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PHOTOGRAPHY BY RICK DAY

Rick Day on his latest book: Bel Ami (NSFW)

New York–based fashion photographer Rick Day has a gift of capturing the beauty of the male figure,” a gift made increasingly evident in his new book of photos featuring an intimate look into the lives and bodies of Bel Ami‘s best. After getting an exclusive look at Day’s book, we became so…allured we couldn’t resist asking him a few questions. Btw: NSFW.

 

How has fashion influenced your photography style? How does photographing nude models change that approach? As a self-taught photographer… I guess that fashion has sharpened my outlook on many aspects of photography… If definitely taught me to me more conscious of my lighting, along with paying attention to detail in both landscape and content.

 
What do you enjoy most about the male body? Body hair and hair patterns. I love the lines of a man’s body.

 
How did you approach incorporating the already established Bel Ami brand and aesthetic into these photos? Did you conscientiously want to elevate their known look or take things in a new direction? What is the difference, if any, between pornographic photos and the ones featured in the book?  What influence does pornography have on your work in general?  I think more than incorporating the Bel Ami brand into these photos I was interested in incorporating my aesthetic into the Bel Ami brand.  Also, I wanted to make the Bel Ami boys a bit more masculine, at least in regards to my own idea of masculinity.  There are many, many photographers that have shot these boys… And I think we each want to capture them in our own unique style. I think everyone has a different idea of what porn is. I don’t find my images pornographic at all.  If one has a problem with the male form nude, I wouldn’t recommend visiting the Sistine Chapel or the Accademia Gallery in Italy. I think there will always be people who are offended at just about anything, or have different ideas of what pornography is. I don’t find tying a dog to a wall and starving it to death as art, however some do. Is this art or cruelty?

 
You cite Bruce Weber as an early inspiration on your work, what initially captivated you about his work? I did purchase a book by Bruce Weber, “Bear Pond” 1990. I wouldn’t say he has necessarily inspired my “work,” but that book and the beautiful way that he shot the nude male models carelessly swimming, playing, and laying around the landscape of Bear Pond was something I had never seen before. I was hugely intrigued by the beautiful way he shot these images. I fell in love with his work immediately and decided to buy my first camera the next day. He inspired me to become a photographer.

 

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While porn stars might feel more comfortable being naked than the average model, did shooting porn stars present any unique problems? How did you go about creating such an intimate feeling in the photos? This is a great question. I would say there are pluses and minuses presented when shooting porn stars. The fact that they are porn stars is great because the are very comfortable being nude. However their comfort with this can often take away the innocence and modesty that an average model may have. Porn stars are used to almost enticing the camera with their sexuality rather than the camera enticing them. When shooting with Bel Ami it was a very different experience for me. In more “normal” circumstances, when shooting a model nude I am usually by myself with the model or maybe with one assistant. That in itself creates intimacy.  When I was shooting the Bel Ami Boys, I was never really alone with any of the guys. There was usually my assistant along with a Bel Ami videographer that taped everything. Also a translator was there, as most of the guys do not speak fluent english. But this lack of dialogue was able to create a somewhat intimate feeling.

 
Can you talk about juxtaposing the shots of models with shots of nature? The choice to use many closeup shots of various body parts? Each time I have shot for Bel Ami we have been in these gorgeous locations. The first time we were in 7 different locations in Cape Town, South Africa. Although the homes were gorgeous, it was a no brainer for me to want to photograph the guys in the beautiful outdoor locations. A lot of the images especially around the pool were really shot after the days shoots were over. All of the guys generally stayed nude and played around the pool. I would just find a spot where I would go unnoticed and shoot and shoot and shoot. The close up shots go back to the second question… I enjoy the hair patterns and lines of the men’s body. Also, I find pubic hair on the young stallions absolutely beautiful. It has a sheen to it that as a man ages tends to dull.

 
Were the group/action shots heavily directed with an idea in mind or did you simply observe the models interacting with each other? Some of the group shots were just the models interacting and some of them were slightly directed.

 
What did you hope to reveal about the Bel Ami boys or brand with this project? How did you go about deciding which photos would make it into the book? My main hope was to shoot beautiful images of the Bel Ami boys that I would love, and that the guys at Bel Ami would be proud of. Also, a lot of people like to think of anyone that is in porn as somewhat seedy or dirty… I have never thought that. I wanted to show that these are just beautiful boys and men that I had the pleasure of working with. These guys were so easy and sweet and accommodating to work with and I thank them for that. I would really have hated growing up in this world without the images of these men to look at. I had so many images that putting the book together was quite a task. I think we ended up with 5 different versions before putting together the final book. My business partner Steve and I spent a lot of time with John Cheim, “designer of the book” and who was also the designer of “Bear Pond.” That was such a thrill for me. Also, for the final layout I worked with the team at Bruno Gmuender (a publisher).

 

Lastly, does size matter? Definitely. The book is quite large and hefty.  😉

 

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Get the book here.