Interview with Laurie Jeffery
Laurie Jeffery: All my professional life, god, that means nearly 20 years! My interest in photography started when I was still at secondary school. Although I was well on the road to becoming a professional classical musician, I discovered photography in an evening class held by one of the chemistry masters. When I saw an image on photographic paper appear as if by magic whilst being developed, I was totally hooked. Plus, I was dating the best looking girl in the school by far, and she wanted to model nude for me, music as great as is, had to take second place.
DOMAI: What is the difference between nudes and other art?
Laurie Jeffery: Personally I don't like to draw a distinction between the nude and other forms of art. An observation I have made though is that a great many other people do. Their loss.
For my part, I feel that art embraces and touches so much of our world and at such a fundamental level, what qualification can we have to say is and what isn't art? Another thought. One definition of what art is, is "the result of effort between an artist and the subject," then by definition nude art must be just the same.
DOMAI: In big parts of the world, there are big emotional problems with nudes, for instance few offices would allow them on the walls. What do you suppose is the cause of that?
Laurie Jeffery: Hmm, yes. I get this question a lot. I suppose that some people feel that a beautiful image on the wall of their work place distracts the people working there, is inappropriate and in some way exposes a part of themselves. My best guess is that this makes them feel uncomfortable, though I can't begin to explain why, certainly not as far as artistic depictions are concerned.
Some sad people tell me that they feel embarrassed or offended with nude images around the place. Again, why? What could be more natural? I'll admit that there are thousands of appalling images around that degrade the human condition, but there are also many that celebrate it. I'll further admit that the people who refuse to except this fact tire the hell out of me. I just wish they'd stop being so prudish and allow some beauty into their lives.
Or, perhaps, there is the one about nude images exploiting woman. Sure, many poor quality images are designed to do just, but not all and none that I have ever had anything to do with.
As it happens in my place of work there are nudes everywhere, books, photography, painting, sculpture, and mural; visitors and colleagues love it and so do I. As opposed to this being embarrassing, degrading or distracting we all find the environment is much enhanced and an inspiration.
Laurie Jeffery: In terms of image style there must an almost infinite amount. Every time there is a naked person in the mind of an artist there is the possibility of something new and an original nude being created. Generally though there tends to be two or three that most nude images fall into. The great, the good and the bloody awful.
I try very hard in my work with women to produce something great, something with meaning and beauty. Showing the viewer how wonderful the nude female form can be is part of my passion. It's impossible for me to achieve this single-handed however, and every image I make is collaboration between the model and myself. If I may, I'd like to take this opportunity to pay homage to, and to thank all the wonderful creatures that I've been privileged to work with. Within their minds and their bodies dwells genius. The next time you see a picture of say, Claire Daniels, look into her eyes, you'll see what I mean.
Laurie Jeffery: It seems to me that DOMAI acts like a filter. There is not a single image on the entire site that dose not celebrate the beauty of women. Or think of DOMAI as an island, or even better, a refuge, surrounded by a sea of polluted water. Polluted with the images and thoughts of those people with an infantile perspective.
Out there is an enormous amount of poor quality and indecent images. So much of this dreadful material in fact, that there is a real danger that some people may start to think of this as the norm.
Additionally, there are an awful lot of bogus idiots out there with cameras giving real photographers a bad name and plenty of places (not just on the net) where you can see the results. But not on the DOMAI site.
Retrospectively, because of and thanks to the Internet, there is now so much accessible rubbish or porn around, I believe and hope that the market for this type of material could be getting swamped.
Professional image-makers (yours truly) and non-professionals working with beautiful and some might say erotic images, are sometimes confused with pornographers. We are not. There are many things that set us apart. One is style, another is ability, but the main element is mind.
To quote the founder of DOMAI, Eolake Stobblehouse:
Never was there a truer word spoken, and it is, for me at least, what in part sums up DOMAI.
