Joe has years of experience in shooting wonderful fine art nudes in his spare time and he displays his amazing work on his steadily flowing Tumblr photo stream , got published in print and won several competitions.
But Joe can’t reveal his full real name and identity because of the potential problems it might cause him with his employer. This is a problem a lot of enthusiasts face.
Nonetheless I am very pleased to now introduce you to the work of the very talented fellow photography enthusiast and his – in my opinion – very own exciting visual language.
Interview by Dan Hostettler
Where do you live and what is your primary profession?
I live in the Washington DC metropolitan area. I’ve shot nudes for about five or six years now.
As explained in the intro, I will not reveal your full real name here because of the potential problems it might cause you with your employer. How do you feel about not being able to frankly share your ambitious and very creative hobby with everybody else? Isn’t there something stirring inside of you that wants to set things straight?
It’s unfortunate and it’s becoming increasingly frustrating.
When I first started shooting nudes, I wasn’t worried about it as I didn’t anticipate getting recognized for my photography. But as I’ve developed as a photographer and have started to get some recognition for my work, it’s hard to go to the next level as that would increase the both the chance that my employer would notice and have objections.
In the past, I’ve appeared in both print publications and in gallery shows under my real name as I didn’t think it would be an issue, but as other people in my industry have recently lost their jobs from a connection to nude photography, I’ve decided that the prudent thing to do is to keep a low profile.
What is the fascination that got you started shooting nude-oriented photos?
As a kid I had always liked photography and I started taking pictures of all kinds of things at a young age. That interest fell by the wayside as I entered college and I didn’t start taking it up again until about ten years ago.
Then I started to take courses to learn how to develop film and to make prints in the darkroom. (Even though I haven’t done that in a while, I still miss seeing prints magically appear in the chemistry.) One of the instructors I had in those photography courses also shot nudes and ran a figure photography workshop. I signed up for his workshop and quickly discovered that I enjoyed doing this kind of work.
Do you prefer a certain style (like NudeArt, glamNudes) and what is your idea/vision behind it all?
In some ways, I feel like I’m schizophrenic when it comes to nude photography styles. I think of myself as an art nude photographer first, but I’ve also been attracted to glamour photography and have done a bit of glamour nude shooting as well.
How do you cast the models for your projects?
Primarily through Model Mayhem. But a lot of models are networking through Facebook now and I’ve developed some contacts that way. I have a separate Facebook page for photography just for networking my photography under “Joe Jlrimages” (https://www.facebook.com/joe.jlrimages ).
Do you normally pay the models for a shoot or do you negotiate other deals like e.g. TFP (Time for Print)?
I’ve done both. As I’ve matured as a photographer, I’ve come to realize that my images have value and models profit from having strong images in their ports. So I’m becoming more selective with who I work with on a pay vs TFP basis.
Where and how do you present and publish your work (e.g. competitions, guest blogs, real galleries)? And how do you avoid conflicts with your everyday job life?
B&W Magazine and its sister, COLOR Magazine (now defunct), have two photo competitions every year. Award winners in the competitions are published in an edition of the magazine devoted to the contest. I’ve won a merit award from each magazine. I’ve also been published in FemmeXposure Magazine, which is a print on demand publication.
I’ve also exhibited at some local galleries in Washington, DC and Baltimore, Md. For the publications and the gallery shows, I’ve used my real name. While that could present issues for my employer, and in retrospect I wish that I submitted to the publications under a pseudonym my impression has been that it’s the internet presence that is the most problematic.
I’m increasingly more careful to post images on the internet under Jlrimages rather than my real name.
How do you continue your education to stay up-to-date in nude photography (e.g. gear, styles, societal influence and trends)?
I don’t necessarily try to keep myself current, but I do follow a few blogs on the internet that occasionally talk about gear and the like. I also look at a lot of images via Tumblr and a few print publications, so I suppose I’d pick up on a “trend” that way.
I guess that’s the advantage that a “hobbyist” has over a pro, I can shoot what I like without having to worry if its ‘trendy’. That being said, I do look at a lot of images in order to get ideas and draw inspiration for shoots.
Are there any photographers that you consider to be an artistic or stylistic influence on your work?
As far as well-known photographers go, Andreas Bitesnitch has been a major influence on on my work, as well as the work of Robert Farber.
The geometric qualities of Bitesnitch’s work fascinates me, as well as his technical lighting skills. Farber’s use of texture and film grain gives his work an almost painterly quality that I admire a lot.
