Friday, August 26, 2011


New York City is synonymous with beauty and creativity.  It is arguably the epicenter for artists of all genres to come and peddle their wares, hoping to get noticed in the big sea of talented fish. As the saying goes, “If I can make it here, I’ll make it anywhere.”

Matthew Kirk is one of the countless that reside in the Big Apple, but he arrived with the goods to back up his ambitions. Trained in musical theater, he is a singer, actor, dancer and model who has the drive as well as the looks necessary to move ahead of the pack.  It is a beauty that did not pass unnoticed by some of the industries luminaries like Rick Day and Lucas Ferrier who have both photographed him, showcasing two sides of his emotive output. Here is a model/actor that can accurately and convincingly portray the Boy Next Door and then effortlessly turn up the heat while shedding his clothes. And while many models look better one way or the other, Matthew is equally impressive in or out of fashion. The personification of sugar and spice.

BLISS: You are very diverse when it comes to modeling. You have a sweet side, almost boy next door, and then you have this amazingly sexy side that comes out in images like the ones shot by Rick Day. Does your off lens personality mirror what we see in the photos? 

MATTHEW KIRK: The sweet side is where I live most of the time and how I’m generally perceived but I’ve always had this wild and rich internal life that I don’t expose often in real life.  I’m mostly laid back, introverted, and nerdy when I’m not on camera or on stage, but when I’m performing I’m able and unafraid to access all the aspects of my personality that I’m apprehensive to show other people in real life. 

B: You reside in New York City currently. What do you love most about it? 

MK: The continual and constant pulse of creative energy and all the cool and crazy people that I come into contact with on a regular basis.   

B: You have a BFA in Musical Theatre and went to a high school for the performing arts. Are you a musician, actor, dancer or all three? 

MK: I’m an actor, singer, and dancer and have spent most of my life performing in the realm of musical theatre with a strict focus on singing and music during my high school years and a few commercial/tv gigs as a kid. 

B: How did performance art lead you in the direction of modeling? 

MK: It didn’t.  I had modeled here and there as a side hobby but didn’t really tell anyone about it or believe that I could ever be a “real” model until someone I work with told me that I really could and that I should give it a try. 

B: Some would say that Rick Day is a pinnacle in terms of male imagery and you’ve shot with him, in addition to Lucas Ferrier, Michael McCloud, Rob Sutton and Manuscript Photography. Who was your first professional shoot with and what was that experience like? 

MK: My first professional shoot was with Jin Wang and he definitely pushed my boundaries and made me realize that I have a special gift for transforming myself in front of the camera. 

B: Do you have a favorite shoot of the ones that you've done to date? If so, what made this session stand out? 

MK: My shoots with Lucas Ferrier have been my favorite thus far because we had a great chemistry and I felt completely at ease working with him.  He’s very patient and easy going. 

B: Almost every model has had the session they wish they could forget. Without naming names, have you had a session that you regretted? 

MK: Oh yes, I’ve had a handful that I wish I could erase from my memory (and have erased from my computer). 

B: With your look and build, I could easily see you as a fashion or commercial print model. Is this a goal for you? 

MK: Yes!  I feel like I am still just getting started with modeling and I would love to work in as many different facets of the business as I can.   

B: You haven’t limited yourself to fashion. Your sessions with Rick Day included full frontal nudity and semi arousal. What is your overall opinion of male nudity in art? 

MK: I think it’s a beautiful thing and that it shouldn’t be stigmatized and easily labeled as porn as it so often is.  However, I will say that there’s a very fine and blurry line between art and porn and everyone is going to have their own definition for each.  I want to stay on the side of what I consider to be fine art that is tasteful, classy, and beautiful. 

B: How does a nude shoot differ from a standard session? Do you have to prepare yourself any differently? 

MK: I have to hit the gym harder when I’m shooting nudes because everything is exposed and the primary focus is on the lines and shape of the body. 

B: What lead to your decision to pose nude? Is it something you've always been interested in? 

MK: At first it was something risky that I wanted to try just as experimental fun and once I tried it I realized I was a natural and that it was fun and I felt liberated and very at ease. 

B: It’s surprising how many models who pose nude are actually shy in person. Of course, some of them are natural born exhibitionists. Where do you fall on the scale? 

MK: Yes, I definitely have an exhibitionist streak and nude modeling is my outlet for it.  I certainly don’t go running around nude in public in real life!  

B: What do you do in NYC when you are not modeling? 

MK: I audition for musical and film/tv acting jobs, work survival jobs, stay as active as I can physically, and soak up as much of the theatre, music, and film scenes as I can. 

B:  Now that you have been doing this for a little while, what would you say is the most important lesson you’ve learned in regards to the business side of modeling? 

MK: I’m still learning many lessons as I go but I would say that the most important one I’ve learned thus far is to protect your image and avoid things that will tarnish it. 

B: If I asked you to offer advice to a potential new male model, what would you advise them about? 

MK: Only do it you it if enjoy it and strive to be bold and unique.  Don’t strive to emulate. 

B: Which photographers out there would you like to work with in the future? 

MK: Al Ocana, Kevin McDermott, David Vance, Paul Reitz, Kristopher Kelly, Ray John Pila, Tony Veloz, Ev Dylan 

B: Every model has an idea of their dream shoot. What type of image would you like to someday be able to do? 

MK: A high fashion editorial shoot wearing a D and G leather jacket.  Something sleek and edgy.   Immaculately styled and lit.   

B:  It might be hard to choose, but do you have a favorite of all the images you’ve done so far? 

MK: So far my favorite is the one taken by Lucas Ferrier where I’m sitting in the window in red socks. 

B: Can you list 5 things about yourself that even people who know you might be surprised to learn? 

MK: I still can’t tie a tie (I’ve tried to learn many times), I’ve never shaved with a real razor (electric since day one), I never watch tv (with the exception of the occasional series from Netflix), I’ve never cooked anything (warming soup is the extent of it), I sleep with no sheets on my mattress.

B: What’s next for you, Matthew? Any projects we should be watching out for, like a musical perhaps? 

MK: A few exciting shoots are in the works for Fall.  Keep your eyes on my Model Mayhem page and the blogs/online mags for new work. 

B: You already have quite a few fans, and will undoubtedly have even more after this interview. Any last words for them? 

MK: Thank you for your support and admiration and keep it up!

©2011 – Sean Dibble

Matthew Kirk


BLISS is moving into the next phase, exploring new models, photographers and artists. And this time around, there will only be one cover per issue. First up for the new chapter - fitness model DAVID DAVILA. Also in this issue, New York City's own Matthew Kirk, photographer TAKEURPICTURE and one of his main men, Alexander Q. Joseph.
So as Summer winds down, turn up the HEAT with BLISS.

Cover photo: KJ Heath

Tuesday, August 23, 2011



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? 

JR:  “Love of beauty is taste.  The creation of beauty is art.” - Ralph Waldo Emerson

©2011 – Sean Dibble


David Costa