Interview with Photographers Constance and Eric

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PL: Please start by telling us a little about yourself and how you began as an artist.

C: I was born and raised down da bayous of South Louisiana.  My father was a photography enthusiast and we had a dark room in our house when I was growing up. There was not much to do in the town I grew up in and as kids we had to make our own fun so my brother and I spent a lot of time outdoors running around.  I think I was drawn to photography because it gave me a way to create the scenes I saw in my imagination and also to be around people (my models – i.e. friends).

E: I came to art via Constance really. My upbringing was about as blue collar as you can get, my dad owned a machine shop and as long as I can remember I had been working there. An accident where I almost lost my finger (ironically the one that would eventually become my shutter button finger) made me rethink my life’s path. I went to a 10 month technical photo school and started working as an assistant right after. I knew what a good photograph was, and became very technically proficient but, it was not until I started collaborating with Constance that I began to understand and learn about art. In a way, the school is the education I needed, what I am still learning from Constance is the education I have always wanted.

PL: What does the art express or mean to you personally? At the same time, what kind of thought or feeling are you trying to evoke from your audience?

C: To me the art Eric and I create expresses the love and connection people have with one another. I’m drawn to the images where the bodies melt into each other; the places where the couples meet and melt and become one and something else; where the bodies become a fleshy sensuous cloud. Eric and I started this project as a way to show how people of all ages, races, sizes and orientations have a connection to one another, how they all have similarities. To me the the most successful images are the ones that are most abstract because you can see the sensuality and make it your own. The bodies in the photo could be two men but because the viewer may like women then that is what they see and it does not matter because the action is the same.

E: Well, when we are commissioned by couples our goal is them entirely, We want to create images together that shows them how beautiful and special their connection is, how it is a well of spirituality devoid of any external influences.

With our art, I really like making the viewer guilty by association; meaning, it is so abstract that, if you are able to discern what act is taking place, it would only be due to the fact that you have witnessed it to some extent prior. That our work is a raunchy Rorschach of sorts in how the viewer projects themselves onto it, delights me to no end. A highly sensitive hetro guy could look and see two girls on their knees in front of a sexy girl but, the reality is, it’s a gay married couple, on their knees serving their Dom. As a creator of art, there is no better reward for me than a deep viewer interaction, our abstract work begs for interpretation and to interpret is to get emotionally involved. Personally, the thing I think we are trying to do is show that all of our labels (gay, straight, fat, skinny, young, old, etc) are really limiting and frivolous in the face of something as intensely unique and personal as sexual expression.

PL: Please describe your creative process (i.e. how do you work, stay up for days at a time or do a little here and there?)

C: We have a toddler and also commercial work to do so our time has to be scheduled. Because of the nature of our work we have to do a little here and there; email our couples, hear back from them, make sure everyone is on the same page, find days that work for everyone. On the day of the shoot we work as long as it takes.

E: Considering we have a kid, commercial and private clients, our fine art work starts like anything else, careful scheduling.

We are always taking pictures and always trying new things out. When we see an interesting lens effect or lighting texture, we make note of it and play around with it. On our shoot days, we like to make a point of realizing that we are there to make our art, it is kind of our selfish playtime.

Our planning beforehand is meticulous and this leaves the space open for “happy accidents” and experimentation on set. Everybody reacts differently to every lens reacts differently to every movement reacts differently to every light so, it’s a stage we set, that allows for full flexibility. Constance usually focuses more on our subjects and I the technical aspects and our biggest strength is her ability to see potential greatness in an underdeveloped happy accident. Truth be told, it was a happy accident on our very first shoot, that she recognized (and I was resistant to) that brought us to our process of abstraction, if it weren’t for her vision, at that moment, seeing the potential diamond in a lump of coal, Constance & Eric would have never existed.

PL: Please talk about the medium and use of color and space. My eyes are drawn not only to the sensuous subject matter but also to the whites and dark spaces that surround or suspend the subjects.

C: Photography documents a scene that actually exists in time and space but can also be made up and taken out of context. The spaces that surround and suspend the subjects adds a softness and and otherworldliness to them. My pet name for our work is “cloud nine.”

E: Well, we have begun shooting a lot of our fine art work on actual film, all of our abstraction is done in camera so we have no need for the post production ease digital affords.There is something special, magical really, about having a physical   object that was present at a unique lovemaking event.

Our use of negative space has played an important role in our work from the start. On our first shoot, there were several images where the negative space in between lovers actually resembled hearts. We took this as a sign of sorts and always consider how the light will play in between bodies and how that space serves to reinforce the points that are connected. Even the negative space surrounding our subjects has a purpose, it gives a nod to the idea that our abstract work really is a “blank canvas” awaiting the viewers imprint. We enjoy black and white and color alike. B&W really intensifies the abstraction by eliminating skin color as a factor, it makes it almost sculptural whereas our color work definitely feels more organic and fleshy, warm actually.

PL: Who are some of your main influences?

