Joaquín del Castello Gilbert, Editor of Michelle7 and creator of “Visions of Ophelia” , is an American born Artistic Nude Photographer shooting sensual beautiful teen and twen nudes for over 20 years.
With the continuation of my Pro series, I have the pleasure to get more insights about Joaquín’s life and career and showcase his work for you.
Interview by Dan Hostettler
Where are you living now and for how long have you been a photographer?
New Age Publications is now based in Las Vegas, Nevada. I am the founder and editor of Michelle7.com, which has been online since 1998. It’s a platform for artistic nudes and erotica and we feature the work of a great many photographers.
I do showcase some of my own work there too. I’ve been into photography since the early 1980’s.
Did you go to school to study photography?
Yes and no. I did study basic (film) photography in University. But most of what I know is self-taught. I’ve learned more over the years studying the work of great photographers.
How would you describe your vision and visual signature of your style?
I have always been attracted to the minimalistic, abstract perspective of the human form. And moody, atmospheric black & white images have always inspired me the most. But when I am shooting a model, the end result is almost always what I would call a ‘happy accident’.
I rarely go into a session with a definitive idea of what I want to accomplish. This is not to say that I let the model direct the session, as I feel that I must be the one calling the shots and directing things – but I like to keep myself open to what moves me and find hitherto unseen things about the model and the location that make for interesting compositions.
What was the first photograph that meant something special to you (by you or anyone else), and why?
I think the first nude photos I ever shot had an enormous impact upon me. Seeing what I could accomplish was very exciting.
This was in the early 1980’s and there was very little opportunity to study artistic nudes. Playboy, Penthouse, Hustler and other such publications dominated the market. And very few photography magazines featured nudes back then, but when they did, I intuitively knew that’s what turned me on.
So, seeing that I could shoot something akin to what I saw in photography magazines was very cool. I included several of the nudes from my first nude session in my portfolio at school. At the end of the year all the students exhibited their work for the teacher and classmates to review. My portfolio was filled with nudes and several viewers were a little shocked – and I liked that!
How did you get started in shooting the nude-oriented work that you are into right now?
When I was nineteen, so many years ago in college, a female friend asked me to shoot some nudes of her when she discovered that I was studying photography. The images were supposed to be for her boyfriend. It was an amazing experience, for both of us I think. And it was this work that I showcased in my college portfolio.
A few years later, photographer Jeff Dunas started publishing Collector’s Magazine, which was devoted entirely to artistic nudes. It showcased the work of Helmut Newton, Ralph Gibson, Craig Morey, Jeanloup Sieff, and other artists. It was like a whole new world had opened up to me.
How do you find the models to work on your projects?
I used to rely on newspaper ads, but now I do most of my recruitment online. I’m a fairly pleasant guy to work with so I also get a few referrals from models and friends.
How do models enjoy working in this style?
From my experience, they seem to love it. I think most women are hardwired to seek attention for their physical beauty and find it very rewarding to be appreciated for it in the right situation.
I think it’s critical that a photographer act both professional and competent when working with models, especially when they are naked (and at their most vulnerable). They have to trust you the way a patient trusts their psychotherapist. This is very important in my work, as I generally don’t shoot the typical, happy-naked-girl thing.
I want my subjects to open up, psychologically speaking. I want their truth. I want authenticity.
Do you prefer shooting indoors, in a studio or rather outdoor work?
Variety is critical for me and I regularly shoot in all types of locations – indoors, outdoors, and in the studio. Each has its advantages. You have the most control in the studio. Shooting outdoors is the most adventurous and fun. But if pressed I would say that my preference is shooting indoors, in a dark, old home or building. That’s the atmosphere I dig the most when shooting nudes.
The great irony in my artistic life is that I really love the outdoors, and feel just as passionate about landscape photography as the nude. But so far, I have not been able to intertwine the two to the degree that I aspire. That would be very satisfying – to create an image that was truly both a great nude and a great landscape.
Many photographers would like to explore nude photography work but just don’t know how to get started. Do you have some advice for taking the first steps?
It’s never been easier to get started. I would suggest beginners pick up a few how-to manuals and study the basic mechanics of their camera, composition, and working with models. Then start looking for models. There are lots of online resources for finding and recruiting them.
Get some experience and look to create your own style. That’s the ultimate goal I think – to develop one’s own vision. With respect to that, it may help in the beginning to flagrantly mimic the style of another talented photographer. That’s what my friend Richard Murrian did – he was a devotee of David Hamilton. And though he matured into a great photographer in his own right, with his own spectacular vision, it was Hamilton’s influence that got him there quicker.
With experience comes confidence. And once untethered from mentorship, the burgeoning artist will very likely discover inspiration all around, sometimes in the most mundane and ordinary things. For myself, I’ve found influence in everything from literature to music to peyote-induced visions that nearly killed me. Be brave, man. Go to the edge!
You are the founder and editor of Michelle7.com . What goal do you pursue with your membership website?
I want an audience of course. I want others to share in the appreciation of artistic nudes and erotica . And I want the reward of supporting other artists in the pursuit of their vision
Tech QNA: Joaquín’s Gear DNA
Do you work solely digital or also analog these days?
100% digital now, although I love to experiment with different cameras, so it’s conceivable that I could again work with film. And who knows, it’s possible that one day I’ll ditch the camera and start painting.
What type of camera(s) do you shoot with?
I currently shoot with a Canon 5D Mark II. But I love all types of cameras and will occasionally shoot nudes – even on a paid assignment – using a simple, point-n-shoot camera, or even an iPhone, just to challenge myself and mix things up.
What lighting equipment do you set up for a shoot?
I shoot using natural light most of the time, though I do use reflectors and stuff like that. Every now and then I will use studio lighting, but I’ve always felt that my best work was crafted when shooting in natural light with minimal alteration. I like the challenge and immediacy of it.
How important is Photoshop for your final images?
Photoshop is critical – but I try to use it as little as possible. I like to keep things “real”. Images that are overprocessed and/or too perfect really turn me off. For me it’s not about perfection; it’s about insight and enlightenment.
Are you rather a Mac or a PC lover?
I use both platforms.
Joaquín, thanks a lot for joining us and the time you dedicated to my readers.