I saw an interview recently where a successful DJ was discussing how to succeed in hip-hop music. His suggestion was to lie as much as possible about everything. The entire culture is built on lies, he said. Nobody is writing or producing their own music. The jewelry is fake. The houses and cars are rented. And everybody knows that everybody else is lying, so there isn't a material risk of being exposed.

This resonated with me because I've definitely experienced parallels to this in photography. For example, I've never met a photographer who has admitted to paying a model. And I've never met a professional model who has admitted to doing trade work. Unless a brand or other third party is involved, both of these things can't be true - someone is lying. Ghost photography is a real thing - people are paying photographers to take photos for them, and then putting their own name on it and taking the credit. Girls ask for outrageous modeling rates that nobody is ever going to pay. Photographers get girls "published" in magazines that nobody ever sees. There's also a perception that a lot of photoshoots are just parties full of drugs and sex where someone luckily brought a camera along. In my experience, sometimes drugs happen, and sometimes sex happens, but most of the time it's just girls looking for money or followers by posing in their underwear while a nerd with a camera takes photos.

The narrative I put alongside my photos is meant to be the polar opposite of what is typically shown in photography culture. It's the stark reality that clashes with the sexualized fantasy of the photos. It presents my thoughts and experiences as a moderately self-aware nerd with a camera. I live in the suburbs and work a normal 9-to-5 job. I drive a Prius. There is nothing cool about me, at least in the way that coolness is typically signaled in photography or other creative fields. But I think I can still present something cool and interesting, in my own strange way.

My hope is that I can inspire others to share more honestly about their experiences. As much as we all aim for uniqueness, a lot of us are doing the same stuff. We're shooting similar looking girls in thongs who are presenting their bodies in similar ways and giving similar lascivious glances at the camera. Weaving a good story around the photos can transform them into something else. Something broader that touches upon why we are putting so much time and energy into this stuff. There are risks associated with sharing these details, which I suspect is why most people don't do it, but for me it's been a fun and interesting ride.




Over time I've realized that people skills are just as critical to taking good photos as any other technical skill. This definitely surprised me, and it is something that I still struggle with. It reminds of the Helmut Newton quote: "My job as a portrait photographer is to seduce, amuse and entertain."

In my experience, all models have similarities to each other, so some techniques are helpful in all shoots. But there are a lot of other things that are different in each shoot, so I have to keep my eyes open and adapt. For example, I work with a lot of newer models who are very motivated but aren't yet great at posing and facial expressions. It can be challenging to get them into good poses without being overly controlling and restrictive. I want them to be able to move around, but preferably in ways that are photogenic. Also, it's important to find a balance between giving encouragement and giving constructive criticism to help them improve. I want them to leave the shoot feeling like they are better at modeling than when they arrived.

For the more experienced models, the challenge is getting them excited about the shoot. I've found that a lot of professional models are burned out, so showing up for another shoot where they have to arch their backs for 2+ hours isn't inspiring or exciting to them. So I try to select wardrobe which is unlike what they have previously worn or maybe I can use unique lighting, or just a different vibe from what they usually shoot. Anything I can find that will make shooting with me a unique experience for them.

There's also mood control. When I first started shooting models, if a girl showed up in a bad mood I would mirror the attitude right back at her. Some of the shoots almost ended before they started. I'm much better now about not letting the model's mood affect my mood. I need to be focused on creating great photos, regardless of her mood. There are a million possible reasons why she is in a bad mood at that moment, and most of them have nothing to do with me. So I try to probe for something I can do to cheer her up. Maybe she needs a snack, or a drink, a cup of coffee, a cigarette, some extra time to pick out an outfit that she likes, whatever. Some of this may sound condescending, but that's not my intent. My goal is for the model to not have to think about anything other than posing and exuding emotions. I can take care of everything else.

Some girls are so shy that they won't even shoot in swimwear. Others are much more exhibitionist and practically shove their crotch in my camera. Some girls run up to me and hug me when we meet.  Others stare at the ground and won't make eye contact. I try to get a sense of a model's personality from the internet, but I'm frequently wrong. There's really no reliable way to predict the way that we are going to interact.




Creating cool, interesting, sexy photos is what keeps me going. All forms of entertainment feel very transient to me now. Especially photography, where most people scroll past a picture in under half a second. If I can take a photo that someone looks at for more than a few seconds, I feel like I've achieved something significant. I'm trying to create things that people want to stare at for long periods of time.

