In the distance beyond the Spiral Jetty on the northeast shores of The Great Salt Lake is an area that I had often longed to visit when I was up in the area shooting. I knew there was an adventure waiting for me there but was so focused on working around the Jetty and Rozel Point that I never seemed to allow enough time to go there before the sun went down. On one particular shoot one summer I took a picture of the area and in my mind made plans to go there one day.
My first adventure in this area was with a guy named Matt who'd flown in from Dallas to have me do some pictures of him. As we hiked out towards the beach from the end of the road at the Jetty I noticed something big and white up on the hill to our right. It seemed completely out of character with the black volcanic basalt stones that dot the area amidst the sage and low-growing desert plants. I wanted to shoot in the water but in the back of my thoughts was an itch to go see what that big white formation on the hillside was all about. So after a few minutes in the water we hiked up to the big white boulder on the hill. And that's where we got the pictures we'd come for that day.
Imagine my surprise when we found not one, but two giant white sandstone formations that had been worn by the eons of time, towering majestically above the landscape and reminding me of the Stonehenge monoliths in England. As I looked down over the epic view of the Great Salt Lake below it seemed only fitting to call this area Stonehenge Beach. I had looked for it on several maps and found nothing, so I figured it was mine to name.
Over the past several years as I've been observing people's responses to my work I've noticed that online galleries that allow comments on my imagery have become a valuable resource; in some cases opening a dialogue between me and the commenter that goes beyond just the, "Wow, nice work." I've come to realize that this process isn't just a stroking of my ego but rather a way of getting to know my audience and seeing what it is that they respond to. This informal gathering of information in my head doesn't touch what I do in the creative process but it does at times influence what I share publicly and what goes into my books and collections.
Icarus - Trace Sky
One of the most popular images in my current collections (pictured below) surprised me. I had always liked the piece but didn't think it was that big of a deal until I began to see how enthusiastically and consistently people were responding to it. Instead of letting it fade into the background as so many of my pieces do I started keeping it front and center where after several years it continues to be one of the most viewed, commented on and favorited of any of my images. That said, I've never tried to duplicate it or create other images in its vein in order to curry favor with my audience. Several years after taking the picture I still view it with a certain dispassionate curiosity; often wondering what it is about this piece that resonates with so many people.
Narcissus Gazed - Steve Sandvoss
Where my work in Hollywood was about making my clients happy, the work I do these days is about making me happy. When I take a model out to the Great Salt Lake and photograph them in those briny waters it's about satisfying something compelling and mysterious within me. Even if no one ever saw the pictures I would still be making them because back in the quietness of my home I love looking at them. Some of my fine art nudes have been with me for decades and have become like silent companions who fill my life with wonder without ever saying a word. Odd companions but ones with an old shoe comfort nonetheless.
This image was shot on 35mm Kodachrome. I scanned from the original transparency and did post work in photoshop to loosely recreate the feeling of the Sistine Chapel Frescoes before they were cleaned in the 80s and early 90s. As a child growing up in Rome I had only ever seen the frescoes in their soiled and darkened state. Seeing them for the first time after the restoration was an amazing experience. That said, the frescoes before the restoration were the foundation for my development as an artist and the effects of aging notwithstanding I was able to see clearly into the beauty of our bodies the way Michelangelo presented them.
Contemporary influences include Herb Ritts, Bruce Weber, Greg Gorman, Annie Liebovitz, Paul Freeman and Claire Jean among many others.
Ritts and Weber created imagery in the beginning of my career that somehow made it acceptable to photograph men with unapologetic openness.
Liebovitz's work made it clear that her comfort with and respect for the people she photographed created a level of intimacy in her portraiture that stood her apart from the crowd.
Greg Gorman's black & white nudes in his book "As I See It" speaks to a trust and intimacy with his models that I aspire to and am inspired by.
Paul Freeman has given us skillfully crafted portraits of both male and female athletes that echo the classic Greco-Roman status and veneration once reserved for the Gods.
And finally, French artist and photographer Claire Jean who lives in Brazil creates with a joy for people, earth and color that has excited me and riveted my attention more than any other living artist.
While the work of these gifted photographers has inspired me over the years it doesn't generate in my a desire to copy them, but rather rather join them in their unabashed love of what they do and to craft with the same skill and passion they do.