London Art Spot: Suelan Allison-Modrzejewski

While some of us might be reading this first Art Spot post of 2011 slightly hungover, Suelan Allison-Modrzejewski is probably fresh on her feet because she doesn’t like the taste of the stuff that makes us tipsy. And more power to her because she’s chanelling her energy into her art (and, of course, her newborn son) instead.

Armed with her camera and a strong belief that the East London Art Scene mixed with erotic photography can make a powerful statement, Suelan’s created a colourful portfolio for her latest project:  Erotica v. Street Art. It revolves around the work of some well-known artists like ROA and Stik. But let’s hope she’s not going to ask her nude models to stand outdoors for too long this time of year and welcomes them for one of her indoor shots instead. She may even break out her beloved 1967 Canon FP 35mm camera that takes some amazing photos even though the 50mm lens is covered in mildew.

For this week’s London Art Spot, Suelan talks about the woman who has been her most powerful muse this year, lets us in on the risks she is willing to take to shoot erotica in public places and, of course, shares some of her favourite, sometimes NSFW (Not Safe For Work), images of the ladies that inspire her to appreciate the beauty and sexuality of the human body.

LLO: Where are you from originally, how long have you been in London and what it is that’s kept you here?
SA-M: I always have trouble with this question because I’ve lived in so many places. I was born in Trinidad, grew up in Guyana, spent many summers in NYC when I was a kid and then lived there for six years when I was 17 and then moved to London at 23, met my ex-husband and stayed because of him and have been here since then. But no matter where I’ve lived, New York was always home for me.

LLO: Your latest work – Erotica v. Street Art – has gathered up quite a bit of attention. Tell us about this set of images and how you came about combining these two subjects.
SA-M: Well I’m going through a very difficult divorce right now especially that we have a 9 month old baby boy and my ex-husband is heavy on the East London art scene and I love erotic photography which he has no interest in and if I’m completely honest, it started off as me trying to fit the two together to prove to him they can both co-exist and be appreciated by everyone. Then it became so much more. The graffiti artists that replied to me that I had contacted to tell them I would be using their works as my background, absolutely loved what I was doing and some even sent me specific locations to shoot at.

Exposed

LLO: This set features artists like Stik, ROA and Eine. Have you ever thought about collaborating directly with a street artist on a photo project? If so, who, what and where?
SA-M: I have thought about it and would love to do something crazy and I have talked briefly with one artist but nothing concrete and honestly I still think there’s a long way to go before not just artists, but people in general are open to erotic works of art, especially out in the open. I feel almost like I have to ease my ideas and concepts in gently and I’m not able to get the same exposure street-artists enjoy.

I am woman - hear me roar

LLO: What’s the biggest challenge you’ve had to face to get a great shot?
SA-M: I can honestly say that I haven’t really had any barriers to getting great shots. I do pick some risky locations to shoot but I have been very fortunate that the models who work on my shoots are serious risk takers and willing to do anything to get a great picture and I really appreciate that.

LLO: Do you have a muse?
SA-M: Last year when I started photography Vee WORLDMISTRESS (she’s a dominatrix) was my muse. This year my muse is Bex Paul. She is absolutely amazing and she can pull off so many looks from haute couture to erotica. She is a dream to photograph and knows exactly what to do as soon as I lift the camera, which is great because my shoots are done in an hour tops. I hate long shoots and even more so now that I take my baby with me, so for my own projects I try only to work with models who I connect with.

LLO: Which photo are you most proud of at the moment?
SA-M: It would have to be a picture I took on a shoot last year in London Fields. It’s a shot of Bex in front of a tree as we were preparing for a shoot. It’s totally over exposed and technically wrong but so right because I can see fire in her eyes and soul.

LLO: Is there a location in London outside of the formal studio environment you’d love to shoot for a day – somewhere you haven’t tried yet?
SA-M: Yes absolutely. The Millennium Bridge. I have dreams about who and what I would shoot there, how long it would take, the risk factor… It haunts and excites me.

LLO: How do you find your models? Is there a certain look you gravitate toward?
SA-M: For my projects if I’m doing a casting call for a few models, I’ll usually use Model Mayhem otherwise I just use Bex. I gravitate to models with curves mostly, just because I think that’s the essence of a woman. We have curves and breasts and hips and its beautiful. If I’m looking for a male model, I’ll generally pick a tall manly man, a protector of sorts. I guess I’m traditional in that sense.

LLO: Other London-based artists you admire?
SA-M:
I love anything that Rankin does, his photographic projects, his books, documentaries… I guess I’m a Rankaholic! He really does inspire me. Currently I’m loving Miss Led as well. She’s an illustrator/painter and does some amazing large scale murals of women which can be very provocative and flirtatious. A collaboration with her is definitely on my wish list.

LLO: What are you working on now?
SA-M: Well I’ve spent Christmas with my mom in Trinidad and I’ve been bouncing some ideas around with a few people, and waiting for the right moment but that’s all I’m going to say about that…for now at least!

Thanks Suelan!

Check out more of Suelan’s work here: www.suelanphotography.com

For more London Art Spot interviews, click here.

