|Spotlight: Louis LaSalle Fine Art Photography|
This month in the Paragon Spotlight, we present the work of renowned male physique photographer Louis LaSalle, who was also kind enough to grant us an in-depth interview about his art.
My studio is located in Sunnyvale California, about 45 minutes south of San Francisco. The majority of my work is shot in the studio, but I do some location work, both outdoors and interiors.
What are your thoughts on shooting in studio vs. shooting outside a studio setting?
Each has its attractions.
Studio shooting allows the greatest degree of control. You can put light wherever you need it to be. And my particular style of lighting requires multiple light sources; something that's a little hard to get when shooting in the wild. Studio shooting also provides the greatest deal of comfort and privacy for both the model and the photographer.
But most of all for me, studio shooting, against a plain background, reduces the physique to pure essentials -- no distractions. It becomes sculptural in nature.
Location shooting has it's advantages too. Shooting in the wild can bring out primal tendencies. It resonates with the animal within who misses the times when the great outdoors were the office. It gives the model something real, natural and uncontrived to interact with. And of course, naked men outdoors cause all sorts of fantasies to run wild.
Indoor location shooting fits somewhere in between. It offers the control and comforts of the studio, along with the real environment to interact with and the fantasy possibilities of location shooting. Naked men on a bed or in a shower is rather obvious, but naked men in a baroque opera house can be pretty striking.
You're among the world's most admired photographer of the nude male form. How did your career start and develop? How were you trained? How long have you been a photographer?
I've been around cameras and photography all my life. My father actually ran a camera shop when I was quite small, and taught me to use a super-8 movie camera when I was 8 years old. While my "day job" is in the computer industry, I do have a bachelor's degree in motion picture production. But shooting still photographs is a very different thing than film and video. I got my start shooting nudes at a weekend workshop in LA in the late summer of 1997. I hoped to maybe get 1 or 2 good shots. In actuality, I discovered a hidden talent, and I've stuck with it ever since. Readers can view the results of the weekend workshop here on my website.
Do you have any basic advice for aspiring photographers?
It really all comes down to Shoot, Review, Revise. First, shoot, shoot lots (pixels are almost free). Review your work critically, deciding what you like and don't like; what you think you did right and what you wished you'd done differently. Based on that, revise your technique and go shoot again. Keep doing that and you'll get better and better.
And expose yourself to as much photography as you can. It's all around us; it's really hard to avoid. But really look at the work, and think about it and decide what you like and what you don't. Another way this helps, is it simply reminds you what the human body is capable of.
Where has your work been published? Where can our readers find more of your work?
My work has been published in 9 collections of the male nude. I've also done 2 calendars, 5 novel covers and had several magazine features. You can find a full list of my publications here on my website.
And of course, my website is the best place to see my work: http://www.louislasalle.com
What drew you to photographing artistic nude images of men?
I've always been creative. And men are inherently visually oriented. And we are biologically programmed to find the human body very beautiful and attractive. So it's no surprise that as a gay male, I was drawn to photographing the male nude.
The perfect male nude to me is one I react to twice, once with "Wow that's beautiful," and then again with "Fuck that's hot!" And if my third reaction is "I wish I shot that," then it is a true winner in my book.
As Kenneth Clark said in his seminal work The Nude: A Study in Ideal Form, "...it is necessary to labor the obvious and say that no nude, however abstract, should fail to arouse in the spectator some vestige of erotic feeling - even though it be only the faintest shadow, and if it does not do so, it is bad art and false morals."
What are your thoughts on color vs. b&w physique photography?
Well, the bulk of my work is in B&W, so I obviously prefer it. I guess I find B&W to be more dramatic and usually more artistic than color. My approach to lighting is very sculptural in nature, and most sculpture is of course monochrome. But I guess part of my preference is that we are constantly bombarded with color imagery ranging from news to marketing. We probably see at least 1000 color photographs on a daily basis. B&W has become extraordinary by it's rarity. Capturing a nude in B&W immediately takes it out of the ordinary and because of that it we pay more attention.
Then too, art is in the abstraction and idealization. B&W immediately gives you a layer of abstraction in which to play. And you can play with tonal ranges in B&W in ways that in color would create grotesque results.
