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Spotlight: Scott Barnes Photography

For the first issue of Paragon Men of the summer, we are pleased to feature the steamy images of photographer Scott Barnes in the Paragon Spotlight. Scott's studio, simply called Scott Barnes Photography, is in Indianapolis but will soon be relocating to Chicago. Scott's reach goes far beyond his Midwestern base, thanks to the resounding success of his various collections of male imagery (we feature selections from Habits of Male Primates, Drifters, Male Models and Gods in the Gallery accompanying this interview), and his popular blog.

What sorts of images do you create? Do you have a favorite category?

I shoot headshots for actors, starter modeling portfolios for new fashion and fitness models, and fine art nudes. I'm not sure if I could list a favorite category; honestly I like working with people and if a person and I have a connection, it doesn't matter what kind of photos we take for me to enjoy the experience.

What are your thoughts on shooting in studio vs. shooting outside a studio setting?

I used to shoot primarily in my studio because I liked the privacy/intimacy of it. I want the models to be comfortable and feel like they're in a safe environment, and to let loose as much as they have to. And to be honest, I don't like to be watched when I'm working, and when I'm out in public with a hot model, we always attract attention, if not onlookers. But lately, I've been venturing out a lot more. I need to get over my own hang-ups too and the change of location makes me be more creative. I like it.

How did your career start and develop? How/where were you trained? How long have you been a photographer?

I have been interested in photography since I got my first camera, for Christmas when I was 12 years old. I got a degree in journalism in college, and photojournalism classes were among my favorites. I worked as a photographer for a few months after college, but then I put my camera down for a decade. Honestly, I was bored one Sunday and pulled out my old camera, and from there a hobby developed, and a few years later, I'm here. I found some great photography mentors and that's where I developed a lot of my fine art training. If I had it to do over again, I would have pursued a fine art degree in college, along with journalism.

Do you have any basic advice for aspiring photographers?

Study as much as you can! Look at photography that you love and think really hard about why it appeals to you. And look at photography that you don't like and make yourself explain what it is about it that you don't like. Find some mentors, more experienced photographers and talk to them. My mentors mean the world to me and they all still give me good advice.

Where has your work been published? Where can our readers find more of your work?

I've been published online in a variety of places, and on some major blogs like Beautiful Mag, Favorite Hunks, and the DNA magazine blog. I have a 2012 Calendar coming out, published by 10 Percent, the largest gay/lesbian calendar company.

What drew you to photographing artistic nude images of men?

Well, as a gay man I've always been interested in looking at hot guys. But as an artist, I got irritated a few years ago because so often, people would look at a nude woman and call it art, but then look at a nude male and dismiss it as pornographic. I don't think the human body is anything to be ashamed of, and I decided that I wanted to play a role in changing that.

What are your thoughts on color vs. b&w physique photography?

I think there is a place for both color and black and white. I'll always like the classic and timeless feel of BW photographs, and the fact that so many subtle details seem to emerge in a BW image. But color photography is really "in" right now and I like that, too.

How do you use lighting in your work?

My work emphasizes a lot of shadows and highlights, so lighting is key. I tend to use a combination of natural light and studio lights, and reflectors. I hate using strobes, though. To me strobes change the mood of a shoot and makes it feel too much like a portrait studio rather than fine art.

Do you use any image enhancement or retouching software?

Actually I'm the only photographer I know that would say this, but I only use Photoshop Elements. I think there is such a fine line anymore between being a photographer and a graphic artist. I want to be a photographer. Nothing thrills me more than seeing an image that needs no retouching. And when I do retouch, I will only change the lighting, tone, remove zits, brighten teeth, etc. I keep my images pretty pure.

Which photographers or artists have most inspired you? Whose work has most impressed you recently? Which new photographers are you watching?

I love the work of Christopher Makos, Lewis Payton and David Vance. They probably inspired me in the beginning more than anyone. Michael Alago is one of my mentors and I love his work. Justin Violini's Fearless Project has me really intrigued and I enjoy talking to him. I like what Rick Day has been doing lately. Jeremy Lucido is getting me to push myself beyond my comfort zones. And then there are some classics; I could look at work by Annie Leibovitz, Richard Avedon, and Diane Arbus all day. I could write a 10,000 word essay about other photographers and still not be finished.

What sort of work and/or services do you do and/or provide?

Here's what you get when you pose for me: one to three hours of shooting time; a pre-shoot consultation, if you request one; up to seven wardrobe/locations changes; at least 75 images per outfit/location change; an online proof page of low-res, retouched images; and five print-ready retouched images (8x10). And I'm pretty negotiable, so I always throw in a thing or two that doesn't typically come with the "package."

What inspired you to start your blog?

I've actually been blogging for longer than I've been a photographer. It's a habit now and I can't stop. My original blog was more of an online journal and I ranted a lot about politics and pop culture and wrote about my life. Now, my blog is 90% focused on photography, both marketing my own and highlighting other photographers that I admire, with a small hint or political ranting/pop culture talk.

What do you look for in a model?

For me, it goes a little farther than looking for guys who are in great shape and super hot, I honestly look for outsiders and kind of undiscovered guys. Indianapolis has a small town feel and I don't really want to photograph the same guys you'll see at the clubs every weekend; I like that I am frequently asked, "where do you find these guys?" More of my models are straight than gay, and I prefer it that way. Straight models are easier to work with and often more open minded, believe it or not.

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.

I prefer the fitness model but on the beefier side. I like my models cut, with great abs, but with big butts and nice chests and big arms. The rugby players in the Deiux de Stade calendars are ideal to me. I have a hard time with bodybuilders, partially because they're so thick that they sometimes have trouble moving naturally into the poses that I like, and also because a lot of times their only modeling experience is competition modeling. And those poses look really cheesy to me. Slender beauties are just too flat for me, the light just bounces off, there's not enough definition to create depth.

Shaved or hairy? What's your ideal?

Somewhere in the middle, I guess. I can't say I photograph "bears" but I'm actually really tired of the random models that come to the studio with nothing but eyebrows and the hair on top of their heads. "Men" are supposed to have hair on their legs. And their arms. And a bush, even if it's trimmed. Body hair is back in style in Paris and New York, so in five years we'll see it again in middle-America.

Do you consider any of your models your muses?

When I really connect with a model, I'll want to shoot him several times, and when that happens he does become a muse. I like it when a model can challenge me and make me think of my photographs a little differently, or try something new or even outside of my own comfort zones. I've also shot five or six models that I'd now count among my good friends.

What is the best way for models or fans to reach you?

I'm kind of a Facebook whore. You can find my fan page at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Scott-Barnes-Photography/11673777398 or my personal page at http://www.facebook.com/scottbarnesphoto. I can also be reached at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .




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