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Filtering by Category: skin

Beautiful Masculinity: An Interview with Ricardo Rico

Christophe Chaisson

Ricardo Rico is a 28 year old Brazilian living in São Paulo. His passion and career is photographing people. The photos he takes are very intimate and they portray a beautiful side to man's masculinity and beauty.

Christophe: When did you first become interested in photography?

Ricardo: I remember the first picture that I saw and I thought, "Wow how beautiful is it!" I wondered how that picture was created. I was a child and the picture was of Naomi Campell, from Playboy Magazine by David LaChapelle.
Ever since then, everytime that I saw a beautiful picture, I wondered how and why it was made. When I was a teenager I met a photographer and he invited me to help him during a photoshoot of a new upcoming model. That moment was my first real contact with photography and I fell in love.


C: Were you self-taught or did you learn in school/from a mentor?

R: Self-taught.  My first exposure with photography was through a professional, however I did not have them as a mentor.
I researched and read about photography back then, and nowadays I continue do to do the same. I never stopped seeking more information.
Knowledge is an endless cycle, never stop seeking.



C: How did you develop your style?

R: So difficult, I have many doubts if I developed a style.
Hehehe "I love making new experiences"
Nowadays, my experience with 'The Lonely Project' has made me happy


C: What themes do you explore through your work?

R: Masculine beauty in physical and emotional forms is my current theme. I try to portray another man by mixing and molding a little of my subjects and a little of myself together. 


C: How do you find and choose you subjects or locations?

R: The intimate/nude theme is a set for 'The Lonely'.
Normally the first contact with the candidate is online, and I explain my job and they tell me the reason that motivated them to seek being photographed by me. I get to personally know them,  and we  start a building a strong connection based on confidence. After all nudity is still a taboo and it is not easy to get naked in front of someone.
Usually, I photograph in their house. I see this place only on the day of the photoshoot.

 Sometimes the place is amazing with a lot of light and I can explore the place many ways, while other times it is a patient game where I fight against the darkness to explore the maximum that I am able to do. However, the place is not very important, the focus is the human.  The pictures I take and conversations we have are the most important objective.


C: What inspires your work?

R: The people are my inspiration. I loving walk on the street and observing the people near me. It’s fascinating to observe someone that have no idea they are being observed. Mainly lonely people, seated in the park, in the square, public transport, waiting for someone or something. 
And movies, TV series, songs, and some photographers that I like so much are João Guedes, Wong Sim and Haris Nukem.


C: How do you compose an image? Do you go into the shoot with a specific shot in mind, or does the inspiration strike when you place your model in the setting?

R: All is an experiment. First, I need to get a harmonious atmosphere to feel free and confident. After that the experimenting starts. I continue to study and search what will be visually pleasing for the photoshoot throughout this entire process. 


C: What has been your biggest lesson learned through creating your art?

R: I have learned to listen. 
I have gained the opportunity to meet a lot of different people with culture and histories totally different and this has enriched me a lot as a human.


C: What do you hope your art says to people?

R: The interpretation is free and totally personal. In my opinion, the body is art and can be interpreted to many ways; it depends on the way that you see. 

C: Why did you choose your craft? How hard was it to become profitable at it?  

R: It is necessary for me and I cannot see myself doing anything different than photography in my future. Just like any other self-employment, this is a battle with ups and downs.


C: Any suggestions to newcomers to the field?

R: Make experiences, observe, make mistakes & correct them, do not give up, remake and try it again!


C: If you couldn’t be doing your craft, what would you do instead?

R: I cannot see myself doing something different than photography, however Graphic Designer is another option.


C: Any favorite moments of your career so far?

R: The gaze, of who I captured with my camera, this make me feels happy.


C: What would you do differently if you could start from scratch?

R: If I changed one thing that I did, I probably could lose good things that I won during this time.


Rico is currently working on a project that we can all support by clicking here on the Catarse website. (Brazilian Crowdfunding)

The second edition of Lonely Magazine is in the works and he needs our help to publish his fantastic work of art.  

You can also share some love and check out his website & Instagram:

Website: RicardoRico  Instagram: @the.lonely.project

Fujifilm’s X-E2S in Tribeca || A Review

Ben Ashby


Over the past month we asked Tribeca based photographer Ethan Barber to play around with the Fujifilm X-E2S and give us his thoughts about the camera and its ability to take shots around the city. We wanted to see how a mid level camera could handle content production and would aid in production with its easy to use interface and built in wifi. 


Over the course of the last month, I’ve had the opportunity to try the Fujifilm X-E2S. As a full-time graphic designer who commutes into Tribeca each day from northern New Jersey; portability is one of the most important factors in a camera for me. Having a small bag, space quickly fills up with my laptop, snacks, and assorted winter gear. My old DSLR was bulky and heavy, but I lugged it around because the quality of photos I was able to capture with it were worth it. Switching over to this Fuji, I was able to capture photos with the same quality and depth as my DSLR, but with the lightweight feel and smaller body that this mirrorless camera packs. Despite its deceivingly small size, it easily compares to much more expensive and larger cameras currently on the market.


This camera is perfect for:

  1. Entry-level photographers
  2. Photographers who need to save on space.
  3. Small weekend trips and quick portraits.

Historic Staple Street Skybridge | Tribeca || FujiFilm XE2S


Duane Street | Tribeca || FujiFilm XE2S


Greenwich Street | Tribeca || FujiFilm XE2S


The Corner of Crosby and Broome | Soho || FujiFilm XE2S


Building entryway on West Broadway | Tribeca|| FujiFilm XE2S


The intersection of Broadway and Howard | Soho || FujiFilm XE2S


Church Street | Tribeca || FujiFilm XE2S


West Broadway | Tribeca || FujiFilm XE2S


Church Street | Tribeca || FujiFilm XE2S


Historic Staple Street Skybridge | Tribeca || FujiFilm XE2S


Corner of Howard and Crosby | Soho || FujiFilm XE2S


Corner of Howard and Crosby | Soho || FujiFilm XE2S


Lower Manhattan skyline | Hoboken, NJ || FujiFilm XE2S

Special thanks to Ethan Barber for reviewing this camera. See more of his work:


To Check out the camera CLICK HERE

Where do I Want to Adventure to Next? || Luke Gottlieb

Ben Ashby

Where do I Want to Adventure to Next?

Meet Photographer Luke Gottlieb


Luke Gottlieb, the photographer behind Victor of Valencia on Instagram has been one of my very favorite photographers for a very long time. I dream of the day when I have the photographer skills and editing skills he has so brilliantly mastered. I wanted to learn more, so I made my way out to Colorado to learn Luke's backstory and life advice. 



"Adventure is one of those things that keeps life interesting and completely fresh with experiences. It’s certainly the driving force behind most of my passions in life. It’s something I think about every morning I wake up too; where do I want to adventure to next?"

 — @victorofvalencia


Why do you explore? To me, exploration allows the unexpected to come to the surface of our lives. Without exploration, we never learn or see anything new. I also have this constant feeling of wanting to know what exists around the corner. As a child, it seems your whole existence is all about exploring and being curious. I think that we cary some of that same drive throughout our lives as we get older. 


Why take risks in life? Without risks, growth is absent. To me, evolving as a human being and having a better understanding of the world can’t happen unless you take risks or unless you really step out of your comfort zone. 




Where are you from? I grew up in a small mountain town in Colorado called Carbondale. It’s an outdoor hub surrounded by old ranch lands, rivers, forests and mountains. It’s one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen. 


What is your 9-5?  I was never one to resonate very well with a 9-5 job. I’ve worked for myself the last 3 years and I can say it’s the best fit for me right now. I’m a full-time photographer. It’s amazing, but certainly has the challenges that comes with it. I often can’t remember what day it is, but maybe that is the point of it all… to just live life and experience every day as a new and exciting adventure. 





When you were growing up what or who did you want to be? My dad was a musician and my mom was a music lover as well. I think when I picked up the guitar at the age of 12 I fantasized about being a rock star… as a lot of teenage boys do. I still play music, it’s in my blood and will be till the day I die. I record and do the occasional tour with my band. I don’t think I ever really had a firm grasp on what I wanted to really be in life, but I think that I have found my lane as a portrait and lifestyle photographer. 




Favorite place you've visited? There have been a lot of profound experiences in my life. Traveling has always been a part of them. I think that my experience in Israel was amazing. It had a lot of impact on me. The history is stark and complex, but the culture and people are beautiful. 






Place you most desperately want to visit? I have always wanted to post up in a bungalow on the beach in a place like Fiji or Tahiti. I have had a fascination with surf/island culture since I was really young. So much of my family is from southern California, so the ocean has always captured my heart and soul in a lot of ways.


What is the single greatest moment of human humanity you've experienced while traveling? I’m going to circle back to my experience in Israel and say that it’s the greatest moment of humanity has been seeing and feeling the resiliency of that place. It’s a powerful area, with religion, history and humanity all wrapped up into a complex web. Germany was another really powerful experience. Seeing the concentration camps in person floored me. It’s wild thinking about the past while standing on the very ground it all those terrible events took place. 






What has changed about you because of your travels? For me, traveling has expanded my view of the world. From that I feel I have become much more humble and modest. Maybe sometimes to a fault, but there are just so many amazing people and places in this world that it has forced me to be much more selfless and inspired as well. 


Who is the most dynamic and thought provoking person you've ever met? I think a lot about this actually, who has been the most thought provoking person I have encountered. My dad would definitely be that person. We have had challenging and deep conversations my whole life and he certainly has encouraged me to think of the world in various different ways. 





If you could travel with one person in history or in present who would it be and why? I think I would have to say Edward Abbey. To some, he was an extremist in his views of the environment, but his passion for it and his love for nature is something I have resonated with throughout my life. His heart is in the southwestern desert as much of mine is as well. He is a deep thinker and adventurer and to see the world with him would be incredibly fascinating. 


What are your must haves for travel? Pack lite, don’t plan too much and say YES. I have been more of a YES person as I have gotten older and what not a better time to say YES then being far away from home. 


Give us a travel tip: In college, I did my senior internship in the Bahamas. I was part of a research team traveling around the islands and documenting the state of coral bleaching that was taking over the vast reefs surrounding the islands. It was pretty eye opening swimming around with the sea life and seeing the extent in which the reefs were dying. In the grand scheme of things it is a small and tiny area, but it was a direct way to become more aware to the state of our planet. 






What would you say to someone who has never travelled before? 

I think that if we could learn more about each other and be open to new ways of looking at the world it would allow us all to improve as humans. There is just so much diversity on this planet both in body and mind to think selfishly.


I would definitely not preach to them that traveling is necessary, but I would encourage them to reach outside of their comfort zone. To me, that is the largest hurdle for someone who has never traveled. Things come easy here (your native country), it is what we know best, but, to insert yourself into a country where your native language isn’t spoken as the first language is awesome. It makes you very self aware. 


