BLISS: Were your first images in the same vein as what you do now or were they more straightforward?
JUSTIN MONROE: When I first began, I was shooting more editorials and mainstream fashion for magazines. They were always pleased with my work, but I did make them a little nervous. There was a turning point in my career when I took a leap of faith and decided that I was going to shoot what I wanted and stay true to my voice. At this point, a lot of clients avoided me like the plague. But it was OK. I was ready for the aftermath. I believe making this choice was critical for my career and creativity or I might not be shooting today.
B: What type of upbringing did you have? Did you have the same vivid imagination when your were a kid?
JM: When I was a child, growing up in a small town the midwest, having Catholicism shoved down my throat, as I stripped the neighbor kids in the barn, I was always looking for a thrill or an escape or anything to get me the hell out of Oklahoma. I kept hoping a tornado would come and whisk me away to Oz.
B: Do you have any influences in terms of photographers, or do you just follow your own vision?
JM: The photographers that inspire me the most, in fact they are responsible for my photography career, is Pierre and Gilles. When I first saw their work, I got that feeling that you get when you meet someone for the first time, but feel like you've known them forever. Their work struck such a note with me, that I knew at that instant, that's what I wanted to do. I love their use of color, all the preparation and detail that goes into their shoots, and the extravagance that goes into each image.
B: One of the things that you are known for is the overt sexuality in your photos. What is your view on nudity in photography, as well as being intensly erotic?
JM: I love nudity in photography. In fact we all love nudity, lets face it. If you say you don't, then you're a hypocrite. Or you've been brainwashed by someone at some point in your life to believe its taboo or darn right offensive. The human body is one of the most amazing complex beautiful things on our planet. So why shouldn't we celebrate it? Why should we cover it up and keep it hidden? And as far as eroticism, it's like going to the carnival and getting a big fat juicy candied apple, taking a bite, having it squirt all over your mouth, liking it off your fingers, and enjoying every bite down to the core.
(Yes...that's Perez Hilton as a perverted Humpty Dumpty)
B: I don't know if you're aware of this, but quite a few models who have clearly stated that they would not shoot nudes amend that and say "except for Justin Monroe". Why do you think so many are willing to disrobe for you?
JM: There is an element of trust that I have acquired over the years and I feel if a model is going to expose themselves to my camera and the world, I have a responsibility to make them look absolutely amazing. It taps into their ego a little bit to know that people will be looking at their images and wanting them. Also I think they secretly want to get naked for me. Hehehehe
B: Within the world of photography, you have created a huge name for yourself. I have interviewed quite a few models and photographers and your name comes up in quite a few of those features. Are you aware of the impact you are having within this industry?
JM: Sometimes it's difficult to really know the impact of your work. If you sit around and question, "what is everyone going to think?", "who will this appeal to?", "is this original or has this been done before?", all those mind fucking irritating questions that one might ask oneself, I would never get anything done. I definitely wouldn't have the balls to do what I do. So I don't think about it much. I just keep my head down, and keep working.
B: Let's talk about your first book, DOWN THE RABBIT HOLE. How did that come about?
JM: DOWN THE RABBIT HOLE was destined to be my first book because it had to be a journey. It had to be a voyage from beginning to end. Created in a world where I could control what people saw. Using the metaphor, down the rabbit hole, I feel has so many different meanings for each individual, and people could make their own judgments on what I was trying to say. Even though the images were very cut and dry and specific, the meaning behind them had to be open to individual interpretation. When I was watching the movie Matrix, the part that said a lot to me was when Morphius offered Neo the red pill or the blue pill. He told Neo that you can take the blue pill and wake up safe in your bed and never know the truth, or you can take the red pill and see just how deep the rabbit hole really goes.
B: Your new book, PLAY THINGS, comes out next year. It's far more erotic than the first book. Was this a conscious decision?
B: If a model wants to work with you, what are the most important qualities that you look for?
JM: They have to have a willingness to try things new and work hard. They have to have a gorgeous ass and a strong work ethic. They have to be comfortable in their own skin. They have to jump into character, not just stand there and model. That bores the shit out of me. I really like a model that will push the envelop and step outside of their comfort zone.
B: Speaking of looks, you're very handsome yourself, with an amazing physique. Do you appear in your own photos? If so, are you as overtly sexual in your self portraits?
JM: I do make cameos in my images, and take on the role just the same as my models do. So if that means show a little ass, then show a little ass I do. In fact, ask my assistant Yasma, any opportunity I have to jump in front of the lens, I'm there.
B: Tell us a little about your website, JustinMonroe.com
JM: There's lots of fun stuff on JustinMonroe.com. You can go there to see current work, photo galleries, and even an XXX gallery for all you dirty birds out there. You can order prints and books and see what were currently up to.
B: Have you thought about taking it to a new level and directing?
JM: I would love to get into video. Conceptualizing and art directing come naturally to me and I am an amazing story teller. It would be very exciting and I feel it's just around the corner.
B: What's next for you in terms of projects?JM: It's a little secret, but I'm also working on a new book called CHERRY. Keep your eyes out for it; it will be in book stores soon! It's a little something I put together for the sweet tooth. Hehehe
©2010 - Sean Dibble
All photos: JUSTIN MONROE