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London Art Spot: Roberto McCormick

His native country’s slogan is “Colombia es Pasion” and that’s what comes out in Roberto McCormick’s photography. Light plays a strong role in each shoot giving an air of erotica and mystique to some of his models and a sassy, sexy attitude to others. Angles are wide in his latest work, looking from the ground up, giving the allusion of long legs that go on for eternity and a focus on the shoes.

Born in Colombia’s capital city, Bogota, Roberto studied industrial design before making the decision to take up his camera full time in 2008 instead. His work has been published in fashion advertisement campaigns and papers around Colombia. He recently moved to London for love.

For this week’s London Art Spot, Roberto gives us an eyeful of his erotic photography, talks about how his background in industrial design still influences his work and tells us exactly he means when he mentions his new theme of “wide proportions”.

LLO: How long have you lived in London? Is it your art that has kept you here?
RMc: Its going to be a year in November. I came here because of my wife, so that’s my main reason, but I have to say, I have developed my art 100 times more than in any other part. So I think I have two really good reasons to live in this amazing city.

LLO: Which aspects of London life inspire you creatively?
RMc: Freedom, people from all over the world, mix of everything, you feel like you can create anything. It’s like a necessity to create or the river will take you to some other part. You have to move; you have to think big.

LLO: Your formal training is in Industrial Design in your home country, Colombia. Do you find that this background (both the study and the country where you grew up) has a strong influence on your photography now?
RMc: Every single thought and experience that you have in your life will drive your path some other way, like growing with time. So I have to say yes. Maybe I can say it gave me great a advantage, the advantage of composition, color, framing, structure to design images.

LLO: Do you remember the moment that made you decide you wanted to pursue photography as a career rather than industrial design?
RMc: Yes, I think it’s very clear in my mind – first practical exercise in photography class about properties of light. I was already feeling proud, feeling like a god, I didn’t care what kind of criticism I will get about it, for me my work was a masterpiece.  The picture, it’s just a glass burning on fire, long exposure, and a mirror, very different from what I do, but every time I got my images, I have the same feeling; I cannot wait to show them to the world.

LLO: One trait that makes some of your photography quite unique is your use of angle and light. Can you tell us a bit about your approach?
RMc: Everything about photography is about light. You have to draw with light. When I was in class we were taught about the classic and contemporary schemes of lighting, so I know how to do it, and have experiment a lot with it. I just found it BORING, so why not burn the model? Why not let the light with an over exposure eat the model, or maybe the shadow will eat it?

About the angles, I cannot say it was from nothing that it appears. I think and I hope it was kind of an evolution of my work. What I can say is that it started with a shooting where my wife was the model; that shooting triggered it. Was my first  “Wide Proportions” a very unique technique? Its not just wide angle lenses, or weird lighting, or a touch of surrealistic feel. For me its “Wide Proportions” meaning huge legs, amazing shoes, sexy, hot, irreverent, erotic, mystic – a sexy fashionable dream.

LLO: Is there a location in London outside of the formal studio environment you’d love to shoot for a day?
RMc: Don’t you think a sexy ballet dancer / model in front of Saint Paul’s Cathedral would be a great pic?

LLO: How do you find your models? Is there a particular model you’d love to work with?
RMc: Models and photographer, and social networks… it’s kind of funny to post a casting call saying  “lingerie shoot FHM style”. You will get 100 girls in a day. Put some clothes in the call and it can be 10 times less.

Humm, I like to target models in ballet and fashion/nude. Since I have arrived in London, I have always admired a Czech model – fit, angled face, attitude – just love it.  I will shoot her at the end of the month, so let’s hope it will be a great shoot.

LLO: Do you have a muse?
RMc: Woman and dreams. My wife, but shh don’t tell anybody 😉

LLO: Which photo are you most proud of at the moment and why? Share a jpeg?
RMc: I would like to say 2 – Wide Proportions Origin and a sexy, glamorous ballet shoot. Both have what I’m looking for, about angles, great lighting, sexy, huge legs, burn lighting and hard shadows.

LLO: Which other London-based artists do you most admire?
RMc: Fashion photographers Hugh O’Malley, Clair Pepper and Julia Kennedy. They have a great fashion approach.

Thanks Roberto!

For more of Roberto’s work, have a look at his site: http://www.robertomccormick.com

For more London Art Spot interviews, click here.

Fashion photographers Hugh O’Malley, Clair Pepper and Julia Kennedy, they have a great fashion approach.

London Art Spot: Danielle Dewitt

As Dani says herself, you might expect artwork from a native North Carolina girl to be quite “safe” and “homely”, but don’t be fooled. Dani’s illustrations and paintings are anything but, and since she moved to London, they have become even more open and experimental, all boundaries crossed. If you’re easily offended, turn back now. There’s a few safe entries back that way.

If you’re curious about what inspires this Central Saint Martin’s graduate to expose her inner fears and thoughts in such a way that may shock her neighbours back home, read on. She’s taken some time to tell us about why her work is so sexually blunt, how London gives her creative freedom and her plan to move to Oslo later this summer.