What is the single greatest lesson you've learned from someone that is different than you? This goes back to the diversity answer, but I think it has taught me more about being a humble human being. When you really focus on the idea that everyone experiences this life in their own individual way it makes you more self aware and accepting of others. 




When did you feel you were most out of your comfort zone. What did you learn from that lesson? I can't think of a particular moment where I felt super out of my comfort zone. I feel that traveling in general always has moments where you feel that. It's easy to feel overwhelmed or unsure of how to do something when you are in those situations. I think a lot of people can relate to that. I typically just take a step back and know that I will be ok and that I can figure it out. It goes back to our primal problem solving skills. You just kind of get through it! That is the biggest lesson, to trust you will be ok and that being uncomfortable is quite normal for a lot of people. You just have to take some breaths. 


What would you say to your former self? I would probably tell myself to take the money I would spend on meaningless things and put it towards International plane tickets.  


What gives you hope? Meeting genuinely nice people who care about others and our planet gives me the most hope. Seeing people really connected with their place, wether that is culture or environment is a beautiful thing and makes me feel encouraged that that will be passed on to the younger generations to come. To all the people dedicating their lives to sustainable farming, you may give me the most hope.


Where to next? As I have gotten older I have an ever increasing itch to see more of the world. I’m a sucker for cinema and connecting to storytelling. I want to see all these places that just have existed on paper or on the big screen. This fascination I have with period pieces and historical storytelling makes me want to be inserted into the places they exist. 


Is flannel always in season? I grew up in the mountains, so flannel will forever be a staple piece in my closet and truck. I probably wear flannel every 5 out of 7 days. It’s the best! 



Risks Lead to Lessons | Adventure with Yoni Gill

Ben Ashby






Paige first introduced me to Yoni a couple of years ago as we were driving across the US. Yoni, a recent college graduate was still in school in Nebraska. He met up with out group and took us to what I think was a bison range. I'm not super sure, nor am I sure we even saw any wildlife. It was cold, dark, and we were less than halfway across the US. For years I had assumed, like most Americas that Nebraska was simply a fly-over state. In that short chilly afternoon Yoni introduced us to the wide open beauty of the plaines. As a photographer Yoni travels the globe shooting portraits and weddings, for me, I was eager to learn more about how Yoni made it from Israel to Nebraska and how that altered his world view.....



Why do you adventure? It's in my blood, my father is a man of great adventure, I grew up listening to his stories of places he's been. When he met my mom (She met my dad while traveling the Sinai desert, while backpacking through Europe.), those adventures just doubled. They have boxes and boxes of photos they took from all of their travels, beautiful old school film. They can tell me the story of each photograph. That's probably the single most intense drive I have for adventuring and traveling.


Why do you explore? It’s the only time I ever truly feel like myself. I get restless easily, if I don't go on a trip often I start to lose my mind.


20160811-DSCF5815 (1).jpg


Why take risks in life? In the words of Ash Ketchum, “nothing in life is a waste of time.” Plus risks lead to lessons.


Where are you from? I was born in Israel, I moved to Papillion, Nebraska when I was 10. My mom's side of the family is from western Nebraska, so they all lived there. That's why I went from the desert to the icy winters of the Midwest.


What is your 9-5? Is that slang for job? I photograph humans, my dog, and landscapes on occasion. I just finished my degree in advertising at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

When on a trip it's more like a 5-midnight, because you almost always want that sunrise shot?




When you were growing up what or who did you want to be? I actually really wanted to be a mechanical engineer. I wanted to design car engines. My Dad is a private car dealer (that's a title hard to explain) I grew up around cars my whole life. Then I realized in college how terrible I was at Chemistry, that's how I ended up picking up photography.


Favorite place you've visited? There was this lake, outside Mammoth, California. Convict Lake, it's kinda famous. I went there with my friends Greg Balkin, and Taylor Burk. We stayed with another friend Josh Wray, who runs some advertising for mammoth. Anyway we woke up super early one morning and went out to this lake, in November of 2015. It was cold, like 6o, and Greg & Taylor needed to shoot for Oru Kayak. Being the only one not working for them, it was my job to be the guy in the kayak. I got in and almost fell in the lake, but I caught myself by plunging my right arm into the lake. Then I had to kayak for 25ish minutes with a freezing arm. I almost passed out getting back to the car. Not sure why but it's one of my most fond memories, maybe it's because I felt really courageous after that, or maybe it's because we went to a diner and I got chocolate chip pancakes.




Place you most desperately want to visit? I NEED TO GO AFRICA. I went as a kid but I don't remember any of it. I have a huge passion for animals. The bigger the better, and my heart aches daily for the ivory poaching that happens on that continent. I want to photograph some rhinos and elephants before I can't.


What is the single greatest moment of human humanity you've experienced while traveling? In high school I was on a trip to Poland with 150 other Jewish teens from around the country, we had a holocaust survivor with us. Just the cutest tiniest lady named Trudy, we were walking through Majdanek (the most "put together" death camp still in existence). Anyway I hadn't gotten more than a hundred yards through this place, with Trudy by side when she grabs my hand. At first I thought she might need my support, then I realized I was the one crying my eyes out. The human heart is an exceptional piece of understanding.




What has changed about you because of your travels? I feel that I grow a bit each time I get on a plane, I've learned most from meeting other people, and the farther away they are the more I seem to learn.


Who is the most dynamic and thought provoking person you've ever met? Dallas Clayton, he writes children's books.


If you could travel with one person in history or in present who would it be and why? This question really stumped me until I saw "or in present" I would love to go on a trip with Obama, which I know sounds like a super lame cop-out answer, but it's not for political reasons, I just think he would love to hangout with some elephants as much as I do.




Must haves for travel? Stuff you should always pack?
Underwear. Everything else you can just buy, unless you don't have any money, then you should make sure you packed it. I always make a packing list, even if it's common sense stuff, you don't want to be at the airport and realize you forgot all of your t-shirts on the bed.



Give us some travel tips: You will learn to hate sitting in the back of the plane, not because of the comfort, but because of how long it takes to get off when you get somewhere you really want to go. Buy a car you can set up to sleep in comfortably. I suggest a Subaru Forester, mine's named Humphrey, he's really rad.

Buy a camera, even if you're not a photographer, you don't need to be, just take photos of everything you see, the market, the hotel, the car you're in, the views you see, the people you meet. We don't have perfect memories, we do forget, and those things you don't want to forget, me. Print the photos, keep them in a shoe box.

One day you might show these pictures to your kids.


Also be stupidly kind to the people who work in travel, you never know when you'll get an upgrade or a perk for being nice even when everything has gone wrong.




Give us a story any kind of story from one of your trips that was impactful: It's okay to travel alone, even for a day, the world is not out to get you. Sometimes I get the most out of a trip when I take a day to explore alone. Recently I walked 13 miles through Seattle in one day and when I got to the space needle, I just sat there and soaked it all in. Then I got some tacos. - always get tacos. It doesn’t always have to be a whole day alone, if you're not like that. I got to Granby Colorado for a wedding weekend in August, I got there an hour before the sunset, and I knew I had to get some photos before I met up with everyone. I went on a trail run and ran out of light before I got to the meadow I was trying to get to, I thought it was going to be a total flop. On the drive back, I found a group of elk that just came off the mountain, they were so graceful, I stood out of the sunroof of my car and observed. I remembered to snag a picture before I left, it’s kinda blurry but I love it.


Based on your travels what is the single most needed improvement for humanity to be stronger Make flights cheaper, make borders more transparent. We need to meet each other. More accessible tacos.


What would you say to someone who has never travelled before? Adventure isn't on top of a mountain, it's not the beautiful waterfalls or cliffs. It's everywhere, you've travelled before, I can almost guarantee it. You just didn't know you were.




What is the single greatest lesson you've learned from someone that is different than you? How different they're not.


When did you feel you were most out of your comfort zone? What did you learn from that lesson? I can't sleep in tents, I was backpacking with my brother once in the mountains of Colorado, and we had a little incident with a moose, it's a fairly long story but it got me good, and now I can't sleep in tents. Put me in a tent and you'll have a very uncomfortable Yoni.

This might lead you to the question:
"How do you sleep when you camp then?" I don't, or I just sleep in my car.

The greatest lesson I've learned from this: you CAN overcome challenges, no matter how impossible they might seem, you just have to think out of the box, and accept some situations but you have to try first.


untitled-0232 (1).jpg


What would you say to your former self? "Hey thanks for everything you tried to do, don't worry we figured it out, also one day you'll become lactose intolerant so please binge on ice cream, you can lose weight later"


What gives you hope? I'm a lame hopeless romantic, I've yet to meet a person that has made me completely lose hope in humanity. Then again, I haven’t met Trump in person yet.


Where to next? California to Yeah Field Trip! After that some more domestic trips, then hopefully somewhere new.


Is flannel always in season? If it's not, you can always get flannel boxers and just not tell anyone you're wearing them.

@YoniLiveOnce ||

Thats What Traveling is All About! Meet John Thatcher

Ben Ashby

We've known photographer John Thatcher for years. We've been constantly inspired by his images of California and the life out west. We felt it was time to finally sit down and learn about the man behind the camera. 


Why do you adventure? I adventure and explore so that I can prove to myself that more is out there than what I can see on a screen or magazine. I need to find out how finding these new places or trying new things feels. I already know what it looks like.

Why take risks in life? Life is about takings risks. Whats the point of living if you only live one way for your whole life?


Where are you from? I'm from the San Francisco Bay Area.

What is your 9-5? I'm a fashion and lifestyle photographer for a day job and a songwriter for my non day job.


When you were growing up what or who did you want to be? Growing up I wanted to be a professional skateboarder. I was pretty close to almost kind of sorta doing it.

What is the favorite place you've visited? My favorite place I've visited was the Saguaro Cactus Reserve. I love me some cacti.


Place you most desperately want to visit? 

The place I want to visit the most is probably France. The whole country, but mostly the parts where there are wine and cheese.


What is the single greatest moment of human humanity you've experienced while traveling? The single greatest moment of humanity that Ive ever experienced while traveling was in Denver when a waitress gave me and my girlfriend a free pancake because she knew we needed to try it. I almost cried. 

What has changed about you because of your travels? I think the thing that has changed most about me is how I feel about material things. Since traveling more, I care about that and less about having stuff. Stuff can be replaced, but experiences cannot.




If you could travel with one person in history or in present who would it be and why? I would travel with John Muir or Ansel Adams for obvious reasons.


Give us a travel tip: Most essential travel tip is definitely ask for a hand check when going through airport security for your film. Don't let them x-ray it! EVER!

Give us a story: When you're traveling, you meet tons of different people and more importantly...dogs. I once was at a little camp near Yosemite and I met a man and his basset hound named Chopper. Years later a friend went to Japan and texted me a photo of a basset hound she met. I asked if it was Chopper and it was! What a crazy coincidence. Thats what traveling is all about!



