Let us learn about Dan and his photographs!
What kind of picture you take and sell?
I'm going to stick with art nudes for now. There are plenty of landscape photographers, plenty of people producing abstract photos, tons of portrait photographers, but not many folks working in what I consider a classical style. Fortunately, my retirement income ensures I'll never, ever have to shoot a wedding to support my art.
What is your inspiration? What inspired you to take the pics you do?
At about the same time digital cameras began to carry so much capability, I came across some nude art photos from the early 20th century. The most striking of these to me were Alfred Cheney Johnston's photographs using dancers from the Ziegfeld Follies as models. The models brought their natural beauty and dance training. Johnston brought skills in photography, artistic composition, and lighting. Together they created beautiful images.
I dug into early 20th century art photos deeper. Others that had an impression on me were Lucien Walery, Studio Manasse, Man Ray, and Frantisek Drtikol. My largest influence from the postwar era has to be Peter Basch - his use of lighting to define and dramatize the female form is eye-opening. I began collecting images from photography's beginnings up to about 1960 (I now have something like 50,000 on my home computer.) Burlesque promotional photos, French postcards, art photos from all over the US and Europe, became my education. With my head full of these great pictures, and all this new technology at hand, I decided to see what I could do.
I've never been into expressionist or abstract art, as I don't find it approachable by people like me with no art education. I didn't want to learn anybody's rules, I just wanted to go produce something beautiful. Staying in the forms developed before 1960 allows me to just make pretty pictures.
Why do photography, what got you into it?
First of all, I feel that photography is visual art for people who can't draw. I can sometimes see what I want in my head, but I can't put those images on paper with a pencil. I first learned photography with a 35mm Minolta SLR in the late '70s. Since then, I've used nothing but automatic cameras, and taken nothing but snapshots. Three years ago I retired, and began exploring the arts to keep myself busy. One of the things that intrigued me was the capabilities of the new digital cameras and photo editing software.
What kind of camera do you use?
Everything I've shot and sold to date was done with my Samsung Galaxy S6 cell phone. It's really an excellent camera, with one primary limitation - its fixed lens. I've recently purchased a Nikon D3400 DSLR. The first thing it taught me was that I need a larger studio. As I work with it more, all those techniques from my 35mm days are coming back - use of aperture settings, film speed, shutter speed, depth of focus. I'm sure the knowledge and skills will improve my work, but damn, that phone takes some good pictures.
I use a freeware program called GNU Image Manipulation Program (GIMP) to do cropping, editing, and period aging on my photos. It's not quite Photoshop, but it's a lot cheaper, and does just about anything I can think of.
Where do you find models? What are they like?
I started out advertising on Craigslist, in the "creative gigs" section. My first model, whom I still work with, is a young housewife who wanted to make some extra money. She's become very professional in her approach as we've worked together, and we've each come to understand how the other works. We've also become good friends. I have two other local models I've worked with, women who work in modeling as a sideline, and are looking to make it more of a full-time job. Most recently I've been working with full-time professional models I found through ModelMayhem.com, a website for models and artists to connect.
With the non-professionals, it's a matter of education, teaching them how to do something that is basically still-image acting. I've worked with one non-professional who had dance training, and she was wonderful - she understood how to use her body to express emotion. With the professionals, it's sometimes a matter of de-education, getting them out of the routine poses they've used dozens of times in formulaic pinup photos and into the artistic frame I'm trying to fill. With all models, there's the same challenge - finding something honest and real, finding the person down there behind the lights, costumes, and poses, and getting that person into the camera. I don't have a method to do that, other than putting the model at ease and exploring together, but when it happens, it's magic. It's art.
What is it like, taking nude photos?
I show men my work, and I get a wink, a smile, an elbow, and "Hey, tough job you got there!" It is hard work. Find the model, decorate the set, do costumes, reset lights between shots, take the photos. I spend hours looking for vintage clothing and accessories to set the scene. I can't say I don't enjoy the view during a shoot, but I don't just sit around looking. Usually I'll take about 100 photos in a two hour session. By then I've run out of energy, ideas, or both. Then it's hours at the computer, selecting raw images I think I can do something with (out of that 100, I may use 5), and editing them into what I think is art. The final product, as mounted on a wall, includes mattes and frames. I use vintage and antique frames when I can find them. I haunt thrift stores seeking suitable frames (when I'm making some money at this, I'll move up to antique stores.) When I'm editing a photo, I'm thinking of the whole package - what type of frame will enhance the image I'm trying to present? What do I have on hand that will work, and how do I compose this image to fit that size? I farm out my printing to professionals who have equipment I can't justify buying and don't have room for. I mount, frame, and finish the final product myself. It's hard work.
Do you find that there is a stigma attached to nude photography
Yes. I've had galleries tell me they wouldn't exhibit my work. The usual line is, "I love these, they're very beautiful, but some of our customers might be offended." Facebook shut down my access and warned me to remove a photo I posted because somebody complained about. It was on my separate Capitalist Tools Artworks page, in a folder with a big "adults only" label. I understand all that as part of the culture, and a limitation I accepted when I decided to go this way. I know that I'll always be a niche artist for this reason, and my goal is to be a damn good one. I've managed to find a few outlets as I've progressed. I sold a number of pieces from a space in The ARTery, a Huntsville gallery that unfortunately has closed. I have a dozen or so currently on sale at The End, NOT, a new gallery on Winchester Road in Huntsville, Alabama.
You can find Dan's art page on Facebook:
And you can buy his photographs on Etsy: