BLISS: There are photographers whose presentation is just as exciting as their work and it captures the viewer’s attention instantly. Kingdom 19 is one whose style completely captivates me, and I feel the same when I view your work. How would you describe your style?
HARINGMAN: Easy on the eye
B: I’m making an assumption here, but does the “Haringman” come from your love of Keith Haring’s work?
H+: Yes, and the fact that I have Haring men permanently drawn on my body
B: In some of your photos, prints by Keith Haring are visible in the background, in addition to his art being tattooed on your own body. What is it about Keith Haring that appeals to you so much?
H+: BIG smile – they aren’t prints. I have been a fan of Keith Haring since the 1980s, and I was knocked out to meet him on my first trip to NYC. He was friendly, humble, and drew me something which became my first tattoo in 1990 when he died. Later I lied to my bank manager to get a loan, and I bought a large piece which now hangs on my wall. What appeals so much? Just about everything – on first look it appears simple, look again and hidden beneath the surface is a whole story, sex, humour, bonding, all the things we all (hopefully) enjoy.
B: Do you find inspiration from any photographers, and if so, how has this translated into your own work?
H+: Not only photographers, artists that I look up to include Jean-Baptiste Mondino, Andy Warhol, Tom of Finland, Banksy, Haring, and about 10 current photographers who show on Model Mayhem. How does it translate is harder to answer – sometimes influences are far more subliminal, and I don’t intentionally copy anyone.
B: You refer to the Haringman+ as your alter ego that allows you to express yourself in more daring ways as an artist. These images are far more erotic than your other work. Are you drawn to more erotic imagery?
H+: I enjoy the process of photography, from start to finish, so whether it’s more erotic or not isn’t an issue for me. True, more viewers will come look at that side of my work, but that is possibly a reflection on them not me. If that seems rude, my apologies, it’s not intended as such. I try my best to bring each model’s best bits forward, it just so happens that their best bits are often the bits we all like to see.
B: There is no denying the sexual current that runs through your images, and I would say that you convey this in a manner that is intense but completely artistic. What is the general reaction to your work?
H+: Generally, good! I am lucky in that I get reactions I guess; at least my efforts aren’t going unnoticed. I’m happy to receive negative feedback, as long as it comes from someone qualified to make judgments. There’s nothing funnier than being told my work is a cliché, then looking at who is telling me this, and seeing their output. Hilarious. I guess envy manifests itself in many ways.
B: In your opinion, is male erotica the overlooked stepchild of nude photography?
H+: I don’t have an opinion on that subject.
B: Two years ago, I wrote an editorial called Art vs. Porn, and when I was working on it, I showed various images to a group of people and asked them to say which photo was art and which was pornographic. Unanimously, any photo that showed a penis, especially if it was in any state of arousal, was labeled pornographic. Why do you think viewing the male member creates such conflict for some people?
H+: Because they don’t realize their own beliefs are self-limiting. They are welcome to their conflicts.
B: Your uninhibited nature goes beyond the photos that you take in that you are not shy about stripping down and baring your own body. What prompted you to step in front of the camera?
H+: Ah, you noticed! Nudity isn’t an issue for me – my parents were naturists and I am 100% comfortable in my own skin. The reason I started taking self portraits was due to a lack of volunteers originally, and I needed someone to practice on. I found the self-timer button.
B: There are quite a few models out there that are comfortable with taking off their clothes, but many of them come across as mannequins, without any heat in the photo. Your models seem to revel in their nudity as if they are in character, and this comes across well in the final images. What type of direction do you give, if any, that puts them in the mindset of losing themselves in the photo?
H+: Thank you for the compliment, which is gratefully received by me and on behalf of my models. The whole aim in a H+ shoot is to have a good time. Professionalism is ever present, but not to the point where it stifles. Yes I shout out direction, we laugh, we try again...the process comes together. I am happy that they are (usually) happy with the results. As to the specifics of the direction, that’s copyright!
B: Justin Monroe is a perfect example of an artist who can cross over into very explicit territory, yet the story being told in his editorials, along with the styling and post production keeps his work grounded in the realm of artistic. Have you ever done shoots that are more sexually explicit? If so, where can we see these images?
H+: Yes I have, and no, you can’t. (yet).
B: All the images I’ve seen by you are studio shots. Do you shoot on location as well?
H+: I do, I travel a fair amount, and I usually take my camera.
B: I confess that I am envious of the lighting in all your photos. Did you study your craft or are you self taught?
H+: Just well practiced, but again, thank you for the major compliment.
B: One of the first things models ask regarding potential shoots these days is about concepts. Do you plan out specific ideas prior to the shoot or go with the flow once you’ve started?
H+: Both. Most photographers would probably confess that the best laid plans don’t always produce what was expected. Sometimes a model arrives and it’s apparent within 5 minutes that concept a) isn’t going to work so we move to concept b) and if that doesn’t get results….there are 26 letters in the alphabet and I am a good mix of patient and determined.
B: Your styling and prop use add a great deal to your work. Do you work with a stylist or create these tableaus on your own?