Based on your travels what is the single most needed improvement for humanity to be stronger? The most needed improvement for humanity is cheaper living. If more people were able to get out and do what makes them happy more often, then people would lead better lives and pass on their better moods to everyone else. For a lot of people, money is the route of their problems and if we fixed that, we could change the human experience. Also, puppies. People need more puppies.

What would you say to someone who has never travelled before? If you've never traveled before...go get in the car or on a plane now for no other reason than to just try something new. Its about the journey, not the destination. Go anywhere for any reason.





What is the single greatest lesson you've learned from someone that is different than you? I've learned that everyone feels differently about everything. Just because you have the same experience as someone else, it doesn't mean you both feel the same. It's too easy to argue with someone over how they feel and you can never win that argument. The lesson is just accept other peoples feelings and move on.

When did you feel you were most out of your comfort zone? What did you learn from that lesson? I never really feel out of my comfort zone. I have an ability to kind of adjust to any situation. I've never been to a third world country before. I think that would be hard for me. 




What would you say to your former self? I would tell my former self to travel more often earlier. I thought I shouldn't travel because it was expensive and I could use that money for things that will last longer than a trip, so I never really went anywhere until a few years ago. I wish now that I had started when I was younger. 

What gives you hope? A sunrise and fresh morning gives me the most hope. New day and new possibilities.




Where to next? Not sure where I'll go next. Hopefully France! Need some wine real bad.

Is flannel always in season? FLANNEL IS ALWAYS IN SEASON.


— John Thatcher

American Field Portraits

Ben Ashby

Last month Paige and I popped into American Field Brooklyn to do a natural light portrait series. The concept was inspired by a series GQ created at American Field a few years ago...but we decided to change it up a bit by incorporating natural light and natural elements we had sourced from various thrift and antique stores in Brooklyn.  







Authentic Lives | Andrea Tamburrini

Ben Ashby

Known for his delicious European moments, here are some images from our archives by Andrea.  


Authentic Lives | Alex McDonell

Ben Ashby

We’ve been friends with Alex for forever. We recently discovered some of his early work in our archives. Check it out.  


Authentic Lives | Scott Bakkin

Ben Ashby

Canadian photographer Scott Bakkin is known for his landscapes of the Canadian Rockies and the western regions of Canada. Over the years we’ve collected a few of our favorite images by him.... 


Take Better Portraits: Tips from Brandon Roberts

Ben Ashby


Like yesterday's story with Emil we sat down with Seattle based photographer Brandon Roberts while he was in New York City to discuss his journey towards mastering portraits. After introducing Brandon and Emil to each other they went out into the city to create a series of portraits of each other to demostrate how their styles differ. 


Who are you. Where are you. Give us your links.  Brandon Roberts, currently residing in Seattle, WA. @betterrugged.

How long have you been a photographer. Is it your main job? Ever since I was a kid, I’ve taken photos. In high school, I spent time shooting and developing my own film. That’s when I became captivated. It took years after that to look at photography as a career and not just a hobby. Currently, I split my time as a reality tv producer and part-time photographer. I’m not far away from being a photographer full-time. #goals



When did you take your first portrait? I feel like my first portrait is from when I was 15 years old, in my awkward, clumsy days taking pictures of my friends for my high school my photo class. One of the first is of my best friend, Annie. I had her sit and pose on my plaid-covered futon in my teenage-boy bedroom. In this black and white photo she’s looking off to the side with all my crap around her. In the photo you can see a Marvin the Martian poster, Real World poster, an expired Washington state license plate, a Lucille Ball set-photo of her losing it in the chocolate factory, a CD boombox and a fish tank (DANG. hahahaha). This was a photo I shot and developed myself. 


How have you progressed over time? What do you feel has been your most improved quality? I’m constantly progressing. That’s always going to happen as long as I keep shooting. My style has changed over time because I continuously create a space for myself to try new techniques whether that’s in-camera or during my editing process. My most improved quality while taking portraits, lately, is editing in a way that celebrates the subject. I don’t want to them to seem dull or fade into the background while in their environment and I try to add a bit of magic to help set the tone. That and just making sure there’s not a lot of noise, the image is properly exposed and the eyes remain sharp. If I don’t have these, I don’t have a portrait. 


What makes for a good portrait? A good portrait makes me feel something immediately. When a portrait makes me feel, as a viewer, I want to figure out what story is presenting itself to me. Lighting is beyond important as this helps set the tone for what story is being told. The gestures or reactions the subject delivers help elevate each portrait I take. Connecting and adapting to my subject is part of my process, I’ve got to be able to make them feel comfortable enough to decide where they want to go with my directing. Getting the best results in camera sets me up for a successful edit. 

Do you prefer natural light or artificial? Why? I have crafted my portrait skills mostly with natural light. However, I’m getting more into studio portraiture lately. They’re both so different. I like them for different reasons. When I’m out taking pictures of strangers or other subjects, I love to honor where they are in that exact moment, using the natural light to help tell their background story. With natural light you start to discern what part of the world they’re in, where they might be going, where they’re from or how they’re feeling. When using studio light to shoot a subject, I’m able to slow down the process and really get to know my subject. It’s way more intimate and that shows through the lens because as soon as the subject allows you to snap one pic you have successfully gained your subjects trust to tell their story, whatever that might be.  


How important is composition and what makes for good composition? Composition is essential in portrait photography. We have wandering eyes and short attention spans, so grabbing ahold of the viewer is the goal. Composition helps grasp the viewers attention. Good composition allows the viewer to navigate through the image effortlessly, with purpose and reason. Composition shouldn't be clumsy, it has to make sense. Cropping is an important tool to help with composition. One should always try to master my composition in-camera, to help setup a successful edit. 

Color or black and white? I currently shoot in color. There’s something about seeing the setting as it is. I like the hints of many colors the world has to offer in order to create a little bit of magic I like to exhibit in my photos. I’ve been shooting a lot more in the state of Washington and I cannot imagine not seeing these greens pop in photographs, nor would I want to take away all of the endless colors New York City has to offer. 


What Camera do you shoot with? Canon 5D Mark Iv

Any final advice? Go on photo-dates with other photographers who interest you, or you’ve never met in real life. Walking through the fear of not feeling capable or qualified diminishes once you get to know other photographers. I have pushed myself the last few years to do this and it has met me with incredible results. I’ve managed to make best of friends and continuously become inspired to keep going as a photographer. I have learned new skills, different shooting techniques and take the inspirations I receive during these little friend-dates to get me to the next level. It’s fascinating to hear and understand someone else’s photo journey. We’re all just trying to figure it out at the same time. 

Take Better Portraits: Tips from Emil Cohen

Ben Ashby


Sometimes you meet people in random places. Sometimes you meet characters that need to be photographed. This Christmas season as people are gathering together we wanted to propose the idea of taking portraits of friends and family. To learn more about taking the perfect portrait we asked five of our photographer friends about their portraits and for tips on how to make yours better. 

Our first photographer is New York based Emil Cohen. I ran into Emil at American Field in Brooklyn earlier this month and knew right away I wanted to go to him for advice. I quickly introduced him to Brandon and they did a dual portrait session. Tomorrow we will see Brandon's portraits of Emil, but today it is all about Emil and his advice to you...



Who are you. Where are you. Give us your links. I'm Emil Cohen, I'm a New York based photographer specializing in portraits and people. You can see my work at / and 

How long have you been a photographer? Is it your main job? I've been an amateur photographer my whole life. Photography has been a family interest dating back to the 19th century.  In 2011, I began the graduate program at Tufts University's School of the Museum of Fine Art and received my MFA in 2014. I mark my first day of grad school as when I became a professional photographer.





When did you take your first portrait? I can't tell you when I took my first portrait, but I do remember the first time one of my portraits was recognized outside of my immediate world. It was August of 2009, and I had one more semester of college left. I had taken a photo with an alpaca earlier that summer and decided to enter the photo into a contest run by The Student Travel Agency, an internationally renowned company for students and young adults who want to travel the world. When they announced my name on Facebook, I "whooped!" so loudly, that I got yelled at by my superior at my internship at National Geographic. But it didn't matter because part of the winning prize was a free trip to Europe! By December, I was off on a plane and would be back for eight weeks. Photo below: 






How have you progressed over time? What do you feel has been your most improved quality? Over time, I feel that my aesthetic has become stronger. I continue to study other photographers and artists whom I admire, but rather than mimic them, I try to incorporate what I love about their work and apply it to my own vision. My most improved quality has definitely been the working dynamic that I create with my subject. As a photographer who specializes in portraits, it's crucial to have the person who's in front of the camera trust you, the photographer. In doing so, they let their guard down which will therefore, allow me to capture a true version of themselves. Sometimes you're given days or hours, and sometimes just a few minutes, but each experience has to be unique and met with the same amount of tenacity and determination.  





What makes for a good portrait? To me, a good portrait is an image of person or place that shows the true version of who or what they really are.. There is a fine line between a headshot and a portrait, and the difference is honesty. With a headshot, you're trying to sell yourself to a casting agent which, while it's an attractive photos of a person, might not showcase who they really are. Photographers like Peter Hujar, Irving Penn and William Klein are portrait photographers who stripped away the background and forced a viewer to gaze at the subject head on. Then you have photographers like Alec Soth, Larry Clark and Nan Goldin who create portraits of places and communities and are just as strong and evocative as the studio photographers. In the end, what all these photographers have in common is that the camera disappears in their work, leaving the viewer gazing into a window of a raw and real moment caught in time. 




Do you prefer natural light or artificial? Why? Both! Natural light and artificial light both have their advantages. A photographer who knows their way around strobes will be able to recreate sunlight using flashes and use the strobes to create intentional dramatic lighting. The key is asking yourself how you want to light the photo before you shoot and then plan accordingly. For my studio portraits, I rely on a defused light which creates a soft and even light on my model, but when I shoot outdoors, I have to decide what time of day and what weather conditions I want to be shooting in. Will it be around dawn or sunset for the Golden Hour lighting? Or do I want a cloudy day that will act as a natural soft box? And look at other people's work that you love and figure out how they did it! Always a useful idea when trying to plan a photo. 

How important is composition and what makes for good composition? This is a tough question because it's so subjective. For me, composition is crucial to achieving the best version of the photo that you envision. A composition will include a few key thoughts such as framing, depth, leading lines, and symmetry. If you need a refresher, here's a great list published on Photography Mad. 






Color or black and white? Both! Before I take a photo, I try to think whether or not the image will be black and white or color. Both palates have their own benefits. Photographers like Penn, Richard Avedon, Horst P Horst, Bruce Davidson, Vivian Maier and Diane Arbus, utilized black and white film to their advantage. These photographers started only having black and white film and therefore thought accordingly: creating photographs that are high in contrast, rich in detail and having the color removed, forced the viewer to gaze specifically at the subject that was being photographed. It's like the Wizard of Oz. The beginning of the film in Kansas features some truly breathtaking cinematography because they knew they were shooting in black and white and therefore, had to think in black and white while they shot it. 

