Sunday, October 4, 2009


D A V E - L E W I S

The human form is a thing of beauty, and we have admired it throughout history. From the moment the earliest photographic process was invented, people began to use the naked human form as subject matter. When the Polaroid camera was introduced, it provided the means in which to shoot nude imagery, without fear of shame or embarrassment. The revolution continued with the advent of digital photography, as more and more people cast themselves in naked scenarios, unhampered by the need to have the film publicly processed. It is these actions that prove that a huge percentage of the population reveres the nude form, regardless of the puritanical viewpoints expressed vocally. The body, in all its glory, is a work of art that is meant to be adored.

A glance through the portfolios of Dave Lewis makes it clear that he is a true body enthusiast. He frames his subjects with light that enhances their natural form, defining the musculature, and illuminating his models as if on pedestals. No body part is ignored in the quest for the most flattering pose, which is evident by the positioning of the arms in his beautiful nude portraits. Even his more erotic photos retain the feel of classic bodyscapes, with the same attention to detail regarding light, body posture and positioning.

Dave Lewis, who is based in Seattle, Washington, is entirely self taught, continuously learning, and seems to constantly be on the lookout for the next beautiful photo. He focuses his attention on the work of other photographers, as he says “to try and determine how an image was made, how was the lighting achieved, how was the background achieved, in order to continue to expand my own knowledge and skills.” He is immensely supportive, speaking as one who has had the benefit of being on the receiving end of his wonderful words of praise, and easy to communicate with. He respects his models as much as he respects his art, remains humble about his various achievements, and appears not to limit himself in regards to the types of photos he eventually wants to create.

A recent comment on his Model Mayhem profile from a model states, “You are the gold standard by which all other photographers should be judged.” Dave Lewis would probably disagree, and therein lies the beauty of the man himself.

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When did you first get interested in photography?

I first really became interested in doing something with photography as a teen. I had a friend in high school that was into photography, he was the school newspaper photographer. He used a twin lens Rollei with Kodak Tri-X film. The school had a makeshift darkroom where we would develop the film and print the images on primarily Ilford paper. I was between a freshman and sophomore the summer of 1969 when Apollo 11 landed on the moon. My friend and I used the school's twin lens Rollei to photograph the TV screen as Armstrong took the first steps onto the moon. From that point on I was intrigued with photography, especially watching the astronauts using the Hasselblad equipment on the moon.

Do you remember when you got your first camera?

I was about 20 when I was able to afford to buy my own camera, I did a lot of research on 35mm equipment and was pulled to the Canon equipment over Nikon, I just always preferred how Canon felt in my hands and the user interface over Nikon, and the same is still true today. My first camera was the Canon EF (FD lens mount). I had that camera for about 13 years until I traded it for a new T90.

How did you start out and what type of images were you creating?

I read everything I could get my hands on for reference and information on exposure and composition. During this period I was nearly 100% focused on landscape, architecture, and travel. Looking back, I think I was afraid to actually admit that what I wanted, and felt in my heart was that I should be photographing nudes. It would be years (30!!!) before I finally was able to realize that heart felt dream. I am entirely self taught, I did not take any college classes or major in photography (although now I wish I had!).

When did you start photographing men?

Believe it or not, my first session with photographing nudes was in 2003, and that was with a male / female couple.

What is your definition of beauty? Is it purely physical, in terms of looks, or does attitude, carriage and personality play a role?

Most certainly for me it is a combination of personality, attitude, looks, and how easy it is to approach the model with ideas, pose suggestions, etc. In addition, how well do the model and I relate, how easy do we talk to each other and feed off each other for ideas, all contribute to how beautiful the person I am photographing is, to me.

Your models have incredible bodies. How important is the physique in your images?

Well believe it or not, contrary to the primary body type in my portfolio, a super developed physique is not a requirement for me, it just happens that the models that I have been able to work with tend to all be very well developed, with incredibly muscular physiques. In reality, I am as attracted and appreciative of a gymnasts build, a swimmer or runners build. I would love to be able to build out my portfolio over time with models of a variety of body types.

