New York City photographer Adrian Buckmaster shoots beautiful studio art in the day and then heads out in the evening to capture the many colors of nightlife. He has a knack for seeing the perfect moment, and because of this, his subjects appear as richly textured, complex people instead of one-dimensional fetish models. Buckmaster lives his life fully and humbly, and the mirror of his camera allows us to enjoy this perspective in the erotically charged environments he finds himself in. We spoke with Adrian about truth, love and art.
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Sez G: You have an incredible portfolio of uniquely beautiful people out and about in the night. Where do you live?
Adrian Buckmaster: I live in Manhattan in the East Village. I have a room at the back and access to the yard where I built a small studio, but it falls down every winter so I have to rebuild it in the spring. It is very quiet except when the club next door goes till 5am, but I've made my peace with that.
Sez G: What clubs and events do you shoot at?
Adrian Buckmaster: Not that many, actually. I always shoot at Byte and SMack!, gatherings hosted by my friends such as Miguel Valentin, Shane Savant, Allison and Jennifer, Sparky, Sir Magnus, Abbe and Sheila and Kenny, Amber Ray and Muffinhead.
Sez G: Do you have a community you'd say you belong to?
Adrian Buckmaster: Well, it seems that I have been welcomed into a fairly disparate group of people. I think that if I were to somehow group them, it would be under the banner of "Truth, Love, and Art". I don't really make a distinction between the different kinds of people and places I shoot, dressed or otherwise.
...Well, that was only partly true. I do love being amongst Goths and Punks and Cyberpunks, Dominas and subs. I see so much love and compassion.
Sez G: How well do you know your subjects?
Adrian Buckmaster: There are some I am fortunate to count as very close to. I'm always aware of not seeing someone I have met in a while.
Some, although I may not have actually met them yet, I am very intimate with. I photograph them often, so when I go through the images, I enlarge them, and I see things in that person that blow me away. Sometimes I get cold chills or am in awe of what I am looking at. I really am allowed into people's lives at very private and intimate moments, and I don't mean that in a sexual sense only. I always feel I have been given a high honor that I try hard not to ever take for granted.
Sez G: You seem to always capture the perfect moment -- the kiss, the laugh, the look -- in what must be a fast-paced and kaleidoscopic environment. Do you have your camera poised and ready at all times when you go out?
Adrian Buckmaster: Like a trusty lance you mean?
Yes, as much as possible, with the exception of my son and daughter. I have found with them I would rather savor the moment without a piece of metal and plastic getting between us. That having been said, it's amazing to see pictures of my two kids from this distance in time, and I think I have a duty to them to save and treasure those pieces of film for their sake.
Sez G: How do you recognize that moment?
Adrian Buckmaster: The moment is now and now and now etc, What I mean is that I choose the moment, then all others cease to exist in my dimension. Of course, there are some very silly shots when I have completely missed the moment. Then I have to laugh at myself and hope nobody noticed.
Sez G: Do you ever get to relax and have some fun yourself?
Adrian Buckmaster: I don't think there is any difference between what I do to relax and my work. I am a photographer, I shoot, that's what I am supposed to do. I have realized its importance and that can never be taken away.
I get to choose when not to shoot based on what is demanded of me; though even then I am still recording in a different way. I am fortunate enough to do what I love for a living.
Sez G: What came first for you: photography, clubbing, or fetish?
Adrian Buckmaster: Photography… I started when I was nine. I read about how to develop film and make prints, but I was not able to get direct experience until I was sixteen, when I was a bartender. With my first paycheck I bought a Russian Zenith, a copy of the German Praktica. I developed my first roll of film in the clothes cupboard, standing between hanging coats and jackets.
I was never a clubber, and my fetish is something I would like to keep private, with your permission, between Me, the Divine and those who know me.
Sez G: Fair enough! When did you decide to unite all 3?
Adrian Buckmaster: It was not a conscious decision I made. As a fashion photographer, I have to organize a group of people and create a very structured environment to allow the best events to happen within that setting.