How do you use lighting in your work?
My basic approach to lighting owes a lot to a renaissance painting approach called "chiaroscuro". The term in Italian literally means "light dark". There are conflicting definitions of exactly what this means as it applies to art, but as I was taught it is "revealing out of darkness". In other words, you start with a blank slate of darkness and reveal into light. The work is marked by strong contrasts, shallow mid-tones and a full range of values from black to white.
I achieve this first though lighting, which most often involves two lights, one high to one side and one low to the other. The angle of the light is very sharp, raking across the model. And the lighting ratio is fairly high, starting at about 2:1 and going up from there.
Do you use any image enhancement or retouching software?
I use Photoshop to edit my photos. But I do very limited enhancement. I correct color balance in color work; I clear skin imperfections when they detract from the piece; and I adjust contrast. It's through adjusting contrast that I get the shallow mid-tones I previously mentioned.
Which photographers or artists have most inspired you? Whose work has most impressed you recently? Which new photographers are you watching?
Ansel Adams, of course. Anyone serious about photography, particularly B&W who hasn't read The Negative, The Camera, and The Print hasn't actually started their education as far as I'm concerned. And don't think they've become irrelevant in the digital age. The "hows" may have changed, but "whys" and the wisdom certainly haven't.
In the field of nudes, there are just so many: Andreas Bitesnich, Herb Ritts, Jim French (particularly Opus Deorum), Christopher Makos (particularly the stiched series), David Morgan, François Rousseau (the original Dieux du Stade was ground breaking), Richard de Chazal (Luxure), Douglas Cloutier, Mark Henderson (truly stunning erotic work), David Vance, the list goes on and on.
In general photography Galen Rowell's nature work is truly awe inspiring. Annie Liebowitz really captures the character of her subjects in her portraits and her Olympic series was just stunning.
Traditional artists Tom of Finland (of course), Paul Cadmus, Sadao Hasegawa, Glen Hanson, Erotic comic book artist and friend Patrick Fillion (http://www.patrickfillion.com/), and my friend sculptor Kira Od (http://www.kiraod.com/).
Freed of huge lab bills or the need to have one's own darkroom, digital has been such an equalizing force. Combined with the ready venue of the internet, many photographers who would have gone unnoticed in years past, are now having their work seen. With that, there is a amazing crop of new photographers arising. There are so many doing significant work, I wouldn't know where to start.
What sort of work and/or services do you do and/or provide?
As I mentioned, I work in the computer industry, so photography is a creative sideline for me. But I have done some commercial work, and I am open to doing so if any of your readers are interested in hiring me. As I have a limited time to concentrate on my art, I don't at this time do private shoots where I don't end up with art usage rights.
What inspired you to start your blog?
I started the blog for several reasons. I wanted to provide my fans more ready access to my work as it is edited, without having to wait for formal website updates. I also wanted to create an avenue for editorializing, which I have to confessI haven't taken advantage of as much as I would like. Hopefully, when life calms down a bit, I'll have more time to take advantage of that.
What do you look for in a model? Have any particular models been muses for your work?
Definition, Definition, Definition. Did I mention definition? As long as a model is lean and cut, I can do amazing things with light, Size is great, but it's all about the cuts. From there, my taste varies widely. But when it comes down to it, I'm a torso guy -- chest and abs really do it for me.
One of the things that happens with shooting nudes, is that some of the models evolve into being real friends. Several that come immediately to minke are Jesse Garcia, Nathan Lewis, and Vic Rocco. And when that happens, you definitely
feed off of each other's energy and the relationship and the work becomes very much a dialog and an all together different thing than your usual shoot.
Which male body type do you prefer: bodybuilder, fitness model, slender beauty, all of the above, or other? Please discuss creating artistic images with different types of physiques.
My preference is probably about half way between the bodybuilder and the fitness model.
With a fitness model, I will tend to go for elegance. With a bodybuilder I will tend to go for strength, power and heroics. But I'm always very collaborative, working with my models, and surprising ideas can come up.
Dancers, gymnasts and acrobats are a special treat because they know how to move.
What is the best way for models or fans to reach you?
I can be reached through my email address, .