Maybe an explanation, maybe something of an observation.
The other day I had the great opportunity to shoot with Sheilah. Out of this shoot came several great and/or interesting images. Some of them are quite fetish related and a little hard for some people to look at. There was a time when seeing people in distress bothered me. Seeing it for real still does bother me. I wrote something about it a while ago just after the earthquake in Haiti. It was something along the thought process of not feeling the motivation to place some scantily clad hot babe in the middle of a grungy condemned room somewhere. It seems to be done over and over and I feel less inclined to believe any peril that the person may be in – if any was even intended. Perhaps peril was not the intent at all, maybe it was or is the stark contrast between something beautiful or sexually moving and something that is absolutely not.
What goes into an image like the one posted above? What is the intent? Why would I create such an image? The answers to those questions change in my own mind frequently. What I believe looks interesting or daring or challenging at this moment may be different than previous ideas on the subject and may evolve or change to something else in the future. What I can comment on is this image at this moment. I may look back at this post and laugh at myself, what I wrote and consider this version of myself to be completely full of shit.
Intent of most anything I produce is in the end something that I want to be visually interesting. I want the quality of the image to be fairly good. I want the content of the image to cause a reaction from a viewer. Reactions from seeing this image have ranged from great praise to horrified comments wondering just what the fuck is wrong with me. Do I like to see women in pain was one question. My answer to that was that perhaps this woman is actually not in pain. The follow up to that comment was praise. Other comments simply stated that they don’t like it. I can understand that. When I am looking at something I don’t understand for the first time, I may be over critical about it. I wonder what the point of something like this could possibly be. I guess that since this image has motivated a few people to comment one way or another, I could consider it something of a success in the “made you feel something” department.
This image is one of about 300 images I took last Tuesday. The main goal in this shoot was a bondage theme. The model and I have worked together before and have separate experience in this area. The model is also into this lifestyle from time to time as are a lot of the people are that I shoot. These people are part of my original motivation to shoot stuff like this. I enjoyed intricate rope work and I enjoyed the female form. I enjoyed seeing these two together in an image. Often, I would see quality work that was not displayed in an image very well or I would see simple snapshots of fetishy playtime that to me were not very appealing, yet showed reality in the lifestyle.
Breath play is one area that some fetishists find interesting. I have a responsibility to not kill off my models. So… a wide even pressure collar was woven around her neck. No “one” strand of rope would put pressure on her throat. The entire collar applied pressure evenly.
There was a one or two finger space between neck and rope at all times. The length of the rope from the neck to the ring was determined in advance by leaning the model forward and figuring out where to tie. There was also a line from the chest harness to the ring that would not allow her to apply ALL pressure on the collar. She could (and did) lean heavily into the collar which did indeed cause strain on her throat to the point where she could somewhat choke herself on it and redden her face. There would be no way for her to completely choke as the harness rope prevented it from happening. Even though what was happening was in fact really happening, safety measures were in place. Safety shears were also to the lower right, just out of the image… just in case.
The model was placed on a bondage bench/table thing that I had built. The entire table and model was placed on top of a large turntable. This was done so that I could leave all of the lights in place and still shoot the model at all angles by turning everything at the same time. The entire scene took under ten minutes, probably. This one image only a fraction of a second. Once that one image was frozen in time, I could manipulate it.
The original image:
As you can see, it is similar to what you see in the resulting image. There also is a fan blowing in her direction to create more of a sense of motion. I originally opened the image in lightroom 3 beta, made a couple of contrast adjustments and moved it into Photoshop. Since I wanted her freckles and strain to be evident, I enhanced them further. I don’t have a cool condemned building to shoot in and I wanted the scene to be somewhat dungeon-ish looking, so I added a brick or stone wall texture layer. After looking at it some more, and remembering that I had just watched MacGruber last Sunday, I felt it would be somewhat of a comical twist to add the “Bondage Control Room” sign in the background. The sign was created in Corel Draw, converted to a PSD file and opened in Photoshop. I added a little grit, grunge and distress to the sign and then moved it into the image with the model. The end result is what you see at the top of the post.
In the end, it is what it is and to some people who are into this type of situation, they can understand it. It is part reality and part fantasy. People who really do this may not have an opportunity to see it in a portrait format such as this. People who want to see themselves doing what they do come to me to do this in a safe and controlled environment.
Even after all of that, you say “yeah… but what the fuck?” I think this better represents something that actually happens better than the hot model in the condemned building. The only time anyone ever really sees that is when some photographer sets up that kind of shoot. There are a lot of things we all do every day that no one wants to see. Detailed images of you taking a dump are not something that we really want to see. You do this every day yet we never get to, or for most of us – want to, see that action.
I also have to give a whole lot of credit to Sheilah. She acted this scene out perfectly. We had discussed the scene prior to setting it up. I had sketched it out in somewhat of a storyboard fashion in advance. Without her cooperation, energy and determination, this could not have happened. So… it is what it is to you. Maybe “you” see it as spank material. I suppose if it causes you to do that, I still succeed in causing a reaction. On my end it was a huge collaboration with a very interesting and inspiring individual. I was able to create from that moment an image that caused some kind of reaction. She is the absolute star of the image and will forever be able to see a very interesting moment in her life.