it’s a blessing to know him.
it’s kick ass to be captured by him.
Carl Emerson, my friend on photography… and pure beauty.
CARL, WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO START PHOTOGRAPHING NAKED WOMEN?
After 30 years of SLR photography I started portraits 4 years ago, just because it was a genre that I have never before explored, and I wanted to challenge myself with a new medium. Photographing people was an easy move from some of the official event photography I had done before, but nudes set the bar higher and stretched me as it was something so completely different.
WHO ARE THE WOMEN COMING TO GET PHOTOGRAPHED BY YOU? WHAT ARE THEIR DESIRES?
Most of my work has been with professionals. When I started it was more productive for me to work with models who knew what they were doing. Meanwhile I work more often with curious women who want to celebrate their body and show how good they feel about who they are. Some want to feel sexy and celebrate their femininity and good looks, some just want to do it because it is new and interesting.
IT’S VERY INTIMIDATING FOR SOME WOMEN TO TAKE OFF THE CLOTHES AND BE NAKED IN FRONT OF SOMEONE UNKNOWN. HOW DO YOU CREAT A CONNECTION?
A personal connection is important. As someone who works a lot with people, I like to build a rapport and show my open friendly nature and encourage laughter as early as possible. By being natural and confident I help them to be the same.
IT COULD BE THE FIRST EVER EXPERIENCE FOR THIS WOMAN. HOW DO YOU DEFINE AND CREATE A SAFE SPACE FOR THEM? COMFORTABLE ENOUGH TO BE NUDE?
It is really important that the women I work with are comfortable and that they feel safe at all times, as well as being critical for the well being of my models, it also has the byproduct that it leads to more natural and better results. This is a business relationship, and as such it is important that the borders are clear from before the shoot begins. A safe space is partly physical (they have their own room for clothes, for getting changed and undressed), partly practical (the rules are clear that there is never any touching, not even to adjust hair or clothing unless they specifically ask for it), partly contextual (we routinely use a formal studio layout), partly artistic (I will not shoot anything they do not want to be shot and am happy to show them straight away what I captured to remove doubt. But above all, it is relational – trust has to be built and that is stepwise.
A safe space starts with the first contact, with subsequent interactions through to the day of shoot, and on the day of the shoot, we start slowly and build more rapport. Starting clothed helps make this space safe and talking about what we are doing, where we are going and why.
THERE’S LOTS OF DISCUSSIONS ABOUT WOMEN ATTRACTING MEN WITH BARE SKIN AND INVITING MEN WITH THEIR NUDITY.
WHAT’S THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN YOU AND THE MODEL? IS THERE ANY SEXUAL REACTION?
This is a question I had for myself when I started, but it turned out to be very easy for me. I am in a personal very professional space, and am so focused on the light, the angle, the composition, and all sorts of other technical things, that there is no space for sexual distractions. I see what I see, I appreciate it, but it is only in a disconnected artistic way. I do not get involved at this level, basically because I do not want to and because it would be an unhelpful distraction. The same way as I do not read novels while cooking, or listen to loud heavy music while doing some delicate electronic repairs – it is an unnecessary distraction that would be detrimental.
AT TIMES WOMEN DO FEEL THEY ARE NOT PERFECT. WHAT EXPECTATIONS DO THEY COME WITH? HOW DO THEY GET CONFIDENT IN THEIR OWN SKIN, IN THE FLASHLIGHT OF THE CAMERA?Sometimes I have seen that women can concentrate on the things they do not like and they do not want these things to be caught on film. I know a beautiful model who hates her bottom and so does not turn her back to the camera, and the same is true for so many. We talk about what their expectations are, and then, as best as I can, I use my skill in composition to catch the best angle, to present the best side of reality. Some would like to look taller, or thinner and they generally know, from experience, how to communicate that by the way they position themselves.
THERE IS A HUGE GAP BETWEEN HOW WE SEE OURSELVES AND HOW OTHERS – IN PARTICULAR CAMERAS SEE US. HOW ABOUT PHOTOSHOP ? DO THEY WANT YOU TO FAKE PERFECTION? ARE THEY COMFORTABLE TO SEE THEMSELVES THE WAY THE CAMERA DOES?
ARE THEY SATISFIED WITH THE RESULTS?
Surprisingly, while some do joke about photoshopping bigger boobs, most are more interested in capturing reality. Sometimes it is only fair to remove a pimple that is in itself only temporary, but outside of that the feedback on photos is more around angles that do not fit with their mental image. Sometimes a strong light can accentuate normally invisible wrinkles and these are things that we discuss. We can disagree, but I am always aware that they have come to me looking for something that they want to use, fit for their purpose. This means that they have the authority to dictate the level of service they want, and my job is to deliver that to them.
THANK YOU CARL!
a photoshoot of this kind felt very natural to me. in my opinion, every woman would benefit tremendously from the same experience.
with kind permission Carl Emerson