Text and photographs by Hudson Manilla.
It is futile to search for perfection in a person for you will never find it; the secret is to search for beauty, for everyone is beautiful in their own way. Just remember though, it may take a while for you to first see, and then appreciate it.
Although I’m extremely grateful to Fabiano for the opportunity to heighten the profile of my work, I’m always wary of attempting to analyse it, particularly so from an intellectual perspective. You see, from the first images I made as a child, photography has never followed a particularly defined analytical thought process; it has simply been an intuitive desire, indeed a love, to express my creativity and capture real emotions and beauty in all its shapes and forms. I have always felt that when I begin to think about it in too much depth, it somehow distances me from it in a negative way; if I intellectualise about it, I lose precious time actually doing it, and doing it is what I love.
Since the release of my first book ‘ONE’, I have been contacted on a regular basis for further information on the project. Being a naturally reclusive person, I’m normally averse to interviews and the media in general, but as there has been such genuine interest in both the style and narrative contained in my work, I felt it appropriate that I should give some insight into the story behind ‘ONE’, and share my approach to how I shot for it.
Three years ago I was commissioned to shoot a CD cover for an LA based celebrity rock band. The brief from the rock band was to shoot two “rock chix” [sic] looking pretty sassy; if you will a modern uptake on the Roxy Music ‘Country Life’ album cover. I started doing test shoots with numerous girls both in the UK and USA. Through a friend of a friend, an editor from a UK magazine saw some of the images and remarked that they were a refreshing, and interesting deviation from typical work of that genre; she explained… “When I look at them I feel like I’ve found a secret hoard of photographs capturing intimate moments between you and your lovers.” Her interpretation intrigued me and motivated me to shoot more work in a similar vein. It has eventually led to the release of my first book titled ‘ONE’.
The production of ‘ONE’ was initially an organic process. As I travelled between the UK and USA shooting other projects a particular girl would naturally catch my attention, beyond her exterior appearance there would be an ‘inner beauty’ about her that appealed to me as a subject for the book. This could be attributed to any number of elements including her sensuality, creativity, honesty, good manners, or intellect. I could easily have hired a dozen glamour models from an agency and shot the book over a week or two, but that was not what I was aiming for, I wanted genuine subjects.
The perfect subject for me interprets the mood I’m trying to achieve and projects a strong sensuality. As a lover of beauty, I’m particularly interested in sensuality, the complicity between a woman and a man. I like to capture genuine intimacy mainly shown through a woman’s gaze. A good subject is able to seduce with her femininity and sensuality using a combination of her eyes, fingers, mouth, and her hands. Her body, and the level of nudity captured in the image is in most occasions, secondary to me.
The book project developed in a more structured fashion when I started to receive positive feedback on my work from respected industry professionals. Amongst them, Dian Hanson an editor at Taschen remarked that it was “lovely work”. It also came to the attention of Maxim Jakubowski, the editor of ‘The Mammoth Book of New Erotic Photography’, a stunning collection of images representing the work of over 70 of the most outstanding photographers in the world, all renowned for their exceptional nude and erotic work. It is due for release November 2010, and fortunately, I am one of the photographers featured.
People who collect my work often remark that although the image holds an interesting or powerful narrative for them, that aesthetically it is usually very clean and simple in its execution. I’d say not so much simplistic, as understated; I like the viewer to think for themselves, to elicit their own unique response to the subject. Beyond the title of the image, no amount of accompanying flowery verbiage will in any way relate the narrative structure withheld in the images I create. I’ve always felt visual communication has its own language and that the image will speak for itself.
I would call the way I create my imagery as ‘constructive photography’ in that I don’t just take a photograph, I make it. That is not to say there are no organic elements to it, but they are intuitively directed and controlled, however gently, by what emotions I’m feeling and trying to convey at that particular moment.
On a personal level I much prefer intrigue, intimacy, and privacy. When a door is opened into any secret world, however briefly, it makes the experience all the more alluring. I like the powerful sensuality my subjects portray, but also the vulnerability. Some of my subjects have had negative emotional issues and experiences in the past and I feel privileged that they feel comfortable enough to share such personal information with me whilst shooting. As I am mindful of the fact that they are revealing themselves not only in a physical sense, but also emotionally, the trust built up between myself and my subjects is sacrosanct. This is why I try to capture our moments together with great integrity; perhaps it is this element more than any other that defines my work.
Fortunately, the reaction from my subjects post shoot is always extremely positive. Many comment that they have never felt more beautiful and I find this extremely rewarding. For some, it is as though the experience has been cathartic, and that they have been emancipated from the mundane day to day human condition through their experience. As human beings I feel we all deserve to find happiness. From the moment we leave the womb the world we live in bombards us with negativity, war, suffering and misery on a daily basis. As a compassionate human being I try to help as much as possible, but I know there is only so much I can do to help alleviate this condition. If an artistic image I make can take people away from this, even for the most fleeting of moments, then I will feel I have made a contribution in a positive way, however modest.
Ultimately, my primary motive is to craft an artistic image that satisfies me creatively, the definition of that image as sensual or erotic is the viewer’s responsibility. Sexual attraction and response is probably one of the most powerful emotions we experience in life and I find it challenging to relate that in an artistic way, so from my position, I’d say the line between erotica and art interests me much more than the line between pornography and erotica.
From an artistic perspective, I have always tried to use my own eye and follow my own path. In recent reviews my work has very kindly been likened to Newton, Sieff, Carlos Clarke and Bourdin. Whilst I’m extremely humbled to be mentioned in the same breath as such icons, I’ve always done my own thing rather than be a derivative of others. Without sounding disrespectful or selfish, I shoot primarily for me. As long as I’m happy creatively with the imagery I make, then the rest can take care of itself.
Please visit Hudson Manilla for more nude and erotic photography.