Back to Writing / 3-15-2005

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Erotic photographer Steve Diet Goedde has a discipline and integrity in his camera work that is unique in the fetish world. The artistry comes from his vision, and the camera is merely a conduit. The result of a shoot is often a single roll of black and white film with 16 striking, finalized shots that will be neither cropped nor digitally manipulated. We see the scene as he has, and it has produced a candid, honest, intimate discourse between artist, model and viewer.

Nowhere is this direct communication more clear than in his recent DVD release Living Through, which contains 700 images offering a wide retrospective of his career. Steve spoke with us about his artistic values and recent DVD release.

Eros Zine: You are an extremely prolific photographer. How often are you shooting and how much of a roll makes it onto your site or into your portfolio?

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Steve Diet Goedde: How often I shoot varies. I basically shoot when I feel like shooting. For the past couple years, I've only done about a dozen or so shoots. I have enough new material for about two books, so I'd rather stop shooting and concentrate more on promotion and business matters.

When I do shoot, I take pictures vary sparingly. When I'm looking through that view finder, I see a photo. If that photo isn't up to my standards, then I don't snap the shutter. I just play around with mood and composition until just the right moment happens. Then I take a shot. For each shoot, I take either 16 or 32 shots (16 shots on a roll of medium format film). Of those shots, I put about 95% of them on my members site.

I've never liked the method of shooting hundreds of images and then picking out a few random good shots. With that ratio, anybody can be a photographer. If you have a pre-conceived idea or vision, you shouldn't have to shoot and shoot and shoot and hope you get something good. You should just be able to tell if it's a good shot when you look through the lens.

Sez G: You shoot a lot of black and white. What factors go into you choosing to shoot a roll of color instead?

Steve Diet Goedde: When I first started shooting, I ONLY shot black and white. I had no interest in color photography at all. My black and white is so specific in its style and tone. I never really felt like I had a color palette or style, and I still don't. It was my friend Molly who designed all the amazing latex for her company So Hip It Hurts that pushed me into shooting color work. She needed accurate depictions of her very colorful designs. I reluctantly agreed.

Now, I'm not putting down my color work; I'm quite proud of a lot of my color images, but it's just not my favorite thing to do. If I do end up shooting color now, it's mainly because there are very colorful elements involved, whether it's a model's hair or a very colorful environment. If a model is pale and is wearing predominantly black clothing, that's a black and white shoot. If she's got bright red hair set against a lush green environment, then I'd shoot color.

Sez G: What's a "typical" shoot like for you? How many people are involved, how much direction do you give the models and how much is planned vs. spontaneous?

Steve Diet Goedde: My shoots almost always comprise of only me and the model. Since I only use available light, I have no need for assistants or technical people. On occasion, I have used make-up artists, but that is fairly rare. I like the shoot to be as close to "real life" as possible. I don't like my shoots to be productions. They have to feel like natural occurrences between two friends, but the only difference is that there just happens to be a camera and lots of sexy clothing. I try to avoid anything seeming contrived or too set-up.

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In regards to direction, it varies per model. There is no particular method. It just depends on the chemistry that the model and I have at the time. It's all very spontaneous and organic.

Sez G: You're known for taking the fetish siren out of the scene and capturing her in more natural environments, allowing her to carry the image instead of relying on props. How did this direction develop for you?

Steve Diet Goedde: When I first started taking fetish photos in 1990, I lived in an industrial area of Chicago. I had an infinite amount of textural, grimy, and bleak environments to work in. I had first developed an appreciation for this kind of imagery thanks to early David Lynch, especially Eraserhead and The Elephant Man. It was an easy and obvious choice to make when choosing my locations.

In general, I love all natural and mundane environments. I value the familiarity that these kinds of locations bring. It has an effect on the viewer and their appreciation and relationship with the images. Photographs taken in empty studios are very distant and the models seem unapproachable. I want to bring the model down to a familiar level with the viewers.

Sez G: Are you always behind the camera when it comes to the fetish and BDSM scenes? How involved are you in the culture?

Steve Diet Goedde: I've always had my personal kinks. I've been familiar with them before I even knew what sex was. They definitely shaped the fetish aspects in my photography. In regards to the scene, I know a lot of people in the fetish/BDSM world. I don't play publicly though, just socialize.

Sez G: How is the process of selecting images for a DVD different than compiling a book? Is it more liberating?

Steve Diet Goedde: With a book, you have a finite number of pages to work with, so the selection of images is VERY critical. In the DVD format however, I was given a vast amount of space to work with. So basically, there's fifteen years of work on there. All my classic images are represented in addition to scores of never before seen work, plus all my latest work. I think there's about 700 images in total on the DVD along with documentaries, photographer and model interviews, commentary, etc...

Sez G: Did you learn anything new about your art and direction while selecting this huge quantity of images? Did it help you step back and assess where you are, or are the images so familiar to you that it felt more organizational?

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Steve Diet Goedde: While accumulating all the work for the DVD, I definitely sensed a personal growth as an artist. I always want my art to evolve, so it bums me out whenever I feel like I'm stuck in one particular style. The last thing I want to be is a cookie-cutter artist, creating the same kind of photo over and over again. Like any artist, I do get in creative ruts and feel as if I'm not bringing anything new to the table. In those moments, I just work on promotion instead.

Sez G: You also do web design. Do you think pondering layout in terms of html capabilities has had any effect on how you stage, shoot, frame and crop your images?

Steve Diet Goedde: Well, first of all, I do not crop ANY of my images. I do not manipulate my images in any way. I value the integrity of the moment the image was shot. All elements of that moment were my decisions when I took the shot. My images do not lie.

As far as web design goes, there are certainly similarities to my photography. Composition-wise, I design and photograph with structured grids. In photography, however, it's more subconscious. Also, in both web design and photography, I do not rely on heavy technical skills. I only know basic html, and I love working with that restriction. Same thing with cameras. I only know the basics of using a camera. It's these limitations that have provided me with my individual style. It's funny, when taking photos, I don't use a flash, and in web design, I don't use Flash. Get it?

Sez G: Low maintenance! What's coming up next for you?

Steve Diet Goedde: Most of 2005 I'll be busy promoting the DVD. A European publisher is printing a Steve Diet Goedde calendar for 2006. I'm in negotiations with a few book publishers for a new book in 2006. I'm also working more on my other photography project, phonecam art.

Thanks Steve, we wish you great success with the new DVD. You can learn more about Steve Diet Goedde at

Steve Diet Goedde - by Sez G.