Now more than ever…
This time I would like to continue with my third personal insight in form of an interview.
The interview was performed by Jose Antunes – a photographer and freelance writer from Portugal – and intended to originally be published on a big mainstream photo-website, but shortly before the publishing date, the editors of the site canceled the publication.
Reason: Glamour & Nude Photography is a “problem topic”.
This runs like a continuous thread through my story: Glam & Nude is always a “problem topic”. A no-go for social media, a no-go for gaining acceptance, a no-go for… pretty much everything!
So, today you get a bit more insight about my career, the oppositions I get in spreading my work and why I – despite everything – never would go for any other job than the one of being a commercial nude photographer 🙂
Interview by Jose Antunes, freelance writer and photographer based in Portugal
When did you first pick up a camera? What first attracted you to photography?
At the age of 14, I purchased my very first analogue SLR camera, a Praktica MTL5. This was a so called “Russian Camera“, actually from East Germany with a M42 screw mount for the lenses.
It was the only type of SLR I could afford back then. And I had saved for it for quite a long time.
I still remember how I then started taking pictures of my grandmother’s flowers like a fool with no great success as I was using a standard 50mm prime lens with no macro function.
After this encounter I took most shots during vacation and travels with my parents. Our stay in Paris was a key moment for me. Oh Paris, I immediately fell in love with this city. That was at the age of 16. Yet my emotions were all about the city, not the girls. I rather ignored them as I had not quite a clue yet what to do with them.
Anyhow, I captured this first big “love” with verve on film. Oh this Paris – but that’s a different story…
At which point in your career did you decide to become a full time photographer?
I believe it happened at the age of 12 when I absolutely viewed myself as being destined for the silver screen in terms of being a Director or at least a Director of Photography. It was the time when Steven Spielberg released “ET” at the theater and the sequels of Star Wars were out as well – just a magnificent time.
During this period, I read all I could find about Steven – his work inspired me immensely (to a great extent). Steven used to be and remains to be a big creative mind in the movie business. So that was the reason why I wanted to join the movie industry.
However, this is a hopeless endeavor in Switzerland. There is no training available at all. In Germany one can apply to a film school, albeit one needs a baccalaureate for accreditation. I did a kind of high school degree (a Swiss special form off) but unfortunately with my Latin exams I failed. Well, goodbye film school.
So I decided to size smaller and start out with photography. But even that is basically a difficult undertaking in Switzerland.
Thanks to certain relationships and some luck, I received an apprenticeship opportunity in a photo studio specialized in commercial work. In addition to the practical training, I passed the Professional School for Fine Arts and Design in Bern. A third and last part was my education taking place in a consumer photo retail store for a while (that was part of the education package deal).
Finally – after 4 years – I graduated as a photographer.
The time at the academy was wild and brilliant all at once. There was (almost) nothing that we did not explore with our cameras…
You’re a Glamour and Nude Photographer. But you started your career as a commercial studio photographer. Can you tell us how you moved into this specific area and why?
As already mentioned I somehow had already plunged into the world of commercial photography and was to a certain extent integrated into business execution because of my apprenticeship.
I could have changed to the middle-class people photography then, meaning portrait and wedding work.
But glamour – let alone nude photography – had never been an option. In Switzerland, this type of photography never existed in a commercial manner.
There has not been – and still does not exist – any kind of serious business approach into this direction in my country. The same goes for really exciting high standard fashion photography: it is simply non-existent in Switzerland.
All international recognized Swiss photographers started and developed their careers abroad.
Actually, I should have gone to Paris, venture out into the world… – but I haven’t had the guts at that time.
Sexy Women Photography – Dan’s Port Snapshot
Which photographers have influenced you? And outside of photography, are there areas from which you take inspiration? Which?
Regarding a first inspiration it was most definitely Helmut Newton (DE/AUS). But not because of his nude photography. No, not at all. It was his celeb photography he was able to practice after he became kind of famous.
Today, I partially like the disputatious Annie Leibovitz (US) because of her amazing staging every now and then. But I certainly also adore Peter Lindbergh (DE) with his cinematic approach.
And then there are Mario Testino (PE) and Bruno Bisang (CH) who are absolutely great as well!
Apparently I am strongly energetic, influenced and lead by fashion photography. Yet it isn’t the “fashion” element itself that thrills me but rather the faces, forms, colors and bodies that appear in this photographic style.
In regards to lighting and light setting, I mostly get inspired by architecture and design photography by its very precise light design, control and guidance as well as its creations of forms, structures and lines.