There are also a few photographers from my region of the US who have also exerted a lasting influence on my work. The classic beauty of Bill Earle’s work has had a strong pull. The creative genius of Billy Monday and Gila Photo has spurred me to constantly think about how to push the envelope.
Finally, my studio partner Chip Bulgin taught me more about the technical aspects of lighting in the year we shared studio space than anyone else. I’ve been fortunate to live in an area that is virtually teeming with top notch talent, and these guys are among the best in our area.
Many enthusiasts would like to explore nude photography but just don’t know how to get started. Any advice for those taking their first steps?
First, don’t worry about the gear you have, just get out and shoot.
One of my images that was accepted into a recent gallery show was shot entirely with speedlights. And another image of mine that was selected for the show was shot using just natural light.
Gear might affect your creative choices, but it doesn’t mean that you can’t be creative with whatever gear that you have at your disposal.
Second, look for workshops being run in your area. Find one that fits the style you want to shoot. Not only will this put you in contact with experienced models, but you can learn a lot by watching other photographers work. If you’re gear limited or don’t have a studio, you’ll also get a chance to work with some lighting equipment in a studio setting and get a feel for what you might like to get yourself.
Third, working with experienced models is a plus for the beginner. They’ve developed their posing skills and won’t need as much direction as inexperienced models will. Fourth, look at a lot of images. Think about what makes an image work for you in terms of the lighting, composition and the model’s posing. Think about what doesn’t seem to work as well. After a while you’ll start to incorporate what you see that works into that of your own.
Finally, take chances and don’t be afraid to fail. If you aren’t willing to try something new and risk failure, you’ll never grow. And sometimes you’ll learn more from failing than you can if everything goes smoothly.
What are your next photography goals?
I think I’m still searching to find my voice with photography. It might be that I’m never going to be satisfied with where I’m at and with what I’m doing, but we’ll see.
At some point, I’d like to try to produce my images using alternative processes, like cyanotypes or platinum/palladium printing. I’ve experimented with the processes a little, but I haven’t yet produced prints of any of my nudes using these processes. I’m also part of a group of local photographers who are seeking to go to New York City to shoot nudes using the 20x24 Polaroid camera before they run out of film.
Since I’ve only shot on a 4x5 view camera a couple of times before, this will be a real challenge and, at over $100 per exposure, it lends new meaning to “getting it right in camera.”
Tech QNA: Joe’s Gear DNA
What type of camera(s) do you work with?
For most of my nude work, I’ve used a Nikon D300 and now the D600. I use a 50 mm f1.8 prime, the 85 mm f 1.8 and the 24-120 f4.
I’ve also used a Bronica ETRS 645 medium format film camera and Nikon 35 mm film cameras, though I haven’t used them much recently.
I’ve used Polaroid instant film cameras a few times as well. There’s something about those one of a kind images that captures the imagination.
Do you prefer shooting indoors, in a studio or rather outdoors?
I’ve only shot nudes outdoors a few times. I like it and I’d like to do more of it going forward. But I do like the control over lighting that a studio setting affords.
What lighting equipment do you set up for a shoot?
Even though I shoot in the studio 99% of the time, I’d say that roughly half of my nude portfolio was shot using natural light.
My friend, Gila Photo, has an amazing studio in a warehouse building in Baltimore, Md. There is a very large window in one room of his studio that affords some beautiful light. I’ve taken great advantage of that window over the years with just a reflector to open up the shadows a bit.
I’ve had an opportunity to use a lot of different lighting gear and photographers are presented with a lot of good choices in today’s market. I bought Alien Bees for my own studio. While they have their limitations, they are fine for the type of work I do. More recently, however, I’ve had the need for more portable lighting solutions. So I’ve used some old Nikon speedlights and invested in the Elinchrom Quadra system.
How important is Photoshop for your final images?
While I strive to get as much as I can right in camera, my images are still heavily manipulated for color, skin tone and the like. I think that photographers often believe that if they admit to how much they rely on Photoshop, that they are somehow not quite as good a photographer.
But anyone who’s done any darkroom printing with black & white photography knows that even very good negatives are manipulated quite a bit to produce a high quality print. And during the golden age of Hollywood with George Hurrell and CS Bull, the movie studios employed more retouchers than they did photographers.
So, while I strive to produce the best image file in terms of exposure and composition, I use that as a starting point to realize an image that I’d like to achieve.
Are you rather a Mac or a PC lover?
I wouldn’t say that I’m a lover of either system. But I learned to use PCs, so that’s what I’ve stuck with.
Joe, thanks a lot for joining me and the time you dedicated to my readers.