pinup. kink. artsy hipster nudes.
i'm a photographer based in toronto, canada, and my camera is my happy place. i enjoy representing under/misrepresented groups, ideas, and issues in my work. in my spare time i tie people up. // genderfluid //
1. How did you get to where you are right now as an artist?
Fun fact: I’ve never taken a photography class. When I moved out, I brought my dad’s camera with me and used it almost every day. I was lucky to snag a job at a camera store soon after, and I was able to test out all sorts of equipment, which really refined my photography skills. I continued to do mini shoots with friends on a weekly basis, and within 3 years, had upgraded all my equipment and started working with local models and earning some of my investment back. Just goes to show that “going pro” primarily requires dedication and a willingness to learn.
2. Your work represents under/misrepresented groups, ideas, and issues. Why is that important to you?
I remember when I first began to work with models outside of my friend group. I received a message from a model, stating that she would love to collaborate with me, as long as I was okay to shoot a curvy model. That has always stuck with me, that there exist photographers — or artists of any kind — that discriminate in order to cultivate a particular image for themselves. So I decided to do the opposite. I work with absolutely everyone, though I strive to prioritize people who have been turned away, are underrepresented, or are misrepresented in mainstream art. People sometimes forget that voices and communities are rendered invisible by their exclusion in mainstream art, or are only used to fit a specific role, often in an “inspiration porn” or fetishistic sense. I want to show that these people / communities are absolutely valid despite their exclusion, and give them a chance to represent themselves how they want to be represented in art.
3. For the uninitiated, can you explain what shibari / kinbaku is and how you got into it?
Shibari (in Western culture, often used interchangeably with “kinbaku”), is the Japanese art of rope bondage, almost exclusively on the human form. It evolved out of Japanese military techniques that used rope to restrict the movement of prisoners or criminals. Shibari can be used for decorative, erotic, or restrictive purposes, and is often used in BDSM play, or as performance art. Formal classes are available to those who wish to learn how to tie, as each tie, and many knots, have specific Japanese names and require direction and practise in order to be tied correctly and without injuring the rope subject/bunny (the person who is tied). A few years ago, I began visiting Oasis Aqualounge in Toronto with some close friends, who quickly introduced me to the resident Dungeon Monitor, who has been giving me little lessons ever since. Oasis often hosts rope performances (planned or not!) and it took about two seconds for me to be taken by the complex beauty, and power dynamic, that rope bondage creates.
4. Have you had to deal with any misconceptions about the type of art that you create?
Absolutely, the most frequent being that I create porn. My art is meant to be multi-faceted, and can be engaged with in a multitude of ways. Sure, finding it attractive may be a way of engaging with it, but it is never the sole intention of the piece, nor the only method of engagement. Working with a diverse group of models and communities often brings a sociopolitical element to my art that I think should not be overlooked, but can be addressed in tandem with aspects such as sexuality or eroticism.
5. Describe a typical day for you.
I do have a day job I commit a lot of time to, but outside of work, I fire up all my social media and dedicate some time to answering e-mails or direct messages about booking (or sometimes just a nice compliment!), update the pages with my new projects, and try to keep up on what other local artists are doing at the moment. I always like to keep my followers and fans in the loop with frequent updates, and find out what new opportunities are available to participate in. I also spend a lot of time editing shoots and communicating with models about prints and submissions. I book shoots on my days off so we can travel to unique locations and not be pressed for time.
6. Who or what inspires you?
I really enjoy art where you can easily see the hours upon hours of work, money, and possibly even favours called in, that came together to generate such a piece. Too often I fall into the trap of shooting on white backgrounds or compromising for the sake of time. It’s inspiring work that pushes me to do better, and create my own inspiring work!
7. What has been the highlight of your career as an artist so far?
I was just given a 10-page spread and interview in SOUR Magazine, alongside Toronto’s top models. It’s weird and exciting to be featured somewhere off the internet, where the majority of my work is organized, created, and shared. I’m looking forward to getting a tangible copy. I’m also very flattered when people make art of my art (drawings, paintings) — I love the idea of artists working together and riffing off one another in a respectful and collaborative way to create a piece that can only come about with multiple minds involved.
8. Have you had any career disappointments as an artist? If yes, how did you overcome them?
While shooting for pay/subscription sites has helped me a lot in terms of exposure, I’m a little disappointed by their lack of support for artists. True, there is the opportunity to “make it big”, but it often takes months, or even years, of hard, *unpaid* work that they get to showcase online before it is actually rewarded. Messages of support and likes are lovely and drive me to continue doing what I love, but at the end of the day, it doesn’t help me rent spaces, or purchase new equipment.
9. Do you have any advice for emerging or aspiring artists?
Write down exactly what expectations you have and what your boundaries are beforehand. Networking and collaborating as an emerging artist often puts one at risk of being taken advantage of, and unfortunately that pit is hard to get out of once you’re in it. Value your skills and what you are able to provide to others. Finally, always treat your fellow collaborators with respect. Especially with pinup and erotic work, the boundaries of the models are paramount, which means making accommodations and listening to preferences, always. A comfortable model will shine on camera, and ensure positive, collaborative work that everyone can be happy with.
10. What's next for you?
I’m very excited to see the temperatures rising and flowers blooming! Over the summer I’m planning some fantasy-inspired outdoor shoots, which will be much more of a treat for the eyes than a white background ;) I’m also hoping to get in some outdoor rope suspensions, both for art purposes as well as for fun.
Heading photo from DoomCookie's Instagram and Zivity page
All model photos by DoomCookie
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Interview by Glodeane Brown