My first camera created these teeny-tiny Polaroids; I was obsessed with it. Then, one of my best friends noticed that I was really into photography. She gave me a 35-millimeter camera. I kept it on my nightstand; it was always with me.
My high-school converted a trailer into a darkroom. I took some classes, and that was it. For me, the beauty of photography is capturing the moment. It was a peaceful getaway. It was nice to stop things. I spent more time in the darkroom than I did in my own home. You have to slow down; you have no choice.
In your pictures, people are clearly relaxed and open. How do you work with your subjects to evoke that?
I took Annie Leibovitz’s MasterClass. One of the things she always says is that it is not her responsibility to make her subjects feel comfortable. I found that interesting because I can’t stand being photographed. I get so nervous. Sometimes people come in front of the camera and they are fine; others are like deers in headlights. I empathize with that, so I ask questions before I start shooting. I’m very vocal. I’ll tell you things. I’ll position you. I notice a lot of photographers don’t do so. I always think…”you have to be your authentic self in front of someone you’ve known for 20 minutes. Why make it more stressful by being quiet?” So I talk and ask questions and do breathing exercises. Everyone has these assumptions of what they look like. After 20 minutes of shooting, I show them pictures. And they relax.
What are your preferred subjects?
I started with nudes; I was really into the female form. My wife is amazing; she is comfortable with me taking pictures of her in the most vulnerable positions and states and mind-frames. I have artistic friends who allow me to experiment. Or I’ll photograph something and do weird shit to it in the studio. Recently, I gravitate toward photographing toy versions of animals to make it look like I am standing in front of them.
What inspires you?
There are moments in which I have no creativity. So I sit, and try not to be hard on myself. I’ll read, which usually shoots the creativity right back into me. Or I’ll be home working and suddenly feel hit by inspiration, take a walk, and pick up a bunch of leaves and make sculptures and photograph them. It always comes back to texture.