You've shot beautiful artistic nudes. What is your general feeling about nudity in photos?

I love nudity in art, and it clearly shows in my portfolio. To me there is nothing more beautiful than the human form sans clothing, just the person in their skin, with their form, their personality, their life experiences and story captured by the camera with no artificial filter imposed by clothing.

What are your views on erotic art?

Likewise, I love and appreciate erotic art, and have created some myself (in fact several of my pieces have been jury selected for inclusion in the Seattle Erotic Art Show in two different years, all for images shot since 2003). The thing I have found most interesting with respect to "erotic" art is the vast differences in what even the models consider erotic. I have had models who consider pubic hair showing (and nothing else) erotic, while for others it is intercourse, oral sex, use of toys, or for males ejaculation. As a result I always have a conversation with any model that indicates that they are interested in doing some erotic images what they mean by erotic. We discuss the model's definition and limits before we start, I will not push a model to do more than they are comfortable with. At the end of the day the model needs to feel comfortable, confident and view the resultant images as beautiful.

In your opinion, what is the difference between erotic art and pornography?

Frankly, for me, there is little to no difference between the two from a technical standpoint, the difference comes down to if the model has a connection with the camera, with the viewer, does the image, art, or video connect with the viewer as a work of art and beauty, if so I consider that erotic.

Do you view porn as a good thing, a bad thing or are you indifferent?

I see porn as a good thing, porn has a place and need in society. Trying to legislate morality of what an adult can see, partake of, and enjoy is not what I think government should be doing (and here I do make a distinction, erotic art and porn are not for children, using the regional/locally acceptable age of consent/adulthood as the dividing line between child and adult) .

What was the biggest challenge you've had, in terms of a shoot?

Trying to work with a model whose personality was flat, who was tired and not really engaged and expected me to try and come up with all ideas and poses for the session. As stated earlier I really work best where the model and I have a collaboration and feed off each other.

What was your most memorable photo shoot?

Vancouver, BC, working with Yvan Cournoyer in an old industrial warehouse. Magic happened and we got some of the most amazing and best images I feel I have taken.

Do you have any favorites amongst your models? If so, who? Why?

Yvan would certainly be one, Alex Hahn, Eric Gordon and Julian Fantechi as well. In the case of Yvan, he a has malleable appearance, his ability to dynamically change the feel of pose and resulting image in a heartbeat, and his absolute wonderful personality bring him to the top of my list. For Alex it was his boy next door almost shy feel and appearance, I honestly do not think he realizes how beautiful he is. For Eric, his incredible body and willingness to try pose after pose to get the right look make him a pleasure to work with. Julian has such a strong presence, an intensity to him, that came out in the images we did together.

Where does the inspiration for you images come from?

From other model and photographer portfolios, I see something in rSEANd's portfolio and go "wow, I want to do that!", I see other photographers portfolios on Model Mayhem and think about how they achieved a particular image. I see people like Jeff Palmer, Tom Bianchi, and Howard Roffman who have multiple photo books published and I envision trying to build a sufficient portfolio to try and publish a book myself, even if only self published via Blurb or a similar service.

How do you set up a shoot?

Honestly, not with a lot of forethought beforehand. I may setup a basic light arrangement and background, but I really try and let the energy flow once the model begins working with me to allow the session to flow where it wants to try to go and to get the most natural, or at ease, responses from the model.

Where do you find most of your models? Are there any physical requirements to shoot with you?

In all sincerity a vast majority of my models (at least my male images) have been via workshops. I have found that where I live in the Pacific Northwest has been very difficult to get models to work with willing to do nude images, or if willing that do not want the equivalent of the national debt for their modeling fee. The workshops have given me access to a number of models over a two to three day period, typically with at least two locations. Indeed, Yvan, Alex, Eric and Julian were all photographed at various workshops I have attended over the last three years. As far as physical requirements not necessarily, more a combination of physical build and personality as we discuss the potential session.

There are certain models whose only desirable attribute is their body, yet they refuse to reveal it in their photos. What is your viewpoint on models who refuse to incorporate nudity in the work?

