Jay Plogman was one of the first few artists to be featured in BLISS with a cover story entitled East Meets West, which debuted in December of 2009. From the moment I discovered his work, I was a fan and the appreciation for the way he lights and frames his subjects continues to this day. He has a diverse eye, which is refreshing in a landscape that can be filled with so many variations on the same theme in terms of model choices. He is international in scope having lived abroad for some time before returning to the U.S. and the change of scenery, not to mention the models available, brought about noticeable changes in his style. His work evolved rather than improved because neither improvement nor change was really necessary, but the evolution added new dimensions to what was already an impressive portfolio.
I count Jay amongst a large group of individual artists who are celebrities for me. These artists, whose work I admire and am inspired by serve as my versions of the rock star, the actor, the sports figure or media personality that keep so many in our society captivated and enthralled. In much the same way that people idolized James Dean, Marilyn Monroe, Madonna, Michael Jordon, and the current crop of superstars like Lady Gaga, Rihanna, and reality show personalities (unfortunately), I was spellbound by the photographic talents of so many artists. BLISS was my way of connecting to them in a manner that went beyond just staring at the amazing images and attempting to bring that same joy and captivation to a different audience who might not know the names behind the photographs, as well as taking a peek inside the minds and into the creative process.
Jessie Lee is like a mini tornado and has quickly become a phenomenon in the world of artistic modeling and adult performance. He had only been on the scene for a short amount of time but his popularity continues to rise at an unbelievable pace. He has garnered more attention and fan adoration than any individual I have had the pleasure of working with and is an undeniable attraction on Peter Le’s mega popular site PeterFever.com. While working with him we discussed other photographers that he could work with and the first person I mentioned was Jay Plogman. He was already scheduled to work with West Phillips so I felt Jay would be the perfect choice. As luck would have it, Jay was going to be visiting the area so the timing was perfect.
Only one other model has had an entire issue devoted to him and in that case it was adult superstar Turk Mason. I felt that Jessie was the perfect choice for the next special edition and I discussed it with West and Jay who wanted to be a part of it and agreed to keep it a secret so it would remain a surprise to Jessie. I also wanted the issue to be built around the beautiful images that Jay took so I chose his work for the cover. It is with great pleasure that I was able to bring both these amazing talents together for this tribute to Jessie Lee and to finally bring Jay back in his first BLISS interview since 2009. In the end, I think all of us managed to justify what makes Jessie such an exciting new model and performer while showcasing different aspects of his beauty.
BLISS: My first interview with you was in December of 2009. Since then you’ve put out a book, INTIMO (http://www.blurb.com/books/1441060) in addition to being featured in the Bruno Gmunder anthology – KISSED: Sensuality in Gay Art. What other projects have you been working on?
JAY PLOGMAN: I've worked on many small projects since then, highlights being shooting for a singer/songwriter to accompany a video release for his single, work for a jeweler, and ad work for a retailer of fine writing instruments. I have one book project in the works now, tentatively titled "Musings from Manila: A Philippine Photo Odyssey". For it I've sorted through all of the 75,000+ photos I shot during my time in the Philippines and have narrowed those down to the very best images and am now working on including a fair amount of text to accompany those. I hope to have the book ready by autumn of this year.
B: Looking through your port, there is a noticeable difference, not just in model choices, but in the styling and overall look of your images. Was this a conscious decision, a natural evolution or are you even aware that you’re changing as an artist?
JP: At times I am aware that I am evolving as an artist. That is usually preceded by a feeling that I have no idea of what to do for an upcoming shoot!
B: I love when I can define a photographer by a particular style, but am disappointed when I see the same location, wardrobe and posing from model to model. Do you ever repeat yourself, so to speak?
JP: I agree with what you say and that is the reason I do not do very much studio work. After having a studio for a few years I found it and I did not work well together creatively! The vast majority of my shoots now are done on location. Each new setting inspires me. Anything from a broom closet to thousands of square feet of empty industrial space! Regrettably I find some difficulties in securing new locations for some shoots. When similarities in poses and location arise I try to offset that by choosing a different angle, composition, and lighting so I am never repeating any previous work.
B: You had just returned from living abroad when we did our first interview. Now that some time has passed, can you pinpoint any specific differences from shooting there as opposed to here in the US?
JP: From 2007 through 2009 I was living in Manila, Philippines and since then I have been living in Cincinnati, Ohio. Let me assure you there are a lot of differences between those two places! Manila is the Philippine equivalent of New York City. It is the capital of fashion, design, media and culture. Cincinnati? Well, it isn't; and because it isn't it is much more difficult to find people to work with of the caliber present in those capitals of culture. I regularly receive messages from models on both the east and west coasts expressing their dismay at my not being there! I won't go into specifics here, but moving to the coasts is not an option for me at this point in time.
