Murray KNOWS men!
When it comes to showcasing the male form at its best, certain photographers tend to be able to do so with remarkable ease. When it comes to showcasing undeniable sensuality and bringing that to the viewers through a diverse model selection, all of whom stepped off the same well hung assembly line, few male image artists can match up to Murray Grondin.
There were a few photos of model Joel Gregory that made the rounds which led others to his model mayhem page. Everyone wanted to work with him based on those images which were taken by Murray! The exclamation point in his name was as intriguing as his photos and I immediately added him to my list of favorites. He is the man behind some of the best images of two other very popular models – R. Luis and Victor Po, and now he has added new nude sensation – Quinn Christopher Jaxon. All three of these models oozes hotness by any definition but Murray still manages to bring that one special element that makes his work stand apart from all others.
BLISS: I am a huge fan or your work and consider you to be one of the best nude male photographers working today. You are an obvious choice for an issue dealing with sex. When did you decide that you wanted to be a photographer?
MURRAY GRONDIN: In the real world, I am a Creative Director at an advertising agency. I am lucky because I get to be creative all day. Of course the downside of that, is that I have clients judging my work all day. I was looking for a creative outlet that would just be for me, so I picked up a camera, and that has become such a wonderful outlet for me!
B: Your images are exceptionally well known, even to those who might not be familiar with your name, in particular your work with Victor Po and Ray Luis. Victor is featured in this issue promoting his first music single, “Shake It”. What is like working with Victor?
MG: Victor is a photographers dream! He looks like a million dollars, has an amazing attitude, knows how to pose, and is willing to do anything to get the best shot possible. I wish he would open a modelling school and teach all would-be-models everything he knows!
B: While we are on the subject of Victor and Ray, your images of them are also featured in the latest collection from publisher Bruno Gmunder “Cock Tales”. How did this come about?
MG: I am very honored to have my work in that book alongside so many photographers that I admire, Rick Day, Mark Henderson... About 3 years ago, I received an email from an editor at Bruno Gmunder in Germany saying they really liked my work, and wanted to publish some of it. On that exact same day, I received an email from Village Lighthouse in California informing me they wanted to publish a calendar of my work. Needless to say, that was a very, very good day!
B: Model Mayhem is a social networking site for photographers, models, stylists and make-up artists and they have a Pic of the Day contest which isn’t viewable by non members. You’ve landed in first place on numerous occasions. Does winning bring more traffic to your profile page?
MG: Yes. It seems the world loves to look at male nude photography. And I am more than happy to oblige!
B: Your images of both Victor and Ray Luis were among your list of winning entries, but some of your other winners include Joel and the latest nude sensation, Quinn Christopher Jaxon. What are these amazing men like in person?
MG: You can always tell what I think of a model by the number of times I work with them. I have shot Victor twice now, and adore him. He is a true star, so it is nice to see him having such success with his song "Shake It". I have shot Ray Luis about 6 times, and he continues to be a favorite. He is such a nice guy, very humble. Very down to earth. Incredible looking. The first time I shot him he was so shy! Obviously, he has gotten over that. I have worked with Quinn twice, what a great guy. Very professional, willing to do anything for a good shot. Joel is another favorite of mine. I have worked with him 5 times. It was great to see him develop as a model, and work really hard on his body. He is also a great DJ. Funny story, the first time I shot Joel and Ray Luis, neither one of them were comfortable posing nude. But after working with me, and feeling very comfortable, they both came back for a nude shoot, and look at them now! My friends often tease me that there is a pattern to my models: they start out wanting to be fashion models, then they become nude models, and then they become porn stars! It is shocking how many actually have!
B: Very few photographers are able to combine art with overtly erotic poses but you have managed to create images that can be appreciated by collectors as well as the one handed viewers. Do you set out to make images that are so arousing to the viewer?
MG: I only have one goal in every photo shoot I do: take the best picture that has ever been taken of the model in front of me. I am happy the viewers appreciate my shots on whatever level they want to appreciate them!