From the barren, minimalistic realization to the visually opulent mise-en-scène: architectural photography in its full range is an amazingly great model.
To keep up with the latest visual trends in the commercial world, I orient myself towards all the state of the art magazines like Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, Esquire, Elle, Marie Claire etc.
In your very first portfolio you state that “Women are adorable. Women are attractive. Women are the most beautiful and precious creatures on earth.” What is it that attracts you to sexy women photography?
Emanuelle Seigner, Letitia Casta, Liliane Santos, Penelope Cruz, Scarlett Johansson, Eva Green, Emma Watson, Giselle Bündchen and 1001+ – please accept my apologies but I can’t narrow it down to one certain type.
Style, class, personality, appeal – this is not something that automatically has to do with nudity and a respective photographic approach in the first place. It is quite clearly all about the charisma of women.
This starts with vivid lively eyes, an enchanted (sometimes enraptured) smile on the lips, a look that irresistibly seduces you.
The corresponding body, the curves and silkiness – these finally are the visual enhancements of the individual class and beauty of a particular woman.
Looking at your work one finds some beautiful models. How do you find your models? Is there any advice you can give to photographers starting out and looking for models?
After my decision to touch down in nude photography, I defined a personal goal: To only work with models (at that time) that I personally like in their attractiveness, style and demeanor. After all, it was a huge investment in my first portfolio…
Now it seems that these women are also attracting a lot of viewers which certainly is a great pleasure for me too.
A real big help and fortune was – and actually still is – that Prague, where I started my nude photo career, is full of pretty, sexy and smart girls.
During my market entry beginnings I was lucky to have had a good colleague who already knew the local industry and I also researched models over a local (Czech) website. Both the site and my colleague provided me with my first direct contacts to models.
After the first successful shoots things got easier and model’s as well as makeup artist’s – word of mouth referrals are now the usual way for me to find new models. The local industry is quite small and good reputation is a definite door opener.
These days I often get approached directly by models. If we are in need of breathing new life into a project, we run an open casting call.
If I plan a shoot abroad, I sometimes research on sites like ModelMayhem. But just a word of warning: this kind of model-indexes are to be regarded with suspicion. A lot of self-proclaimed models do not keep agreements and/or are somehow “creepy” in real life.
So the best way is still to act and organize with direct contacts through other models, photographers and stylists. There are no serious model agencies for us nude photographers unlike in the fashion industry.
Dan, Production Mode
You’ve moved from Switzerland to Prague and in 2001 you founded StudioPrague – a dedicated photo education hub for enthusiasts in Prague, Czech Republic. Why did you move? Is Prague a better place to be for this kind of photography?
At the beginning of this millennium, I’ve had the chance to visit Prague as a tourist. There was somehow a flight ticket left…
For the first time standing on the Oldtown Square I was just simply thrilled! Those medieval architectures! I mean, as a European citizen I am quite used to historical buildings, but this beat everything! In addition, the varied cultural offer is immense, something I rather missed back in Switzerland.
But the most intensive part was that I had a déjà vu –the same adventurous love feeling as in Paris back in the days emerged once again. That time I really had to take my chances!
My career back in Switzerland was somehow stuck and so my decision was made fairly quickly on behalf of the culture, architecture and models – I sensed that Prague was the ideal place to reinvent and develop myself.
The mentality of the girls committed to this type of work here is mind-blowingly different from other countries. It’s really one of the perfect places for working in beauty and nude photography.
Furthermore, Prague is located in the heart of Europe, is politically stable and has excellent flight, train and bus connections to other European cities and the rest of the world.
Promoting one’s work in the area of Nude and Glamour is not always easy. How do you go about in terms of social media?
It’s true that I struggle and experience big difficulties in promoting my nude photography work in social media channels. Facebook & Co are living with the Disney spirit: for god‘s sake no nipples and the like.
At the same time, the interest in seriously learning and exploring sexy women photography is constantly high. So I launched my personal BLOG+ „Learn Sexy Women Photography“ in 2013. With purposefully placed keywording based on valuable, organic and exciting content, I got first good results with Google.
On top of that, I’ve founded a G+ community , regularly enriched with images and texts that complies with Google‘s rules. I prefer G+‘ social network as this is the place for professional topics while food and cat photos become rampant on Facebook.