Then Dorthy lands in Oz and all of a sudden, you catch your breath at all the incredible color. 

Color photography is amazing because you get to think differently. With color, you start thinking of complimentary colors, temperature, color balance etc.  I love artists like Cathy Opie, Todd Hido, Joel Sternfeld, Greg Crewdson, Jim Dow and David LeChaplle because of their eye for color and their ability to use the color as tool for composition. 




What camera do you shoot with? Canon 5D Mark iii, Iphone 8 and a Pentax K3000 35mm






Any final advice: Two things: 


1. SLOW DOWN. Taking a 4x5 Large Format class was revolutionary for me because I was forced to slam the breaks on my shooting. Due to the high cost and many steps that it takes to take one image, you as a photographer can't just point and shoot. Large format photography takes time and precision which is often forgotten in a day of digital photography. I challenge any photographer to limit themselves when their out shooting a project or portrait. See how much stronger your work becomes when you allow yourself the time to breathe and think before you shoot. 


2. DO YOUR HOMEWORK. I am of the belief that no idea is truly original anymore. However, that doesn't mean that you can't create original work, it just means understanding the conversation that already exists and how you as an artist can join in on the discussion. Do research online or the library. Whether it's Google, or Tumblr or going to a museum of photo gallery in your city, go and learn about who else is out there. Support your fellow photographers and be inspired at the work their creating. 




Paul Tellefsen | Adventure Lessons

Ben Ashby



We've known Texas based photographer Paul Tellefsen for years. We are always inspired by his spirit of community and for adventure. We sat down with him to learn more about what he has learned from years of criss crossing the globe as a full time photographer. 

Why do you adventure? To push myself into uncomfortable, out of rhythm experiences to see what I’m really made of.

Why do you explore? Because I believe we were made to.






Why take risks in life? What is life without risks? Boring.

Where are you from: Born and raised in Dallas, TX

What is your 9-5: I quit the 9-5 and am a full time commercial photographer and work with @socality.






When you were growing up what or who did you want to be? I wanted to be a doctor for a long time because my mom said I had a good bed side manner. Then for a short time a chef and an architect. But I knew early on I was gifted at creative mediums like design and photography. It came naturally. So that’s what I ended up pursuing.

Favorite place you've visited? 12 Apostles on the Great Ocean Road in Australia. It was a lifelong dream to visit Australia. And this place took my breath away.



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Place you most desperately want to visit? Northern Norway. My dad is the first generation in America from Norway. So our family still lives in Southern Norway. We went back this Summer after 18 years and I was in awe. Flights from there are super cheap up North too.



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What is the single greatest moment of human humanity you've experienced while traveling?

New York City with Cubby Graham. I was flying to NYC for my first big photo gig with Cadillac and didn’t know who I was going to stay with or what I was gonna do. At the last minute, while I was at baggage claim, Cubby’s house opened up. Then the airline lost my bag. I spent two full days with no clothes or toiletries.

But Cubby showed one of the greatest moments of hospitality and care in my life. He offered to buy me clothes, borrow clothes, go back and wait on the baggage truck, by the way which never showed up), he gave up his bed. The list goes on. I’ve never felt so loved, but basically then a stranger. It changed my life.



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What has changed about you because of your travels? My capacity to love. I’ve grown to love more and judge less.

Who is the most dynamic and thought provoking person you've ever met? Scott Bakken. Hands down probably. He’s one of the most dynamic people I’ve ever met and now have the chance to work with. His ideas on topics inspire and challenge me relentlessly. I’m forever marked by the time I’ve spent serving underneath his leadership.



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If you could travel with one person in history or in present who would it be and why? I would pick Tanner Wendell Stewart (@tannerwendellstewart). I travelled with him a lot this year and just really enjoy seeing the world through his eyes. Highly respect his creative gift and his passion for nature. If you ever get the chance, travel with him and his wife!



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Must Haves for Travel:

  • Away Luggage
  • My weird looking, but awesome neck pillow
  • Mobile charger
  • Good book
  • Journal
  • Camera with one variable lens
  • Bathing Suit cause you never know


Give us Some Travel Tips:

  • Always take the window seat. The view is worth it. I’m 6’4” and I always scrunch to do it.
  • Travel Solo at least once.
  • It’s not about the city you travel to, it’s about who you experience it with. 
  • As part of your journaling while you travel, pick a flower or piece of a plant and put it into the journal to remember the trip.
  • On long flights take NyQuil. Make a game of trying to sleep the entire flight.
  • Wear your heaviest shoes onto the plane to save weight



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Give us a story any kind of story from one of your trips: This summer I travelled to Norway to see my family and part of me expected to get these epic, crazy photos that you see from there. Now we did take one day of the two weeks we were there to drive to an amazing fjord, but most of the time was with family on our farm.

What I learned on this trip is to embrace the purpose of the trip you are on. If it’s to travel and drive all day to get the shot then enjoy it, but if it’s to be with family then be with family and enjoy that too. 



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Based on your travels what is the single most needed improvement for humanity to be stronger: A desire to gain understanding of people different than us.

What would you say to someone who has never travelled before? GO! Save up. Getting outside of your normal bubble is the best thing I ever did.

The location doesn’t make the trip, the people do. I’ve travelled to some incredible places, but no matter how beautiful or EPIC the place is, if you are with the wrong people it will ruin the trip. Be thoughtful on who you bring with you.



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What is the single greatest lesson you've learned from someone that is different than you? To not seek to prove someone right or wrong, but seek to understand. I use the phrase “Help me understand” a lot these days.

When did you feel you were most out of your comfort zone? What did you learn from that lesson? It’s honestly more of the same for me. We can’t judge someone regardless of their background or beliefs or what not. All we can do is have a heart of compassion towards all people. Seeking to care and not fix people different than us.



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What would you say to your former self? Calm down. Take a deep breath. You don’t need to be perfect.

What gives you hope? Jesus. period. I know that’s super Sunday school. But in my life it’s truth.



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Where to next? I’m actually writing this right now on a plane to Nashville to work with Tennessee Tourism.

Is flannel always in season? Yep. I have some packed away in my suitcase.


— @technopaul



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The Adventure with Darrin Stevens

Ben Ashby






We've been following Darrin on Instagram for some time now. His landscapes whisk us away to foreign lands and ideal places. We wanted to take a moment to learn more about him, his adventures, and why he explores. 

Why do you Adventure/Explore: Exploring, whether that be camping, hiking or travelling and photographing; I think it pushes me to release a lot of stress and creative thinking that I tend to gather throughout the week. I'm always heavily inspired by other photographers and adventurers/travelers. I often day dream at work and wonder where I'm going to go next. Sometimes, It feels like all the bad is washing away and your mind is fixed on whats ahead. It's a very satisfying feeling living like this and I think it gives purpose and meaning to my own life.


Why take risks in life: I think its super important to be able to get out of your comfort zone every now and then. Taking risks means you'll have new experiences, life changing events that can drastically change your future, if that makes sense. For example, I was sitting at work, miserable. My friend texted me out of the blue and asked if I wanted to travel for 14 days across Canada in the next few weeks. At first, I thought to myself I couldn't make it happen, but I was wrong. I made the choice to make the trip happen no matter what even with whatever my financial situation was at the time. I put my happiness first above everything and pushed myself to go and do it. The trip was one of the best experiences I've had and the people and friends I met along the way has changed me forever.


Where are you from? I'm from a little town called Sutton in Ontario, Canada. It's a small town mostly surrounded by a large lake, farm fields and trees. It's quiet here and I really like that. The countryside is a peaceful place to be. Living here can make you appreciate the smaller things in life and it's played an important part in my photography as well. Capturing genuine moments, whether that be a small moment, or something bigger..




What is your 9-5? I work a full-time job, 40+ hours from Monday to Friday at a job not even worth describing. It will make you fall asleep. I do photography part time, on the weekends, weeknights and whenever I can and make extra cash from this sometimes. I honestly just enjoying taking photos so much. I am currently in the process of changing the lifestyle that I live and getting out of my desk job. This wont happen overnight, but making the small steps in my own future will create happiness further down the line.


When you were growing up, what or who did you want to be? This is a tough question for me to answer, not because it's hard, but because it can be a little emotional for me. I was one of those people constantly all over the place in school, not knowing what or who I wanted to be. I had felt a bit lost. My motivation and interests were in things I knew deep down I didn't even enjoy and it affected me greatly in school. For many years in my youth, I had felt like something was missing and that I was to be apart of a bigger picture - like I was supposed to make a difference in this world. I knew in my heart I had a strong love for the arts, but I was constantly told from everyone that you can't pursue a career in this field and be successful at the same time. After a few years in College, a couple breakups, I realized that maybe who I was at the time was not the right person to be. As time went on, I discovered just exactly who I wanted to be. A strong hard working, independent, genuine man who doesn't need an extravagant life full of luxury and debt-burdening materials. A man who could tell stories and share experiences to others through art. Just to live life the way I had always dreamed of, seeing the world and meeting people with the same mindsets.




Place you most desperately want to visit? I absolutely need to see Alaska/Yukon, Faroe Islands, Patagonia, Colorado/Wyoming/Idaho......The list goes on endlessly. I'm a sucker for mountains and trees though.


What is the single greatest moment of human humanity you've experienced while traveling? On my way home once, I saw an elderly man. He must of been 70+ years old. He was parked off the highway and picking up trash in the nearby meadows all by himself. It was raining and cold. It seemed like he was struggling a bit, and I wish I could of assisted him when I look back on that day. It still brings me to tears thinking about it.


Where to next? I will be planning a trip to Montana first and foremost. There is something so wild about Montana. The small towns surrounded by mountains in the North. The glacier fed lakes and peaks...a land that just feels genuine. So much wild life and culture to be seen.




If you could travel with one person in history or in present who would it be and why? I think if I could travel with anyone, it would be Forrest Mankins. His travels seem real, and more genuine than any other person I know. I don't really know him, but I feel like I do. He doesn't focus on creating photos that blow people away, it seems there's more to them and they tell a story and have so much emotion. He seems like the nicest and coolest guy to hang with. I don't often idolize a lot of people, but I think I would idolize him.


What would you say to someone who has never traveled before? I personally think that the majority of humans are trapped in this very small bubble, working aimlessly and achieving goals that will help them get more luxuries in life. It doesn't have to be that way and I think a lot of people are unhappy and still choose to live this way. I don't see the happiness in that lifestyle anymore. I am completely guilty of this although, but I understand now and I'm making more of an effort to change that. Travelling will give you a better understanding of yourself. It will open you to new ideas, creativity and happiness. If you ever have the opportunity to travel, don't put it past you and try and make it happen. Make valuable memories, don't just wait around and waste your precious life given to you.


