Back to Writing / 8-02-2005

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Cloaked in shadows with occasional sparks of color, the subjects of River Clark's photographs pop from their surroundings with vivid, shocking beauty. Clark's uncanny ability to seize the viewer with subtlety exemplifies why he's one of the most sought after fashion and beauty photographers today. We spoke with him about how he finds beauty in his subjects, how he teases his viewer and the many facets of his artistic endeavors.

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Sez G: You come from a large family of artists, including your twin brother and two other siblings. Where did you grow up and what was it like in such a big and creative household?

River Clark: I do have a huge family and have to give them all credit for where I am today. They are all very supportive and loving, and I am still very close with all of them.

In addition to having 8 brothers and sisters, I am also a twin, which definitely had a lot to do with my competitive nature and drive for perfection. My parents were in a constant state of wanderlust, so we grew up all over the place. I've been to 48 states at this point and lived in 20 or more.

Sez G: Your images are very striking, clean and professional. How did you start shooting photographs and how long have you been doing it?

River Clark: My grandfather was a fashion and pinup photographer in the 60's. He gave me my first camera when I was 4 and I've been obsessed ever since!

Sez G: Many of your images have a darkness or flatness in the lighting, even the ones shot on sunny days. Sometimes your models are so shadowy, I feel like the image is teasing the viewer with what is hidden. Tell me about how you began to play with the absence of light and how it has directed your craft.

River Clark: I don't know why, but I've always had an affinity for light. I was the family photographer growing up, and I remember my mom would always get mad at me because I would waste all the film taking pictures of sunsets or reflections and hardly got any shots with people in them.

Now I hardly shoot anything without people. I love capturing emotion and passion… there is no better subject than humanity. Everything in life has dark and light; without one the other would not exist. I definitely love the tease of shadow and to leave something to the imagination.

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Sez G: How much of what the models do is under your direction? A lot of your models hide in their hair. Do you use fans? Do you always have a stylist?

River Clark: I hardly ever use a stylist; I usually do my own styling or just collaborate with the models. I do give a lot of direction most of the time, but sometimes I find it works better to just sit back and wait for that perfect moment. As for the hair, I use whatever works. There are a million different ways to make hair come alive.

Sez G: Many of the people you shoot have an untouchable, classic, superhuman beauty. Where do you find them?

River Clark: Actually, most of them found me. Some of them are very close friends, but most of them saw an image they liked and hired me to do something similar for them. As for superhuman, I believe my job as a photographer isn't to find beautiful people, but to find the beauty in people. I think everyone is beautiful, and I love being able to find that beauty and make people feel good about themselves.

Sez G: I know your name well from many of your exquisite shots of our featured fetish models, but I barely see any fetish on your website or even your OneModelPlace page…

River Clark: My fetish is photography! That being so, my website is all fetish. Seriously though, I like to shoot everything. I love fashion, beauty, architecture, people, still life... I don't really stick to any one genre; I like to do it all.

Sez G: You also do furniture design, a craft which seems to me to be the opposite of photography. Are they more similar than I realize? How does this tap into a different area of your creativity?

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River Clark: I have a degree in architecture as well as photography, and I love both. Furniture has always been a passion of mine. I love anything that has to do with design, but furniture is much more usable to me. Most of my designs deal with lighting and focus on making people look better. I have a whole series of bedroom furniture and lighting designs that are specifically designed to create and add to fantasy.

Sez G: And you do filmmaking! Where does the inspiration for that come from and what's your process like?

River Clark: Photography and film are virtually the same thing to me; they both deal with visual creativity. The main thing film offers above and beyond photography is the ability to add sound and motion. My inspiration is life, therefore my process is mostly free spirited and spur of the moment. I like to take advantage of the sweet little accidents. I love detailed shots with lots of close-ups and mood setters.

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

River Clark: I'm working on a really fun campaign that will be out in Vogue, Elle, InStyle and tons of other great magazines. I'm also writing my first screenplay. It's a psycho thriller about an obsessed photographer. Hopefully I'll begin filming it by the end of the year.

I have some great ideas for TV shows that I'm pitching to HBO soon. I'm going to keep playing and living life to the fullest. I'm planning a lot of travel as well. I've been dying to go to Australia and New Zealand.

We look forward to seeing your work evolve across all mediums! You can learn more about River Clark at

River Clark - by Sez G.