C: Ralph Eugene Meatyard, Picasso, Hans Bellmer, Joseph Cornell. I’m influenced by the ordinary made extraordinary and strange. I love when inanimate objects become animate and vice versa. Controlling and changing shapes. Making things into something. Have you ever read “The Little Prince”, the part where the prince makes a drawing and the adults see a hat but the children see a snake that swallowed an elephant? I think about and try to see the world in multiple ways.

E: Photographically? It always sounds egotistical but, no one really. I mean, we have photographers we admire (Uta Barth, Ellen Von Unwerth, Bill Brandt, to name a few) but we went into this with no photographic influences, umm, let me rephrase that, I went into it with a lot of preconceived ideas and Constance, being the art Buddah she is to me, encouraged me to unlearn what I have learned. It wasn’t until I pushed every photograph I have ever seen, out of my head, that I was able to truly contribute a unique vision to our collaboration. Our influences are predominantly people challenging the toxic sexual status quo, looking to create a world where honest sexual dialogue exists and not education through standard porn tropes. Hero’s like Cindy Gallop, Dan Savage, Marla Renee Stewart, Tristan Taormino, are all the kind of people who greatly influence our work.

PL: What is it you are trying to accomplish with your photography? Is it purely an expression of desire or more premeditated?

C: It has become premeditated in that we hope to change the world or at the very least start a positive conversation about sexuality.

E: Being idealists, we want to change the world. We want to show that though the physical techniques may vary, though the body types, ages, genders all are different, the one thing that is the same, the universal element that connects us all is the desire to express love and affection. Our work, stripped of all the trappings of physiognomy, and other labels, renders down this basic element of a desire to connect. Simply put, a tender hand on your lovers back, though done by such a wide variety of people in such a wide variety of ways, is pretty much the same all around. In our commercial work our mission is less gentle in that, we are driven by a strong desire to smash down the limiting beauty and sexual ideas enforced upon us by popular media as we feel it not only enslaves our minds but, prevents us from having fulfilling, mind blowing sex.

PL: Do you have a specific “type” of piece you enjoy creating more (i.e. an “energy piece”) or a kind of pithy or quirky piece? Is it more serious or fun stuff?

C: Photographing people and showing them how beautiful and lovely they are is the best. I think most of our work is fun and that fun can be very serious and thought provoking.

E: This is going to be the shortest answer ever, we like it ALL, everything about what we create in the course of our job is just a blast. Maybe because I get to work with the most amazing person in the world, maybe it’s because we have surrounded our self with every single great, healthy aspect of sexuality, I don’t really know but every time we are packing up our equipment to head out, I get beyond giddy.

PL: What inspires you, real life experiences, thought life?

C: Both inspire me. I read a lot and that also inspires me and gives me empathy and insight into things I may not have experienced in real life.

E: I would bet this is the part where we give radically different answers and though I can guess what Constance will say, I’ll leave that up to her. For me, anger. I had problems growing up letting my emotions get the best of me that carried into my adult life. I see wrong and I am blinded by my anger that it exists rather than calmly figuring a way to correct it. From the start, Constance has pushed me to express my anger in a positive way. She has never told me to loose it rather, to use it instead of letting it use me. So, when I see a beyond retouched picture of a 20 year old model on the cover of a “beauty” magazine, or hear a guy harass a woman simply walking on the street, I stop, calm down, pay attention, and properly unpack my emotions in order to see them for what they are and gain hints for how to correct these societal problems. Every time I have a camera in my hand I am conscious of who we are trying to reach, and how we can make them feel better about themselves.

PL: What do you like about your work? What would you change or do better?

C: When our models see how sexy and beautiful they look to each other and themselves that is what I love most about our work. I would love to have more time in a day and bigger budgets to work with.

E: I like the letters we get from around the world of encouragement and the tears in our couples eyes when they see how stunning they actually look, that happens a lot. That we get to reach out to people in such a positive way is the greatest reward ever. For me, as someone in love with photography for all it has done for me, it is very special to be able to create something that is so unique, rare is the chance to accomplish that and I think that is exactly what we are doing.

Aside of normal creative growth, I would like us to do more video work and would definitely like to shoot in more locations, unfortunately in NYC that is easier said than done. One of the things I personally could do better is trust Constance more, it has been a long road towards that as I tend to be controlling on set but her patience and just being right all the time, has enabled a tremendous growth in me. Sure, I will still put up some resistance when she knows she is right but now, all it takes is her hand on my arm and a glance of her mesmerizing eyes to remind me to trust her more as opposed to the vigorous debate over several cocktails it would take 5 years ago.

PL: Professionally, what’s your goal?

C: My goal professionally is to have a larger commercial presence and to make that presence something positive, healthy and uplifting.

E: Ultimately, we are working slowly towards getting more advertising clients so we can change society from the inside. Our culture’s rejection of retouching, embracing of more sex positive attitudes, relaxing of body shame, a current examples of how altruism can be wildly profitable make us think that in a few years, our work will be attractive to the next generation of advertisers who share our values and beliefs in change.

For more information about Constance & Eric, visit http://www.constanceanderic.com

2 comments

  1. I love both the photography of Constance and Eric as well as their outlook on life expressed in their work. Thanks for doing this interview. Interesting way to go with separate interviews on a couple who work and share life far more than most.

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