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German fetish and goth photographer Thomas van de Scheck loves his work, as is evident in all of his stark, playful images. Both he and his models clearly have a great time cavorting with fetish clothes, props, the camera and each other. Through their unbridled creativity, his photographs express the often unexplored playful side of fetish, ultimately expanding the community and our view of it. We spoke with Thomas about loosening the reins on fetish art and teasing in a more traditional sense of the word.
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Sez G: You were born in Cairo, Egypt, later moved to Hamburg, Germany, and now live in Fulda. How did you end up in Germany?
Thomas van de Scheck: My parents are German, but they lived and worked in Cairo when I was born. After my father's death, we moved back to Germany. A few years later my mother was married again. She and her new husband settled in Hamburg, so I spent most of my youth in this wonderful city.
Thirty years later I thought that there must be more than living your whole life in the same city, so I moved to Fulda. This town is much smaller than Hamburg and not so diversified, so I can concentrate on the important things in my life… my art.
Sez G: What's the fetish and goth community like in Fulda?
Thomas van de Scheck: There is none! Fulda may be the most Catholic town in Germany… or in the world. I have problems subordinating myself to existing structures, so I'll never be a full member of this confraternity. That's why I started to work with models and business partners outside Fulda.
Now, my days here are numbered. I will move to Rosenheim, a beautiful town
near the border of Austria where Fetishuniverse
(my best customer) has its business. We will be able to cooperate much better
in the future, and working with international models will be less complicated.
Sez G: Speaking of your models, they all look like they're having so much fun being playful and throwing attitude. What is the shooting environment like?
Thomas van de Scheck: Hm, good question… I really don't know. At the moment, I don't have a professional studio, just a nice comfortable atelier where I live and work. I think it's more important how I deal with my models. I ask them about their feelings, and then I take them seriously. Furthermore, I ask them what they want to do and develop all my photos together with them so they feel good about it. The work is very relaxed and most of the time we have a lot of fun.
Sez G: Where do you find them?
Thomas van de Scheck: I don't find my models, they find me! They contact with me via the internet and come from all over Germany, the UK, France, Switzerland and Austria. Some I know better than others because I have worked with them more often. A fistful of models I now call my friends.
Sez G: Where does all the spectacularly hot clothing come from?
Thomas van de Scheck: Most of the clothing is from Fetishuniverse,
and some is from Torture
Garden. Sometimes the models have something from their own wardrobe,
some basics like shoes or something else they might own.
Sez G: Your shoots are very creative and often have one really unusual prop (a squirrel, a horse head mask, "beauty" gas, a kiddie pool, a stuffed cow, etc.). How much collaboration is there with the model before and during a shoot?
Thomas van de Scheck: The collaboration with my models is everything! Before we meet we always have a phone call to develop the ideas. This way we know what kind of requisites and accessories we badly need. Sometimes I manage this; sometimes the model does.
Sez G: Do you only shoot in a studio or do you sometimes shoot on location? Why do you prefer the studio?
Thomas van de Scheck: No, I never shoot on location. I'm limited to my studio with a white background. I don't like anything to detract from the ultimate message of a picture, so I reduce it to the max.
Sez G: Which came first for you, fetish and goth or photography? How did you come to unite the two?
Thomas van de Scheck: In the mid-nineties I played in a goth band named Cancer Barrack and recorded some albums. After the band ended, I started writing and painting, and in 1998 I bought my first camera to take pictures for paintings. One year later, the photos were done well enough that I thought it might be worth going into photography. The first models I worked with came from the tattoo and piercing scene; then bit by bit the models changed from the goth to the fetish scene.
Sez G: Your new photo book H.E.L.P.
was just released in March. Congratulations! How did you decide what to
include in the book and what can we expect to see in it?
Thomas van de Scheck: Thank you very much! I have divided the images in H.E.L.P. (which stands for "Hell Enters Life Permanently") into three chapters. The first chapter, HELL (How Evil Looks Like), continues the themes from my previous book CUTS with images that represent issues like inner fears, the battle with one's own body and rebellion against institutionalised society.
A figurative exploration of the way society "lays its hands on people" and interferes with individual freedoms is the basis of the second chapter, entitled LIFE (Lessons In Free Experiences). The third chapter, PVC (Pictures Versus Commerce), is the selection of my favourite fetish fashion pictures, including many created in collaboration with Fetishuniverse, to demonstrate that it is possible to sell fashion with funny pictures.
Sez G: Sounds great, we look forward to checking it out! What's next for you?
Thomas van de Scheck: You know, an idle brain is the devil's workshop … that's why I'm working on my next publications without respite and have a lot of exhibitions in Germany, Austria, Switzerland and maybe Italy scheduled. Also, one of my next aims is to establish myself in the 'odoriferous' world of fashion. For example to shoot a beautiful girl in ripped jeans for a well-known designer…'cause this is one of my most deepest wishes, and maybe one of the only real fetishes I have.
To learn more about Thomas van de Scheck, visit www.tvds.de.
Thomas van de Scheck - by Sez G.