One more unpleasant hurdle I have to accept is related to the big professional photo community sites like Fstoppers, SLRLounge etc. Today all their content has to be “clean” and any kind of nudity (even the artsy approach) is taboo. You never can tell when the next IPO is just around the corner…
Anyhow, an honest strategy that correlates with my needs is to commit to beauty photography once more over the next few months. To create additional beauty imagery filled with my vision and approach. Material which can be used for more overall purposes.
I will not lose the path of my nude photography in any way, under no circumstances! Nude photography is 100% my field of work. Yet beauty photography is a neat and wonderful addition to it. Isn’t it?
For someone just starting out in Glamour and Nude what is the essential gear needed, both in terms of lighting and camera?
For all type of people photography you can rely on the same basic equipment.
Most important are good lenses. They don’t have to be prime ones and they don’t need to have an amazing open aperture like 1.2. If you can afford it, go for it. But it’s certainly no necessity. Camera body is up to your favorite brand. If possible, buy a full frame type and for sure your camera must have the capability to shoot in RAW format.
Please forget about all the actual hypes for mirror-less cameras and rants against the good “old” DSLR (even sales are declining and companies are writing losses). Investments into a successful photography hobby and for growing pros should be based on a solid long term existing system.
Regarding lighting: if you decide to start out with strobe lighting you can go with your brand’s speed-lights first. But be aware of two things: the fully computerized units cost as much as a portable studio light (monolights) and they do not have a pilot (modeling) light.
Once opted for artificial lighting, the most important factor is to keep an eye on a constant light output quality. I mean the constant color temperature your flash units have to deliver over time.
Starting out with outdoor photography in an “easy mode”: go with a 5in1 disc reflector. They cost nothing and will be your friend for decades.
Dan, Workshop Mode
In terms of gear what can usually be found in your bag?
My bag is equipped with Nikon gear ever since my life turned pro. I still use decade old manual prime lenses. But actually not for my people photography rather than traveling shots.
OK: Nikon D700, D800 (for video), 18mm (1.8, manual), 50mm (1.8, manual), 85mm (2.8, AF), 24-70mm (2.8, AF) 80-200mm (2.8, AF), 80-400mm (3.5-5.6, AF), and a Metz speedlight.
An additional “on location” bag with Multiblitz and Broncolor monolights (+ Manfrotto stands).
Every now and then my analog Nikon FM2 and a Hasselblad C501 accompany me.
New photographers and readers always want to know the secret of success, or at least how to move from the amateur field into the working photographer area. Is there a shortcut to achieve the status or is it a long winding road? Any tips for those wanting to try it?
First of all: there are no “secrets”, hidden path or a surefire recipe. The only shortcut I know is: just get started.
It’s basically like in every profession and area of life: be insistent with the topic, stay with it, stand fast, have faith in and be honest with yourself.
Besides that it’s a lifelong learning process, you have to progress and seize the chance from time to time. Your photography will grow with your life experience. Perception and translation will change as technical aspects will do too. Even the business environment you are staying in offers you no absolute term. Every single aspect is in progress and evolves at all times. Sometimes rapidly.
The knowledge you have gained will, however, remain available! But here too one of your key competences must be lifelong learning.
Baby steps into people (= nude) photography: First of all, visit a workshop to get an overall impression and feeling. Then start out with learning and internalizing the fundamental light settings and techniques, make yourself familiar with the human anatomy and psyche. Then try to handle your first model (booking, preparation, shoot). Survive this first real shoot. And above all: Maintain the confidence in your instinct!
What are your projects for the future? Is there a specific direction you want to take your photography?
As extensively mentioned I will further concentrate my style of work on beauty photography, while not losing my creativeness in nude photography one bit.
And then there is my BLOG+ where I will keep working with full power and commitment.
It’s my gate to the world and I feel great joy to share my knowledge, my ideas and concepts as well as my trials and errors with everybody out here.
Spreading photography education remains a very important part in my professional life. I want to reveal and illustrate my methods, executions and results. This is closely connected with my actual and next light setting projects where I will combine different photographic styles like portrait, beauty, fashion, glamour and nude with my own visions and concepts.
As said, my next „essential lighting guide” is nearly finished. And in the near future I will also realize easy to understand online courses related to the topic “lighting & impact”. I want to present basic knowledge in a more intuitive way as I am convinced that in today’s digital era the form of instructions in setting lights shouldn’t be the same as it was 20 years ago.
So I am working on visually intuitive learning materials for all who want to set their foot into Sexy Women Photography with me as their mentor. Yes, it’s going to be for all of you enthusiasts and pros out there.
Personally, I would love to pick up my travel activities more extensively once again.