RICKY MIRAMONTES

I think the funny thing about having confidence in this medium is how quickly it is both given and taken away by the same people. I am by no means a professional. Maybe just a very serious amateur. I have done some paid work, but nothing so far that would cause me to leave my day job.  So when Instagram first came about I saw it as a fun way to display what I was doing with my camera (which was purchased on a whim). My first milestone was hitting 1000 followers. And when I hit that I quickly set my sights on 10k. Now I know there is some unspoken rule about artists not caring how many followers and likes they get on social media, but as I said before, this isn't my day job. Likes and followers are part of the fun. It's almost a mantra that I repeat to my models, "This is supposed to be fun." And when the double taps are flying, it's a whole lot of fun, but as you begin to garner some attention, negative attention soon follows. Or worse, you get no attention at all. That very much plays on my insecurities. This is supposed to be fun, but I also want to produce something I can be proud of. And leave my model with something she, less frequently, he can look back on with fond memories. 

When I'm feeling like I'm not showing my best work, I somehow always get random surprises in my inbox; travelling models who make their livelihood from visiting and charging photographers from state to state asking me if I'll do trade work with them. That warms you inside like nothing else. Or a photographer that I greatly admire dropping a DM that we need to "colab on a project." These are great little things that let me know I'm doing something right.

 

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I've never thought of myself as a very good liar. When I first started shooting, I honestly started the way I think most photographers start. Take a bad in-camera photo and "fix" it later in Photoshop. It's a terrible approach. I put all my resources into learning as much as I could about retouching. Retouching is a major part of the profession. It's a valuable tool and a must for serious commercial work. This is where I thought my career would lead, but honestly, I hated it. It's slow, time consuming, and requires something intangible that I think I lack. Retouching is an art form. It's the difference between waxy and plastic skin to something lively and vibrant. I don't think I have the touch. I still practice to this day, but I'll never been as good at it as the photographers I admire. Practice can only get you so far and then talent has to take over.    

It wasn't until I was given my first film camera, a Pentax K1000, that the idea that I should ditch Photoshop was cemented. I started by doing shoots half digital and half 35mm. The idea [was] that shooting film would force me to flex my composition and lighting muscles, except the result was that I had half a finished set where the model could look her very best. Nipped and tucked, skin corrected and colour graded. And then there was the film version. Still lovely, but different. Too different, and then one day a model called me out about changing her appearance too much. I think I had done something to her nose. I realized I made her feel shitty which is obviously not the goal. So there it was, no more Photoshop. No more differences between film and digital. It was the first time I felt like I was doing something good and true.  

 

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With filters and digital manipulation, I think the market has become hugely saturated with people who call themselves "photographers." I very rarely work with industry standard or even commercial standard models. Most of who I shoot are amateurs looking to start their book or who are looking for some keep sake from their youth. I think what has helped me to draw in this particular clientele is the ability to articulate clear and easy goals for our shoot. I started out having no real direction for my work. I would tell someone to bring a bag of clothes and we will wing it from there. For a while this was fun, but success was hit and miss. It wasn't until I started to really plan and direct my shoots that I felt that I got any useable work. I had these plans in my head, but the shoots didn't improve because my head was where I left them. Yes, I would direct the model, but I didn't give her anything to prepare for beforehand.  

Now I think of my shoots as directing a movie or writing a novel. We storyboard, we talk about what's motivating us, how we are feeling while shooting and I'm sure this sounds very silly and pretentious, but I deal in a lot of skin and the right motivation and direction will make a glamour photo into a great editorial. A lot of people are fans of my green couch. Lots of people message me asking to shoot with it. A model is typically in some top and panty combination. Make up and hair done, modeling with an air of laziness. How do we get there?  I tell everyone this story. "It was Saturday night and you went out with all your girlfriends. Hair and make up done. Looking your best. The night ends and you head home exhausted. You kick off shoes. Bottoms. Top comes off. Favourite sleep shirt comes on and you fall asleep. In the morning, when our shoot happens: Hair is still done, make up still done, and you head for the couch and wait while hopefully your roommate/boyfriend/girlfriend is making you the best cup of coffee." The shoot happens in that moment of waiting. It's this little story that has helped my get the best photos from someone who has never been in front of a camera before. 

 

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I am a fan of high cut everything. It's one of my favourite hashtags and a personal philosophy. If there is one thing I ask every person who shows up, is to bring high cut bottoms. They just feel model-like. It helps to put first timers in the correct mindset. Of course lots of people wear thongs in their every day life. but how many wear a high cut thong? It screams something special. And because I mostly shoot girls who range from 5'1" to 5'6", it adds just a little bit more visually to the length of the leg. I'm team "No Photoshop." I do no body transformations, no liquefy and no nips and tucks, but I'm not above practical effects; doing whatever I can in camera to get the best body I can get in front of the lens.  

I think beyond high cut, what I'm also probably known best for is "bottomless is better than topless."  Topless implied photos have always been very fashionable, but I actually find them very difficult because I mostly work with new models it seems very often that after about twenty frames they're not sure what to do next. They feel their arms are locked in front of their body. I offer as much help as I can, but a certain level of panic sets in that kind of disrupts the flow of the shoot. Experienced models get around this easily enough. Practice makes perfect.  

The first time I shot a bottomless model, she told me it was very liberating. Getting over the psychological scariness of being nude from the waist down was the hardest part. It feels much more vulnerable than doing a topless implied photo for obvious reasons, but the actual modeling of it was very easy. Keep the hips turned one way or the other. Your leading leg just a little bit higher and your completely covered to the world. Arms and torso are free and it adds just a little bit of something amazing. My first bottomless model Elle gave me one of my very best and favourite photos. I put it on my wall.

 

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What I think is most challenging is this idea of opening myself up to criticism and I'm grateful that I have been critiqued  harshly.  I started this by accident. I bought a DSRL on a whim and a friend asked me to take her photo. Leap forward a couple years and now my work is seen by a decent number of people, some of which have no problem telling me I suck. I never set out for this; to put my work on display, to be praised or critiqued. When those first critiques started coming in, that was tough, but I'm glad I did. I feel like it's made me a better photographer, and more importantly, a better adult. I might suck, but now my response has to be, "I'm going to practice a little bit more and hopefully I suck a little bit less tomorrow."

 

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Absolutely [I am optimistic]. For myself and the future. I personally think things can only get better. I feel like I've come into my groove as far as producing creative and consistent work. It's recently drawn the attention of new and exciting people; people that I hope will help elevate the level of my work and reach a greater audience.    

 

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Ending on a positive, the end of civilzation will be caused by: Hand sanitizer. More destructive than an atom bomb. I fully plan on baking mud pies with my possible future children, ensuring that they build all the correct defenses against all the bugs in the world. 

 















01 // Noel L // noley_guacamole
02 // Nicolle Raneses // nicolleraneses
03 // Kelsey Danielle // kelsey.danielle
04 // Noel L // noley_guacamole
05 // Nelle T // nelle_teph
06 // Brooke Eva // brookeva_
07 // Kelsey Danielle // kelsey.danielle
08 // Evelyn Telles // eveeemariee
09 // Sara Choe // sarachoe
10 // Emma Kathleen // aquabooty
11 // Corina G
12 // Mariko C // happybikinigirl
13 // Nina C // little.w0lf
14 // Kristine E
15 // Nickie D

 

Ricky Miramontes // mmmtangerine // mmmtangerine.com

 

JUNNNKTANK is an online zine which has existed in one form or another since 2006.
For over a decade, the focus has been on highlighting the efforts of inspiring individuals and artists from around the world.

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