I’ve been wanting to do some interviews to pepper into the blog now and then. I know a number of very talented artists, and I happen to be engaged to one of them. Love has not blinded me; I was a fan of his before we were dating, and even before we first shot together, almost three years ago.
His style is a unique mix of photo journalism, American Apparel ads and Suicide Girls. His work is sexy and provocative without being obscene or pornographic. His goal in shooting models is to get to the core of who that person is and capture that essence. He shoots in a spontaneous, minimalist way, further highlighting his subjects. His work is not for the timid; it takes a certain kind of model to be able to shoot with him. There’s nothing to hide behind, both literally and metaphorically. Aside from the obvious lack of clothes, there is also no character or story to disguise you. You are just you. And that can be intimidating. But he has also honed a wonderful bedside manner which makes the sometimes frightening work easier, and in my case at least, I walked away from the shoot proud and full of new confidence in myself.
Let’s say hello to Geoff Ashley of Unsinn Image.
What’s your favorite photo of yours?
I don’t know; what’s your favorite photo of mine? I like the one in the back of the 57… the blurred one, where the girl has the skull-and-crossbones underwear.
I like the one of the model taking off the terry cloth bikini top, where it’s cut off at her mouth.
Do you think people are afraid of sex and nudity?
Yes, of course.
Because they’re conditioned to feel that way.
How do you think society would be different if we weren’t afraid of sex and nudity?
We’d all be really slutty and no one would care!
Why should society relax it’s attitudes about nudity?
Because nudity is awesome. I think there would be a lot more art and it would be a lot more interesting if people weren’t self-censoring and worrying about if lines had been crossed.
What’s the most challenging thing for you about your photography?
Finding people who are gutsy enough to shoot with me.
What makes the best kind of model?
[Laughs] A model with no inhibitions, who has limits so far out, I will never reach them. I don’t know, someone who likes my work, who’s not afraid to look stupid, who’s comfortable in her skin, literally and figuratively.
Why do you choose to photograph mostly women?
Because there’s just nothing less attractive than a naked man.
What about a clothed man?
That’s just boring.
Are you ever afraid of how your audience will react to your photos?
I wouldn’t say afraid, but there are some images that make me think about what do I want to put forward? What is too much? Is it too explicit? I personally don’t have an issue with almost anything as long as it’s not illegal and everyone is a willing participant. But there are some images that I like more as a viewer than I do as a photographer. If I were a viewer looking at a shot, I might say, I like that it’s sexy or provocative, but as a photographer, I always have to think if it’s too sexy or too provocative. So it’s a different point of view.
What do you hope your audience will take away from your pictures?
I don’t know that I have anything specific… I just hope they take something away. What’s interesting to me is how people interpret things. How they can find meaning in images I never intended. I’m happy they find things in it, but what’s fascinating to me is what they find.
Do you have any advice for emerging photographers?
Do you think art effects society?
Yes. Art is all around us. I think we’re better off having art effect us than Keeping Up With The Kardashians. That is the absence of art.
What drives you crazy in other people’s photographs?
When it’s boring. What I like is photography that I respond to viscerally. When I look at something, I immediately decide if it’s interesting or it’s boring. And that’s pretty much my only criteria. I can recognize the artistry and technical difficulty of boring things, but that doesn’t make them any more interesting.
What has your photography taught you about yourself?
That I am excellent at the art of having a conversation with a naked woman while maintaining eye contact. [We both laugh] You laugh, but that’s important. It makes everybody feel professional. I guess it’s taught me that I’m a lot more open-minded than some people, and that there are a lot of not-brave models out there.
What was your first nude shoot like?
It was ok. It was about 96-97 and I’d put an ad in the paper for a model and this girl responded… she seemed kind of older to me at the time, I imagine she was probably early to mid 30’s. She was very cool, very easy going, and I think I got some interesting shots, but I don’t think she had ever modeled before and I had very limited experience shooting models, so it was very “Artsy.” Black and white, kind of bodyscapey. I was working in film at that point, doing my own developing and printing. It was not a dynamic shoot.
What was your first dynamic shoot?
It was about 97, my second nude shoot.
Was there a time when you decided, “this is my style and this is what I’m going to pursue shooting?”
I never really thought about the style. It has evolved as being a photographer has evolved. And I think that [second] shoot was the first example of the model and photographer dynamic. But the really spontaneous style, playing with light in different ways, that came out of switching to digital. You get that immediate feedback. Shooting in film, you have to estimate and know things, like how switching this variable or that variable is going to change the photo. With digital you don’t have to do that which is why everybody’s a photographer now [laughs].
What would your dream shoot be?
I don’t know that I have a dream shoot, per say. The dream in general would be to be sought after for my style, as opposed to shooting soup cans or salad. Being sought out because whoever it is who wants photos wants me because they like my style, so I’d be able to shoot something more commercial, but on my own terms. Since it’s different with every model, I don’t really have a “dream shoot.” The dream is to keep working with models who get me, who I interact well with, who like my work, who are uninhibited, who are just cool.
Thanks for joining us Geoff! Want to see more of his work? Click on any of the photos in this post to go to his site. And if you’re an uninhibited, gutsy model in the LA area, you should go to his site and contact him!