'I remember years ago a guy I knew told me that people going to England find exactly what they go looking for.'
Helene Hanff, 84, Charing Cross Road
Like Helene from the 1987 film, 84 Charing Cross Road, many of us who have never been to England have an idea of what it will be like in our heads. For Helene, the dream included everything she read about in classic English Literature. For others, the references are a bit more modern and a little more organic. FH has been fortunate to have been able to feature many of AANE PHOTOGRAPHY's shoots from around the globe, and today, we land in Southampton. 'I don't know if it is all those Warwick Rowers and SHU Rugby naked calendars, but I had developed a real interest in doing a nude shoot with an English bloke.'
Mike got his chance when he and his husband, and creative partner Fred ((THOM Graphophoton) were in the UK dropping their niece off at a liberal arts school near Portsmouth on England's south coast. Mike didn't find a rugby player or rower, but he did find the stylishly sexy Christie Brewster, a writer and artist whose work and tumblr he had been following. Mike pitched Christie a couple of ideas, some with a British theme, and after hearing Mike's idea's, Christie agreed.
The 23 year old Christie is an eclectic artist, who likes to work in any medium that can build his skills. Christie says that a lot of works tends toward portraiture, and therefore is often drawn to photography and modeling. Christie loves to collaborate, and his goal, much like my own with FH, is to gain experience and stories which he can use for his writing. Christie also has a long term goal of writing and designing music videos.
'I started modelling for projects with the intent to be a part of creative work that I can be proud of. A lot of creative people I knew in my teens had cameras and needed people to practice with. This goal took me to broader ideas and media, as human sculpture and installation works have proven rather fun. After my teens, I started taking what I could creatively contribute to other art more seriously. Soon enough, participation in nude work was an issue that needed some thought.'
'By the time I was twenty I was pretty interested in the politics of nudity and sexuality. I’d decided by then that if nudes are going to leak, it was better to make photos I could share proudly on my own terms. Fight the good fight and all that. Since then the world has caught up a little, and the part that matters most to me is the versatility some boldness or candidness can bring. This has opened doors for me, to make work for myself and with others that I can really be glad I took part in. I’ve also been lucky in my experiences, my travels proving worthwhile and learning quickly from advice and playing it by ear. Not to say finding my comfort zone didn’t prove a little scary. But I’ve had good people to work with, for regular and casual work and considered projects, and have many sweet people to keep in touch with from it.'
Christie finds the place he does his most productive networking to be tumblr, and his page is sort of a C.V and diary of what's new with both his work, and his life. It is also a space that lends itself to remote collaborations, and he has discovered many photographers whose work has provided both inspiration ad brain food for his own art. Christie shares that he was on a creative streak when he connected with Mike, working through some difficult times and family matters. It came during a space in his life between losing his mother, and clearing out her old house a few cities from where he lives. 'It seemed pertinent to use that hub for anything creatively worthwhile between work shifts. Among an archive full of landscape photography and conceptual experiments, a session with online friends and their advanced photographic travel setup was an opportunity I couldn’t miss.'
'We took an afternoon when my niece was in school, and we drove to Christie's house. I was really proud of myself for my ability to drive on the wrong side of the road with relative ease, having spent so many months in Australia and New Zealand. The motorways were easy to navigate, but the back roads were a bitch. When we arrived, we rang the bell on the door. I immediately started talking to the person who answered the door, talking about the shoot and our drive, thinking it was Christie. After a moment, his bewilderment made it clear that he wasn't Christie. It was his brother, Dino. They look amazingly similar, but are not twins.'
In addition to the personal approach Mike and Fred brought to the process, Christie was also especially impressed with how they used used equipment they could travel with. Christie says Mike and Fred created both a professional and comfortable atmosphere through both casual conversation as well as their desire to tap into and capture Christie's artist talents and passions, one of which included documenting his extensive underwear collection. Christie also learned a lot, with Mike and Fred taking the time to discuss key lighting and various other technical aspects as they worked. Not everything however, went smoothly with the traveling equipment.
'We tried to do a high key shoot, but we still hadn't perfected our technique. In addition to our inexperience, we had the issue which bites me every single time I do a foreign shoot: voltage. I neglected to bring converters, so I couldn't plug anything in without blowing out my lights. I was angry with myself, because I should have learned my lesson from Manila. In the end, the images that ended up being the best were simple shots using warm light from the window or door. The soft light combined with the low F made several of the images quite nice.'
Even with a few lighting issues, Christie was proud of the results and how much of himself was reflected in images. The shoot came a long at the perfect time and was a bright spot during a particularity hard time. There were things about the shoot that stuck, and have proven useful in his work since. It was a great example of why Christie loves collaborating so much, and learning from how others approach their art. Christie puts a lot of pride in his ideas, and putting across sentiments without spelling them out. One of them involved and art and fashion piece featuring an item synonymous for many with Britain.
'One question I’ve heard more than once is about why I’m wearing teabags around my neck. I’ll often just say it’s an in-joke, but I’m happy to explain it. It came from a conversation with my brother about a certain way people we’d met picked up exotic interests without much insight into them. Sort of like a pose, and making fan-service would be a fine punchline. I really wouldn’t have kept to this idea, being pretty random without the explanation… Except that jasmine teabags threaded through a convenient black pearl necklace proved to be a pretty eye catching and unique visual prop. I realised I couldn’t think of a photoset like it, and decided this would be a really promising one. Mike and Fred were kind enough to go along with the idea and we made a photoset I love to this day.'
'Christie has a charm about him, and when he smiles, it is both innocent and disarming. Fred and I plan to return to England to visit our niece again. I have asked Christie if he wants to do another shoot, and I think he is keen on it. I want to add Dino into the mix, because I think we could have a lot of fun with "mirror" shots since they both look so alike.'