September 25, 2012

Jeffrey McAlister's Interview

Jeffrey McAlister at his official site, Model Mayhem, deviantART

How did your passion begin ?

I knew by the age of eight years old that the nude female form captivated me.

I grew up with the love of two parents who never made me feel as if that was not how I should feel. I never really questioned my passion for a woman’s body and simply tended that passion, free to grow and deepen as I became older and more experienced. Middle age has freed me to completely embrace the study of form and erotic emotional sexuality both felt and expressed in imagery.

"The Rainmaker"

Did you learn photography in a special school ?

I had a high school project that forced me to pick up the 35mm SLR and began a love affair with my father’s Nikkormat FTN. I first had the opportunity to make nude photographs in a continuing education class in Cambridge MA.

Who are your greatest inspirators ?

I have so many inspirations. It feels as if my life is one long string of images and pieces of music that have shaped the joy in my consciousness. Among those are Edward Weston, Ralph Vaughn Williams, CV Stanford, Margaret Bourke White, Trevor Watson, Bob Dylan, Michael Helms.

I have to say ; early in my time making nudes, the published work of Jock Sturges was huge for me. The fact that he could shoot a subject so socially forbidden and bring such clean, frank love and expertise to those images… such honesty blew me away. I admired Robert Mapplethorp for the same reasons.

I need to add… in my work there is no inspiration greater than the heart of a woman that compels her to want to share her body and the truth of her feelings with my camera.

By the way, how long could you be far from your camera ?

Like so many artists who have to make their livings in other ways, my camera is not always with me but then it’s never really very far away. I’m striving not not let too many days go by between making images.


"Rain Maker 2"

Do you feel particularly inspired by a type of location ?

For a period of time I made many nudes in nature. Frankly that is the cliché fallback for making “art nude.” I hit a point where the affectation in that bothered me. I found myself asking why ? Why is she naked ? Why is she here ? The obvious answer was, because I crave her nude image and the here lends some sort of context. I guess I felt that that context, no matter how beautiful, was dishonest. More dishonest was the why.

Why is she naked? The true answer is because she and I want to express the power of humanity that is both physically beautiful and multi textured in its emotional range. The sexuality expressed inherently in the nude has drawn me like a moth to a flame. I believe every nude is sexual. I believe every person who argues otherwise is being foolish. The studio has given me the freedom to explore sexuality in imagery by virtue of the privacy it gives me. Truthfully I’m dying to make more images in more varied locations, which might again offer more context to the feelings in my images.


What are your preferences, indoor, outdoor, natural lights, color ?

God is light. Light is light. I make it, I reflect it, I bend it, I follow it, I take it as it comes and goes. I certainly don’t believe any one approach is best. I use strobe a lot. I use natural light if it is available to me. At rare times I use both.

I think color images can be very beautiful and recently since the digital world has opened up for me, I make many more color images than I use to. I do think that color reminds any viewer of modern culture… color says television, computer, movies. Color says porn to people, in a way that monochrome simply does not.

Black and white by its nature stylizes an image and takes the viewer into a different relationship to the image. 

As much as the average viewer doesn’t realize it, monochrome offers such a wide and lovely range of tonality. Film does that better than digital but anyone who hasn’t noticed how fast digital is improving, isn’t paying attention.

"Hands Down"

"Herself in color"

Some words about your models ?

From the most experienced to the least, they are angels. You have to understand a model removes her clothes and bares her sexual soul, not only because I want to make imagery, but because she wants to see herself in that light, through my eyes, and she wants to be seen. She wants that raw freedom. Weather or not I’m paying her has very little impact on that basic truth. For me having the freedom to create, sharing the light with such generosity of flesh and spirit is a colossal gift.

I agree, of course... And what is your process of creation ?

I guess I seek order. I know I need contextual concept, props, and visual details to help advance my work conceptually. That is really what has led me into shooting more fetish images. I end up with models who are sometimes turned on by fetish, and it gives me a smorgasbord of directions I can take in the work, visually speaking.

How do you feel at the end of a shooting ?

I’m usually exhausted, elated, and a little sad that those magic hours of light and flesh are ended for the moment.

Do you make many corrections ?
I’m never completely finished with any image or any set of images. If I go back to some set I made years ago, I always find an image that I didn’t regard at the time as I do now.

Have you a special project you're dreaming about ?

I’ve wanted to have the resources to make more images with real couples. I want to shoot lovers, true lovers.

Have you scheduled your next exhibition ?

Not currently. Perhaps you could arrange for me a show in France ?

Wow ! I never thought about, but why not ?... And what's for your next future ?

I do wish to make a book.


A message to send ?

If I could communicate only one thing in my work, it would be that human sexuality at its most raw and explicit is infused with exquisite beauty.

A dear friend told me what she loves in my work is (her words now !) “ You give women permission to behave the way we feel inside. What you see and express validates me.” No compliment regarding my work will ever matter to me more than that one.

I will battle against any force to remind people that the voices, which want to condemn sex as suspect, evil, and socially perverse… those voices are the real evil. Those voices lie. They lie to themselves, and they inflict harm and pain, which the world of feeling thinking souls would be happier without.

You're so right... "Make love not war" is to engrave everywhere. I'm battling at your side. Thank you Jeffrey !


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