Shooting at a gathering is very different, and I am always looking for different ways to express the divine in my life. I am working with Flora and Fauna (not fetish models) and the daily life around me, so they have always been united.
Sez G: What was your first experience like bringing a camera into the club?
Adrian Buckmaster: Fools go where Angels fear to tread! But I was lucky, I was always warmly embraced, and I given much encouragement by all; I remember Sparky calling me over on one of my first shoots, telling me what she was about to do, and making me feel very welcome. I realized then how rare an opportunity I was being given and not to go and bugger it up.
Sez G: You do a lot of nightlife shooting on location, but your studio shots are also so personal and intriguing. What's the set like during your studio shoots?
Adrian Buckmaster: I keep my sets very simple, with as few people as possible…my stylist Cynthia Altoriso and Terri Grauel on hair and make up, and my assistant Allison Ugosoli. It's generally quiet, and I do as much as I can do to make everyone aware that regardless of what we are shooting we must all be professional and give our best. It's important to realize it is not rocket science, and where its place lies in the grand order.
Sez G: You shoot a wide variety of nudes…erotic, glamour, fetish, and every facet in between. What is your camera drawn to in a naked human body?
Adrian Buckmaster: I find myself getting a bit squeaky when I hear those definitions, but to be truthful to your question, it is because I feel the body is the dawn and dusk of everything, and as each sunrise and sunset is different, so too is each body. Square that with light and we are beyond an event horizon. Every place is the center of the universe. I think all things are the same and we should look for the truth of the thing.
Sez G: How much direction do you give your subjects?
Adrian Buckmaster: It depends on the subject. One of my favorite subjects is Velocity Chyaldd who I think has driven us to create a sum greater that its parts. She brings so much to the table, I am awakened.
Sometimes I don't direct at all. It's in the casting that the dye is set. Sometimes people are quite rigid and direct themselves, so they always look the same... celebrities really suffer from that problem. I don't like to work with people who have a mask. I don't like sunglasses for that reason…horrible things.
But the more I learn to respect people, the more trust I am given and it becomes a dance. But most of the time I am the conductor.
Sez G: Though many of your photos have vibrant streaks of color, others only have beautifully soft, unsaturated, subtle tones. How do you achieve that? How much planning goes into the lighting to create that effect (or do you let it happen organically)?
Adrian Buckmaster: I initially learned my lighting from being an architectural photographer, and then by reading pieces by great DPs such as Gordon Willis. My first portrait was of my dad and it's very architectural old school. I think I gravitate to the classics in most things, as I always come back to them, so Rembrandt, Turner, Goya, Hockney, Nerdrum are very much my rule and guide. I also like light from other beings and their inspiration.
One needs to be careful of Photoshop; it can be a very blunt instrument. I try to apply the same principles and ethics as I did in the darkroom and be honest with myself. I have had plenty of rescue jobs in Photoshop, but it's still very important to understand for what purpose I am shooting. Sometimes it is not clear, and that is when it's dangerous.
Sez G: You've mentioned the films The Hunger and Blue Velvet in the past to me (two great, complex movies!). What other films inspire you?
Adrian Buckmaster: The Cook the Thief His Wife & Her Lover, and as an antidote, Babettes' Feast. Gormenghast by Mervyn Peake was brilliant. Eraserhead, Brazil, Twelve Monkeys are some others.
Sez G: Where else do you draw inspiration from?
Adrian Buckmaster: Whatever is around me, and when I don't see that, I try and widen my circle until there is a ripple. I do believe that there is an endless fount of inspiration and that it dries up when it is ignored or abused in some manner. I feel that if I were to devote 24 hours a day to my art, I would not even scratch the surface of what has been given to me. Often my friend Cynthia will suggest an idea and we work on that. Music is a wonderful inspiration.
Sez G: What's next for you?
Adrian Buckmaster: A nice chicken curry with chana and spinach and roast potatoes which has been bubbling on the stove behind me.
To learn more about Adrian Buckmaster, visit AdrianBuckmaster.com.
Adrian Buckmaster - by Sez G.