John is a photographer who specialises in both fashion and architecture. He aspires to create images which are physical representations of a fantasy or a dream.
Read the interview with John which is featured in Issue Two. To see the essay of photography you can purchase the magazine here.
How would you define erotic photography?
To me, it is simply when I tell a story in a way that is sexually explicit. The same story could be told with a fashion or fine art bias, but it wouldn’t pick up the same label.
What are you trying to achieve with your erotic work?
To present what I think is beautiful about sex and sexuality.
At what point does a nude photograph become an erotic one?
It’s about intent. Erotic work is purposefully sexual and arousing. ‘Nude’ just means they aren’t wearing any clothes.
How do you rationalise the difference between what is erotic and what is pornographic?
I don’t worry much about this distinction. To some, all nudity is pornographic. I focus on balancing emotional arousal with sexual arousal within my work, and then people can call it whatever they wish.
Is a good working relationship between yourself and the model an essential element in achieving a successful shoot?
Kind of. I always try to build a rapport as best as I can but as with any other working relationship some people you click with, and some people you don’t. Usually the results are better if I can relate to a model in some way and vice versa.
What do you look for in a model in relation to eroticism?
I look for models who are comfortable with who they are. You have to have some love and appreciation for yourself and your sexuality. If they have that then it’s usually going to be a good shoot.
Some of these images are amongst the most explicit in this issue and yet give the impression of being the result of what must have been quite a fun and relaxed shoot. Tell us more about it.
I had previously worked with Andrea, the dark haired model, and she wrote to tell me that she was going to be in town and wondered if I wanted to work together with her again. I said ‘of course’ and then she mentioned that she was travelling with a friend of hers, that they had great chemistry, and would I be interested in shooting them together. ‘Of course’ was my reply, and so we set things up. The shoot focused on the idea of control and the models took on the roles of being dominant and submissive. I asked them to play the opposite role to who they were in their usual lives. I always like to encourage models to step out of their comfort zone a little bit as I find that they are more likely to explore when playing an adopted role, rather than merely posing or presenting a persona that they have already rehearsed. So, they were game and I tried to balance directing them with letting them explore and capturing the intensity of their exploration. It worked well and I love the way that the images turned out.
To what extent is real emotion captured in the photographs, or was it all performance?
There is a performance element to it but within that space I think there is quite a bit of authenticity. If the concept or outline of the shoot is exciting and you leave room for the models to explore then they will pour themselves into the role. And if you can relate to the models somewhat, and can feel the way that things are going, you can direct things in a way that enhances that.
Is eroticism, for you, about being transported to a fantasy world? Are you indulging your own fantasies here or those of the models?
All of my work is about dreams or fantasies to some degree, and eroticism is the sexual component of that. I never question models with regards to their fantasies. That seems far too personal for me to ask a complete stranger. Although it probably seems perplexing to some readers that asking about fantasies is more personal than performing sexual acts in front of the camera, but that’s how it is.
Your photos are a very bold and audacious treatment of eroticism. How do people respond to this aspect of your work?
Better than I had initially thought they would. I expected a much greater percentage of people to simply write it off as pornographic but that hasn’t really been the case. The artistic component of my work is strong and this helps to balance against the sexual elements, so that the images don’t appear solely focused on overt sexual arousal, which is always the risk when you make erotic work. At least that’s what I like to tell myself.
What reaction do you hope to receive with these images?
I hope that people either love or hate my work for at least one reason which they are consciously aware of, and to love or hate it for another reason that they have no conscious understanding of.
Do you have a vision, or a narrative, in mind before you set out on a shoot?
I always have a narrative in mind when I shoot. For each shoot I am the driver, but I am also along for the ride. So, I may set off in one direction but I am always sensitive to the way things are unfolding and am willing to modify the course as something larger begins to take shape. The narratives that form the basis for my images are drawn from larger themes that I am interested in exploring. By having a foundation built on my particular interests I know that the process will evoke something that I feel ultimately represents some component of me.
Why did you choose to photograph the models in this essay wearing accessories, the stockings, corsets, stilettos etc. that allude to fetishism? Was the decision based on a purely aesthetic consideration, or were you deliberately passing comment on the relationship between eroticism and fetishism?
I don’t see the accessories in this story as specifically alluding to fetishism. I selected those particular pieces because they best reiterated the narrative theme of dominance and submission. The points of control are always in black. The submissive components are presented in white. By the conclusion, there is a shift in the characters as black becomes the primary color on the submissive character as well. This would suggest that she has come to a place of power within that context of submission. The question is what does this change mean and how will it manifest going forward? But I try to keep it sexy, so the stockings help with that.
Your bold and daring portrayal of sexuality might be perceived by some to be crossing a boundary into pornography. Do you deliberately position your photography in this space?
I try to push boundaries with my work but the boundaries I push are my own, those of the actors, and those of the viewer. It is of no interest to me whether people want to classify the work one way or another. What is of interest to me is how they react to it. Any representation of sex inevitably collides with the complex web of contradictions that we have inherited from our culture. How people handle this collision will tell you a great deal about them. Are they drawn to the work or to the characters? Do they like or dislike them? Does it make them excited or uncomfortable? Do they want to dismiss the work or pass judgment on those involved with it, or do they see something alluring in the images?
Visit John’s website here.