Clicking with models is great when it happens, but I try not to rely on it for any type of consistent motivation since there are so many variables involved. I'll have an amazing shoot, then a terrible one, then a mediocre one - it's like flipping a coin. My motivation is attached to the things I want to create, specifically the look, vibe, and energy of the work that I'm putting out. Anyone who steps in front of my camera is my muse for that particular time and space, regardless of how well we get along. Some of my favourite photos are of girls that I didn't get along with. For me, the photos take on a life of their own, which goes beyond the specific details of how they were created.

That said, one of my favourite moments is when I take a photo and show it to the model, and she gets really excited by it. Sometimes the newer models get very emotional because they struggle with seeing themselves as beautiful, so seeing it represented so clearly and permanently in a photo really affects them. I never thought I could influence girls to cry tears of joy by taking photos of their butts, but life always finds a way to surprise you. I'm here to help. Other times the girls say something like "Wow, I didn't think the photos were going to turn out this good.", which is a compliment to my work, I think. When in doubt, always assume it's a compliment.




First, just accept that it's going to happen. You're not going to get along with everybody. You learn a lot about yourself during the bad shoots. Life is easy when you are aiming your camera at a professional model who understands every angle of her body and has mastered the art of emotive facial expressions. You look at your photos and think, "Wow, I'm a good photographer." Try shooting a girl who has zero experience, who shows up and stares at you, waiting for instruction. Those photos will tell you exactly how good you are.

I don't think photography is a field where you become good and then stay good forever. Practicing and forming good habits is important. Anyone can have a bad shoot, regardless of their skill level, similar to how an elite athlete like Steph Curry can still have a bad game. My solution is to actively work on not sucking, and learn to enjoy the challenge of it. Embrace the failures and learn from them. This is why I still work with a lot of new models, I want a consistent signal of how good or bad I really am.

In my experience, the word "professionalism" usually refers to photographers who don't sexually harass the models, or models who show up within a thirty minute window of the shoot time. But that is a very low bar. To me, professionalism is about producing good work regardless of the situation.

When I'm struggling on a shoot, sometimes I get desperate and start trying weird things. Some things I try are a total disaster, but other things surprise me and work well. The things that work then become a part of my skillset. These are the good habits that will bail you out when you are having a bad shoot. I want to be a great photographer, and I don't think greatness is always indicated by taking great photos of a great model in a great location. I think greatness is also taking decent photos of a bad model in a bad location. I don't purposefully seek out bad models and bad locations, but when it happens, I've been there before, so I can survive.




Things have become more clear in that I'm more aware of the different directions I can go with my work, both artistically and commercially. And also I have a much better sense of the things that I need to improve.  

Most of the uncertainty and chaos these days comes from the people that I meet, and the opportunities that arise from meeting them. In the past few months I've shot a stripper, a camgirl, a European porn star, a fetish model, a more traditional fashion model, and a few random girls who wanted pretty pictures of themselves. I put out my first video about six months ago, which was insanely difficult and time consuming, but opened my eyes to different approaches in audio, visuals and storytelling. I'm also going to start shooting guys, once I can get my shit together and come up with some ideas. So I've got a lot of things that I'm optimistic about working on; the challenge is just finding the time to do all of it.

Photography is not my primary source of income, which is unfortunate because my day job drains a lot of time that would otherwise be spent on photography. But the benefit of this is that I can shoot whatever I want, and it doesn't have to be commercially viable. It can just be something that I think is cool. In the end, the goal for me is to make the type of work that I want to stare at. I want other people to like my stuff also, but it's not my first priority.




Thanks for taking the time to speak with me, and thanks to anyone who took the time to read this.


01 // Luna Leung // lilylikeluna
02 // Cacia Zoo // caciazoo
03 // Tiffiney C.
04 // Myra Sierra
05 // Inertia Creeps // lambda17_
06 // Miki Himano // misshamino
07 // Cacia Zoo // caciazoo
08 // Miki Himano // misshamino
09 // Priscella Stefanie // priscellastef
10 // Cacia Zoo // caciazoo
11 // Luna Leung // lilylikeluna
12 // Smurfasaur // smurfasaur
13 // Mercedes E. // damnitmercedes
14 // Cam Damage // cam_damage
15 // Ayumi Suicide // someuglyblonde
16 // Jordan Lehn // jordanlehn
17 // Jordan Lehn // jordanlehn
18 // Marie
19 // Devi // devithemodel
20 // Jordan Bunniie // jordanbunniie2


Viktor Matthews // viktormatthews // //


JUNNNKTANK is an online zine which has existed in one form or another since 2006.
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