Model: Sophie King
Chas Ray Krider is a legendary fetish photographer. He has two books of fetish photography that have been published: Motel Fetish and Do Not Disturb. This interview and photo feature was featured in the 1 Year Anniversary issue of Sinical.
Danny Stygion: When did you start doing photography?
Chas Ray Krider: I'm self-taught in photography and art. In the early 70s began at a street photographer, walking about shooting BW with a Leica 2M. At the time I was heavily under the influence of Ralph Gibson. His self -published trilogy, The Somnambulist, Deja-vu, and Days at Sea were my guides. From studying Gibson I learned how to compose using the minimal number of elements, plus his subtile touches the surreal. In the mid 70's I worked for an art dealer as his in-house framer. He had an extensive library of books on modern art. Hour upon hour I poured over these books. Point being: the reference in my images are not solely photo based, the history of painting is very informative.
Danny Stygion: What type of camera and lighting equipment do you work with?
Chas Ray Krider: Presently I work with a Canon 5D in studio and a G12 on the street. My lighting is very lo-fi. I use hot lights; 12 and 10 inch reflectors with diffused 100w bulbs. Since much of my work is interior available light, I'm able to balance these lights with light out put of the table lamps that often appear in my images. I occasionally use strobe, but prefer continuous available light.
Model: Andea Grant
Danny Stygion: How much does film noir play a role in your work?
Chas Ray Krider: Film noir, like surrealism, is a state of mind, not a style merely to emulate and recreate for nostalgic effect. Noir is part my world view. I am not an optimist. I'm drawn to work that has a sublet undertow, disrupts the comfort level of the viewer, an image that raises more questions than gives answers.
Danny Stygion: I am a big fan of film noir. My personal favorite would be "Detour". What are some of your favorite noir films from the 40's and 50's?
Chas Ray Krider: Yes, Detour is the perfect road to a dead end. For noir films, I quite like of Out of the Past. In term of cinematography I'm mesmerized by The Third Man, Lady from Shanghai, and a Tough of Evil. The camera placement and framing in these films appeals to me. The low and skewed angles are again part of my world view… things are not on the level.. not then and not now. Much of my work may be considered "sex noir'." The women in my photos, as is the unseen photographer, appear to be caught in an existential dilemma. Are they victims or willing participants?
The most important film for me is Hitchcock's Vertigo. While not noir per se, Vertigo embodies the aspects dream, obsession and fetish found within my sexual imagery… a man trying turn his life into dream, and then trying to turn the dream in reality.
Model: Angela Ryan
Danny Stygion: The classic film noir films focused on low-key lighting. Do you have a favorite lighting set up?
Chas Ray Krider: The mystery and power of noir lies within the shadow. I start with the one ambient light source common to an interior room, such as a table lamp. Then I augment the ambient with a spots or floods to create cross lighting. The light's reflector will have barn doors to control light from spilling into the shadows. The trick is to get the added light sources to be in balance with the output of the existing ambient light source for a believable lighting scenario. With cross lighting there are always multiple sets of shadows. I reposition the lights until I feel that the shadows are working for me not against me. I don't light the subject as much I am looking for illumination. That is, a lighting scheme to enhance mood and emotion, and adds drama.
Danny Stygion: When creating a composition: what is your main focus?
Chas Ray Krider: The main concern is the background, the set. If I'm satisfied with the background then I'm then free to let whatever happens in the foreground play out. Since I never have a preconceived idea before I start, the subject and I make it up as we go. In the surrealist tradition, I am courting chance.
Model: Lucy Dominga
Danny Stygion: When did you start your Motel fetish project?
Chas Ray Krider: The Motel Fetish concept is this: I employed what I called an "amateur esthetic." If man, who is not a photographer, went into a motel room with a woman to take some pictures, what would he do? First, he would buy the wrong film. He would shoot daylight balanced film under tungsten light. The color would turn out wrong, whacked out, all yellow and red. He would put the woman near the lamp to see what he desires. He would begin to use the lamp as spot light, placing it in odd locations. Over all, what I was going for was a series of images that would hang together as one story, constructed and sequenced into cinematic like narrative. The viewer of Motel Fetish travels over time from room to room with this man as he searches for and explores his desire with various women.
Danny Stygion: How long did it take for you to get your first book "Motel Fetish" published and how was that process?
Chas Ray Krider: Motel Fetish as working concepts begins in 1996, ends in 2001 when I handed over the work to Taschen for publication. From the the beginning I envisioned the series to be a book.
In this five year period I produced some 2000 images which allowed editing down to about 200. The book idea was rejected by several publishers. Taschen rejected it twice before finally publishing it in 2002.
