BLISS: You’ve been shooting for over two decades now. What differences do you see in this industry now as compared to when you started out?
JAY RICKARD: I think that there are more guys out there to choose from. Modeling in general was such “woman's work” back in the day and guys were just used as props. Now the guys are taking front and center more often.
B: How did you first get interested in photography?
JR: Pretty typically actually. I was in journalism in High School. We had a terrific new darkroom, some nice cameras and a wonderful journalism teacher... but no photography program. Every couple of weeks there would be a different portrait photographer from the area who came in and gave lessons. One of them hired me to be a gopher when he shot weddings. Sorry that was so boring. LOL!
B: What type of look are you attracted to in terms of models?
JR: You know I don't consciously look for any particular “type” really. But the guys who are usually willing to pose are the muscular, toned, fit ones. Faces are really important to me. I like character in a face.
B: Where do you find most of your male models?
JR: Historically I find them online via modeling and photography forums. However lately the local guys have been finding me. I really like that. Not only is it easier but it also means that people enjoy working with me and tell their friends, who just happen to also be good looking.
B: When you set up a shoot with a model, what is your process? Do you plan themes in advance or let the sessions flow naturally?
JR: I try to keep it as loose and unstructured as possible, maybe with one or two semi specific ideas in mind. But I find a lot of guys want to know what they'll be asked to do and what they are getting into. So the first time I work with someone I usually plan things out pretty well then when I have their trust and confidence we can use that momentum to be more spontaneous.
B: You use natural spaces in many of your images, rather than simple backdrops. Do you have a preference?
JR: Oh I'm entirely more comfortable in the studio. I'm kind of a control freak when it comes to lighting so I spaz a little on location when I can't put light exactly where I want it. But I also like pushing myself and getting out into the big scary world outside is the best way to do that. I'm complicated.
B: One of the aspects that I am attracted to in your models is that you don’t always go for the standard muscle types. What defines beauty for you?
JR: Character. Personality. A guy can be supremely beautiful from head to toe but if they stand there like a brick wall and don't show any character at all then no one gives a shit. Physical traits can be hidden or highlighted with posing and lighting but there isn't a single photography trick available that can give a model a personality infusion.
B: Some of your work definitely falls into the erotic category, which I love. What are your views on erotic imagery?
JR: It's a valid art form. Sexual passion is just as important an emotion as happiness, fear, regret, compassion, etc. and there's no reason not to create art that speaks to it.
B: The perception is that the eroticism we see in the final images spills over into the photo shoots. Have you ever been in a situation where you’ve found yourself aroused when creating your art?
JR: Some perceptions are more true from some than they are for others. I don't even know how some photographers find time to get aroused. My lighting set ups tend to be very detailed and complicated so my mind is on that. Well, that and finding my camera. I'm always forgetting where I put my camera. Just ask any of my models, they've seen me looking around for it.
B: I know from my own experience that even models who are very free with their bodies can exhibit a sense of insecurity during the actual shoot. How do you make the models comfortable?
JR: Conversation and music. I work pretty hard to make my models comfortable by engaging them in conversation, getting them talking about themselves, telling stories, hearing about their interests and hobbies, backgrounds, etc. It's a lot of fun for me because I usually find quite a few things we have in common and before you know it we're just chatting away like we've known each other forever.
B: I would have to say that the number one question that people seem interested in is which shoot was the most difficult for the photographer. Do you have one?
JR: Oh yes. A photographer friend of mine came down with a model we'd both been talking to. The kid had an uppity attitude the entire time and barely spoke a word to either of us unless it was a one or two word response to a direct question. From his disposition you could tell he was feeling quite superior. It was annoying as fuck. We both got some decent shots but it was a miserable day.
B: The flip side of the question, obviously, would be which of your shoots, and/or models stood out as a highlight?
JR: I spent most of my time in the studio last year with a young model named Gage Houser. Every time we shot was more amazing than the last. He was so easy to work with, came with ideas of his own to try and that just made it more fun. It was a very symbiotic Photographer/Model relationship and I very much miss working with him.
B: Artists like Justin Monroe unabashedly push the envelope when it comes to the eroticism in their art work, and I feel that this not only enhances their images but also the mystique of the artist. How far would you go, or have you gone with your own images?
JR: I'll go as far as the model is comfortable with. I don't push a model to do anything he doesn't want to do but on the flip side, I'm not going to hold him back either. But whatever I shoot there must be artistic merit. I'm not going to shoot a guy on a hotel bed with on camera flash with his legs up in the air and a dildo up his ass. There's no art to that. It may be hot, but let someone else shoot it.
B: I am a huge proponent of removing the stigma attached to erotic male imagery which dismisses it as high gloss pornography. What is your reaction to those who might try to dismiss some of your work as not being artistic?
JR: Everyone is entitled to their own opinions. I don't believe in censorship and that goes both ways. They can say what they like.
B: I don’t know if you watch the show, but on The A-List New York, one of the characters did a test shoot for Playgirl magazine. He was expected to have a full erection for the images and had trouble achieving this, so the photographer’s assistant was sent behind the background with him to assist in the form of fluffing. Now, of course, people believe that this is a standard practice. How accurate would you say this perception is?
JR: I don't provide fluffers. No. One guy brought his wife with him and she fluffed for him, I've had guys need a minute to themselves but I don't provide a fluffing service. I have joked before about letting the whippet or the greyhound who reside at the studio have a go at it. :)
B: It is easy to lose oneself in your beautiful nude work, but this is not the only type of work that you do. Have you ever been in a situation where a new model was reluctant to work with you based on your nude and erotic work because they assumed these were the types of images they would be required to take?
JR: Unfortunately that happens quite a bit. People are very narrow-minded sometimes and can't see past the nose on their face. But it's their loss. I absolutely do not require nudity. My artistic interests are incredibly varied and encompass so many different subject matters.
B: When working with models, or meeting potential new models, what is the most frustrating aspect of the process?
JR: People who insist on using the telephone. I'm not even quite sure how my mobile internet/texting device is used to make telephonic communication but the manufacturer insists that it can. I understand, some people are more comfortable if they can at least put a voice to the person on the other end of the email but I'm pretty severely phone phobic.
B: I’m sure it would be hard to pick, but if I asked you to choose just one image that you felt best represented you as an artist, could you do it?
JR: Absolutely and without question. The End of Innocence. Joel Tye posed for that one and it's currently hanging in my first gallery exhibition.
B: What projects do you have lined up for the end of 2011 and what can we expect to see in 2012?
JR: These days I'm focusing mostly on images which would make good gallery fodder. It's funny, I love so many of my images and I have prints of tons of them. But when I was getting ready for my first show it was so hard to pick ones to hang. I found really quickly that there's a difference; at least to me, between a nice image for my wall and a piece of art to hang in a gallery. Hmm, that's probably about as clear as mud to you isn't it? Sorry. For 2012 I hope to set the gallery world on fire!
B: After all these years of working behind the lens, what is the one thing that stands out the most in your mind in terms of what you have learned or gained?
JR: Diversity. Never do the same thing twice. It really bores me to look through an artist or photographers body of work and see the exact same lighting setup, background and poses repeated over and over again. DIVERSIFY! To me thats the true mark of an artist, not being a one trick pony.
B: Any last words for your fans?
B: Any last words for your fans?
JR: “Love of beauty is taste. The creation of beauty is art.” - Ralph Waldo Emerson
©2011 – Sean Dibble