and sets helps my shoots a lot and especially if a shoot taking place in a creek for I know that at 1pm, the sun is above those trees and the shadows fall here etc. Doing a shoot in a creek and aiming at capturing reflections and with a dark background is not an easy thing and it's why I don't have such images as I'd like to have. With water and reflections, there are two ways that I do it with one being, just get the model in place and capture that moment then I ask them to make themselves comfortable so the water settles and reflection reveals itself.
Saying the above, one thing I tell all models is that a shoot is about capturing a moment, a moment in time that will never repeat itself and I also ask them to forget about me and the camera and instead concentrate on being in the moment and make it look as though it is natural for them to be there, at that moment and at that spot. And I also get them to take deep breaths so their body and muscles are totally relaxed.
When not shooting in water but staying in nature, at times I like to capture just how vulnerable man is without possessions, without clothes etc and you think about it, a naked person out there is just as vulnerable as any other life form and if not even more vulnerable. At other times I try to make the model stand out as the dominant figure in the photo and it all depends on what both the model and myself decide to do and of course, it all depends on this wonderful weather patterns of ours.
As to the human shape, the human shape and skin do stand out when placed against the ruggedness of nature and especially when placed against rocks, fallen trees etc.
And for the shadows, lights etc, that comes with the places that I use for sometimes direct sun coming through a window acts like a spotlight which allows me to do bodyscapes that I love so much.
And staying with shadows, photography needs to be interesting, it needs to engage the viewer and when possible, it needs to make the viewer stay right there in front of it and the viewer stands before a photo and actually tries to study it then that photo is a winner! Saying this, high key photos are also superb when done right and my intention in both high and low key photos is to capture emotion, a feeling, sensuality, oh yes, sensuality is the right word and the right part of any model that I love to capture!
Do you approach photographing men and women differently?
In a way yes and in another way, no.
In a way yes I do approach men differently for most of the guys I photograph are inexperienced models wanting to do something different and sometimes, it is their very first shoot and some of them use the shoot as a way for them to get over their fear of being naked in front of strangers, of being naked out there, in nature and my shoots with men are collaborations while my shoots with the girls are not and my relationship with the girls is also different for I am a client and even though I don't like to use this word, the girls do what they do for a living and I hire their services as a model but during a shoot, I treat the girls differently for I am even more of a gentleman than I am with the guys and this is out of respect of who they are and to share two shoots, photographing a man's chest in low light and I asked if I can spray his chest with a fine mist of water and to give the photo more of a sensual look and he was ok with that. Same situation with one of the girls but I asked her if she could do it for I could not do it myself.
Sometimes I photograph the "sexy" side of the guys but there is none of this with the girls for it's strictly artistic and saying this, I treat both genders with the utmost of respect for without them, I could not do what I love doing!
At the end of the day though, I enjoy working with both men and women and it is my intention to treat them as artists for that is what they are and at the same time, it is also my intention to treat them as friends and it is why I always tell them, male or female what I want to do and I always tell them that the shoot is about them just as it is about me for they need to get from the shoot just as much as I do!
And one last thing, before I organise a shoot with a guy, I meet them in advance so we both know who we are and this way we get to share ideas etc and they have a rough idea what the shoot will be about.
Organizing a shoot with one of the girls comes about in a different way for we follow each other on social media, I know their experience and because it is their job, they come to the shoot with a different attitude.
Does desire play a role in your photography? This I don't mean in a sexual way, necessarily, but I think it's a question we don't ask enough- I believe our personality and our sexuality play a great part in what we shoot, how we shoot and why. As Charles says, there can be a preconception that ‘photographers are perverts’ and whilst we believe that whoever thinks this has very little understanding of how complex it can be to control a camera, direct a model, understand light, consider the angles, never mind attempting to also follow an artistic vision…what are your views?
Every now and then I do find myself having discussions and mainly with people I don't know about how we, the photographers deal with photographing people in the nude and whether one of the reasons I do what I do is because I like to look at naked people and my response is always, when you stop looking at people through your dick and instead start looking at people through your brain then you will see the models the way I see them and you will see that besides humans being sexual beings, they are also a work of art, the human body is a work of art and that is what I use to create my own art!