B: You don’t shy away from photographing erections, which the viewers love. How do you manage to find so many models that are comfortable showcasing this side of themselves?
MG: In general, I find models that are willing to pose nude are very proud of all the work they have done to develop their bodies, and don't mind showing off all of their bodies.
B: One other facet of your model choice seems to be the fact that they are extremely well endowed. Is this by coincidence or is it a quality that you look for when choosing these men?
MG: Strictly coincidence.
B: Your fans are well aware of it but for those that don’t know you also have a popular calendar called PROVACATEUR. When did you fist start producing calendars and what prompted you to do so?
MG: Like I previously stated, I am so honored that Village Lighthouse approached me about doing a calendar 3 years ago. It has been very rewarding to see my photography hobby develop into something wonderful. I have a 2011 and 2012 calendar, and I am just wrapping up a 2014 calendar, so stay tuned!
B: Your photos are full of sex appeal and much of the credit has to go to your subjects, but you are able to make even the more conservative models look like sex gods. What defines sexy for you?
MG: Confidence is sexy. Cockiness is not sexy.
B: An image of a nude full frontal male, especially in a state of arousal, seems to spark debate about art versus pornography. What, if anything, would you say differentiates the two mediums?
MG: I think the lines can sometimes blur, but as a general rule, I say anything involving penetration is porn. Although one of my favorite photographers, Terry Richardson, loves his penetration and he is wonderfully artistic!
B: Do you feel that a nude male photo receives the same level of respect as one of a nude female? If not, why do you think people have fewer issues with female nudity as opposed to male nudity?
MG: No, unfortunately a nude female photo will always receive so much more respect. I think society is afraid of the nude male. Men still hold the majority of power in society. A beautiful nude male commands the ultimate in power. Society is afraid of that.
B: When setting up a shoot that includes nudity, especially one where the model may be erect or semi erect, what kind of preparation is made in advance?
MG: Respect before, during, and after the photo shoot is of most important. I always state before the shoot what I am looking for from the photo shoot, and strongly encourage the models to give input as well. It is a collaboration.
B: I was at the DC club Secrets recently to meet a new model and the dancers there are not only fully nude but come out at the beginning of each performance fully aroused. One of my friends was from a VERY conservative part of the world and had never seen anything like this in person and asked me how the models get and maintain their hard-ons. The same question is asked about models in photo shoots. What do your models do?
MG: Creating a comfortable atmosphere for the models is very important. And having my iPad full of adult movies they can fluff too also helps. I always have a mix of gay, bi and straight movies on there so whatever they are into, I have it covered!
B: Another perception is that as photographers we are constantly “getting our jollies” by being in such close proximity to these naked and aroused models, but the reality can be much different. What is the atmosphere like for you during one of these shoots?
MG: I am afraid people would be disappointed in my shoots, they are not really sexy, they are work. I am so busy setting up the next set, or setting up the lighting, I often forget there is a very good looking nude male running around the studio. I am so happy that I have a perfect reputation, because I have never hit on a model. It is so important to give the models respect, so you will get respect in return.
B: In the interview with photographer David Wagner of WagnerLa, we discussed what he called “nude remorse” where a model agrees to shoot nudes, signs a release and then later in his career regrets those photos and asks to have them removed from all sites. Have you ever experienced this? Would you remove your work that you have a signed release form for simply to accommodate a model?
MG: Luckily, I have not had this happen.
B: I love the fact that some artists are able to take it to the extreme and remain artistic in spite of the hardcore nature of their work. Mapplethorpe was an early pioneer of this and now Justin Monroe is wearing the crown. How far are you willing to go in terms of explicitness in your own work and do you consider anything off limits?
MG: I adore Justin Monroe, he is so wonderfully creative! I don't have limits, so who knows what lies ahead in my future! Stay tuned!
B: Every time I work with a new model that has shot with some of the artists that I have such tremendous respect for, I always ask them about the experience. No matter how many times I hear it, I am still surprised to learn that some of the photographers behind the hottest images are actually very shy in person. Do you consider yourself to be shy as well?
