Back in the 1950’s, there were less celebrated publications prior to Hugh Hefner’s Playboy, the first to bring nude photography to the mainstream. It was a gentleman’s periodical that featured some of the best writing of any magazine on the newsstand, along with it’s stunning photographs of beautiful naked women. Though a distinguished and respected periodical, two things Playboy did not possess was a sense of luxury, and Lincoln Mark Lease’ lens.
Black Label Magazine may sound pretentious in its aspirations, but it is far from that. Within its hallowed pages is type of photography that is tailor made for the connoisseur of fine erotica. You won’t find its maidens lounging on IKEA furniture, but rather perhaps a luxurious Avery Boardman sofa. You can hold onto your black card for the moment, however. The introduction here is free.
What inspired you to create a magazine that merges luxury and erotica? Did you know right off that it would work, or were you experimenting?
When my wife and I first started contemplating doing boudoir photography, it was apparent to us to make it luxurious. Not only do we both live a luxurious lifestyle, we feel that the whole point of “beauty” and “glamour” photography is to be luxurious.
As Black Label Magazine developed from my portfolio, I noticed that much of the nude art that was being circulated involved either outdoor locations or gritty, decayed locations. While I appreciate the artistic value of the latter, I felt that everyone else was doing it so I wasn’t going to. Living a luxurious lifestyle whilst being inspired by the work of Helmut Newton and wanting to add a fashion element into the mix made it the obvious choice to integrate the luxury element into my work.
Of course, I also think that those luxurious things that serve as accoutrements to my subjects are far more visually appealing than a field or decrepit building.
Where are your photoshoots staged; are they sets, or do you rent spaces at luxury estates?
The majority of my photoshoots are staged in my studio, which is not a mansion. It’s a warehouse that I transformed into the scenes that you see. I am not, however, above shooting on location—so long as it is the right location. For instance, I shot Kendra James in a suite at the most luxurious hotel in Las Vegas; I shot Kiki van Hees in a luxury flat overlooking the Seine in Paris; there’s a gorgeous penthouse apartment here in Portland that I’ve been eyeballing and waiting for the right opportunity. Of course, there’s the famous “Oculus Anubis” that I shot at as well with Willow & Sophia Marie. Locations can be great, so long as they are ornate, luxurious, and evoke a sense of grandeur.
I choose to work mostly out of my studio, however, for multiple reasons. The first is that it is more economical to do so. The other is that with erotic/nude photography you’re either politely declined or heavily restricted by many locations, unless you do it ninja style. The second is that the studio is uniquely mine; I don’t rent it out and am very restrictive on what can be circulated from my workshops. Therefore no other photographers are going to get shots that are quite like mine. In an oversaturated market, this is essential to standing apart from the crowd.
I’m sure I’ve seen a photograph of you carrying some equipment, but I couldn’t make out anything. What do you typically use on a photoshoot?
Gear wise, I’m a Canon baby. I just upgraded to the 5D MKIV and use the MKII as a backup. I love the video capabilities of both cameras (hint: 4k video coming to Black Label soon). I use only “L” series glass. The 24-70 2.8L is my to lens.
For lighting, I’m all over the place. I have a lot of lights. Last count was 8 “studio lights,” not counting the ambients permanently attached to my sets. Sometimes I use strobes, sometimes continuous. I also mix my lighting elements frequently, and usually am always recording the ambient light in addition to artificial. For instance, my signature “Outrébrite” lighting that I use to introduce each Black Label Beauty is actually a mixture of strobe and continuous. A few photographers I’ve talked to are surprised at this.
I’m starting to get into using LED lights and gels, which is going to make for some interesting effects in upcoming shoots.
Do you also wear the hat of set designer, or do you hire an outside agency for the task?
I am the set designer as well. My sets are built for the specific purpose of photography, though they are inspired by the great havens of luxury around the world. Black Label Studio is a chateau in France, a five star hotel in Hong Kong, and a penthouse in Las Vegas all in one place. When I get bored with it, I’ll tear it down and do something completely different. It is designed to be versatile for me as a photographer, luxurious to the models who shoot in it (and private clients as well), and fantastical to the fans and consumers of my art.
Have you any interest in doing videos with your models, or have you done any?
I have toyed with video a bit. Rebuilding a studio while keeping stills production going definitely prohibited my ability to shoot & edit video. Now that I’ve upgraded to the MKIV, 4K video is on the horizon—sooner than you may think.
Currently, purchasing the Digital Edition of Issue #3 gets you access to the video I shot in tandem with the still editorial “La Feline” with Verronica Kirei. Once we have a couple more there will be a whole new section added to blacklabelmag.com for video in the Platinum Member’s Area.
You were once a physical magazine, is doing an online magazine easier?
The print edition of Black Label Magazine still exists, and will continue to!
You’re referring to when I did kill the “issues” of the magazine for a short while, during construction of the studio. Let me state this explicitly: I’m doing this whole thing on my own. The photography, the sets, the website, all the admin crap that is unfortunately necessary, and also laying out the design of the Issues themselves. I simply did not have time to do the latter while rebuilding the studio from the ground up. I brought the issues back this summer, as people had asked for them. Now that the waves have calmed they will continue. Like I said, print issues are available via my Blurb store, but this is a means to an end. My big goal for Black Label is to bring it to print “the right way”—a true offset run of say 1,000—I’m talking a 9x12 with a glossy, embossed cover; something you’d be proud to leave on your coffee table. Of course, this is a big expense to get off the ground. For the time being, it’s got to be mostly digital and “print on demand” through Blurb, until I can get the numbers up. The naysayers say print is dead, but in my view, gorgeous photography is always best viewed in print.
To be honest, I’d rather just distribute a print magazine. I hate messing with website building. But the demand is with digital consumption. Gotta take the bitter with the sweet, right?
What’s this American Debauchery all about, can you tell us anything about it?
It’s definitely a deviation from my usual work.
For those that have seen the entire editorial, they will know that it is most definitely a political statement. What exactly its meaning is I leave to the viewer to decide. My own feelings on it are modestly expressed in the treatise that accompanies the pictorial in Issue #6. Beyond that what I will say is this: I am neither Republican nor Democrat, a lefty or a righty. This country has become obsessed with excess, be it with money, faith, or political standpoint. Moderation has gone away (sort of like the middle class). Our leadership in the Executive and Congress is a joke, and has been for at least three administrations. Policy is reduced to soundbytes on your favorite talk radio show. The public is encouraged to be uneducated on the facts behind the issues so as to keep in power pawns of a corporate oligarchy. Our allies are slowly turning their backs on us. If America continues down this path…well, you know what they say: “Every dog has his day.”
“American Debauchery” was my way of making a statement. Whether it is effective or not is in the eyes of the beholders.