An interview with erotic photographer Brad Wallis. His work goes beyond the nude for just artistic purposes, he displays the beauty of real people and real sex.
Many of your photographs go beyond the nude for just artistic purposes, you display quite explicit sex in your images. Why did you cross that border, most artists so carefully maintain?
Exactly because most artists so carefully maintain that border. To me, there is no border in the beauty of being human. Sex is an integral and beautiful part of our humanity. People are not mannequins for me to pose or bend to my will and vision. They are complete humans and a large part of the human experience is sexual. I was very tired of seeing people represented as objects, both in "art photography" and pornography. So many photographers do what I call "Corpse art". There is no humanity, just a corpse lying on a tree or in a studio. The models become objects instead of people. Porn on the other hand, makes people so one dimensional they are merely moving objects, with no sense of humanity or individualism. I knew that sex was beautiful and I wanted to help take away the stigma associated with one of the most joyous experiences a human being can have.
What's in your opinion the difference, when you take your own work in consideration, between pornography and erotic art?
To me, pornography is paying strangers to have sex for the sole purpose of making money from people viewing the images. My work, on the other hand, is about photographing real people in real relationships sharing their joy together. What is more beautiful than that? I would like to believe that anyone viewing my images could certainly tell for themselves the difference between them and porn. I do understand that some people equate all sexual images with porn. I do not believe that once the sexual line is crossed, it automatically becomes porn. It very much depends on the content and the way it is presented.
Sex does not equal porn, though most porn is only about sex. 99% of the comments I get about my work are positive. About 98% of those comments come from women. Women who are pleased to find real erotica and who are so tired of what is being passed off as erotica.
You seem more personally involved in your photo sessions then other photographers, usually artists keep their distance, how far do you go?
Most of my models are friends and/or lovers so we already have a relationship. I rarely ever use strangers for shoots and never put strangers together for sexual shoots. The camera is very honest and frankly, there are many places you can go to watch strangers having sex. Sadly, it is far more difficult to find images of humans sharing their emotions and bodies together.
You created a series of nude self-portraits, how does it make you feel to display yourself in such an intimate way? What are you trying to achieve with them? or is it mainly a voyeuristic visual experiment?
I felt it was important for me to understand what it was like being on the other side of the camera. Of course, self portraits are a bit different but I have also modeled for other photographers and in workshop situations. It helps me to understand what my models may be feeling about the process. It was also an experiment to find out if I could still "see" through the camera while being in front of it. I am not shy about nudity and frequent a nude beach when the weather is nice and even used to hold "Nude as you feel comfortable" parties.
How does it make me feel?
Photographing both sides of the spectrum, straight and gay, by the same photographer is very rare, is it any different for you to do the photoshoot? Does it reflect your own view or on sexuality?
There really is no difference to me in the shoot. The subject is still just a human being with the exact same set of emotions and feelings as every other human. I believe human sexuality is far more complicated than the standard labels of "Gay", "Bi" or "Straight".
Your models have character, and are not the mainstream men and women, how do you select them? and generally how do you get them in to perform in front of your camera?
As I said before, most of my models are friends and/or lovers. They come to me because they have seen my work and want to be photographed. I never pay my models but give them prints instead because I never want someone to get in front of my camera just to make money. I want them to be there because they choose to be. I don't get them to "perform" for the camera, I let them be exactly who they are and how they want to be seen. I may give slight direction now and again but for the most part, I just observe and record.
What websites do you consider a great place to visit, or are an inspiration for you and your work?
Paul Dahlquist, an amazing human being and fantastic photographer is probably the single greatest inspiration for my work. If you have never seen his work, you must. It was the honesty I saw in his work that told me there is something more out there. I cower in his shadow.
His work is so diverse and yet one thread runs throughout. Real people being real. He can show you the emotion in a mud puddle. The humanity of a vase. He is a genius and I bow before him.
Clean Sheets is another wonderful site with great erotica and I think I have a few things in their vaults.
Libido was one of my first print publications but they have gone online only, as most are now. I had many images in this intelligent and thoughtful erotica publication.
My absolute favorite Norwegian publication. A Print and online erotica resource that I have published in much over the years and you will see lots of Paul Dahlquist images there also. I believe it is still only Norwegian but they were talking about an English version at one point.