MG: No, I wouldn't describe myself as shy. I am a big guy with a big personality! And I use an exclamation point at the end of my name, and there is nothing shy about that!
B: You are based in Detroit, right in the heart of Motown. What is it like living there these days?
MG: Detroit is wonderful these days. There is such a fantastic energy here. I think our worse days are behind us. It has been wonderful to see the change happening right before my eyes. Three years ago, when I first shot Victor Po, we were shooting in an abandoned factory, where Victor walked around nude for 3 hours, and we never ran into anyone else. Since then, they have shot scenes for the movies "Transformers" and "Real Steel" in that same factory, and tourist are always walking around there now. Change has come to Detroit!
B: Is the art scene still alive and well there?
MG: We have a great art scene. Just last week I was at a great show that showcased skateboards that were turned into wall art. It was fantastic. And of course, we have one of the best art museums in all the USA - The Detroit Institute of Arts. The Diego Rivera murals are so spectacular!
B: I don’t know if you can do this comfortably, but is it possible to pick a favorite model?
MG: Impossible to select just one. I will say that currently I am enjoying my collaborations with Anthony Gee.
B: Do you shoot mainly studio work or do you do location shots as well?
MG: I love shooting both studio and location, but lately I have been concentrating on my studio work. It provides a much safer, more relaxed atmosphere for nude models.
B: Artists have their influences and in many cases this is other photographers. Are there any that inspire you on a daily basis?
MG: I am constantly inspired! Of course, there are the greats who led the way - Herb Ritts, Bruce Weber, Tom Bianchi, Greg Gorman and Andreas Bitesnich. Also, there are so many greats working today - Rick Day, Dylan Rosser, Terry Richardson, Mark Henderson, Tony Duran, Ethan James, Mariano Vivanco, Louis LaSalle, Zedneram, and of course yourself!
B: What about the shoots themselves…what is the inspiration behind specific shoots?
MG: Mostly, I am inspired by the models. Their stories, their interests. I hope that shines through in the photographs.
B: If you could shoot anywhere in the world, where would that be?
MG: Miami. I love Miami. I am so inspired there. The people. The culture. The beauty. The heat!
B: What about in terms of images…is there a specific idea that you have that you have yet to do?
MG: I have a notebook I keep of potential ideas. The pages are filled! I have so many shots inside of me, I can't wait to get them all out.
B: Do you only shoot solo models? Have you, or would you like to do couple or duo shots?
MG: I prefer shooting solos, it is easier to build a bond with the model when there is only one of them. But yes, I have done couples as well as group shoots. They become major productions, so they are very different. But it is always good to mix it up and try new things.
B: The amount of work that goes into a shoot extends far beyond the initial shoot itself. How much time do you spend editing photos?
MG: There are three parts to every shoot. First, the preparation. Finding models, communicating with them, organizing ideas, purchasing lights and props. Secondly, is the actual shoot itself. I like to shoot fast, in a two hour shoot, I will do about five different backgrounds and different lighting setups, with multiple wardrobe changes, and shoot about 700 shots. And finally is the editing process. Going through all the shots, selecting the best, and then editing down the final ones. I love all three steps equally! It is truly a joy to have photography as a hobby.
B: Are there any particular models out there that you hope to work with in the future?
MG: I am always on the lookout for new models. Of course, there are a few out there that have been on my radar for awhile now - Chad White, Marlon Teixeira, Benjamin Godfrey, Matthieu Charneau, Hugh Plummer, Joshua Seven, Vince Azzopardi, Peter Le, Caleb Gardner, Paul Boulon and Luis Perrusquia.
B: What lasting impression would you like your art to have on people?
MG: I hope my art gives people joy, as it has given me so much joy. Having a creative release is so important, and I am so lucky to have stumbled upon photography.
B: What would you like to say to your many current fans and the new ones you will gain from this feature?
MG: I appreciate all the nice comments, posts, and emails from anyone who appreciates the art of male nude photography. I look forward to developing this little hobby of mine more and more, and appreciate you being there with me. Never forget the pleasure of the journey!
©2012 – Sean Dibble