What gives you hope? The people I've met who share the same mindsets give me hope each and every day. Many photographers especially share a love for what they're taking photos of. To hear some people talk about wildlife, nature and our earth in a loving way always gives me hope. The people who stand up and fight for what they believe in especially, I really admire.


Is flannel always in season? This is an amazing question, haha. Yes, flannel is always in season, unless you live in Arizona.. Fall especially is my favourite season to wear one!


Must haves for travel? Wherever you're going, bring as much comfort as you can that reminds you of home. I personally bring Christmas lights EVERYWHERE I go. Whether I'm in my tent, or sleeping in my car. The more comfortable you feel, the better you'll feel when you're away.



On The Bright Side | Brandon Lopez

Ben Ashby




His aesthetic is bright, crisp, and super clean. His photos brighten your day with their incredibly pleasing and refreshing simplicity. I had to learn more about how Denver based photographer Brandon Lopez developed his skills and his style.

Website - | Instagram - @brandon.brightside |VSCO -



When did you start photography: My interest in photography was piqued three years ago when I lived in South Florida and was surrounded by so many great photographers, fashion designers, and street artists.


What caused you to get into photography: The pulse of creativity in South Florida inspired me to start thinking through each shot more technically - composition, light, texture, etc.



What was your first camera: The first camera I shot on was a Canon 5D Mark III that I borrowed from a friend in Colorado Springs. I barely knew - and maybe true still - what I was doing. 


What is your current camera: Currently shooting with a Canon AL 1. I’m trying to learn film, mostly by trial and error. It’s frustrating and exciting to shoot and develop a roll and see what turns out - it’s a patience thing.


What is your dream camera: Haven’t quite thought this through very much honestly, at least as far as an everyday camera. I’m still trying to find what feels most comfortable in my hand while shooting. If I had to name one, probably a Leica M3, but like most of us, I’ll keep dreaming.



Who inspires you: Fashion photographers like Samantha from @sammykeller in Denver and Jana from @ojandcigs in Miami are killin it right now. I love they’re style, the colors, the poses, the compositions, really their whole aesthetic is perfect. Street photographers like Joe from @ioestreet capture the human story in ways I only wish I could. Lastly, Toby from @tobyseeingthings is doing some pretty awesome work in minimalism - his series called ‘minimal body’ is one of my biggest sources of inspiration currently.


What inspires you: People inspire me. The people in my life, the people that pass me by every day. Everyone has a story to tell, whether that be through creative expression, vocation, or just conversation with strangers. 



What is your favorite subject to shoot, least favorite: Favorite would be people either candidly (street photo style) or somewhat staged. Currently I have this idea running through my head about social anxiety and feeling alone in a place that was once home. Looking in on people in what would feel like familiar settings we’ve all been in or known but in awkward or slightly uncomfortable poses - which sometimes (at least recently) is representative of how I feel in social situations. Lol. 


What do you feel is your greatest strength and what is your greatest weakness: I’ve been told my greatest strength is capturing people - so I’m running with that. Greatest weakness is probably the technical side of things, like operating a camera. Honestly this is a new form of expression for me. 




You have a very bright style, why? I like to keep my photos bright, colorful, and lively mostly to remind myself that this is what life is like. Honestly, I’ve been depressed for most of my life, growing up in a relatively religious home and keeping to myself about sexuality, along with a slew of other shit, has lead to some pretty dark days. And I’m not looking here looking for pity or ‘oh poor Brandon’ comments, but to show people who experience depression that there is a whole other side to their story that will come if they’re willing to fight for it - the bright side. 😉



What's a bit of life advice you'd give: Ha! You’re asking the wrong person for life advice. When I figure it out I’ll be sure to share. But to echo my answer for the last question, which actually sounds p corny when I read it back, but honestly life is a battle and if you’re willing to fight for what you love you will find that there is a whole community of people, with stories just as intricate and messy as yours, that will love and build you up. 


A Focus on the Human Element | Jeyson Paez

Christophe Chaisson

When it comes to portrait photographers Texan Jeyson Paez is in a land of his own. To learn more about Jeyson and his work I asked Christophe to sit down with the man behind the portraits.


Christophe: When did you first become interested in photography?

Jeyson: I was really young, I can't remember the exact age. But I always knew that I wanted to express myself in a creative and interesting way. I was always captured by the beauty of images and the stories they could tell. That translated into my interest in being behind the camera as a photographer, so I could be the one behind the stories. 

C: Were you self-taught or did you learn in school/from a mentor?

J:I took a class at a community college covering the basics of photography. I was taught how to properly use a camera, but the imagination is inherent in me. I was ready to learn things on my own, and I knew that I needed more hands-on practice. 

C: How did you develop your style?

J: I'm not sure if I've locked down a style yet. My work is about the people, and they inspire me in a different way every time. 

C: What themes do you explore through your work?

J: There are two themes in all of my work: the personal and the professional. My personal is more visceral and candid; I like to put a focus on the human element. It's a little more free, and the story comes naturally. It's definitely more intimate and honest. Professional is more polished and stylized--I know the photo is for a specific purpose, and there's more structure to it. 

C: How do you find and choose your subjects or locations?

J: I find most of the models I work with on Instagram, and sometimes they find me. When choosing, I veer towards someone who (I think) can give me more of a personal connection to the photos I'm taking. I like to make my personal work feel as real as possible. For locations, I do this the old-fashioned way. I drive and bookmark the unusual or unique spots around my city! 

C: What inspires your work?

J:The people and their stories. That's where the appeal of an image comes from, and that's why I picked up a camera in the first place.

C: How do you compose an image? Do you go into the shoot with a specific shot in mind, or does the inspiration strike when you place your model in the setting?

J: It always depends on the subject. I think not knowing how things will go in a shoot is the most exciting part because it creates this unique experience for me and the models I work with. We are walking into the unknown, and that's how I can capture emotion and vulnerability. With my current project, ROOMS, I sometimes don't even know what the actual room is going to look like until I'm with the model the day of the shoot.

C: What has been your biggest lesson learned through creating your art?

J: Whatever you create or do, always make sure you're doing it for yourself. I sometimes push the limit and it may not be the popular choice, but I know what images matter the most to me. I'll always focus on that. 

C: What do you hope your art says to people?

J: That life is a beautiful mess.

C: Why did you choose your craft(photography)

J: I've always gravitated towards photography since I was very young, and it felt like the only option for me to express myself creatively. 

C: How hard was it to become profitable at it?

J: I'll let you know once I find out! 

C: Any suggestions to newcomers to the field?

J: Find what gives you the fire, and go for it. It's not going to be an easy journey but if you truly want it, the result will be fulfilling. 

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C: If you couldn’t be doing your craft, what would you do instead?

J: While I can't imagine what life would be like without photography, I know I'd be working with people in some way. Anything I think about has to do with helping people, with inspiring them to be their best self.

C: Any favorite moments of your career so far?

J: My glitter project, Glitter That Portrait, took me places I never could have imagined. It was something so personal to me, and the reception was widely positive. I ended up being featured on Instagram, OUT Magazine and Cosmopolitan. It gave me a platform to expand my photography business. 

C: What would you do differently if you could start from scratch?

J: Honestly, nothing. I am where I am because of what I have gone through, and I can't imagine a different outcome than where I am right now. 

C: Is there a defining moment in your career so far?

J: My current project ROOMS. I've always wanted to explore the internal battle between good and evil, and it was something deeply personal for me. I was afraid to take things too far or make someone uncomfortable, but I took a chance. When the reception was positive, it was the best feeling. I put something so personal and gritty out there, and found that it made so many people feel something.

C: Is there anything you really enjoy in your craft vs another line of work?

J: The connection I can foster with people. The behind-the-scenes conversations make people feel relaxed and comfortable, and I don't think I would find opportunities to get to know people like this with any other job.

C: Biggest pet peeve about the industry?

J: The unrealistic idea of what pretty and perfect looks like. We are all different in how we look, how we act and what we want. That keeps the stories behind the photos unique instead of blending in with each other.

C: Is flannel really always appropriate?

J: It REALLY isn't.

Beautiful Vulnerability: An Interview with Ann Marie Amick

Christophe Chaisson

Ann Marie Amick is a photographer and painter based in Brooklyn. Her curls are full of secrets and she was able to share a few about her craft with us. This brilliant artist takes photographs that each one of us can relate with. While you read about her development and exploration as a photographer, ponder on her art and see the ways in which you can connect with her photos. 


Christophe: When did you first become interested in photography?

Ann Marie: I have found myself interested in photography throughout my entire life. I grew up around cameras and photography, due to my father's love of both. The sound of a Polaroid camera shutter is a constant memory-stirrer for me. However, when I was 19 I found myself more curious about photography and sought out my father's advice regarding how to get started. He pulled out his 1976 Olympus OM-10, ran me through the basics of exposure, aperture, and the rule of thirds, and sent me on my way. That's where my love affair with film began, which eventually led to me pursuing photography more passionately.  


She always conveyed the importance that regardless of if someone else has conveyed this story via camera, no one has told it in my own voice, and it's a voice worth being heard. Over time I have learned different aspects from photography from fellow photographers, and I consider photography to be an ongoing creative adventure where I'm constantly learning new things. 

C: Were you self-taught or did you learn in school/from a mentor?

A: A collection of people assisted me with my photography knowledge. My father led me through my first year of learning 35mm film, understanding the basics of photography and finding what inspired me. A very dear friend, whom I consider to be my mentor, led me into my next stage of learning, which included understanding what I wanted to convey with photography. She taught me the importance of telling a story, but making the story my own.


C: How did you develop your style?

A: I developed my style through a great amount of trial and error. If I was curious about something, I would attempt to photograph it. I essentially hold the majority of my creative ideas with an open hand, i.e., I don't get too attached to ideas. If I have a plan for a shoot but I find my creativity leading me in another direction, I'll go with it. This is how I finally found myself working on form studies and photographing the nude form. Curiosity led me to something that I developed a great passion for photographing. I am continually seeking to challenge myself with different aspects of learning photography and how to push myself forward, so I feel that my style will continue to grow and change as time goes on.


C: What themes do you explore through your work?

A: I'm passionate about exploring connections, vulnerability and sexuality within my work. I choose to photograph nudes because it inherently either connects a person to an image or offends a person.

Either way, I have found that it causes a person to think about the image set before them. I have always said that if you hate the work I create, I've at least made you think enough to decide that you dislike it. In thinking about it, you've connected to it in some way, whether it is a positive or negative connection. I always enjoy exploring both subtle and overt sexuality within my work. Within the last year I have had the opportunity to study and photograph the male form more than previously in my photography career, which has brought about a great deal of learning and challenges.

I've seen an array of different responses to my work now that I've included the male form as well, and it's been interesting to see the change in people's approach to my work. 


C: How do you find and choose you subjects or locations?

