Billy Monday (blog.billymonday.com)
L: What subjects do you like to shoot?
B: I’m most known for my female nudes, both in the studio and in the natural landscape. The “landscape nudes” are probably the ones I most enjoy making, as each one involves a little adventure. Landscape nudes usually require some travel, often to unusual locations, and we usually have to keep a low profile to avoid creating havoc. So often a session leaves the model and me a story to tell!
In addition to my nudes, I also lately enjoy making still-lives. Maybe surprisingly, the process is similar - both types of photographs are high-concept and “posed”, not just snapshots. Compositions like these can be carefully lit and deliberately processed.
L: Color or B/W and why?
B: Both. Every digital image I make goes through a black-and-white conversion which either is used to control the local contrast in the eventual color image, or is left as is. I think it’s a shame that many photographers eschew the rich world of color, a legacy left over from the days of film when color processing was less accessible to the hobbyist. But some images just communicate better in monochrome, in terms of clarity or dramatic abstraction, so I’m happy to present them that way.
L:What is your inspiration?
B: Life. That’s one of the benefits of being an old guy - there’s a lot of material to draw on. I hope I don’t go senile! I get a lot of inspiration from the landscape artists of the American Hudson River School, and I also admire Maxfield Parrish and the Wyeth clan. Also the lyrics of popular songs and poetry serve as inspiration from time-to-time. Of late, I’ve been more drawn to surrealism, particularly the photographic surrealism of artists like Jerry Uelsmann, Maggie Taylor, and Brooke Shaden. I’m not seeing that in my final product yet but their notions are percolating in my mind.
L:Tell us a little bit about your creative process…
B: I’m a big fan of planning. I’m not a photographer who walks around looking for images - I sit and make my plans. In the case of nudes of course there’s a model to consider, and the expenses and other arrangements required for that, so it’s foolhardy to start shooting without a well-defined concept. This often expands on my previous work, so there are reference images on hand. Maybe a sketch or a written description gets made during the planning. In the studio there’s sometimes a set to be constructed. At the shoot itself, I try to keep the mood very casual and I don’t shoot a lot of images. I want to enjoy myself and I want the model to do the same. It’s more important to work my way up to the one, final, definitive representation of the plan. I shoot with an eye toward acquiring very clean data and a digital file which is easily manipulated.
L:What gear do you use and what is your preferred equipment?
B: I use a mid-sized, professional grade DSLR for most of my work. It’s black. I also use a mirrorless camera with a fixed focal length lens which is a personal favorite - it’s light and discreet, and helps me to concentrate on image making. My lens choices range around the normal, between 35mm and 85mm equivalents. Occasionally I go with something much longer or much wider, for the effect. Tripods are essential to my process and no expense is spared on those. In the studio, my preference is for continuous lights and I’ve started collecting LED fixtures for that work. Outdoors, supplemental lighting is usually provided by reflectors.
L:How do you develop your photos (digital/film/software used)?
B: I rarely shoot film, the expense and lack of flexibility is too much of a price. Digital files are always captured raw, and I prefer Lightroom as my raw conversion and file management system. After an image is prepared in Lightroom to be “normal” in terms of exposure, contrast, clarity, noise and sharpness, I take it into Photoshop. As I work in nudes, there’s always a little retouching and tweaking to be done on the subject as well as the background. As I mentioned above, I always make a layer in black and white and it’s either the final output or, more likely, it’s a control over luminance values. Most of my color images are finished with a split tone treatment, with the foreground emphasizing warm tones and the background being somewhat more cool. I favor slightly abstract colors.
L:What would you like to convey with your photos?
B: Love. It sounds so cliche, but as I’ve grown I’ve developed a reverence for Creation and the fascinating world in which we live. The beautiful bodies captured in my images are meant to be positive, reverent portrayals of each human. I want the collector and viewer of my photos to see something far greater than tits and ass. I’m very dismayed by the lurid comments made by some artistically and socially illiterate people who see my images online. The only way to transmit my message, and to hopefully teach those persons, is to keep making more images with a clearer, more definitive statement.
L: Tell us an anecdote or a “secret” regarding your photos…
B: The best places to make landscape nudes in the US are National Parks. Unfortunately, they’re also staffed by frequently overzealous and always overarmed persons who demonstrate the dismal state of our republic. Fortunately, rangers rarely leave their cars. Get out of sight of the road, stay off the main trail, and shoot in the early morning. You can make photos at some of the most recognizable locations in the nation that way. All without offending anyone or having any trouble with the authorities. Anyway, the light is better. Bring plenty of coffee for your model.
Today’s featured artist is Billy Monday (blog.billymonday.com) and Lux Lit would like to thank Billy for his collaboration and wonderful work!
Lux Lit…bringing art to light