Copy what you like, copy everything. By copying other people, you learn, but you end up putting yourself into the work so it won’t ever be an exact copy.
Do you find working with subjects that aren’t models difficult?
Sometimes when you shoot with someone that doesn’t work as a model, you can sculpt and pose them. They don’t really know how to pose so they’ll really just listen to your directions, some times it’s just easier. Other times it can just be really awkward. If you just don’t hit it off, it’s going to be really difficult and just over all a hard day. I want to pose and control everything.
Did you get most of your posing from when you studied fine art and figure drawing?
Yeah, mainly from Renaissance and figure drawing courses. You can honestly make up what you like. It’s just an understanding anatomy and having the subjects feel good about what they’re most self-conscious about. One of best things you can do as a photographer is study figure drawing, you learn all about lighting and how figures interact with light.
There’s a level of vulnerable when it comes to getting your photos taken, how do you establish a sense of comfort for your subjects?
Once you meet me, come to my house, see the art on the walls, meet my family. They see that there’s a lot of love in this house and see my work, they start to feel more comfortable. They’ll start to understand that we’re making art. If you’re honest, people will give it back to you. It’s like a mirror.
Is there anything you’re trying to say with your work or are you just practicing your craft?
I think the message is I’m in love. What I mean by that is, when you love someone, you respect them. I don’t want people to look at my pictures and get sexually aroused by them or desire the models. It’s not about desire, it’s about being in awe. I photograph people of all sizes and shapes. I want people to feel comfortable with their bodies and love themselves for who they are.
What were some of the influences on your style of photography
My Dad is a photographer and my uncle is a painter. I spent my life growing up around artists. I do wood printing, I paint, I draw, I went to the Art Center since I was 15, I love movies. I’m dyslexic so I don’t read, can’t read books so I stick to all things visual. My dad has been shooting nudes since I was a kid. He was always open about it and explained everything to me.
Roberto Ysais (Edward’s father walks into the room)
I asked to take a photo of him, he declines.
It’s interesting how most photographers like to take pictures, but often do not like to be in pictures themselves
Roberto: One is in their photography no matter what. When I’m confronted with another person’s painting, what I’m confronted with is another person’s face. When you look at a piece of artwork, you’re looking at the individual creator. The pictures we take are just an expression of who we are and what we like. When you like something, you never say, “I like that because it’s like me,” you relate to it because of what it means to you. It’s like a flag or a song that makes you want to cry.
It’s about feeling like you’re a part of something bigger and there are others that feel the way that you do.
Roberto: That’s how war works, how do you get people to give their life to something? By making them feel like they’re part of something bigger, giving them a sense of meaning and immortality. Man’s motivation is primarily derived from our fear of death and a desperate need to feel important.
What are you trying to capture with your subjects and what was it like to have Edward around as you did your photo-shoots?
Roberto: Woman want to be seen the way they truly want to be seen. I once asked this woman that always came to me for photos, “why do you always come to me for shots?” She said, “you see me the way I see myself, the way I want to be seen, how I want to be appreciated and loved.” As a matter of fact, when he (Edward) was a kid, he was like 8 years old, he says:
Edward: “Dad! Dad! I know exactly how to shoot a woman.”
Roberto: “How’s that?”
Edward: “You take your shoes off and put on the shoes of the man that loves her the most.”
Photos courtesy of Edward Ysais