In all truthfulness I really do not have much interest in doing a clothed only session. I have done a few and it becomes much more of a job and less fun and enjoyable for me. Clearly, anyone has the right to decide to not bare their body, but I also have a right to prefer to not work with someone who prefers to not bare their body.

What other photographers do you admire and why? Can you describe their style?

As mentioned above, numerous photographers on MM, rSEANd, Louis LaSalle, Jim O'Blak to name a few. As well as at a commercial level people such as Jeff Palmer, Howard Roffman and Tom Bianchi. From a style standpoint all are different and that is what I find attractive about their work. I enjoy variety and different approaches to capturing the beauty of the human form, and all of the above do so brilliantly.

What advice would you give a new model just starting out?

Make sure you are comfortable with the photographer, but even more importantly, if this is your first nude session, make sure you are doing it for yourself, that you do not feel you are being forced into something you may not be happy with after the fact.

What advice would you give a new photographer?

Make sure you understand the model's limits and respect them.

Is there any idea that you have wanted to try but have yet to incorporate into your portfolio?

Oh yes, I would LOVE to be able to do a duo or more session of male nudes. This is something I have not had the chance to do yet and really want to do. I envision two possibilities: A potential setup that is for lack of a better word romantic, where there is an implied relationship between the models. But I also envision a setup where there are multiple nude males where there is no overt romantic connection, but just men in the same place. I think it would be a hoot to do a session of construction workers all wearing nothing but work boots, hard hats and tool belts, or firemen with perhaps just the helmets or turnout coats, being nude around each other, with an at ease relaxed feel to the image.

Do have a particular favorite of all the photos you've shot? If so, why?

Yes the image of Yvan that won the 18+ Pic of the Day on MM. The combination of model, light, pose, and interaction between Yvan and me all just gelled and created an amazing image.

How would you describe your style?

Eclectic, some very simple images with single strong lights, and some with more complex light setups, and some just simply in the outdoors under the biggest light source we have on planet earth, the sun.

How do you keep your models motivated during a shoot?

Positive feedback, let them now when they hit the look and pose I was after.

Have you ever worked with a model who was exceptionally difficult, could not follow directions and made the shoot unpleasant? If so, how do you handle this type of situation?

Yep, been there, and it can be very trying. The best one can do is to try and work with the model, to explain what one is after, to perhaps show them the concept or pose, either using your own body, or via a photo in a book or on a web site. But at the end of the day, if it becomes obvious that we are not clicking and that the model is just not into the session, it is time to terminate the session and cut the aggravation for both of us.

How do you direct a new model who is uncomfortable in front of the lens but has tremendous potential?

I try and reinforce the positives, how good a pose just looked, how well the light sculpted their body, how great the images will look when printed. If the model is brand new to nude work and reacts when they fully undress and shows signs of obvious embarrassment, we will take a break, discuss that the reaction is a natural thing, it is a new experience for them and their body is simply responding. I let them relax, perhaps get a snack or a cool drink, and let them feel comfortable to proceed.

5 fun facts about Dave

1) I had a chance to look down inside a running, active water cooled fission reactor and saw the ionization glow at the bottom of the reactor vessel
2) I worked on a computer at the Nevada test site with a device in a hole in the ground waiting for me to fix the computer so they could have their test
3) Although I prefer photographing male nudes, I love the human form and enjoy photographing female nudes as well
4) In my 33 years of professional corporate work I have only worked at two companies
5) My first real job while in college was designing and building high end audio reinforcement systems for public spaces such as churches, the speaker enclosures were hand built by me and my business partner, we applied wood veneer, oiled the cabinets, designed the active crossover networks, the whole mess, all driven by a program I wrote using Fortran on a deck punch cards that was about 350 to 400 cards.

What is the one thing that people would be surprised to learn about you?

I am actually very shy, in a large social setting I would just as soon sit in the back and observe.

29. Any last words?

This is one of the most amazing and well thought out questionnaires I have ever filled out :-)

© 2009 Sean Dibble
Do not repost without permission

To view more images of Alex Hawn
To view more images of Eric Gordon
For more information on Eric Gordon

To view more work by Dave Lewis

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David Costa