Where are you from?
I originally am from Austin, Texas.
What kind of photographic equipment do you use?
I use a mix of digital and film cameras. Currently I use a Fujifilm Instax Wide camera as well as a Canon ae-1 35mm and a variety of plastic cameras and medium format cameras. At any time I use as many as ten cameras to get what I want. Each camera has a different personality, so I use them accordingly.
What do you do when you are not shooting?
I’m a film geek, so I spend most of my time immersing myself in cinema. I have a day job that pays the rent and allows me to focus my brain on creating my photographs.
What was the first photograph you were proud of?
I’m not really sure. A photograph is simultaneously a way to capture a moment in time forever as well as a way to create an alternate reality. These realities become self contained, they become separate from our time stream and become a continuation of a greater story. So in a way, its all the same story, all the same photograph. I cant really explain it further in a way that makes sense, I suppose. I can say that when I worked with Nettie Harris to create my homage to Catherine Breillat’s film, “A real young girl”, I felt that I’d turned a corner.
How much preparation is there behind your photographs?
It varies from photograph to photograph. Sometimes I have a very specific concept in mind, and I can spend months talking with my subject (model) about it. Other times, we just shoot from the hip, and it becomes very instinctive.
Have you ever done sacrifices or compromises as a photographer?
I think we all have done such things, for friends, or what have you, but the older I get, the less I’m willing to compromise. I know exactly what I want and I look for people who will help me to get that image. I know that the nature of my work discourages most from working with me, but that helps me to weed out ineffectual collaborators and allows me to work with courageous or at the very least, open subjects.
What is your safe place?
I could go to the movies every single day. It is my greatest source of inspiration besides the women that I work with. To be immersed in cinema is heaven for me.
Do you have any obsessions?
I don’t really drink, smoke, do drugs or any of that. I enjoy life, living it, I love my wife, the creative freedom that she gives me. I’m obsessed with film, obviously, and sex and women, but I find a beauty in that, and it’s my goal to change the way that we see sex. I don’t think it’s a sacred thing nor do I think it is profane. It’s somewhere in the middle, and I hope to find the honesty and beauty in that. That’s my obsession.
Is there an artist you’ll gladly collaborate with or that you regard with esteem?
It is my sincerest goal to work with my muse, Cam Damage, as often as I can. She’s one of the very few who truly understands me or gets what I want, or could give me what I want, for that matter. As for other artists, I actually work with blinders on as much as possible. If anything, if possible, I’d work with filmmakers and cinematographers. Haskell Wexler and Ben Kasulke, cinematographers here in the States, have inspired me greatly, so it would be a dream to work with them.
▶Your photographs show a very deep and intimate connection between the subject and the photographer; has it ever happened to you that one of the women used as models misinterpreted your work? Or has complained after seeing your pictures?
Of course, my work isn’t for everyone. Sometimes there is an intimacy that happens between models. Three of the most important relationships in my life would never have happened had there not been some kind of intimacy between myself and my subject. Sometimes women think they want to be a part of this and do not realize the immense emotional toll that such work can exact on you. Generally, people who aren’t suited to what I do weed themselves out before hand, but at the end of the day, that’s what model releases are for. I also rarely work alone, especially when I’m working with someone new. Ultimately, I’d like to build a core group of women that I work with consistently, similar to the way people like Wes Anderson, Tim Burton, and Martin Scorsese do as filmmakers. You build trust and intimacy and subsequently the work becomes superior.
The voyeurism in some of your work is very apparent. Especially your Instax portraits. There’s an element of shock to it as well, like when you reach out from behind the lens to touch your subjects, like, “I should not be seeing this right now.” A lot of artists who try to portray voyeurism will prettify the image with gloss and shine, which in the end fails and you end up with a very stagnant image. Yours come across as very real. What sort of environment do you create for a shoot? Is it laid back or strictly professional? Are there other people helping you on your shoots?
The first thing I try to do when I decide to shoot someone is get to know them. when I first started out in Austin, it was always about trying to shoot as many people as I could as quickly as I could. It became addictive. It was like finding the next score, the next high.
And then I met Cam.
Interview excerpt with photographer highcastle - more at eviltender.com