B: There are those who are familiar with your work that might identify you as shooting mainly Asian models but you are rather broad in terms of race and ethnicity when it comes to your subjects. Do you have a preference or do you gain more satisfaction from being diverse?
JP: My work with Asian models was due to living in Manila for over 2 years. I loved working with them, but I really love working with anyone who has a passion for creating images with me. One model who comes to mind is Brandon Schinaman: he braved temperatures in the forties one morning while doing an underwear shoot he wanted to do. Because he was determined to get some great shots he kept at it as long as was needed to get the right looks - and neither of us were disappointed with the results.
B: You also worked with BLISS cover model David Davila and some of the images from that shoot were featured in the September issue. What was it like working with David?
JP: Yes, thank you for having my work included there! David's shoot came about while I was visiting his hometown, Chicago. Our shoot was put together rather hastily and without a lot of pre-planning, which was fine by me. I love working that way. Some models I have encountered cannot work like that and require very specific instructions for the concepts of each shoot. David embraced the very spur-of-the-moment nature of the shoot, is very personable and working with him was a joy. He takes poses quite naturally, has a great physique and captivating eyes that really draw the viewer's attention. I believe his eyes are the greatest of his many physical assets.
B: The male image landscape is influenced by trends just like pop culture. What changes have you noticed over the past few years?
JP: While I try not to pay much attention to the obviously trendy, one thing I have noticed is the love affair with overly photoshopped images has died. Photoshop artists have matured and taken their craft to the next level.
Of course the new craze around the world now is Instagram. Everyone with smart phone is using it to create pictures that look as if they were shot thirty or more years ago using either inexpensive compact cameras or slide film scanned to digital. This has either coincided with some of the retro look in advertising or advertising has been in lock step with the Instagram aesthetic trend.
B: What changes would you like to see take place within the industry?
JP: I'd like there to be still more diversity. On the whole photographically it would be great to see more experimental, esoteric, and artistic photography. That is one area in which I am challenging myself as opportunities arise.
B: You traveled to the DC area last month, which was supposed to be our chance to finally meet in person, which didn’t happen since I had food poisoning, but you did manage to work with newcomer Jessie Lee, whom I highly recommended. How would you describe him as a person?
JP: It was such a shame you fell ill when you did! I was really looking forward to our meeting. Photographers in Manila loved to get together to socialize or to shoot together. Here in the US I have mostly been given the cold shoulder. So when I say I was really looking forward to our meeting I mean that! But back to your question: Jessie is an incredibly energetic, uninhibited, fun, great guy.
B: I know from working with him myself that Jessie is tireless when it comes to working in front of a camera. What stood out the most for you in terms of him as a model?
JP: Tireless! Yes! That is an excellent way to describe Jessie! He's like the Energizer Bunny of models! Jessie is still relatively new to posing, and we only met for the first time as we began the shoot, so taking poses was, at the beginning, a bit awkward, but after a while he was taking poses very naturally and with much greater confidence.
B: You did a series of shoots at your hotel as well as on location in Baltimore. Did you have any specific concepts in mind?
JP: First I should note that before our shoot there I had never been to Baltimore and had no idea as to where to go for a shoot. I was just some schmucky tourist! Before arriving in Baltimore, the only ideas I had were for his wardrobe and that we would shoot indoors as well as outdoors. Everything else came to mind once I saw the room and our outdoor location.
B: I love the art shots that you did of him, which are more abstract than anything I’ve seen from you before. What led to the decision to shoot those particular images?
JP: I've been shooting those abstract (I call them "bodyscapes") images for some years now, but have never put them out for public view. I had not done any in quite some time, and it was actually my partner, Edson, who was there during a portion of the shoot who reminded me!
B: What location did you use for the outdoor images and how was Jessie in a public setting?
JP: Our location was a small park in Baltimore's Inner Harbor, not terribly far from Camden Yards. It is little more than a hiking/biking trail populated by a dozen or so shanties the homeless have constructed. Little did I know that would be the case when I came upon it during a Google Earth search! It looked much nicer in the 2006 image from space on Google! I still can't believe I found a shoot location in Baltimore using Google Earth from Cincinnati!
B: You also ratcheted up the erotic quotient with the mirror shots and the results are undeniably hot. How did you both prepare for that part of the session?
JP: From the moment I saw that big mirror in our room the day before the shoot I knew I would use it. Jessie and I did some shots in the shower and it steamed up the entire room, creating a wonderful condensation on the mirror which was, like Jessie, really hot. So the idea that came upon me immediately was: Narcissus! So I told Jessie to make love to himself in the mirror - and he did. And he did it very well, I might add. I'm sure your readers will agree. Not that this came exactly naturally to him: at first he found it rather awkward, but got into it once he saw how the first few frames looked!
