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Philadelphia photographer Jim Groves explored
the female form amidst urban decay until recently moving to LA. He took
some time to speak with us about how his art is transitioning, his love
of legs and his inspirations.
Sez G: You studied in Philadelphia. What's the fashion and model industry like there?
Jim Groves: I really didn't get involved with the mainstream fashion industry there. In the mid-nineties, I was involved with various fetish fashion events and designers, such as Rubberlution (Philly) and Ophelia Unbound (NYC). Most models and designers who want to grow professionally in the industry leave Philadelphia for LA or NYC.
Unfortunately, many beginning models in Philadelphia have been convinced by "managers" to ask for unrealistic rates for the same type of work you would hire a model of equal or higher caliber for anywhere else. However, I still have many friends in Philadelphia who do pin-up and erotic imagery, and it seems to be picking up there. The photographers are finally starting to band together, which will definitely help to strengthen the community.
EZ: When and why did you move to LA? How's the creative fodder there?
JG: I had a corporate job in the photographic industry that required a lot of travel, and I enjoyed working with people in the LA area. Since most of the people I am interested in working with were out here, I took a transfer. I left the job shortly after moving here, and started to focus on my personal work.
I've met many great people here who are active in the industry, modeling, photography, etc., which is good for keeping my creativity flowing. There have been some difficult times and the move was a big change, so I am still working on getting back to the shooting schedule I had in Philly. Part of the problem is finding shooting space. In Philly, I had a 1750 sq/ft raw live/work loft with a parking space for $950/month. You can't touch anything in LA for less than $1,500, and then it's no where near as large as my loft was. There are day rental studios, but they don't lend themselves to impromptu creative situations. LA doesn't seem to have the urban ruin I love shooting in either. In Philadelphia, you can't throw a rock without hitting a dilapidated building that is completely accessible. I am slowly learning the lay of the land here though, and networking with other photographers may turn up new possibilities.
EZ: How did you get into photography?
JG: Ha ha... I was a big astronomy geek when I was younger. My parents got divorced and my mother remarried. My stepfather used to do photography as a hobby before his eyes went bad. He taught me how to take pictures through my telescope, at first. I was in the mentally gifted program at school, and began studying photography then. I got hooked, and haven't put a camera down since.
EZ: Where do you meet your models? Are they professionals or recent converts for your lens?
JG: Both. I started out shooting friends in the industrial scene in Philadelphia after I got out of the Navy in 1994. I began getting a reputation as a good photographer, and it went from there. Once the internet became more accessible to people, and modeling sites like One Model Place sprang up, I was able to find more models in my area, and work with models traveling through Philadelphia or during my own travels. I've been attending conventions lately, which has helped get my name and work out there.
EZ: I see several recurring faces in your portfolio. Do you have a muse?
JG: Not really. My girlfriend, Shannon, models for me often. Living in Philly over the years, I tended to work with certain models and friends repeatedly as our creative ideas evolved. Although I haven't been good about updating my site lately, I have many new images coming soon. Those updates will show the work in my final days at the loft in Philadelphia and the growing body of work with west coast models. If there is a consistent muse in my work, it is the fascination and appreciation of the female form, particularly women in stockings and vintage lingerie with a modern fetish edge.
EZ: You have a section of your portfolio dedicated to aviation. What's your connection to the sky?
JG: My grandfather worked for Martin Marietta in Baltimore, MD, making parts for various aircraft. He made parts for everything Martin produced while he was working there, including the Space Shuttle and B-1 bomber. He used to take me the National Guard base next to the Martin plant just outside of Baltimore to watch these military aircraft take-off and land when I was younger.
I took an aerospace technologies class in high school, but never had the money to get my pilot's license. I worked on the photographic reconnaissance system for the F-14 while on active duty in the Navy, and then was a qualified aircrewman for P-3Cs while in the reserves as a photographers mate. I may soon have access to a hanger and two aircraft, so I am hoping to get my pilot's license in the future.
EZ: What's your relationship with the fetish community? How involved are you in it?
JG: My stepfather was a leg man. I used to find his leg fetish videos in my teens, and started looking at women in short skirts at an early age. I love the look and feel of nylons on a woman's leg, especially the spot behind the knee and where the top of the stocking meets the smooth skin. I prefer the old fashioned heels, too. I think the platform shoes of today make a woman's foot look like a hoof.
I became friends with a few dommes during the mid-nineties while promoting and photographing fetish/industrial clubs, and started shooting images for them. Since then, I've always been involved with the fetish scene in some way. While I indulge in my own leg/stocking fetishes and certain provocative play, I am not a strict lifestyler.
EZ: What's coming up for you in the future?
JG: More shooting!!! I am currently publishing and self-producing my first independent book which will contain approximately one hundred images from my first ten years of professional work. It will be a mixture of fetish, pinup and some portraits in both B&W and color.
I have also been asked to participate in a book with four other photographers back in Philadelphia, being orchestrated by Scott Church, which will also include work from LC Wilson, Viva Van Story, and Sandy Ramirez. I will also continue to submit work to print magazines from time to time.