A: When I initially began to photograph the nude form, I would ask any friend that was willing to sit for me. As I began to study the human form more and more, I began to search for different types of bodies and different physical qualities that would stand out within a photograph. The majority of subjects I photograph I've met through fellow artists or models, however recently I've been working with a number of models whom have reached out to me upon discovering my work via my website or Instagram. 


C: What inspires your work?

A: I have always said that individuals and their stories inspire the work that I create. I prefer portraits that subjects along with the general public can relate to. I prefer a casual atmosphere where I'm working alongside my subjects and models and the whole process feels more like a collaboration than anything else. I like to create portraits where the subject sees themselves within the photo, rather than the portrayal of something outside of themselves. The human form in and of itself is my biggest inspiration. Every single human body is different, moves different and has a different story to tell. The male form is wildly different from the female form in the realm of muscle structures, movement and lines. The challenge of using the human body to tell a story through movement that is both relatable and inspiring continues to be one of my main goals for creating. 


C: How do you compose an image? Do you go into the shoot with a specific shot in mind, or does the inspiration strike when you place your model in the setting?

A: When I initially meet with a model in order to discuss a shoot, I always say that I hold all of my shoots with an "open hand." I approach the majority of my shoots with an outline and an idea of specifics shots that I would like to get. However, if the vibe of the shoot moves in a different direction or I'm feeling inspired, I really enjoy following any creative leads that I feel. I find that this kind of organic yet still organized creativity is both wildly enjoyable and creates magical things.


C: What has been your biggest lesson learned through creating your art?

A: The most important lesson that I've learned through creating so far is to trust my intuition and take chances. I've learned that even when I take a chance creatively and it doesn't work out the way I hoped it would, something was learned from the experience. I've had a few shoots which I've considered failures - even the negative emotions associated with it were a healthy reminder that things don't always work out, but it should not deter me from continuing to create. On the other hand, I've taken creative chances and created images that were not even something I intended to, and in these situations I've found even more inspiration.   


C: What do you hope your art says to people?

A: I want to create photography that people can relate to. I choose to continue to photograph the nude form because I've found that no matter what people can always relate to the nude form on some level, even if it happens to be in a negative capacity. I want people to be intrigued by the human form, to take a second glance and to ask questions. My favorite portraits continue to be the ones of a slightly ambiguous nature, where people have stated that they're not quite sure what they're looking at. I want to continually create art that people can both relate to and question over time. 

It is easy to simply like or dislike something without ever figuring out your reasoning. Ann Marie's art allows for an inner dialogue to meditate emotions and thoughts, whether positive or negative. Humans either connect with vulnerability or push it away; art creates a safe place for exploring the depths of ourselves.  

See more of Ann Marie's curls and art at her website and Instagram: @am_amick


Propelled by Passion: An Interview with Ricardo Bouyett

Christophe Chaisson

'Live Authentic' rings true in the life of Ricardo Bouyett. We had the absolute privilege and honor of having a raw, honest interview with him. Embracing vulnerability, Ricardo shares his painful, yet hope-filled journey with us. His career as a photographer & filmmaker go hand in hand with the trauma that he has gone through and his quest for healing. Read below with an open heart and mind; there is a lesson to be learned for all of us. 

Christophe: When did you first become interested in photography?

Ricardo: I first got into photography when I was in high school and my parents gave me a Canon Rebel as a gift. I only ever played around with it a handful of times. It wasn’t until my second semester as a freshman in college that I started taking photography seriously. I had just figured out that I was gay and I was in this weird semi-romantic relationship with a straight boy who lived in my dorm and he had called me the devil for seducing him into cuddling with me for several weeks and he dropped out of school. I was trying to process this situation along with a lot of my own questions in regards to my sexuality and identity and photography seemed like such an easy way to both distract myself and find myself. After class I would go out and shoot with friends, practice, teach myself certain things I didn’t really know.


C: Were you self-taught or did you learn in school/from a mentor?

R: I started trying out different digital techniques, coloring, and ideas to emulate some of my favorite artists. I decided to transfer to Columbia College Chicago so I could have a more stimulating environment as well as the opportunity to make some worthwhile connections and elevate my education in the arts. From the time that I applied for the transfer to my first semester at Columbia, I started my 365 project and began learning through trial and error. By the time I got to Columbia, I had been a little under halfway finished with my first major body of work. But once I was in that academic environment I started questioning more, challenging myself more and really trying to figure out what my visual voice was trying to say and what I wanted my images to be about. 


C: How did you develop your style?

R: My 365 project played a huge role in my development as a photographer. It helped shape my technique, my attention to detail, and make sense of my emotional palette. Unfortunately, in January of 2014 I was raped and that event alone took my art and flipped it on its head and blasted it into an inferno of rage, misery, and ambiguity. I didn’t know how to handle what had happened, I was in denial for a while and I could only make sense of my nightmares and of that persistent sensation of having someone inside me through creating more colorful yet pain stricken imagery. Between 2014-2015 my imagery became much more surreal as I kept dissociating from reality just to sort of survive myself and my everyday social obligations. I didn’t understand what happened to me, how it could’ve happened to me, and why it happened to me. I kept blaming myself and during my senior year of college I found the strength and courage to talk about what happened to me in a more direct way in my work. With my series, Dame De Feu, I finally started to openly explore the visual dialogue about rape survivors, but being still new to this social arena, I didn’t quite have the tools to communicate that story effectively. At the same time I was also struggling with my desire to be a photographer. During my last semester of college I realized my true voice and my true passion was in filmmaking. I crowdfunded, directed, wrote, and filmed a short film series called “Lionheart” which helped me explore issues of homophobia, domestic abuse, and rape for the first time. After having created this body of work I started to step away from post-manipulation and surrealist imagery. I felt confident in my nakedness, in the rawness of photography, and saw it fit to move on from the constructed image and onto the raw image. I will never give up coloring the way I do, so I kept that fluently going throughout my work as my style kept changing. Mama doesn’t mess around with her colors. 


In all seriousness, my style matured after this significant milestone. I mean, I raised over 2 thousand dollars and made a film series that altogether lasts about an hour. I felt unstoppable, like I could make any project I could think of. So with that in mind, I created a series called “Color Me” that more directly explored my relationship with depression over the years which later led me to make my short stories collection. That collection had about 18 short photo stories that were about domestic abuse, love, sexuality, and body image. After creating this body of work I was thirsty for another film project and set out to make “Silver Screens”.


 Moving on from the short stories collection to “Silver Screens”, I finally figured out I wanted to talk about the problematic rhetoric in rape culture. “Silver Screens” is a film that focuses on an unstable relationship where sex is used as a weapon and the main character doesn’t ever come to realize that because his therapy session is less than helpful and he finds himself constantly recycling his memories and getting nowhere. While creating this project I got the inspiration to make my most important work to date, “Oh, Bouy”. The project is a collection of volumes that help me navigate and explore rape culture through different art mediums.


While creating this project I got the inspiration to make my most important work to date, “Oh, Bouy”. The project is a collection of volumes that help me navigate and explore rape culture through different art mediums. 

My main focus with “Oh, Bouy” is to talk about the need to hold men accountable for how we sustain a culture that objectifies women, humiliates and ostracizes effeminate men, and blames victims of abuse instead of reprimanding the abusers. My style has definitely changed between 2013 to 2016 in that it’s much more direct now and carries an emotional weight that is rooted in reality as opposed to fantasy. 


C: What themes do you explore through your work?

R: In my work I explore sexuality, spirituality, and identity and how those correlate and fluctuate under certain given circumstances. My main focus in my work currently is creating stories that talk about rape survivors and navigates the complexity and fragility of the male psyche. 


C: How do you find and choose you subjects or locations?

R:When I was a student at Columbia, I relied heavily on word of mouth to find models and actors to work with. I had a website ever since I started going to school there so it was easy for other students to google me and find out if I was worth working with or not. As far as locations go, I’m very lucky in how I stumble onto special locations, especially back in Illinois. Normally I would go adventuring with friends in the suburbs or in the city and I’d always start with one point of interest and from there I’d make it up as I went along. 



C: What inspires your work?

R: Emotions drive my work to its core. Put me in a room with speakers blasting emotional, sexual, or neurotic music and I’ll have a full body of work ready on your desk the next morning. I can’t explain it, sometimes I lose myself to this other voice in my head that takes over and when I’m shooting, directing, writing, or editing, I almost always lose myself to my surroundings and to the people around me and I’ll find myself waking up hours later not remembering how I made what I made. Other times I have a moodboard, a concept, and then an emotion and then I go off script once I get there. 


C: How do you compose an image? Do you go into the shoot with a specific shot in mind, or does the inspiration strike when you place your model in the setting?

R: It honestly depends on the shoot and it depends on the project. If I’m just exploring with friends or new models, I follow my instincts and let my personal relationship with the subject inform my creative decisions. If it’s a film project, I have a script, a storyboard, and 20 pages of notes on my phone with different scenarios to explore. I almost never shoot something without first brainstorming 100 different ways it could turn out. If I’m not set on making something, I don’t make it. I always think to myself, “Someone else somewhere in the world has already made this image or is making this image right now, why do I have to make it? Why would I want to make it? How does it fit to my mission as an artist?” 
If I can’t answer those questions and convince myself then I don’t take the shot. 


C:What has been your biggest lesson learned through creating your art?   

R: I think the biggest lesson I’ve learned is to stop comparing myself to other people and other artists. Everyone is on their own path. 




C: What do you hope your art says to people?

R: I hope it says “love yourself, love others, and most of all, don’t be rude to people just because you don’t understand what they’ve been through.”


C: Why did you choose your craft?

R: I chose it, along with filmmaking, because it was the best and most effective way for me to heal from traumatic events as well as create and share stories that I’m passionate about. 



C: How hard was it to become profitable at it? 

R: Not a lot of platforms or galleries want to pay an artist who in their eyes doesn’t make the kind of work that fits their audience reach. Do people love the work on social media? Yeah, I’ve gotten a lot of positive responses, but a lot of the time I still get ignored, rejected, and pushed to the side by art institutions and major art publications because my work makes them uncomfortable. Rape survivor stories aren’t the most popular in the photo and film world. Especially if they don’t depict the graphic violence of rape. My work talks about male violence, how damaging male sexuality has been in an overtly patriarchal society, and that just doesn’t sit well with a lot of people. And I understand that, but the unwillingness for art platforms of any kind to get involved in issues about domestic violence and rape makes it that much harder for conversations about the ramifications of men’s violence to even take place. Everyone jumps on reporting on the drama of rape and the graphic nature of the violence, but hardly anyone furthers the conversation about the life of survivors after the fact. I’m not profitable at making my photos, I’m only passionate and starving. 

C: Any suggestions to newcomers to the field?

R: Do what you want to do and don’t take no for answer. It can be very discouraging coming into a field that is so saturated with talent but that shouldn’t deter you from doing what you want to do. Everyone has something distinct they bring to the table, so why can’t you? 