The term "DOMAI style" has now becoming part of my professional language when discussing images of a high quality and artistic content. It is however much more than that. Many people I have introduced to DOMAI now have a name for their life style. The bottom line is we relate to the images on one level and the philosophy on another, but the two interact on a very fundamental level. It seems that DOMAI has tapped into the part of our psyche that we always knew was there, but was never really explored.
When I was first contacted by Eolake around the millennium I was stopped dead in my tracks by the sheer quality of images and ethics displayed on the site. To say that it is an honor to have some of my offerings displayed in such esteemed company falls far short of the mark. I've even started shooting images specifically for DOMAI. Plus I now have my model friends lining up for me to photograph them "DOMAI style", in the hope that they too will make it on the site. We all want to make a difference.
Laurie Jeffery: A good question.
The Bodyscape project, large format (10x8 film), black and white landscapes and nudes I call fine art. For this project I have set a number of rules that I stick to as much as I can. The landscapes are as natural as I can find them and so are the models. Them emphasis being on natural and not fake beauty.
Just about all my other nudes I shoot digitally and this can be in my studio, on location, colour, or black and white. I still prefer the models to be as natural as possible but this is my own personal preference. By natural, by the way, I mean not having cosmetic breast enlargement and tattoos of "I love Bob" etc.
When other people see my work they see a big difference in the two styles and it's true, there is a difference. I do believe however that they work together insofar as they are all images of beauty. I also believe that each picture I shoot is a unique image of an individual in it's own right. Sometimes it's a shame to compare like for like.
Laurie Jeffery: Yes I agree but only to a point. Pornography does have a useful role to play in a society that otherwise shuns many natural sexual issues, still treats nudity as a taboo subject and openly embraces stifling Victorian mentalities.
Part of this idea is that with sophistication comes a feeling of detachment from the natural world. "I must have a new car, a faster computer, new wall-paper for the dinning room, the latest fashion, I haven't a thing to wear to the party next week, did you hear the joke about the actress and the bishop?" etc, etc.
To every "unsophisticated" collection or tribe of humans living a "simpler life", that is at one with their surroundings, able to live with nature and each other, the very idea of pornography is an abstract concept.
So, if I may, let me replace sophisticated with, er... enlightened. Yes, pornography is dull. Dull, dull, dull!
Within an enlightened audience who are aware of, and comfortable with nudity as a respectable art form, some pornography passes itself off as erotic art. I have the smallest of problems with the concept. Most porn that I have come across has been rubbish and I won't ever be able to class pornography as art.
I have however the highest respect for some artists who work with erotic images. And here is where a hazy line of what is erotic and what is pornographic needs to be drawn. I suppose it's about style. That is how an artist applies their skill in depicting an image of individuals being essentially, "nice" to each other, or showing parts of the body normally associated with indecency.
If a "turn on" is the only ambition of an image, it is really only a missed opportunity to create an image of deeper beauty. But this I find is almost never the case, after all, as far as the pornographer is concerned, what would be the point of that? No, at the real hart of the matter is money. If there is a "willing to pay" market place for pornography, pornographers will thrive, if the market dissipates, so will the porn.
I think most fine art photographers who shoot nudes, myself included, are so concerned that their work not be confused with pornography that we go to great lengths to keep out any type of sexual overtones. I did that for many years, but found the limitations were too strict to maintain any artistic integrity. It would be hypocritical to present the beautiful women I shoot in a completely non-sexual image, simply to pacify those who are fearful of a stimulated libido.
Laurie Jeffery: My honest hope is that fine art and other tasteful images will become more and more prevalent and that more people will accept them for what they are.
The nude is for me, hauntingly beautiful and enigmatic, almost mythical and a timeless vision of the female psyche, at once sensual and spiritual.
My work has evolved from monochromatic colour and back again, mirroring the enlarged scope and complexity of my latest body of work.
Over the past 20 years, in my work at least, an immediately recognisable signature style has emerged. Something that I hope will help to make the nude one of the most sought-after art forms.
The themes and issues explored in DOMAI, the personal journey we all take and the female psyche- will resonate through a wider spectrum of people interested in art, photography, and human development.
Laurie's own site: Ljp.co.uk