Saying the above, sensuality is different to sexuality or sexual and people often mistake the two as one or just don't understand sensuality. Yes, humans are sexual beings and yes, they do have desires and sometimes this can be seen in my photos but at the same time, men and humans in general are also sensual and sensuality is what I try to capture for sensuality leaves the soul embracing itself while embracing everything else there is!
Staying with the guys, my photoshoots don't always concentrate on bodyscapes or art nudes for the models walk away with a variety of images that include close up portraits, fully clothed, sometimes they get photos that may include really close up shots of their face, lips etc and I have one photo that is a side view of the model's face and bicep and all one can see is just the outline of the lips and bicep and I find that to be more erotic than some of the others showing buttocks etc. Other times I like to have the viewers questioning whether they are looking at a man or a woman and that can be fun especially when standing back and watching their faces.
My photography is about showing humans as they are and they are sexual, they are sensual and they most certainly are beautiful and it's that beauty that I like to show in my photography.
Saying the above and myself being a location/natural light photographer, yes, we are responsible for finding the location, we look after deciding what to do, we provide props, we find the best angle that is complimentary to the model, we direct, we look after so much and it's all in the fun of having fun!
How do you find and choose your models?
Originally, from a models & photographers on-line site, but it seems to have died in the last couple of years. Around two and a half years ago, a friend of mine insisted that I join Instagram and I did. As is the case with anything new, at the beginning Instagram was a bit quiet, until I found my way around it and got to know who is who etc ... Now I'd say 90% of the guys I photograph are from Instagram, sometimes from Facebook and sometimes they are referred to me by guys I have already photographed while other times I am referred to models by fellow photographers and friends.
Instagram is great for I get to see who they are and what they have done and when possible, I meet them in advance for I like to know who they are and I like them to know who I am. Meeting them gives me the chance to ask them questions on why and what they'd like to do etc and once I am at home, I get to visualise what location is best suited and best compliments them and usually within a couple of weeks we have set a date.
Saying this, not everyone wants to do a shoot for the right reasons and not everyone is suited and there has been times when I said no.
What do you wish for people to find in your images?
Even though some of my images do fall into the "sexy" and "eye candy" categories, one of the things I do not tolerate are "sexy" comments about certain body parts and it is why I very rarely show frontal nudity for I want people to comment on my creative skills, my art, comment about the quality of the photo etc and I always welcome comments about my models and their own skills as artists for that is what they are!
In a group environment and allowing my ego to step forward, I like to stand out by being different, by doing stuff other photographers don't do for that is what makes people remember.
As to what I want people to find in my images, I'd like to think that when they do look at my images, they see a part of me for every time I share a photo, people see who I am and what I enjoy doing and I guess, I do hope they find me for my photography represents who I am and how I see the world!
If money and "real world" restrictions were not a problem, where would you like to shoot and with whom?
The first thing that comes to mind is, in a church and do something controversial, something wicked, the Vatican, is it possible to do something there??
Would love to visit a desert and again, do something minimal, something different by painting the model with clay and perhaps on a cracked dry lake bed and surrounded by dead trees and not really interested in visiting other countries for shoots for we have so many places within Australia.
As to with whom, I am lucky that I have a good friendship with the guys I have photographed and with some of them, I've done multiple shoots and as to whether I could pick one over another, I can't do it but what would be nice is to do a road trip with is another photographer and a group of models, both male and female with all types of wonderful and amazing body shapes and for the road trip to take us from Melbourne to Broken Hill to Sydney to Central Australia to Perth then back to Melbourne through the coastline. Saying this, what I'd love to have is my very own studio down the Mornington Peninsula somewhere, designed by me and a studio that uses both natural and artificial light sources.
And going back to models, there are models worldwide that I'd love to photograph and I often find myself having conversations with them about doing a shoot and hope one day I get to meet them in person!