C: What would you do differently if you could start from scratch?

R: I would’ve gone to school for filmmaking, not photography. 


C: If you couldn’t be doing your craft, what would you do instead?

R: I would be a singer, or maybe a vocal performance instructor. But I prefer doing this so I’m glad I can still do it.


C: Any favorite moments of your career so far?

R: My favorite moment was when I made “Lionheart”. The rush of crowdfunding and the success of finishing the project changed my life drastically. Nothing has ever made me so confident and newly passionate. 



C: Is there a defining moment in your career?

R: The most defining moment in my career so far has been creating the different iterations of “Oh, Bouy” . While “Lionheart” may have given me a new found confidence in filmmaking, “Oh, Bouy” has catapulted me into a new framework of thinking and execution and for that I’m grateful to everyone on the creative teams. But aside from artistry, the project has definitely made me less afraid to stand up and advocate for social issues that I care about deeply.


C: Biggest pet peeve about the industry?

R: The industry only cares about who you know not how much you know, and I think that’s the reason why a lot of mediocre publications, production companies, and photographers have an unfair advantage over underdogs who are climbing up a steep hill without any lifelines to help them up. I think it’s a shame, I’ve met a lot of capable artists who deserve a lot more than what they’re given. I don’t think popularity is a proper measure of someone’s ability.  


R: I like that I don’t have to answer to anyone, that I can collaborate with people who respect my opinion and want to work with me and I like that I get to involve other people who can work out their own therapeutic needs with my work.



C: Is there anything you really enjoy in your craft vs another line of work?





Ricardo's work is more than mere photos and videos. His art has a message that needs to be heard and talked about. Let art open the door for dialogue and a greater level of honesty in our lives.  No matter the outlet, we all have a creative voice with a message that can create such a difference in our world. 

You can find more of his work on his website and Instagram. 

An Internal Experience | A Conversation with Sam Waxman

Ben Ashby


Sam Waxman is a man I've never met, but if the kind words his friends have said about him mean anything...this man is one of a kind. I have long been obsessed with his photography. I love anyone's work that can evoke and caption an emotion at the same time. There is a rawness to the men in the photos and to the man behind the camera that goes miles above others in capture a moment of the human condition. In my quest to learn more about Mr. Waxman and his art I asked Christophe to sit down with Sam....


When did you first become interested in photography?

When I was a kid, my grandma used to buy me disposable cameras when we went to the grocery store together. My grandparents live in a really rural part of Vermont, and would let me go out on my own for hours to walk around in the fields and woods to take photos. Sometimes, when I really liked one of my photos, my grandma would get an 8x10 print for me. It was difficult for people to engage me socially as a kid, so I think they were satisfied to leave me on my own with a hobby they could tell made me happy.


Were you self-taught or did you learn in school/from a mentor?

Definitely a mix of both. I took film photography classes in high school, but I had explored it for years before that as a hobby. Later, I studied photography and sculpture at the School Of The Museum Of Fine Arts in Boston, where I learned a lot of the technical skills that are invaluable to me now like digital editing, printing, and studio lighting. One of my biggest mentors both artistically and personally from the time I was a toddler is my best friend Liza. She is a level twelve weirdo, and one of the most interesting, complicated, and and brilliant artists I have had the pleasure of knowing. She inspired me from a very young age to express myself creatively and showed me that it is okay to be introverted and to go against what people expect of you.


What themes do you explore through your work?

Some of the big overarching themes I try to explore in my work are the politics of identity, queerness, sexuality/fetishism, semiotics, and the mysteries of the natural world. I’m constantly discovering new things about myself and reinterpreting my world, (often in unexpected ways) through my work. My influences vary greatly depending on where I am in my life. When I was an intensely shy kid, photography allowed me to look inward, and provided me a way to share myself with people in a way that I couldn’t in normal social terms. I grew up in Maine and spent a lot of time in the woods. I think is where I started to develop the kind of appreciation and respect for the primal beauty surrounding life, death, and the natural, spiritual order of things that I have now. Later, my work became a powerful tool with which to explore the incredibly complex feelings I was dealing with surrounding my sexuality and identity as a queer man, and gave me a platform to put myself out into the world. It’s always been a process of dealing with myself and finding ways to interact with the world that work for me. The more work I produce, the more cohesive it all becomes. I think I come upon my influences and the ideas I want to explore pretty organically.


How do you find and choose you subjects or locations?

I’ve always loved exploring and traveling on my own. Scouting locations solo is one of my favorite things to do. When you’re looking for an ideal place to shoot, you’re hyper-aware of your surroundings, taking in color, light, texture, wondering about the history and significance of the places you’re passing. I find my subjects in a bunch of different ways. Some are folks I’ve met through apps like Scruff and Grindr, some are people I’ve approached in public or on the subway, some are friends, some are lovers. Ever since I started to build a following on Instagram, I’ve been lucky enough to have people approach me wanting to collaborate which I am so thankful for. I don’t have specific criteria. If I find a person unique and interesting in some way, I want to photograph them. It’s amazing how intimately you can get to know someone in the setting of a one-on-one shoot. It’s something I really cherish.


How do you compose an image?

Do you go into the shoot with a specific shot in mind, or does the inspiration strike when you place your model in the setting? Definitely a bit of both. Often I get inspired to create something that’s very specific, and I’ll plan out my shots and styling pretty meticulously. This also informs who I choose as my subjects. Other times, I keep it much more loose. I love getting to know people and shooting them in their own spaces. With those kinds of shoots, it’s much more about creating an authentic connection with a person than creating something that has a specific feeling and style to it.


What has been your biggest lesson learned through creating your art?

One of the things I have really come to appreciate about the artistic process is that it forces me to be the most authentic and radical version of myself that I can be. I want to make work that is not contrived, that is real, raw, and unique. I think striving for that takes a lot of intense introspection and awareness of where my priorities are at. It takes recognition of my shortcomings and the ability to hold myself accountable for them. That’s not to say that I always succeed in those endeavors, but I try my best. Why did you choose your craft (photography) My photography work has always been heavily portrait-based. Growing up, I wanted so badly to be able to connect with people, but was severely lacking in social aptitude. Photography allowed me to explore and experience people on my own terms, in a way that I could understand. It was also something that allowed me to spend a lot of time alone without being questioned. It made things less confusing and more digestible for me.


How hard was it to become profitable at it?

Well, speaking purely from a financial standpoint, I started making money as a photographer at age sixteen when I started shooting weddings. I learned some great lessons from doing that kind of work, but I never found it particularly challenging or interesting. For a long time there was a big divide between the photography I did for work, and my personal projects. It wasn’t until college that I was able to start merging those two worlds, finding paid work that was more in line with my artistic vision. It’s taken a lot of failure, shameless self-promotion, and luck to get to where I am now, and I still feel like I’m just now dipping my toes in. I feel very lucky to be able to make a living pursuing my passions.


Any suggestions to newcomers to the field?

Never stop shooting. Not everything you do has to have solidified purpose behind it. Some projects will take shape after you begin, and many won’t. Try on different styles. Make some shit work that never sees the light of day. Your eye is a tool and it needs constant practice and maintenance. Be tenacious. Promote yourself. Connect with other creatives. Build your community. Use every tool in your arsenal to reach people and institutions. Being an artist in any medium is such an internal experience, and even though we may not often ask for support, we do need it. Showing your work in a public space ranging anywhere from an art gallery to Instagram holds you accountable, builds your community, and challenges you to innovate and be better.


If you couldn’t be doing your craft, what would you do instead?

Although my photography work has taken priority of most of my time lately, I also have a real passion for sculpture and metal-working. Sculpture was just as big a focus for me while I was in school. Most of my metal-working skills were self-taught, and after college I worked professionally as a welder/metal fabricator for a while so that I could hone my craft. Photography and sculpture fulfill me in some essentially different ways, and I think I would be just as happy to focus on either. I take myself very seriously as a craftsman. My sculptural work involves a lot of technical processes dealing with metal, wood, plaster, and other various materials, so I often find inspiration in things that might seem mundane or commonplace, but that demonstrate a mastery of craft.


Any favorite moments of your career so far?

There’s nothing quite like selling your first piece. My sophomore year of college, I submitted a framed print titled, “Sunday Best” from my “Symbiosis” mixed-media series to the winter art sale at SMFA. On the first night of the sale, I was walking around looking at work, waiting for them to rotate the collection and hang up my piece, but after a few hours I still hadn’t seen any sign of it. When I finally asked one of the coordinators about it, she told me that my print had sold in the pre-sale before the show had opened to the public. I was elated. It is still one of my favorite pieces, and it was the first series I felt good enough about to put out into the world. I felt excited and vulnerable about it, and having that little bit of validation really went a long way in encouraging me to exhibit my work.


What would you do differently if you could start from scratch?

Don’t hesitate. I didn’t really start producing work that I felt had something unique and personal to it until I was almost done with college. For one, I didn’t come out as gay until I was 20, so I was actively avoiding subject-matter and topics that were incredibly central to my mental and emotional states. I was also constantly blocking myself from making any work that I didn’t have a solidified concept and plan for. Besides preventing myself from making work that could have been worthwhile, this also set me back a few years in developing my style by just trying things out and making mistakes.


Is there anything you really enjoy in your craft vs another line of work?

My photographic process is very different in a few essential ways from my sculptural process. My sculptural work is intensely solitary and internal. It allows me to access the part of me that loves logical problem-solving in a very different way than does photography. Most of my sculptural work is steel-based, and working with such an unforgiving material with a limited set of tools forces you to constantly come up with workarounds and creative solutions to get the results you want. Photography allows me to be a bit more loose, and gives me endless opportunities to collaborate and connect with other people. Balancing these two different artistic processes is a very real and direct reflection of how I try to keep myself balanced on a personal level.


Is flannel really always appropriate?

Oh yeah, bub. I grew up in a small town in Maine right near LL. Bean. It’s important to know the difference between your street, work, and formal flannel.


Pursuit of Intimacy: An Interview with Dusty St. Amand

Christophe Chaisson

Dusty St. Amand is an incredibly talented photographer living in New York that we had the pleasure of interviewing. His work is absolutely beautiful and can definitely be described as sexy. Be prepared to have your breath taken away. 

Christophe: When did you first become interested in photography?

Dusty: I’ve had my eyes on erotic and/or pornographic media for a *long* time. I’ve always been inspired (whether it sent me towards good or ruin) by the way homosexual sex and intimacy was depicted in art and in the media. I’d venture to say that an obsession with intimacy has pushed it out of my personal life and into what is now my photography. The camera is how I choose to participate in conversations about the sexual and emotional lives of men. I’ve been playing with cameras for just under a decade but I’ve been more focused on shooting with intent for the past 3 years.


C: Were you self-taught or did you learn in school/from a mentor?