I had lucky breaks along the way. An old Ohio friend was art directing at Hustler's Taboo magazine. She knew about the Motel series and ran feature in1998. That exposure caught the eye of Eric Kroll. He though the work would make good book. In 2000, for a third time, Eric brought the work to Taschen's attention. This time it was accepted.
Motel Fetish was photographed with color negative. I made 5x5 inch color proofs of each model's sessions. I then edited the set, made color copies of the edit and bound the color copies into self contained booklets. When it came time to edit for publication, I handed over all the color copy booklets. Eric and Taschen choose what they wanted. After their edit, I pulled out a few of their choices and added in back in what I felt essential to my concept. Eric suggested I layout and sequence a working a manuscript, perhaps Taschen would use it as a guide. That proved to be what happened. In the end I was given a great deal control over the project. I designed the cover, with my wife Ellen, we designed the books layout.
Model: Angela Ryan
Danny Stygion: What was the editing and publishing process like for your second book "Do Not Disturb"?
Chas Ray Krider: In 2007 my second solo book, Do Not Disturb, was publish by the Parisian publisher La Musardine. For several years prior I had been suppling photos to La Musardine for use as cover art for their erotic novels. We had good working relation. One day I asked if they knew of anyone in Europe that would consider in doing a book with me? Luckily, La Musardine said that they would do a book.
As with the motel book, I produced a working manuscript of how I saw the book. This time I wasn't afford the level of control as I had with Motel Fetish. With the French there was the distance and language communication to over come. The publisher saw a different book than what I presented.
With Do Not Disturb I tried to build on the narrative aspect of Motel Fetish. For a narrative to work the image sequence is crucial. My sequence suffered in the editing process. The publisher shifted the sequence. The narrative never fully develops and it does not builds to a climax. What was trying to do was organized 200 images into one meaning, to bring the viewer to the central idea. The publisher, as publisher will, wanted a book that would sell. Its art vs commerce. In the end Do Not Disturb is a solid book with great images. Its is much more sexually dangerous that the Motel book. The French prefer what they call "Le Jazz Hot," and that 's how they wanted the images for Do Not Disturb. Since I wanted to do a book away from the eyes of America, this was a great opportunity to publisher my more provocative images.
Danny Stygion: Are your books still available to be purchased?
Chas Ray Krider: Both Motel Fetish and Do Not Disturb are out of print. I have a few copies of each, and they are quite expensive. Amazon resellers have used copies at various prices and condition. I buy used copies from time to time. The good news is Taschen is reissuing Motel Fetish in Germany this May. It should reach the US by April. I'm told the reissue will be a scaled back in size and number of images included. I'm out of the loop on this one.
Danny Stygion: Do you work out an arrangement when you shoot at motels with the owners, or do you just pay for the room?
Chas Ray Krider: I confess, 90% of my photos are made in studio on constructed sets. Few motels have the color, shapes and texture I can get in studio. Occasionally I go to motel. I just book the room l like a regular citizen.
Danny Stygion: How often do you travel or do your models come to shoot with you in Ohio?
Chas Ray Krider: I used to travel regularly to LA and Chicago up until 2002. Travel is too costly. Now, its a matter of who shows up at my studio door.
Danny Stygion: How has the fetish modeling and photography scene evolved these past 10 years, to you?
Chas Ray Krider: When I began the motel project I worked mainly with friends and acquaintances. I had to convince almost everyone that it was OK to make these kind of images. Now, with the shift from film to digital, the proliferation of sexual content on the internet and model network sites, the whole scene is wider and more loose. In the days of film it took a modicum of commitment to do photography. Today with digital, there is a much lower threshold to the means to producing and distributing images. At one point it seemed to me, the world was swimming is a sea of images, today there is a tsunami of images overtaking the world. Head for high ground!
Danny Stygion: What projects are you working on next?
Chas Ray Krider: While I continue to make images in the sex noir mode, I spend a lot of time working in collage. All my past and present work are now subject to cutting and pasting into new contexts. On the book front, I'm in conversation with a publisher in the UK for a new solo book. It remains to be seem if this book will happen as the economy is not good. As I wrote, Taschen is reissuing Motel Fetish in the Spring. When Motel Fetish was originally release I produced an accompanying CD soundtrack titled Motelesque. I am reissuing the CD. Motelesque is an interesting collection of original music, with touches of Ennio Morricone and shades of Angelo Badalamenti. Also from Taschen, just released is The Big Book of Pussy in which I have a several images. Taschen is currently working on a survey of new erotic photography. The release of this compilation survey is set for this fall.