Back to Writing / 6-07-2005

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Houston based photographer Lithium Picnic shoots powerful fashion, fetish and conceptual pieces. Whether it's a magazine supermodel or a dark and funky Suicide Girl, his images are meticulously lit, set and framed, presenting more than a pretty face. Sometimes quietly harrowing and other times brimming with electric energy, they shock the viewer with something beyond beauty. Lithium Picnic spoke with us about his precarious relationship with the fetish world and how he keeps so busy.

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Sez G: When did you first turn your camera towards the fetish world and why?

Lithium Picnic: I have been shooting for about 10 years, and I've always had a fondness of the obscure and abstract - images that are engaging and pull you into the photo. When used well, nudity and fetish themes can add a lot of intensity and potency to art, but I don't like fetish work that uses cliché imagery as a crutch for the lack of good ideas or creativity.

My work fluctuates between "pretty," well-composed shots in interesting locations and more abstract, artistic work. I'm not sure if I chose photography or photography chose me. I just gravitated towards it and found myself more and more consumed - spending 14 hours a day shooting, editing, or studying.

Sez G: And seemingly in constant evolution... You've shot several of the top models in the industry as well as many of the up-and-comers. Do you have any muses? What's your relationship like with your models?

Lithium Picnic: Apnea has been extremely influential in my work. She's an amazing model and stylist and is always evolving, growing and coming up with new ideas and styles.

I invest a lot of myself in my work and in the relationships with the people I work with. I'm very fortunate to have the group of models I work with. Most of them are artists in their own right. I usually choose to work with people who are stretching, growing and pushing themselves, and the relationships continue to evolve as we all do. Most of the models in my portfolio are friends and faces you will see again in my future work.

Sez G: You shoot a lot of the Suicide Girls. How did your collaboration with them develop?

Lithium Picnic: Sean came across some of my work online and invited me to shoot for the site.

Sez G: Good call on their part! You have an exceptional, harrowing portrait gallery on your site. They feel almost more intimate than your fetish and nude shots. Why did you create your own web space dedicated to portraits, and what about them draws you in?

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Lithium Picnic: Thank you. I have over 1,200 images on the Lithium Picnic site. They used to be grouped by "shoot" or "girl," but it became unmanageable. I sat down one afternoon and broke my work down into major categories and the types of work I really enjoy and want to pursue.

One of my goals for the site and the regrouping is that it will help sell more of these types of projects to clients. I plan to do more editorial work for magazines, and I have a book in the works.

Sez G: Speaking of clients, your bio mentions the you've been the Creative Director and Brand Consultant to some Fortune 500 companies. How similar or dissimilar is it to the rest of your work? Has working under clients' relatively strict, market-driven constraints influenced your personal artistic process?

Lithium Picnic: The experience and project management skills I developed working at Sapient have been invaluable. Jerry Hirshberg, the former head of the Nissan design team, wrote a great book called The Creative Priority about creative and technical teams working side by side and how they harnessed creative energy under tight deadlines and technical restraints. Those are the types of skills I learned doing brand strategy and consulting.

I'm a pragmatist. I have lofty, creative ideas, but I am willing to compromise and work with what is available. Every shoot is a creative problem-solving process for me - how to light it best and get the right emotion and posture from the model.

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Sez G: Do you shoot digital or film? How much computer retouching do you do?

Lithium Picnic: It depends on the project. I shoot both, but mostly digital. As I improve my lighting skills, I'm doing less and less retouching, but almost everything gets run through photoshop for a tweak or two.

Sez G: What's coming up for you in the future?

Lithium Picnic: A book. A new studio. A DVD. Next week I'm shooting in Berlin. I'll have a gallery show in Paris in September and be at the Rubber Ball in London in October. And I'll schedule trips to Detroit, NY and LA somewhere in between.

Sez G: Busy! Do you have any personal fetishes?

Lithium Picnic: Ha! [grin]

Sez G: Um, that's not an answer! Guess we'll just draw our own conclusions from your work. What is Lithium Picnic? When did you form it and how many people are involved in it now?

Lithium Picnic: My original vision for Lithium Picnic was that it would be co-op of sorts. When I started this about two years ago, I wanted it to be a group of artists, models and stylists all collaborating in creative bliss. It sounds good in theory, but I've found more success acting as director and bringing in a team on a per project basis. Apnea is always behind the scenes and supportive - she sometimes styles my shoots, but she's got her hands full with her own work now. Lithium Picnic = me.

A delicious picnic of one! To learn more about Lithium Picnic, go to

Lithium Picnic - by Sez G.