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Out of my Artistic Comfort Zone – With Miguel

Full Nude Content available here: http://justfor.fans/wmjdenson

As with all my new work, the blog post will have content safe for Instagram. Any more explicit photos that wouldn’t be IG safe are on my justforfans page.

Last week I was contacted on Instagram by a beautiful man named Miguel who would be visiting Seattle and was very interested in shooting with me. He was very appreciative of my work and wanted to get in front of my lens. Through some conversation, I also found out that he’d worked with a photographer I know from Toronto, so it felt like such a small world! 

In late June, I made the decision to upend my comfort in my work and challenge myself as an artist. I was looking at the images I was creating, and they started to feel repetitive to me – not bad; I don’t dislike anything I’ve done. But I felt almost as if what I was doing would be predictable. I had been shooting colour digital work that was mostly being converted to black and white, and it was being shot on a 50mm – 90mm (or medium format equivalent) focal length lens. I like the look, but I went into shoots kind of knowing what I was going to get. Something stirred in me and I wanted to change that. 

Enter the Leica Q2 Monochrom. I got into this camera for three main reasons; 1, the 28mm fixed focal length lens is a very different perspective than the 50+mm lenses I am comfortable with; 2, the form factor is small and there’s not a lot of bells and whistles I can/want to add to the experience; 3, the sensor is only black-and-white, so I don’t have the ability to shoot colour. Those changes really jumpstarted my creativity because I was forced to look at things differently. I had to shoot seeing in black and white, without the “safety-net” of colour. I had to look at a completely different framing and compositional language for the work. These things would help me grow as an artist. And, as an added benefit, I’d be able to print much larger prints with the images from the camera because there was no colour sensor, which makes me incredibly happy. I love printing my work. 

Even though it’s been a couple of months, I’m still a little nervous going in to shoots. Miguel and I were going to have some additional challenges. I normally like to start my shoots in my space, late-morning, and spend my first hour just talking with my subject to get a feel for our chemistry and energy together, then I like to spend 2-3 hours shooting and playing with options and poses. This shoot was very different for multiple reasons. We were in a hotel room! We weren’t going to start until 5:30pm! I’d only have a maximum of 2 hours to shoot! Not only would I have the challenges of my camera, but there were going to be these additional layers of complexity to my normal flow. I was very nervous, but also excited. 

The day of the shoot, I got everything ready and was in the car to leave for Miguel’s hotel when I got a message; his bus from the conference to his hotel was late and we wouldn’t be able to start until 6-6:15 at the earliest, which gave me even less time than I’d planned. I wanted challenges, and I was getting them!

Fortunately, Miguel has done a lot of modelling and was very comfortable with a lot of the things I wanted to do and create. He brought some really great ideas of his own, and HE made the process much more manageable because he was adaptive and responsive and eager to just make images with me. I quickly analyzed the space and we decided on a shower scene, some portrait scenes with jeans trying to use the light as best we could, and then a scene that was like a voyeuristic hook-up of someone who wanted to be watched pleasure himself by someone who likes watching. That led credence to the whole hotel vibe and made it seem very realistic. 

I was so nervous, and I actually left the shoot wondering if I’d gotten anything I could use and that Miguel would like. I had to work so much more quickly than normal, and I felt like I overshot the experience. Maybe I did overshoot. But, what I learned once I started looking at the images is that many of my instincts were right. I don’t normally shoot people with a lot of modelling experience, and in this case that definitely worked in my favour. I probably couldn’t have made these images with someone less experienced in the time and circumstances we had. 

As I write this post, I feel more confident about what I could do next time. I feel like I learned I can trust my photographic instincts to make some great images in circumstances that are out of my norm; I feel like I would be better prepared to make great images with a model who has less experience in a similar situation. I feel like I pushed the boundaries of my creativity, and I’m thankful to Miguel for helping with that… whether he knew he was or not. 

As always, I hope you enjoy the images. 

With love,

William