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.
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.
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!
Check out more of Suelan’s work here: www.suelanphotography.com
For more London Art Spot interviews, click here.