D: I’ve been fortunate enough to grab a lot of technical information from friends and from the photographers who used to photograph me (I “modeled” as, like, an "art-hobby"). From the shoot to the final photos, I was absorbing a lot know-how from the other side of the lens. I follow a lot photographers on Instagram who I see myself reflected in. With really open eyes, I take notes from them constantly. All the photo info in my head was entirely self-sought, but communally taught.


C: How did you develop your style?

D: I think limitations guide your style. I used to live in the Bronx with a tiny, narrow kitchen that I shot in. I had one tall blueish softbox light that barely fit in front of the models and I taped a grey curtain to the far wall. And I only had a fixed 85mm lens, so I’d have to press myself into the last inch of the opposite corner in order to fit the model in the frame. All of my images were coming out with extreme shadows and were often cropped into specific body parts. My obsessive nature started to thrive in that light scenario. It was moody and sensual and sexy and sad. And that’s the vibe I incorporate into everything now.


C: What themes do you explore through your work?


D: I play with identity. Sometimes I want the people in my images to have no discernible face or name so that more viewers can look on with empathy, less altered by bias or attraction.

When you boil an intimate and/or sexual experience with another person, so rarely are you absorbing all of the visual information they offer in one scope (as a photograph would). We take one another in through glimpses. Flashes of tone and motion. I like to see those vignettes that make you feel like you’re there. A neck, shiny from a kiss. The middle of the back where the muscles butterfly outward. The gap in the teeth. The belly, overgrown with fur. My work is occasionally lonesome. Occasionally manic and egotistical. To me, it’s delicate.


C: How do you find and choose your subjects or locations?

D: Many of the people I have photographed have not been purposeful models. A lot of them have been friends and lovers who I happened to have near my camera. But a lot of them have also been those dudes that twinkle to me. They’re either beautiful in some specific way or they’re fresh off a big achievement or they vibrate somewhere near the weird plane of thought I live on. Locations are so circumstantial. If terroir is important to whatever I’m trying to express, I do what I can to organically factor the surroundings into the work. I like to go walk and shoot too.


C: What inspires your work?


D: How delicate masculinity is. Taboo feelings towards sex. My pursuit of intimacy. Humorous men who are honest with themselves.
Sex workers.
The body compartmentalization and dehumanization of the people we fuck.



C: How do you compose an image? Do you go into the shoot with a specific shot in mind, or does the inspiration strike when you place your model in the setting?



D: The latter. I try a ton of different settings throughout and see what sticks. If it’s a winning location, I take my time and compose things. Otherwise I’m just buzzing about, clicking.









C: What has been your biggest lesson learned through creating your art?

                                    D: How to balance performativity in work and life- learning to commit to things because I love them not because I want to be perceived as loving something.

C: Why did you choose your craft?

D: It’s my way of telling stories in a very digital image-centric cultural.

C: What do you hope your art says to people?

D: That intimacy is something everyone needs and deserves.


C: How hard was it to become profitable at it?


D: I’m still working on that but… if you can manage to find a good client or a good array of clients that pay you enough to keep yourself a float and maybe then some, reinvest into yourself while you have the money to do it. Freelance jobs often won’t have deductions in your pay, so a huge tax bill can hit you if you’re not managing and writing off expenses to balance that a bit. It’s kind of a feast or famine career (not photography in general, but this very unique career that I’m still in the process of starting).


C: Any suggestions to newcomers to the field?


D: I’m totally still a newcomer to photography, in a technical sense, but I’ve been an artist within some medium or another my whole life… so let’s say the field is “profitable art when you’re a person who finally reached their breaking point and vowed to stop working for other people in jobs that brought you misery”. Just do what you love.

Make work that’s you, through and through. Devote your time and resources (whenever possible) to getting better, networking, and promoting your work. All of the work that’s come my way is from clients who found me because they love what I’m already generating.


C: If you couldn’t be doing your craft, what would you do instead?

D: Singing
while gardening.



C: Any favorite moments of your career so far?

D: I’m currently shooting a large portion of the visual assets that Grindr uses to market themselves globally. Millions of people engage with my images every time they’re featured. Getting hired by them (and subsequently hired again and again) has been one of the most fulfilling and rewarding professional experiences I’ve had. Shooting HBO’s ‘Looking’ star, Raul Castillo, was pretty rad. And I got to photograph this kid that I was really mean to when I was like 11 years old and we became friends.


C: What would you do differently if you could start from scratch?




D: I’d fill more of my time with technical training (lighting and studio management) so that I’d have been able to utilize those skills to support myself during slow financial times.






C: Is there a defining moment in your career so far?


D: I had my own solo art show at The Leslie+Lohman Museum for Gay and Lesbian Arts, in Manhattan, during this past Pride. The show ran for three days and I sold three pieces into the museum’s collection. That was pretty fucking major.

C: Is there anything you really enjoy in your craft vs another line of work?

D: I like that I’m able to engage people in honest, emotional conversation as opposed to hiding my feelings for the sake of hospitality.


C: Biggest pet peeve about the industry?

D: There are so many industries attached to photography, so I definitely can’t speak to everyone’s experiences. But I can address concern within the social/artistic queer sphere that I find myself in- I just want people to maintain some level of clear-headedness when it comes to comparing oneself to the curated projection of people’s lives and personas. These flat, tiled images are rooted in reality but they aren’t reflective of the way things truly are. They aren’t full truths.


Ben: Is flannel really always appropriate?

D: I don’t think I own any, but I also don’t try to be appropriate.

I for one am very happy Dusty isn't just singing in a garden. His passion for photography and people is definitely displayed in his powerful and beautiful work. You can see more of his work on his website and Instagram.

Instagram: @Dusterzdeux

Website: SuchDustyPhotos

Queer Expression: An Interview with Kirk Lorenzo

Christophe Chaisson

Kirk Lorenzo, a queer Latino from New York City, shared with us his journey of discovering a passion for photography. His work gives voice and sheds light on topics such as identity and queerness.

Embrace yourself, Express yourself. Love yourself.

Christophe: When did you first become interested in photography?
Kirk: Ooof, ummm...I wanna say sometime in early high school. When I was super obsessed with having a very well curated tumblr blog! My blog consisted of photographs and illustrations I found to be beautiful and inspiring, so that interest has sort of been there for a while. I just never acted upon it till my first year of college; four years later when I finally picked up a camera!

C: Were you self-taught or did you learn in school/from a mentor?


K: I've been in an art specialized learning institution for the past eight years of my life, so all of it has been learned from teachers, professors and other practicing artists!



                                                      C: How did you develop your style?

K: Hahaha, definitely via tumblr! Who hasn't fallen in love with a beautiful VSCO film emulated photo on tumblr? However I don't use VSCO as often in my own work, but I do give my photos a film-y emulation I've put together myself on photoshop.


C: What themes do you explore through your work?
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              K: Being a queer man, sex, non-monagamy, queerness, bsdm, and politics such as race, class, age and gender.

C: How do you find and choose you subjects or locations?

K: Towards the beginning it was a lot of asking guys I hooked up with if I could photograph them, so I'd find these men via Grindr and Scruff ("Dating" Apps for queer men), though mainly Scruff. Then Instagram and now its a mix of those two plus Facebook and folks I've meet in night life/friends of friends! Locations? I tend to wander a lot by myself, I'm also constantly on google maps searching for the "green areas", and if it's not an outdoors location it's sometimes and indoor location that can be anywhere from a friends place I've visited, to a subjects home, to a bar, etc.


                                             C: What inspires your work?

                                  K: Sex, nature, sex!
Hahaha, but on a serious note yes sex, nature, but also night life, queerness, bsdm and the politics that surround our everyday lives!


C: How do you compose an image? Do you go into the shoot with a specific shot in mind, or does the inspiration strike when you place your model in the setting?


K: I started composing my images for the purpose of how I curated them on Instagram, but now its just become second nature and I do it even with my images that I deem more "fine art." However it tends to be a mix of both, I do go into a shoot with a specific shot in mind but the inspiration also often strikes in the moment too!





C: What do you hope your art says to people?

K: These queer bodies existed, were resilient, and pushed through.

C: What has been your biggest lesson learned through creating your art?

K: Learning how to trust myself.


C: Why did you choose your craft(photography)?
K: I came out of high school certain that I was gonna be a painter but when I got into college I realized I was getting frustrated with not being able to articulate what I wanted to say as quick as I wanted to say it. Being a slow painter on top of how slow painting is as a medium, was getting to me. So I ended up picking up a camera, and became relieved at how in sync I was with the pace of the medium.

C: How hard was it to become profitable at it? 
K: Hahaha, it's still hard. I wouldn't say I'm anywhere near as profitable at what I'm doing as I'd like to be, but I don't doubt I will be soon. Currently finishing up school is consuming a lot of my time so I just need to finish up school so I can start filling up this wallet!


C: Any suggestions to newcomers to the field?
K:Trust yourself, remember that there's not one way to do things, be ethical, and stay humble!





C: If you couldn’t be doing your craft, what would you do instead?
K: Ooop, I don't like this question haha! I've always led myself to believe that art is the only thing I'm good at. I don't like following directions, I don't like being told what to do, and I DO NOT like 9-5s haha. But for the purpose of this question I'd have to say something along the lines of an outdoors instructor, flight attendant, night life stuff or like social work or something.


C: What would you do differently if you could start from scratch?

K: Not a single thing!

C: Any favorite moments of your career so far?

K: Oh oh oh! I'd have to say meeting the beautiful and inspirational people I use to see on my tumblr feed who I wouldn't have thought I'd ever meet and getting to befriend them as well as being able to photograph them. All the internal fan girling I've done throughout my career thus far is kinda humorous!

C: Is there a defining moment in your career so far?
K: Constant ones, moments like this where others want to interview me about my me or my work, the messages I get from others asking me that they want my work in their publication, as well as those messages I get from others wanting to shoot with me. We all have tons insecurities and it moments like those that remind you that you must be doing something right. Those are the most affirming moments during one's career! 


C: Is there anything you really enjoy in your craft vs another line of work?
K: Printing my photographs. As someone aspiring to be a fine artist when I get to print a photograph to display somewhere and get to see the image on paper and not just through as screen. It's a very blissful and magical moment.


C: Biggest pet peeve about the industry?
K: The politics surrounding accessibility; people who can just up and quickly purchase the latest gear and think that because they own expensive gear that It makes them a photographer. Along those same line, people who claim they're a photographer and take their access to resources for granted. There are some of us who have to work twice or even three times as hard to get access to the resources some of our "contemporaries" have. 



Ben: Is flannel really always appropriate? 
K: Depends are you aiming for some masc4masc foolishness? Or are you serving some butch queen looks?

Photography is a powerful form of expression that Kirk uses well. His art is barrier shattering, dialogue creating, and all around beautiful. To continue following Kirk's work you can click on the links below. Instagram: @kirk.lorenzo  Website: kirklorenzo