B: The images in the shower are stunning, especially the word SEX spelled out in the soap on his body. Did you plan that or was it more organic?
JP: Thanks so much. Once I got to know Jessie I knew I would have to write SEX out on him. He has such a rockin' body and can, when he turns on his sexual side, just ooze sex appeal.
B: Jessie has built up quite a fan base in a relatively short amount of time. How would you define his appeal and why do you think so many people are responding to it?
JP: Jessie is charming. He is warm and friendly. He is fun to be around. This all shines through within moments of meeting the man. He works incredibly hard on his physique and is justifiably proud of it. Being Asian, he is also a rare commodity when it comes to guys in his field of work - especially on the east coast. He is one of the latest in a growing number of amazing Asian men including Guy Tang, Peter Le, and Jeffierce Chiangmai (all on the west coast) to show to the world that Asian men are every bit as hot, ripped, and sexy as any white, black or latino. It is the reason I worked with all those great guys who posed before my camera in the Philippines. If I could I would get Jessie together with Guy, Peter, Jeff and some others for a massive group shoot.
B: Taste, like art, is subjective, but in your opinion, what is Jessie’s best physical feature?
JP: Photographically I'd have to say it is his torso. I say that because he has worked so hard to achieve his definition and knows exactly how to manipulate it for the shot.
B: Jessie is now a featured model and performer on PeterFever.com, run by the legendary Peter Le. Do you think his comfort level with nudity, as well as erotic art makes it easier to work with him?
JP: Definitely. Jessie has no inhibitions whatsoever. He is able to view any situation with optimism and possibility. And he does this all with great professionalism and poise I must add.
B: Every photo shoot, or a great deal of them, I should say, produces an interesting back story at some point, and often times they are humorous. Did you experience anything like this working with Jessie?
JP: Oh yes! As soon as we met we set out to find our outdoor location. Within minutes we were lost! 20 minutes later: while we had found the park, we couldn't locate its entrance. Then, of course, once we were in and ready to begin the shoot people started walking around while Jessie was undressing/dressing. Later, during the shoot in the hotel we did some bed shots. I did most of the shots from above him which required me to precariously straddle him, trying to maintain my balance, all while dealing with the steam he had generated when we did the shower shots. So while he was nice and comfy lying nude on the bed, I was fully clothed, perspiring tremendously, balanced precipitously over his head.
B: Many models are completely different in front of the camera than they are between shots. In what ways would you say Jessie differs from the image he projects in photos?
JP: No model who presents himself in the way Jessie does is entirely what you see in those still images. Guy Tang is a vivid example of this. Like Jessie, in his photos Guy can be sexy and sultry; the personification of sexuality and lustful desire. Then, when one views Guy's videos we see the happy, fun, playful and vivacious, man who posed for that 1/60 of a second for the camera in that fantasy mode. It rounds out the individual and endears us to them. Jessie is a most endearing guy, fun and lovable - but that's not what we were going for in our photo session!
B: It is easy to look at someone like Jessie and make the assumption that he is 100% happy with his physical gifts, but often times models carry their own insecurities about their physicality. Did Jessie express any thoughts about what he would like to change about himself?
JP: Nobody likes everything they see in the mirror each morning. Even the most successful models see some feature of someone else and wish it was an attribute of their own. If Jessie did express such thoughts I don't recall it now. We were awfully busy that day!
B: Do you have any advice for Jessie as he moves forward in his career?
JP: As anyone who is in the very early stages of a career in modeling I would hope he will remain open to all new possibilities and to work with as wide a variety of others as possible to broaden his portfolio.
B: What’s the next exciting project we can expect from you?
JP: Aside from the book I previously mentioned, "Musings from Manila: A Philippine Photo Odyssey" I am planning another book featuring the men I have worked with from Europe, the US and South America. If any Canadians would like to be included, remember this: Cincinnati is closer than you think. Within driving distance from Toronto. Hint. Hint.
B: You have a built in fan base as well…any last words for them?
JP: Do I really? Wow. Cool. Well thank you all and please continue to pay visits to my blog site (http://www.jayplogmanphotography.blogspot.com) and the connections there to my Facebook and Model Mayhem pages in the coming months and beyond. I do want to shamelessly plug INTIMO (http://www.blurb.com/books/1441060). It should be noted the preview only shows about half of the book's content, so only buyers get to see "the really good stuff"! Readers should also know that like your fine books, Sean, INTIMO is available as an e-book as well, for those guys who need a dose of hot Filipino men on the go!
©2012 – Sean Dibble