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Interview: Kincaid Blackwood

Thursday 14 June 2012

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Words Spindle

“I am not trying to prove anything, merely to paint my picture well and see it in a good light.” This is a quote from André Gide on his book, The Immoralist, in which a man finds freedom in his carnal desires. The same can be applied to the images of Kincaid Blackwood. Based in Atlanta Georgia, Blackwood creates erotic photography and then weaves stories around them. Describing himself as a visual storyteller he is currently studying a masters in Fine Art Photography. He tells us about some of the ideas behind his subjects.

How did you get into photography?

I took a fairly circuitous route to photography. I went to college with the intention of becoming an investment broker and even had a job lined up after graduation. When I went in to fill out my new-hire paperwork though, I had the overwhelming feeling that I did not want to be the man sitting across that table from me: some corporate guy who clawed his way out of the cubicles to a corner office with a view of the parking lot. Right or wrong, that’s what he represented to me and I didn’t want that. I spent another year in retail as a manager.  That was the first time I looked at photographs critically, since I could see how the ad campaigns affected our sales. I took that job as a filler though, while I tried to figure out my next step. I decided on teaching and did so for two years in the public school system in Memphis. It turned out to be a supremely frustrating experience. Having always been a creative, I felt as if it was really time that I focused on it. I decided to do photography and I’ve done so for the last eight years, though I’ve only been shooting erotica for the last five.

You like to create stories with your photographs, how do you go about doing this?

My approach visually is that of a writer telling stories with a camera. Sometimes what I see in my head is a static picture, but most often when I’m visualising a shoot before hand, it’s a dynamic story. More like a movie, I’d say.  So I pick out the moments in that “movie” which show the story in the way I want the viewer to see it.

Is the movie part, your writing? 

No, I visualise things in motion as opposed to static compositions. My writing, like my photos, is an exploration of something visualised in my head. Like taking a 90 second trailer and fleshing it out as a feature film. In time, I’ll likely progress more toward motion picture as my directing skills improve.

How do you choose subjects? Some of your works are quite romantic, others purely sensory?

I’m guided by whatever emotion I’m feeling at the time.  Last year, I was going through a pretty stressful, frustrating period. The writing and photography I did referenced crying, stalking, pain and other on which I had not previously focused. I was struggling like many others in the wake of the economic crisis here in the States. I felt like money problems were always looming behind me, following me around. I lost a lot of sleep and though I didn’t shed any tears over it there were moments when I felt just exasperated. All of that is present in my imagery.

Where do you source the characters in your photographs? Are they ordinary members of the public?

Typically, my models are not ordinary members of the public. Your garden variety hottie on the street doesn’t understand what it is to be a character in the vision of an image-maker.  The people in front of my camera have to understand that I need them to let go over whoever it is that they think they are in order to be who I need them to be in a photo. Your average member of the public can’t separate him/herself from the character in the picture. They’re concerned with their own image instead of the image I’m attempting to create.

Which isn’t to say I don’t shoot new models, because I do, but rarely will I photograph everyday people. The only time I shoot someone who isn’t a dedicated model is when a friend of a friend or some such is interested in my work and would like to be a part of it. Usually people like that are more mentally prepared for my approach.  In general, though, I use networking sites for creatives, photographers specifically, to show my work and people find me.

Why erotica? What draws you to that particular genre of photography?

It has always interested me. I enjoy the exploration of sex and sensuality both visually and in written word. I enjoy turning people on with a story or a set of images. Which isn’t to say that I don’t shoot anything else.

How do people react to your photographs?

One can never use the fact that someone loves your work to assume that everyone loves your work. One of my professors who is very supportive of my erotic art, feels like my images are frequently male-fantasy, objectification. To be fair, I’m not saying I disagree with that description but many of my peers have said that they see women who are empowered in their own sexual pursuits. So it depends.

Male objectification: how do you feel about that description of your work?

I respect her opinion. In many ways, she’s absolutely correct: it is objectification.  I don’t shy away from that element of visual creativity especially since I shoot models. My collaborators understand that they are instruments in an effort to reach a visual end goal: the picture. They are characters in visual stories and individual identity is secondary to the end result. This doesn’t mean that I’m unconcerned about their individuality, only that their personal identities are not the point as it would be for… say… portraiture. To be fair, she’s also recognising that there is a not-so-subtle carnal aspect of my work, which at the end of the day, is simply about turning you on.  I’m okay with that.  Objectification isn’t necessarily a negative label.

What photographers and artists inspire you and why?

To me, [60’s American fashion photographer] Bob Richardson was the most underrated photographer of the 20th century. Not everyone would think that but I do. He was truly brilliant, shot for all of the big publications over the course of several decades yet nobody speaks about him. Many of his mentions are in the context of being the father of [fashion photographer] Terry Richardson. He’s a huge inspiration of mine.

Someone more contemporary would be Glen Erler [London-based American visual photographer]. The way he uses the shaped light we see everyday in his photos is pretty stunning. I love how he infuses his work with a sense of longing and nostalgia. I’m also drawn to [New-York based Photographer] Ryan McGinley’s work. There’s a quality in his imagery that I can’t describe that I find inspiring. I like the way he sees life through his camera lens.

Words: Nosmot Gbadamosi