LLO: When did you first become interested in illustration and how has your work evolved while you worked toward your BA at Central Saint Martins?
DD:
 I have always been interested in the arts from what I can remember and especially illustration because it requires so much attention to detail and patience. I wanted to be a medical illustrator at first, I am fascinated with medicine and anatomy and still hope one day I can do something within the medical stratosphere. My time at CSM has definitely given me more self-discipline in regards to my working habits. It has taught me to explore my ideas more thoroughly and to formulate clear, well-executed pieces. I have found a love for painting with oils as well, which is something I was never really that interested in before. My work hasn’t really changed much overall, I have just expanded it into a few more mediums.

LLO: Has coming from the sticks in North Carolina to big city life in London changed the way you approach your art at all?
DD:
Art in North Carolina is quite, “homely” and “safe”, well most of it. People seem scared to offend anyone with their work. Coming to London, you see that that safeness doesn’t exist here and you are free to explore and create whatever you like with out fear of community persecution or exclusion. My work is a lot more free now that I’m here, and a lot more chaotic.

LLO: Much of your work is very sexual in nature, very focused on the female body flaws and all. Can you talk a bit about the messages in these images?
DD:
We’re our most vulnerable when we’re naked. Being nude changes the way people behave. Some embrace it, some can’t stand it. All of our flaws are visible and accessible to every human eye and every particle floating in the air. Being nude bonds us with our surroundings. When I draw a figure, I see it in my minds eye in total perfection, nude and flawless. But when it comes down onto paper, it becomes all of my insecurities and flaws, all of my pain and resentment for myself. The sexual outlet is the trusting, giving, ‘exposed’ and freed self and something I want to give to my viewers, the ability to bear the scars of  their life with out fear. We women hold a lot inside of us, and mask our perceived flaws in many different ways it seems. I want to make work that liberates the body of unnecessary social constraints by bluntly stating their existence and trying to deconstruct the need for us to hide from them.

LLO: It’s also very detailed and a lot of it is quite surreal. You’ve got a great imagination. Tell us a bit about what inspires your work?
DD:
My work is usually inspired by events in my life, past and present, the quantum world, or perhaps something that really catches my eye in the media. I go through different phases of what elements I like to use in my work, like certain patterns or styles. My world on a day-to-day basis is quite surreal to be honest, weird things always happen to me, or things I simply cannot understand. I also tend to make up stories in my head about certain people I am surrounded by, or on occasion when I’m walking around I hear harmonies of sounds I suddenly feel like I’m in a musical and that leads to more ideas and the work takes off from there. I also spent a lot of time in hospitals when I was growing up, surrounded by a lot of unique characters. Their world is sometimes completely different from ours and very bizarre at times, these experiences inspired a lot of my work to this day.

LLO: You also do some painting, animation and graphic design. Do you find that changing mediums alters your subjects and style or do you take a similar approach despite the obvious differences?
DD:
 I definitely take a similar approach when painting, not so much when it comes to graphic design. Graphic design is a sort of ‘sanitary’ medium for me where I like to make more minimalist work, while utilizing a broader range of colours. Painting is just a mess, a mash of liquid pixels and I tend to want to make more abstract works when painting, however I always seem to be lured back to creating an intricate painting inclusive of the human form.

LLO: Which piece of work are you most proud of and why?
DD:
I can’t say that I’m particularly proud of any single work I’ve made, I feel satisfied when they are completed, but usually not jumping to show them off. I have a very bad habit of destroying my work long before anyone ever sees it. I am truly resentful of my illustrations and paintings at times and have set alight many of them in the past, tossed them out the window of my car onto the motorway or simply flushed them down the toilet.

LLO: What’s the next step for you in terms of career and how you see yourself moving forward in the next few years? Do you plan to stay in London?
DD:
I’m not exactly sure what’s next. I would like to display my work in galleries all over the world, I would like someone to collect my work, I would like to sell my work, but then again what artist doesn’t! I will probably end up working more on the graphic design side of things or doing freelance jobs or perhaps working in a design firm if all else fails while still doing art in my spare time. I’m getting married in August to a one Jan Schjetne, fashion photographer extraordinaire, and will be moving to Oslo, Norway in July to settle amongst the Scandinavians. I am really excited about this and hope to create loads of new work and add some new mediums to my current work.

LLO: Do you have a favourite London gallery or place to see other artists at work?
DD:
I get really inspired at the National Portrait gallery, the Barbican and the Haunch of Venison. I love the name “Haunch of Vension” and that’s what first led me to this gallery. It’s an erie sounding name to me and this promises many good things contained within. I also like the White Cube Gallery near Old Street, and the Riflemaker Gallery they always have something good on.

LLO: What other London-based artists do you admire?
DD:
I like a lot of the YBA’s, and I love the large fun works of Anish Kapoor.

LLO: Where can we see some more of your work?
DD:
I have a website, cargocollective.com/EHFO, I update it fairly regularly. You can also drop me an email on there if you have any questions, or thoughts you want to share: dewittd@gmail.com.

Thanks Dani!