Sunday, November 16, 2008

Interview: Jonathan Owen Black

Jonathan Owen Black is a photographer with a young wife that he shoots naked. He first published photos of her in a hospital bed all beat up after she fell off her bike.

In their august photo issue Vice ran a section called ‘FOUR NAKED WOMEN WHO ARE NOT MY WIFE AND ONE NAKED WOMAN WHO IS.’ Three months later it is still near the top of the ‘most emailed’ section of Vice's website.

Jonathan Owen Black is a close friend. I met him at a skate park in Vancouver 8 years ago, and stayed with his family in Scotland when I was 18. He is Scottish. He is about 28. I interviewed him.

People often blurb, esp. contemporary photo people, things like: ____’s work is built on the relationships between the photographer and his/her subject.

Anonynous: dont trust no bitch with no titties. Like a small prepubesent boy.

Now I think: if we are going to call this ‘work,’ then, we can’t discount the process of the location of and bonding with people that are aesthetically agreeable. The manufacturing of ‘the relationships.’ Or: ‘networking.’ This kind of troubles me because it makes the ‘relationships’ kind of forced.

I think your photos of Laura could be blurbed this way, but to call your relationship to your wife ‘work’ is absurd.

It’s actually a little bit like a diary. The whole process of taking photos is enjoyable. There is something satisfying of recording your life like that. Maybe L’s like my muse or something. I enjoy the process of shooting her and printing the photographs and, you know.

I just like to do it.

Anonymous: what a lucky lucky man Jonathan is.

Who came up with the name, ‘Five pictures of naked women…’? To me it is aggravating in like, a big brotherly way. It presents a fantasy that is unrealistic and makes (I am projecting, because I know you and am not envious of you) people feel like their lives are hopelessly shitty in comparison to yours.

I think we came up with it together.

Do you want people to be jealous of you?

I think it’s not 100% deliberate, but I think generally creating a fantasy around your work and stoking people’s imaginations about your work is probably good for any artist or photographer. This maybe portrays me to whoever saw it as, ‘some young lucky guy who’s married to a beautiful woman shooting stunning women in a big new york apartment.’ It is a fantasy, though. The apartment was in Bed Stuy. Those girls weren’t out there lounging naked all of the time.

Anonymous: so hot i wan to have sex now!!!!!!! i am soooooooooooo desberate

Do you want to debunk your fantasy life?

I don’t know. Maybe that’s a bad idea.

I mean. That is my life. I managed to have those women take off their clothes for no money. That’s kind of satisfying in a way. I think beautiful women should always have the opportunity to be shot naked. I think most women with beautiful bodies want to be able to show them off at some point.

Anonymous: vice makes me feel empty

I think a lot of people have a problem with vice. On their message boards people express a range of negative emotions: they feel bad, mad, envious or contemptuous.

Do you think that they know that; that they’re trying to make you feel bad?

Probably not.

I think they’ve stumbled into something that people want and are trying to give that to them. I think that that they want to stoke controversy. Magazines in general are a conduit between consumer and advertiser. They do that by selling products by creative ways.

There are independent publications that really hold their integrity - to what they want to say - believe in what they are doing, but they generally fail and don’t make money. Even the New Yorker has been in the red forever. But it bolsters Conde Nast’s esteem, so that’s part of their agenda.

disposablecity: haha. you all are so pathetic.
these women are all beautiful, these photos are beautiful, quit trying to talk yourself out of being depressed that you'll never have anything close.

What’s your agenda?
I want to have my work published.

Have you ever thought about strangers masturbating to pictures you took, or pictures of your wife? And if so, does it thrill you a little? Or does it make you feel neutral/nothing at all?

The first time I thought about that was when I saw the comments, like: ‘I’m gonna go masturbate right now.’ I never thought about people masturbating to my wife. I don’t think the pictures are that overtly sexual.

cantstopwinning: Your wife is an understanding woman to take her clothes off for this lot.

I don’t think people would masturbate to those pictures either. I think they would segue into more hardcore porn sites – I think those pictures might make you horny and want to go to a porn site.

Yeah – there’s a lot more explicit stuff out there.

It’s been at the top of the most emailed section for a long time now. Did you expect that people would react so strongly?

I thought people wouldn’t care. Terry R. Ryan and Kern have shot this kind of stuff for Vice for a long time. But then again, maybe the title is a little bit more exciting. I had no forethought when I shot it.

What is your real job? Tell me about the last few months?

I worked in the photo department at Men’s Vogue, I was pretty much the assistant to the photo director. They went under two weeks ago. It has to do with the recession. Now I have no job.

Anonymous: Lucky bastard is just showing off now.

Are you going to try to shoot all the time now?

I’m happy now that I have a lot more time to work on my own projects.

Would you rather people see your work in a commercial/pornographic or more of an art Context?

I don’t think there is too much of a difference between artistic and commercial photography anymore. I suppose if you just do it for yourself then it’s considered art. But then you find an outlet for it, and get money for it, and then it’s not so clear who you’re doing it for anymore.

Anonymous: Ok, seriously, what the fuck, do I have the longest breasts in the world or what? After looking at these I feel like one of the mothers from a trade aid advert. How the fuck does this work, I’m only 17, they, huh? so confuseddd!!!!!!

What about the girls out there who feel bad about themselves?
The only girl breasts in those pictures are Laura P’s (the girl leaning against the window), Jen’s - who is full frontal, and Laura’s - my wife. Laura has like, zero breasts. You can’t say if they are perfect or not. They are small. Laura P’s you can’t tell. They’re from the side.

Jennifer I think is one in a million so far as how good her breasts look. I wouldn’t feel bad about that.

I’m just lucky enough to have a model with breasts like hers.

More girls probably look like the seventeen year old in the comments section, with her long breasts.