Steve Diet Goedde is a legendary fine art and fetish photographer. His photos have been published in two books: The Beauty of Fetish and The Beauty of Fetish, Volume II. This interview was featured in Sinical Magazine No.6.
Danny Stygion: Tell us about your development as a photographer?
Steve Diet Goedde: My dad was a very serious amateur photographer so I was always exposed to his work and what it took to produce photographic images. He had a darkroom in the basement of our home in St. Louis. He taught me the basics of photography and darkroom work at a very early age, and to this day, that's the only photography training I've ever had.
Danny Stygion: Your work focuses on erotic photography. What is it about fetish clothing as opposed to nudity that appeals to you?
Steve Diet Goedde: The female body is already an amazingly beautiful and sexy shape. So when it's literally encased in tight shiny fabric, it further accentuates and exaggerates those lines and curves. This is visually pleasing from both erotic and photographic perspectives. Also, when women wear such constrictive clothing, they experience sensations of empowerment and sensuality at the same time - both of which add sensual energy to the photographs.
Danny Stygion: When creating a composition what is your main focus?
Steve Diet Goedde: Photography at its core is about light and composition, so when I'm looking through that viewfinder, the very first thing I do is to figure out how to arrange all the shapes that are given to me at that instant and present them in a pleasing way. Very importantly, I have to place the most vital and the emotional of these shapes, the model, into this visual puzzle so that she and her power don't get overshadowed by the other compositional elements.
Danny Stygion: Do you "take" pictures or "make" pictures? How much planning goes into a shoot?
Steve Diet Goedde: I'm very much a non-planner. Spontaneity has always worked best for me. In the old days, I'd plan things out in advance and even have preconceived shots in my head. Once I took those shots and looked at them later, they always seemed too staged and contrived. It was all the *other* shots that ended up the best - the shots that were taken spontaneously during the shoot. So I learned at an early time in my career to keep shoots as simple and real as possible and just capture actual moments as they happen. The only preconceived shot that ever truly worked for me was the classic shot of Gina Velour standing in the middle of LaSalle St. in Chicago showing us her stockings under her business suit.
Danny Stygion: How has living in L.A. influenced your work?
Steve Diet Goedde: When I first moved to LA in 1998, I had to get used to the southern California light. I rely almost exclusively on natural light for my photography so this was quite the change for me. It was completely different from the usually diffused, cloud-covered light of my previous home Chicago. So I had to completely adapt to not only new light, but new color. LA is colorful all year long - no dank landscapes of dead, leafless trees. I had year-round saturated greens, blue skies, and sunny hues to work with. Although black and white will always be my style of choice, LA definitely inspired me to shoot more color. But the greatest advantage for me living in southern California is the geography and architecture. Locations are a vital element in my work, and here I have an endless supply of environments to shoot in. In one day, I can take a model to downtown Los Angeles and get an old metropolitan vibe, and then head out to the Valley and find some cool old 1960s style buildings, followed by a 45-minute drive out to the Mojave Desert, and then an even shorter drive up into the snow-peaked San Gabriel Mountains. Love it here! Oh, and LA is also a haven for models and beautiful women so the talent pool greatly increased my opportunities.
Danny Stygion: You have stated that you try and put your images together like a musician would put together a song. What do you currently find yourself listening to?
Steve Diet Goedde: Music has always been a very influential part of my life but I have absolutely no musical talent whatsoever. I'm somewhat tone deaf so it's hard for me to pick out instruments which are played simultaneously. I mainly respond to texture and the general emotional temperature of any given piece. In my early days listening bands such as Throbbing Gristle, Butthole Surfers, and Public Image Ltd, I would "see" their music more than hearing it - almost like looking/listening to a moving painting which changed and had composition. I see tactile landscapes and compositional patterns which flow left to right in my inner vision. To me, many of my photographs are musical. The narrow depth of field in my images creates out-of-focus elements in my photographs. These elements are like bass tones and anything that pops into focus from these fields represent percussive points. And then there's the whole compositional layout of the photograph which of course, to me, acts as the compositional structure of a piece of music. I initially wanted my photographs to look like I mixed Tom Waits and the Cocteau Twins - ethereal and gritty at the same time. Some of the current bands which have this same textural quality that I enjoy are Radiohead, Sleigh Bells, and Arcade Fire.
Danny Stygion: Besides the work of photographers and music, what are some other sources of inspiration for you?
Steve Diet Godde: The only other art form that truly inspires me is filmmaking, especially cinematography. I know, it's just photography that moves but it has a much wider sensibility.
Danny Stygion: How long did it take for you to get your first book "The Beauty of Fetish" published and how was that process?
Steve Diet Goedde: My first published book happened much easier than it was supposed to. It was 1997, and I had been shooting my fetish work since 1990. At this point, I felt that I had enough quality work to make a really great book. My favorite photography publisher was Edition Stemmle which was based out of Zurich. All their books were super high-end and featured many big names in photography such as Nobuyoshi Araki, Andy Warhol, Edward Weston, Max Baur, Ralph Gibson, etc.. I was kind of naive at the time and didn't really know the proper method for proposing book projects. Instead I just sent them selection of cheap 8x10s and my contact info. About a week later, I got a message that they liked the work and immediately wanted to see more. I then boxed up almost every print I had made and shipped them off to Switzerland. They were thrilled with what they had to work with and for the next year we assembled the book which eventually came out in the fall of 1998.
Danny Stygion: What was the publishing process like for your second book?
Steve Diet Goedde: The first book was an immediate critical and sales success, so Stemmle wanted to do a follow-up book. Where the first book featured 7 years of work, the next one would have to feature only the work I had done since its publication which was roughly only 2 years. This also corresponded with my move from Chicago to Los Angeles, so the new book would feature this whole new climate and light I was suddenly presented with. This time I got star status, so they flew me out to Zurich where we spent a week going over the image selection and layout.
Danny Stygion: How long did it take for you to compile and edit your "Living Through Steve Diet Goedde" DVD?
Steve Diet Goedde: In 2004 I got contacted by Slish Pix which was a production company that made interactive DVDs for a variety of clients. They proposed this interactive DVD project that really interested me. It would be like a book but far more interactive. It was a good 4 years since the publication of my last book so I had a stockpile of unseen images in addition to all the older, classic work. So the DVD became a collection of work from 1990-2004 with all the work presented in animated slideshows played with either music or commentary. I spent close to a year scanning close to 700 negatives for the project. Prior to this, I had only scanned my work from prints, but seeing them scanned from the original negatives was awe-inspiring. I saw my images in a whole new detailed light. In addition to the still images for the DVD, we interviewed all my main models including Dita Von Teese, Masuimi Max, Emily Marilyn, and the Porcelain Twinz. It took about a year to assemble all the pieces, but when it finally came out in 2005, it was very well received and continues to sell well today.
Danny Stygion: What projects are you currently working on?
Steve Diet Goedde: It's currently the beginning of April 2012, and I'm getting ready for a solo show at the Sin City Gallery in Las Vegas on July 5th. I'm not shooting as much as I used to so I'm concentrating more on promotion and gallery shows. Also, I'm continuing my side project of street photography (www.goeddeimages.com). I'm having a book of my Paris street work published this summer.