H+: Mostly on my own, but I have an upcoming project which involves me partnering with an artist who is working on some props for me at present. The output will be in an alternative direction, won’t be suitable for some mainstream websites, and frankly, I’m glad!
B: You have a series of images that focus mainly on the genitalia but they never come across as mere cock shots. How is focusing on the penis different than shooting the entire subject?
H+: You use the word in your question – focus. That’s my answer.
B: Another theme is the gas mask, and it seemed like quite a few artists caught on to it after you began showing your photos. Is the mask symbolic of something or just another prop, and what made you decide to use it?
H+: Aaaah, such a lot of answers to choose from! I’ll tell it like it is. I bought a gas mask in Berlin because it SHOUTED at me, BUY ME BUY ME. That gas mask has helped me in many ways. It has paid me back several times. It oozes sex, mystery, anonymity, restraint; the list goes on and on. And it’s not my fault if it has become a clichéd prop, it doesn’t have to be.
B: Artists can get stuck within their own style, especially when they shoot erotic photos, but you manage to move from that to a series of classically beautiful black and white nudes. Have you always been this versatile?
H+: I don’t know.
B: When you are viewing the work of other artists, what aspects generally appeal to you most?
H+: Their imagination, their skills, their talent, their choice of model, their approach, their angle, their abilities, their individuality.
B: You inspire so many photographers, including myself, but are there any current ones whose work truly stands out for you?
H+: Again, thank you for the compliment; I’m astonished sometimes to hear that certain other photographers even consider my work as worthy of a look. It is really flattering and confidence-boosting. I am not going to name names, but needless to say, there are some guys on MM whose quality of output is something to strive for.
B: Shooting people can be tricky because talent and skill cannot always compensate for a model that is not engaging. Where do you find most of your models?
H+: In the pub, in the street, at an agency, or they find me on Model Mayhem or my website. Word of mouth also plays a part I’m happy to say, and my reputation seems to be growing and I promise I won’t let it go to my head.
B: When choosing a model to work with, what attributes do you feel are most important?
H+: Apart from the obvious physical attributes? Manners, a lack of arrogance, an imagination, and a trust in me.
B: I also salute the fact that you incorporate all ethnicities into your work considering some photographers shy away from ethnic models. Do you feel that ethnic models are still underrepresented in the medium?
H+: Ethnicity isn’t really something that I ‘see’. Neither is gender. I don’t know about under-representation, but what I do know is that (on Model Mayhem) photos of women and of guys who aren’t white are less popular. That’s bad. There are some photographers who only photograph one ethnicity – that’s equally bad, regardless of race. I don’t limit myself in that respect.
B: Are there any models on your personal wish list that you’d like to work with in the future?
H+: I don’t have that wish list put together yet.
B: It seems like so many male image photographers have coffee table books out. Is there a compilation of your art in the planning stages for your own book someday?
H+: Yes, but I’m hoping it will be a bedside table rather than a coffee table book.
B: Is photography your main job, or do you work in another field? If it’s your main job, where can viewers purchase your images?
H+: I have up to 5 jobs at any one time. I sell my work to agencies sometimes. Some have been published in magazines (in print) and on the web. The book is in planning stages. My website. WAIT!!
B: You are based in London, to the dismay of many American models. Do you ever come to the U.S. to work with individuals?
H+: I come to the States often, my best friend lives in East Village, Manhattan. I enjoy travel, especially around the U.S.A and South America. People can always contact me.
B: Your output seems endless. How often do you do shoots?
H+: As often as time allows.
B: People don’t realize it, but the actual shoot can be the easiest part of the process, and that the photos usually require some editing. Do you handle all the editing yourself?
B: Photoshop has made it possible for mediocre photographers to transform their images into something special. Do you consider the use of it to constitute photographic talent or computer efficiency?
H+: The image has to be better than average to start with, no amount of photoshop will alter the fact. If the starting image works, photoshop should be used to improve it (something to remember next time you look at a photograph of a human being with no pores in their skin). It’s too easy to go over the top, so self-restraint is something I rely upon. And then some.
B: Has there ever been a shoot that you did that truly stood out in your mind as one of your best? If so, what made it different than your other shoots?
H+: With few exceptions, I always like the most recent shoot I did. I believe in ‘lifelong-learning’ and hopefully I am always improving.
B: What about on the other end of things…have you ever been involved in a session that did not live up to your expectations?
H+: Yes – hasn’t everyone?
B: What lasting impression do you want people to have when they view your portfolio?
H+: That they want more.
B: Can you name 5 things that you value most in your life?
H+: …in no particular order…..My friends. My cameras. My Keith Haring. My ability to drink a lot of Guinness and remain slim. My sense of humour.
B: What is the best lesson you’ve learned in life so far?
H+: Laugh it off and move on.
B: Since this is the Valentine issue, how will you be spending yours?
B: Do you have a favorite holiday tune?
B: What projects can we look forward to from you in 2012?
H+: I don’t think I have any fans but if I do, a big thank you, thanks for reading this, for your support, and Happy New Year.
©2011 – Sean Dibble