Interview With Gary Heller
The Photography Of Gary Heller
What inspired you to pick up a camera?
I was always into the arts and having the need and desire to create from early on. It probably started when I was a young child sitting by my mothers side sometimes while she painted. She was an artist and painted landscapes using oils. I can remember being amazed at how the blank canvas would slowly start to form a beautiful scene, like magic. The strong smell of turpentine from her brush cleaning can under my nose I'm sure added to the magic!. I think watching her lit a spark. I would always dabble in painting and drawing, played guitar in bands in various clubs (got on Star Search in the 80's), crafted furniture and built really cool models, but always came back to the visual art. However I never quite felt like I had the natural ability to draw or paint, and the amount of time it took to produce what I felt were mediocre results grew frustrating. Then, later in my years in early 2003 a friend of the family gave me an old Canon AE-1 with some prime lenses. . .and I was hooked.
What particular challenges do you face with erotic photography as opposed to other genres?
Landscape photography was not controversial whereas fetish/erotic seems to attract some, but that really has not been any sort of real challenge to deal with for me. The real challenge for me was simply adding a human element.
I started off shooting landscapes and industrial ruins type stuff. I did this for most of my time as a photographer. What I loved was that I was alone in my craft shooting what I wanted, where I wanted and no one around to get in my way. I almost always avoided even having people or any human element in my scenes because the sense and feeling of isolation in my scenes always appealed to me. Most of that work can be seen in my galleries at www.garyhellerphotography.com. I was pretty happy with what I was doing and exhibiting about town. My work was selling and I was gaining some recognition with my style and post processing. Then something happened about a year ago when I decided I had wanted to start shooting portraits, character portraits of interesting people with somewhat unusual expressions. I began getting some portable strobes and speed lites together. Then the search was on for subjects.
For me personally the challenge was dealing with a human element as a subject. No difference for me whether it was just character portraits or erotic photography, it was just having another person or persons involved in my art. I was never very much of a people person, and so now I had to adjust to sharing my visions and ideas and even directing at times. I think for most people this is not an issue, but for me it seemed to be an awkward transition.
I actually did a series of self portraits at first. I needed to learn my lighting and techniques and so I found that I was very accessible, easy to work with, open to all of my own ideas, and listened to my own instructions quite well :P
My fetish/pinup photography can be seen in my galleries at www.garyhellerphotography.com/light
Do you prefer to shoot with film or digital?
Started with film, and would scan my negs into high res digital files. I really liked the texture and aesthetic of analog capture. The grain was cool by me. . . . however, the benefits and conveniences of shooting digital, especially with the technology being where it is now I am loving digital and would not look back.
How did you become interested in fetish/BDSM photography?
I always preferred looking at woman in latex, leather, corsets and high heels, etc as opposed to just viewing a nude woman laying on a satin sheet. (not that there is anything wrong with that!) I feel the clothing and accessories just really amplify what it is that attracts a man (or woman) to a woman in the first place. I just find the whole psychological aspect of fetish much more intense and entertaining than just plain nudes. So, I was always interested in fetish of all sorts and I guess that as I evolved into doing portraits and character studies it was natural for me to then want to shoot woman in fetish clothing and style.
Or perhaps just mid-life crisis. haha
I've been doing fetish/pin-up and erotic photography for only a short time now, but it really has been so much fun, and rewarding from a creative aspect as well.
I have had the great pleasure of working with some truly exceptional models and having a good subject/model is really key to building up a strong body of work.
Jade Vixen was the first professional fetish model I had worked with. I can't say enough great things about her. She is absolutely amazing in front of the lens, and just as great as a person to associate with. Looking forward to working with her again this Fall.
Then I had lined up with Ree Ja and Jessamyn later on, both of whom are absolutely fantastic and fun to work with.
Narcissa and I hooked up through a mutual friend/photographer Dave Foss. We recently did a shoot working on a schoolgirl series I had wanted to put together. Its a pin-up style series that has an unusual schoolgirl fetish ending. Narcissa pulled it off so well. She's one for details and it shows. There are some more themes I'm looking to do with Narcissa one being Objectification, as well as she and I collaborating on some projects of her own. Narcissa is amazing. I'm looking forward to working with her soon again.
Masae and I knew of one another from about a couple of years ago when I had photographed her performing Belly Dance with Temple of Jehan. I did not know she was a model, and at that time I was not shooting pinup/fetish anyway, but we sort of kept in touch on FaceBook. Then just a few days ago I discovered her modeling portfolio on Model Mayhem and was so impressed with her that I sent her an email. She responded that she would love to collaborate with me on pin-up style shoots and so we managed to scrap a quick hour or so together to shoot and came out with some work that we are both very happy with. We are anxious to get back together again as there was a good chemistry between us.
Its been a very exciting and fun short ride so far and I'm absolutely enjoying it.
Do you think pinup and fetish are becoming part of the mainstream culture?
I do think more people are seeing it and are learning more about whats out there thanks a lot to the internet and the wealth of info it allows everyone access to but I don't think its going to become mainstream. It gets slipped into the mainstream every so often but I think most people are not aware of what it is or that there is a name for it.
I never liked much anything mainstream anyway.
What kind of music do you like?
Everything from bossa nova to heavy metal (leaning much more to the side of heavy metal) and practically everything in between including Country.
What do you like to do for fun?
Time spent with my son and daughter, goofing around with my three cats, bowling, climbing, long drives, anything to do with water, and still love shooting old barns and landscapes ;)
See more of Gary Heller:
Model Mayhem portfolio - http://www.modelmayhem.com/1757744
Website - www.Garyhellerphotography.com/light
Jade Vixen - http://www.modelmayhem.com/32777
Narcissa - http://www.modelmayhem.com/1024566
Jessamyn - http://www.modelmayhem.com/152077