Interview by Allan MacDonell
“Some good tips to maintaining a good reputation are:
don’t be an asshole, and don’t fuck people over.”
— Dave Naz
Born in Los Angeles in 1969, Dave Naz is a photographer whose work revolves around the varied identities and personae of our time. He has published nine books. Naz’s photographs are shown in galleries all over the world. His work has appeared in GQ, Maxim, Stern and Salon. Several of Naz’s photos appear in the artwork of Richard Prince. He lives in Los Angeles with his wife, Oriana, and their cat.
Allan MacDonell’s Prisoner of X (Feral House, 2006) exploited his years spent running Larry Flynt’s pulp factory; Punk Elegies (Rare Bird, 2016) centered on the characters and consequences met while writing for 1970s punk zine Slash; and Now That I Am Gone (Rare Bird, 2018) is a memoir of his life as it carries on without him.
Very few humans are lucky enough to meet the range of interesting people who have posed naked for photographer Dave Naz. The titles of his previous books assert the breadth of his naked interactions: From Lust Circus (2002) to L.A. Bondage (2007) to Genderqueer (2014) and on through Identity (2017), his books are collaborations with a full spectrum of individuals who desire to be seen naked by the world at large. As a photographer, Naz’s experience and perspective are singular, but this unique intimacy can be shared.
In Naz’s latest book, Natural (2018), generous allotments of curiosity, identification and revelation are freely given. All of it is natural; this exchange cannot be anything but natural. Naked interest has always been the most natural thing in the world. We are all normal. We are all naked. Some people are just more interesting that way than others.
Allan MacDonell: Let’s talk about mentors and luck and success.
Born in North Carolina in 1954, Richard Kern is an American underground filmmaker, writer and photographer. He first came to prominence as part of the cultural explosion in the East Village of New York City in the 1980s, with erotic and experimental films like The Right Side of My Brain and Fingered, which featured personalities of the time such as Lydia Lunch, Sonic Youth and Henry Rollins.
Eric David Kroll
Eric David Kroll (b. 1946) is a fetish photographer and book editor who has lived in New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles. He has published several collections of photography including Fetish Girls (Taschen, 1994) and Beauty Parade (Taschen, 1997), and composed introductions for influential works such as the two-volume Best of Bizarre (Taschen Icons Series, 2001). He currently lives in Tucson, Arizona.
Dave Naz: Artist and music photographer Vicki Berndt taught me basic camera skills. Assisting Richard Kern when I was starting out gave me a better understanding of how to light and interact with a model, keep the energy where you need it, and get what you set out to do. That knowledge was invaluable. Eric Kroll has been a great mentor too.
Luck, for me, was starting out before digital and the Internet started taking the place of print magazines. I’m lucky to still be shooting for print magazines and getting paid for it. Success and goals change. When I started out, my goal was to have a book of my work published. I’m on my tenth book and my goal has been to make the work look different and still have it be recognized as mine.
AM: What’s different about approaching magazine work as opposed to personal work?
DN: For the magazine work, I need to create photos that will work for a magazine layout or portraits to go alongside an interview. For the personal work, I usually have a few ideas or a concept in mind; for Natural it was shooting a natural look. For my Legs or Panties books, there’s a clear theme as well. Sometimes the personal and magazine work overlap. The work in my Identity series consisted of documentary-style photos and portraits. I enjoy doing both.
For this series, the models were—for the most part—just starting out. It’s tough to get that fresh, natural look when the model is too aware of how she looks. It usually just ends up looking posed.
AM: What elevates a model, even a great model, into the muse zone?
DN: There are a lot of good models. A muse inspires.
AM: Can you track the transition from music to photography as your dominant creative pursuit?
“When I started out, my goal was to have a book published. I’m on my tenth book and my goal is to make the work look different and still have it be recognized as mine.”
— Dave Naz
Down by Law
Down by Law is a punk rock band formed in Los Angeles in 1989. They released several albums on Epitaph Records. While never achieving substantial commercial success, they have an underground following and a number of largely popular acts cite them as influential. In 2017 the band reunited their acclaimed 1994 lineup and are currently active and touring.
DN: I played music from the mid ’80s through the ’90s. I was a founding member of Chemical People and Down By Law. I also played with The Last, Jeff Dahl, Tater Totz, and a band with Randy Stodola (Alleycats) for a few years.
In the ’90s I started photographing homeless people in downtown L.A. and when I was on tour in Spain. I began playing less music and taking more photos. I started photographing the L.A. fetish community in 2000. After some photos were published in Skin Two magazine, Goliath Books contacted me. They asked if I’d like to do a book with them. That work became Lust Circus. I did several more books with them: Panties, Legs, Fresh, L.A. Bondage and Butt Babes.
AM: How have you managed to navigate various worlds, from punk rock to photography, and as a straight cis person into trans and gender-fluid communities?
DN: There was no connection from punk rock to photography. I had stopped playing music for a while—just playing on an album here and there and going on tour overseas with some of Bill Bartell’s bands. I brought my camera with me on the last tour I was on in Spain.
Jake Miller (b. 1972), better known by his stage name Buck Angel, is an American adult film producer and motivational speaker. He is the founder of Buck Angel Entertainment, a media production company. A trans man, he received the 2007 AVN Award as Transsexual Performer of the Year; he now works as an advocate, educator, lecturer, and writer. Angel served on the Board of Directors of the Woodhull Freedom Foundation from 2010 to 2016; the foundation works to affirm sexual freedom as a fundamental human right through advocacy and education.
When I was photographing the fetish world in 2001, I met Buck Angel—before he was Buck Angel. I always got along well with Buck. In 2010 I photographed him for my book Genderqueer: And Other Gender Identities. I also had a trans dominatrix in my Lust Circus book. I didn’t know the term “cis” or “gender-fluid” back then. When I was shooting for my Identity series and documentary, I got along well with the people I worked with and have friends today from that work. I’m happy about shining a light on some talented and creative people that took the time to participate. I’ve since photographed some of them for other shows and projects unrelated to their identity.
“I wouldn’t be able to start a project like that today—there is too much animosity toward cis white males. I am proud of the work I did and happy about shining a light on some talented and creative people.”
— Dave Naz
AM: I’ve asked around, and you’re held in high regard among veteran punk rock people and in the photo world. What are some tips to maintaining a good reputation?
DN: That’s nice to hear. I have great friends I’ve met through music and photography. Some good tips to maintaining a good reputation are: don’t be an asshole, and don’t fuck people over.
AM: How much has libido weighed in on your career choices?
DN: It weighed in more when I was aged sixteen to twenty. Still, music was the most important thing back then.
AM: Is photography like being a collector? How so? How not so?
DN: I’ve always been a collector. With my photos, I collect images for future projects and exhibits. They build up. After several years, I have something. But when I’m shooting for print mags, there is no collecting. The photos are taken and used for the layout.
AM: Please rattle off a few key photographic influences.
DN: Larry Clark, Nan Goldin, Richard Kern, Eric Kroll.
AM: Who are some young photographers that more people should be looking at?
DN: Ryan McGinley is amazing. Lots of people are looking at him and his work. Steve Diet Goedde has a new book in the works.
All images © Dave Naz